Having attended numerous Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, I have always considered addiction synonymous with “loser.” I know that’s wrong and unfair, but the first thing that comes to mind when I think of an alcoholic or drug addict is a tattooed man, smelling of cigarette smoke, wearing saggy jeans and an old baseball cap.
It is ridiculous that I say that because the alcoholics and addicts within my own family don’t fit that picture. Note the life-long government worker with a healthy retirement package, or the high society housewife with a maid, or the teacher, or the fireman. They are all addicts, yet to the outside world, they look just like a normal cog in the wheel that is American society.
What I don’t picture is a famous, rich, or powerful person. Why would anyone with fame or fortune or power throw it away on alcohol or drugs? Well, that is the magic power that is addiction.
Perhaps taking a look at those better off than us and how they have fallen is a way to remind ourselves that even the highest can fall, and that we are no better or worse than any other addict. Apparently one of the first things a recovering alcoholic does is look for others like themselves – and there are a number of websites featuring lengthy lists of famous, rich, or powerful alcoholics and drug addicts.
The music world hosts more than its share of addicts, from Beethoven to Ozzy Osbourne, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Led Zepellin’s John Bonham, The Who’s Keith Moon, and any number of living musicians: Eric Clapton, George Michael, Boy George, and let us not forget Elvis Presley.
Athletes are no exception to addiction, even though one might think they would refrain from drugs and alcohol in pursuit of their sport. Brett Favre, Mickey Mantle, John Daly, and basketball players Chris Mullins and Robert Parish are all self-confessed addicts of some type.
Television and movie stars have long been associated with addiction. Marilyn Monroe, Robert Downey, Jr., Tim Allen, even “Wonder Woman” Lynda Carter were all addicted to some substance. President George W. Bush, President Ulysses S. Grant, and President Franklin Pierce were all alcoholics at some time during their lives.
Does it make me better to reel off these names? No, not really. I don’t want to see anyone fall from grace, especially people whose work I have enjoyed. Some of my favorite musicians (not listed above) are in some form of recovery and discovering that made me sad for what they had been for, but happy for the new life they had ahead of them. Basically, fame, fortune, and power are not barriers to addiction, and don’t separate anyone from the rest of us.