Regular people with addictions deserve the same support we give celebrities

Regular people with addictions deserve the same support we give celebrities

Regular people with addictions deserve the same support we give celebrities
August 08
16:29 2018

We have lost a lot of celebrities to drug or alcohol addiction — Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Chris Farley and even further back we have the likes of Elvis Presley and Judy Garland. There’s a lot to be said about the environment that drives these individuals to misuse drugs when it seems like they have everything they could possibly need: fame, success, riches and more.

But as we undergo this revolution in mental health dialogue and, hopefully, treatments for these illnesses, there is an aspect that has not been broached as responsibly or as humanely.

The nature of addiction.

The fame machine has allowed us to watch with anticipation, sometimes even with disturbing glee, as a celebrity begins their downward spiral. We see their suffering and call them “crackheads,” and we laugh when they attack paparazzi with umbrellas or have Twitter meltdowns. Underneath these callous attitudes is the assumption that addiction is a choice — that people who have it all, much more than the rest of us, are making conscious choices to destroy their lives. Therefore, they don’t warrant our pity or our concern.

In the past few years, these ideas have started to shift. Celebrities like Demi Lovato (who recently suffered a relapse), Eminem and Mac Miller have made it normal for celebrities to be open about their struggles with sobriety. It allows the public to see the real, multi-dimensional person behind the Hollywood glamour.

Although this is good news, not everyone sees it as fully constructive. Some advocates for the humanization of those with addictions have expressed frustration that the public has become much more understanding of the plights of the wealthy and famous than of the people in their own neighborhood suffering from addiction. These advocates posit it is much easier to empathize with individuals who live the lives we fantasize about, who have more money than they can count and who the public deems as beautiful, talented and worth saving.

This is true. Wealthy people and celebrities often get less prison time or none at all for drug offenses.

But even with this knowledge, it’s beneficial to encourage these attitudes of acceptance and support no matter the class or background of the person with the addiction. Of course we should draw attention to the classist double standard, but we shouldn’t use this as an opportunity to bash these celebrities for “having it all” and “choosing” to be addicted to drugs.

If anything, celebrities’ sobriety struggles being hyper-visible is a great thing. On one end, it shows the regular public that fame and wealth do not always fix your life, and on the other, it shows those recovering that people at the top have similar problems and they’re not alone.

Most importantly, a conversation has been initiated with the people who do not battle addiction. They are being educated and reminded of the struggles of those around them who deal with this disease, and hopefully it influences them enough to be more empathetic toward the people in their neighborhood who don’t have the same resources as Demi Lovato or Eminem. In this way, we can inspire regular people to reach out for help.

Because famous or not, we all deserve kindness.

Featured Illustration by Allison Shuckman

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Maritza Ramos

Maritza Ramos

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