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October 3, 2018

Celebrities Leading Addiction Transparency

I was asked if the transparency of celebrities who are suffering with addiction has had an impact on the addicted individuals and their families in the way of treatment and moving forward in life. Here are my thoughts.

I have been working with addiction for over 30 years. What I have seen at the core of all people suffering with addiction is the shame and absence of belonging. So, overall, when someone with social popularity openly presents their personal struggle with addiction, recovery and life, it offers them reprieve from shame and the opportunity to see that their sense of not belonging can exist in anyone. With this as a basis to the understanding of this possible phenomenon, let me list several ways the transparency of celebrities may directly affect those suffering from addiction.

Celebrities are diverse in their cultural and social backgrounds. Therefore, they cross the spectrum of people who find themselves trapped by the challenge of addiction. Our celebrities range from actors to musicians to athletes and more. They come from a diverse background of culture, socioeconomic beginnings, family structure, and social acceptance. Children, adolescents and adults can identify with someone who is a celebrity because of this diversity.

Celebrities are leaders. Leaders who are transparent and genuine create forward thinking, confidence, and ownership in others. As leaders, their transparency is clearly helping to create those characteristics in families of addicts and addicts themselves. They are thinking of ways that they can gain healing from the challenge of addiction and they open themselves to possibilities.

Celebrities have family and friends. Their transparency has allowed for people to see how addiction may enter one person but truly affects all of those around them (team, band, family, friends, fans). They realize the whole family or more must join the idea of recovery. For example, a newly recovered person must be supported by friends and not thrown back into the party scene. Celebrities’ lives have shown that level of support and more.

Celebrities represent success and capability. Their transparency offers the acceptance of addiction among the successful. It also offers the person struggling with addiction the opportunity to imagine being successful once they are beyond drugs and alcohol. Further, because they see continued success and likability in the celebrity, they feel a relief from being socially ostracized and judged for being an addict.

Celebrities have life after addiction and through recovery. They are, consequently, helping families see beyond addiction so that addiction doesn’t feel like an end point in life. The reality of life after addiction is critical to the individuals and families of addiction.

Celebrities are teachers. They are teaching the families that there is no shame when addiction attacks your family. They are teaching treatment is good, relapse can be overcome, and addiction is a challenge that can overtake anyone at any time in life.

Celebrities are human. They allow persons and families suffering addiction to feel human as well. Families can identify with the human beyond the stardom and see the seriousness of addiction and the need to move beyond it. They can see a person under that addiction who is screaming to be heard. It is allowing us to unveil the person beyond the judgments and labels.

Celebrities are entertainers. In the “show” of their personal lives, they have shown the entire spectrum of addiction from using to recovery to relapse to death. Families are able to grasp the seriousness and see they cannot do this on their own. Because the celebrity is usually in a spotlight of some form, the audience views them with a sense of objectivity that takes them beyond their defenses.

Celebrities need help. They are showing this is a challenge that cannot be hidden and dealt with on your own. As a result, families are allowing themselves to ask for help and to talk about it because celebrities are.

As we look at the celebrities of our day, the transparency of challenges that they have been willing to open for the sake of the public is profound: from addiction to assault and more. As a people we would do well to honor the many gifts our celebrities have offered us in our lives. In return, maybe we can stop our harsh judgment of their lives through turning down the pavarazzi-based media and opening our understanding that they too are humans who feel all that we feel.

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