The word of Whitney Houston’s death spread like wildfire, through tweets, text messages, and telephone calls. She was only 48 years old, and although the cause of her death is still unknown, whispers of the word ‘drugs’ circulate the air, broadband, and radio waves.
As an addict in recovery, a pain stabbed at my heart. Defensively, I wonder why everyone always has to assume its drugs. I wonder how long I will have to be clean before that will not always be everyone’s first conclusion. I wonder how hard I will have to work to shed the title I have earned.
When I posed this question to other addicts in recovery, they all agreed with me in shared experience. But when I posed these questions to a non-addict, he almost laughed off my questions. “That will always be everyone’s first assumption when you have been an addict, and you die young. What else could it be? She was only 48.”
As the news slowly unravels, we learn that she was found face down in a bathtub. There were prescription pills in the hotel room, and the singer’s family claimed she was on Xanax, prescribed for anxiety. Whitney had appeared disheveled, and some reports claim she was drinking the night previous to her death.
All the signs point to yes. And in fact, we have seen this story over and over in Hollywood. Last year, we lost Amy Winehouse and Mikey Welsh (of Weezer), while the deaths of Heath Ledger and Brittany Murphy are still fresh in our minds. In looking through dead celebrity files, I came across two more I knew. Jeff Conway and Mike Starr both died last year, and I knew them because they both appeared on Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab. And they both died a drug related death.
The numbers seem staggering. I wonder vaguely if addiction is more common among celebrities, or if we simply hear about it more often. The Average Joe arrested for marijuana does not make the nightly news, but Lindsay Lohan drunk at a nightclub is smattered all over the media. Or are celebrities more prone to addiction?
Digging further into this question, I Googled ‘celebrities and drug addiction.’ The first link that popped up was “Top 10 Celebrity Drug Users.” The second link was “Top 20 Drug Related Deaths,” and the third link was “6 Celebrities That Beat Addiction.” Charlie Sheen was listed as one of those six.
Relapse seems to be a common theme among celebrity addiction, but then…relapse is a common theme among all addiction. I think about how far I have come since I got clean six years ago. I realize that one of the main deterrents for relapse for me today is that I just have too much to lose now.
My addiction left me homeless, broke, and alone. My addiction sent me to places I never dreamed I would go, spitting me out in a sewage tank at the bottom of the world. I really stepped into recovery with nothing, and I can finally see what I have built. And that is just too important to me. I am not in a position to risk losing what I have built to get high. Celebrities, however, are in this position.
I think the level of responsibility is much different for a celebrity. Although they do have to constantly worry about being in the public eye, they are rarely the designated driver and they usually have people that actually cop the drugs for them. Their position of fame gives them the ability to use without worrying about wrecking the car, or getting shot in a bad dope neighborhood. Essentially, they can use without the same consequences the Average Joe has.
I think the biggest factor that contributes to a higher rate of addiction among celebrities is that they have more disposable income. Any Average Joe Addict can vouch for this. Just think about how much more drugs you used when you were flush with cash. Just think about how much more drugs you would have used if you did not have to worry about how to pay for them.
Candace Bruce from Morningside Recovery told Fox News that those in the limelight are more prone to substance abuse. They are more prone to stress and anxiety. From where I am sitting, I think this sounds ridiculous. Is pleasing the public a more stressful life than my neighbor who works at McDonald’s to support her three kids by herself? Although I must admit, I would never trade my life for either of those scenarios.
I think that constantly being in the public eye also really attributes to the level of denial. Of course they deny it to the public, and that is what we see. Although I cannot say what Whitney Houston may have said in the confidence of a room, she damn sure laid on a load of denial to Barbara Walters in 2003, and then piled it high for Oprah in 2009. We cannot realize our problem as long as we stay in denial that we even have a problem. And thankfully, I never had to save face.
Candace Bruce also points out that people often use drugs and alcohol to ease their fears. Alcohol and drugs make a social environment easier, and they can make you forget about your insecurities. The celebrity must attend social functions, and she forgets about her little stomach pooch when she has a few drinks. Hey, I can relate to that.
Since I got clean, I have struggled with my weight on and off. After having a child, it took me quite some time to lose the weight. I must be vigilant to keep it off. And I do not even have a camera on me half the time; they say the camera adds ten pounds. . When I worked as a stripper, I became incredibly self-conscious about my body image. I looked at it in the mirror most of the night on stage, evaluating every little piece of meat. I watched other girls, comparing myself mostly in ways I knew I would never stack up.
A celebrity often has a hectic schedule, working out of town and away from family and support. A large number of celebrities were born into the business. Many of them have watched their parents suffer with addiction. It is not always something that is hidden in Hollywood.
The entertainment industry tolerates drug and alcohol use much more so, than, say, well…a bank. It is accepted, almost expected. A nightlife event planner in L.A. claimed that most celebrities do coke and weed. These are so commonplace, that sometimes celebrities are not even discreet.
Some whisper that Whitney fell, almost unsuspecting, into the world of drugs as she followed her husband down this dark path. She followed him blindly, not even realizing she would become immersed in addiction. More like a pill addict that eventually turns to heroin, Whitney may have been in too deep before she realized it. But, maybe…she was just prone to it because she was a celebrity.