I have trouble finding compassion for celebrities and their addictions. That may sound cruel to you. After all, they're just human beings like the rest of us, prone to mistakes and wrong turns in life. Still, whenever I hear that same old cliched true Hollywood story of obscurity, discovery, fame, addiction, insanity, fall from grace and finally hitting rock bottom, I find it so pathetic and irritating. I can't summon anything but contempt for all these famous folks who repeat this same rise and fall mentality again and again through the generations, learning nothing at all from those who crashed and burned before them. Why the hell is it that certain celebrities, one of the few groups of people left in this country who have the means to live a life free from want, still can't get themselves together? Why do they sabotage lives and careers you and I would give anything for just one day to experience for ourselves? What the hell makes these people feel like the best way to deal with a life of luxury, fame and fortune is to toss it all away like a syringe in a puddle of piss in a back alley?
To explore the reasons for this blockage in my compassion, I'm going to spend the next few paragraphs trying to see the other side of this argument. Then I'll discuss why I still don't have much compassion for celeb forays into addiction. Now, we all know that all the various powerhouses of fame, whether it be Hollywood, the music industry, sports, or whatever, are infested with drugs and alcohol. If you're a VIP in any of these scenes, you practically get drugs and booze shoved in your face wherever you go. So, it's no wonder folks get themselves stuck in indulgences from which it is very difficult to unstick themselves. There is such a pressure to fit in and make yourself part of the group in these circles. You've never known peer pressure until you've tried to work your way up through the rungs of influence in Hollywood.
Also - and this is a somewhat more esoteric but no less influential aspect of this situation - celebs who might consider themselves artists tend to have addictive personalities. Call it a reaction to whatever part of themselves they have to reach into to create their art; that deep well of pain that stimulates the creative capacities of the human psyche, or whatever. Some create art to satisfy an inner longing constantly crying out for appeasement and reassurance. Expression through art provides an outlet to those with persistently needy inner children. However, drugs and booze just seem to offer a more expedient pathway to satiating this aspect of the creative mind. Of course, it's all an illusion. Drugs and booze just make things worse. However, another aspect of being the tortured artist is a further tendency toward self destruction. In other words, they like to kill themselves for their art. So if there were no drugs and booze, they'd find some other way to ruin their lives.
You also can't ignore the pressure some celebs deal with. There's a lot of shit coming down on celebrities of every kind. Dealing with an army of attorneys, agents, accountants, assistants and all sorts of other folks around you at all times is probably quite a pain. They have to dodge or otherwise deal with the media as well as officials in their particular area of fame, such as studio heads, record execs, team owners, league officials and so on. There's also the pressure of handling potentially millions of dollars. What did Biggie Smalls say? Mo money, mo problems? Thus is the high pressure life of a celebrity. No wonder they dip into some powder or swig on a bottle to calm the nerves, right?
Alright, so the celebs got problems. They got pressures, they got bad habits, they got destructive tendencies. Guess what? So do the rest of us. Still, I don't think many folks would equate the problems of some celeb living high on fame and fortune, with that of your average, everyday Joe busting his or her ass for a paycheck. We all know of regular, everyday folks who get themselves involved in some kind of addiction. Hey, life is hard, particularly these days. Does that mean the average Joe has more of a right to get blitzed on pills and booze? No, of course not. Turning to drugs or alcohol to deal with your problems is always a bad idea. However, it's not difficult to see why some hard luck folks take that option, when they reach a point where there literally is no other place to go. Their lives are so miserable, with problems and needs so insurmountable, a life of chemical stupor might just be the only thing keeping them from losing their minds, which they do anyway once they put the drugs in their system. It's always a foolish choice, no matter who you are. But isn't it even more foolish when someone with so little reason to turn to drugs. like a rich and famous person, decides to do it anyway?
That's the thing that will always distinguish the celebrity addicts from all others who go down that path. People living in a slum, hooked on some terrible drug, are basically lost. A celebrity has all the means in the world to overcome a terrible error in judgement. They need not suffer through it, if they don't want to. They can use their teams of paid servants as a buffer from the kinds of bad influences that get folks in trouble. They can afford to fly away to some tropical paradise when those addiction pitfalls threaten them and take a break from their lives. They can pay the lush rehab facilities to get them clean. They have the means to seek treatment and preserve their lives. Or, should push come to shove, they can take their money and legacy and get the hell out of town for good. Go retire on a farm, herd cattle and write their memoirs. The point being, it doesn't have to take over their life. Their status gives them a power to control their fate that most other people never know.
More than that though, they have, or should have, the motivation not to get involved in such things in the first place. They're a famous actor, a celebrated musician, an accomplished sportsperson. Not to mention the money, fame and the adoration of millions that come with such lives. Isn't such achievement reason enough for them to avoid those things that might jeopardize their ability to do what they do and have what they have? I understand that these careers come with some downsides. Yet, the positives certainly outweigh the negatives. Can't you picture contentment with a life spent as an accomplished actor or musician or sports player? Couldn't you make some positive changes to your existence with a few million dollars? Wouldn't being loved and desired by armies of fans do a little something for your self-esteem? It's this tendency for people to be completely unsatisfied with success in their field, to the point where they feel they have to bury themselves in addiction just to get along, that boggles my mind.
What does it say about a person that, despite having all the breaks and all the fame they can handle, they would rather piss it all away? Is this the fundamental indication that some celebrities are just self-destructive idiots? It certainly seems that way sometimes. Even if they are morons, it's not like it hasn't been common knowledge for decades that drugs and booze can f*ck you up - particularly if you indulge in such things regularly. So no excuse for claiming ignorance of that situation. And if a celebrity feels like they have to suffer for their art, then how do they explain all their peers out there, kicking ass in their profession with a completely non-chemically saturated life? Have you ever seen a junkie "artist" that didn't eventually turn into a pathetic pile of shit eventually? So much for their art.
No matter how bad it gets, it is possible to dig oneself out of that hole and make a life and a career. I was always a big fan of Robert Downey Jr. going back to the 80s, when his substance abuse issues started. So it was frustrating to see him spiral down into chaos the way he did. He had so much going for him - so much talent, so much opportunity. Yet, by the late 90s, most folks had written him off and understandably so. If he was determined to trade fame and fortune for back alleys and bathroom stalls, then he deserved mediocrity. Thankfully, Robert did come back from the brink and I couldn't be more happy for him. He took control of himself and is now bigger and better than he ever was before. Robert's life is the perfect example of how anyone can correct that flat spin of stupid, self indulgent ruin before it becomes unrecoverable.
So what's the verdict here? Should we hold the poor celebrity addict's hand and make them feel okay about their reckless, irresponsible, thoughtless choices in life? Should we continue to idolize idiots who throw their gifts away for nothing? I don't think so. Yielding to addiction is always a stupid choice, but more so when one has so much to lose by making that choice. Not many celebrities can legitimately stand as symbols of good sense and maturity, but that's not going to stop people from idolizing them anyway. We all want to be the movie star, the rock god or the sports legend at one time in our lives. So those who achieve greatness in those fields deserve to be held to a higher standard of behavior, if for no other reason than the fact that they are so beloved and worshiped. And when one of them falls to stupidity, they deserve all the ignominy and rebuke they receive. Their success and fame may eventually go away one day, but there's no excuse nor any inherent sympathy for those who chose to prematurely help their decline along.