The idea that celebrities live perfect lives is a popular one until you think about the great equalizer that addiction really is. Although it’s true that a celebrity might not end up homeless or in jail as quickly as an “ordinary” addict, even world-famous drug users know the feeling of being totally powerless against their drug of choice. Here is a look at several celebrities who struggled with addiction—and won. This look is a powerful reminder that although addiction can make you feel totally powerless to take back your life, you’re not.
Robert Downey Jr.: from Felon to Iron Man
Robert Downey Jr.’s began his career as an actor at the tender age of five in 1970. He studied the performing arts in New York as a child, and when his parents divorced in 1978, he moved to California with his father—who was a drug addict. Downey Jr. was exposed to drug use at home from an early age, and addiction was simply part of his life, just like the performing arts. By 1982 he had dropped out of high school to pursue his career as an actor full-time.
By the mid-1980s, Downey Jr. was famous, and his acting career was winning him critical acclaim and award nominations by the early 1990s. Sadly, his personal problems also continued to grew, and between 1996 and 2001, Downey Jr.’s struggles with addiction became one of the most prominent forces in his life—not to mention a problem for his career as a performer. In 1997 he was fired from his role on the television show Ally McBeal, and he was arrested on drug-related charges multiple times. He made several visits to treatment programs, and in 1999, he went to prison for one year.
However, despite not only a history of addiction and an uphill battle rebuilding trust in Hollywood, Robert Downey Jr. came back. He was clean and sober by 2003, and ready to rebuild his life. Since that time he has taken on some of his most important roles—and some of his most popular characters, including Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man. Downey Jr.’s career goes to show you that fighting your way back from even a lifetime of addiction can be done—and is worth it.
Corey Feldman: Robbed of Childhood, Now an Advocate
Corey Feldman was born in Los Angeles in 1971 to parents working behind the scenes in the entertainment industry. He landed his first TV commercial when he was three, and by the early 1980s was landing major films such as The Lost Boys, Stand By Me, and The Goonies. During that time, he became close friends with Corey Haim, another child actor, who would share in many of Feldman’s triumphs, and endure many of his hardships.
Feldman’s busy career as a child star with more than 50 television appearances and 100 commercials to his credit—plus his movie career—was actually forced on him by his parents. He reportedly suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his parents. Feldman was legally emancipated from them at age 15 by a court. The year was 1986, while he was filming Stand By Me, and that was also when he began using drugs.
In 1990 Feldman was arrested for possession of heroin for the first time. He completed rehab in 1991 after more arrests. By the early 1990s, Feldman had gone through a divorce, many arrests, and owed money for tax and legal bills. He reunited with former friend Haim in 2007 to do a reality television show together, and there both Feldman and Haim admitted they had been sexually abused as boys working in Hollywood. Soon thereafter Haim relapsed into drug use, and Feldman insisted he get treatment before taping continue; Haim died in 2010.
Haim’s death and his own troubled past motivated Feldman to become more open about sexual abuse in Hollywood. He spoke out about those who had abused him, and also Haim’s assailant. During the recent #MeToo movement, Feldman’s voice has been that of a powerful ally.
Drew Barrymore: From Little Girl Lost to Woman in Charge
Born in 1975 into the third generation of show business royalty, Drew Barrymore landed her first gig as an actor in a dog food commercial before she was one year old. She was only six years old when she played Gert in 1982’s blockbuster ET, one of the most famous movies of all time. Unfortunately, all of this attention and limelight also exposed her to a dangerous lifestyle.
Barrymore’s addiction struggles began when she had her first drink at age nine. Her mother was an active participant in the nightclub scene, and young Drew went with her. At ten she began smoking marijuana, and by age 12 she was using cocaine. When she was 13, she went to rehab for the first time, and had a violent episode after she was unable to throw her mother out of the house. This was not her first trip to rehab, which she visited several more times during her teenage years.
By the mid-1990s, Drew Barrymore was back on track. Taking charge of her life and career, she founded Flower Films, her own production company, in 1995. She starred in and produced a string of successful films, and has gone on to have a family and become a successful parent herself.
Pink: The Club Kid Who Got a Second Chance
Pink, also known as Alecia Beth Moore, was born in 1979. At age 12, she had a best friend: Stacey Coffey. Together, the two, along with other childhood friends, got into the local club scene in Philadelphia, and started using drugs. From ages 12 to 15, Pink was a serious addict, using and selling club drugs, Special K, acid, and crystal methamphetamine.
In 1995, Pink signed with her first record label. That same year, she overdosed on Thanksgiving. She has recalled to various media outlets that although she didn’t make it to the hospital, she woke up on the floor the next day, knowing she needed to make a change. Sure enough, that incident was the last time she used. This also coincided with a chance a local DJ gave her to sing at a hip-hop night event—but only if she didn’t use drugs.
Since that time, Pink released the track “Who Knew” in 2006 about a friend who died of a heroin overdose. In 2008 she wrote and released “Sober,” describing herself. She also tried repeatedly to convince Stacey Coffey to stop using drugs, offering her work as a backup dancer. Sadly, in 2010, Coffey died from an overdose. In 2012, Pink took a role as a sex addict in the film “Thanks For Sharing,” primarily because she understands addiction.
Struggling with Addiction and Getting Through It
Sometimes struggling with addiction can feel like an impossible challenge. Remember, though, that you’re not alone. Addiction touches everyone from all walks of life, and there are many celebrities out there who have lived through their darkest hours on a very public stage. These celebrities who struggled with addiction actually made it through—and so can you.