Celebrities Who Got Sober and Stayed That Way
Watching television in the 1900s and early 2000s, you would have thought that every rock band trashed hotel rooms while drunk and high. Essentially, they did. The press glorified it and fans read between the lines. To be cool, you had to drink.
Fast forward to 2019 and celebrities from all industries – acting, music, art, and literature tout their sobriety. They do not just advocate not drinking; they openly share their horror stories of alcoholism and drug abuse to illustrate how beautiful the sober life really is.
On television, Tony Denison has played Mafia tough guy Ray Luca in “Crime Story,” real-life mobster John Gotti, Sr. and the fictional cop Lt. Andy Flynn on both “The Closer” and “Major Crimes.” His career has a void of time though where the roles weren’t that major. Drugs and alcohol had taken over his life. He tells the story of the night he broke with reality and found himself baying at the moon in his backyard, drunk and high.
It was also the moment he committed to a clean life. Denison reached out for help and began the one day at a time journey to what has become 25 years of sobriety, so far. He landed the Flynn character – his most famous – after becoming sober. He’s influenced scriptwriters to include sobriety in his characters and one of the most memorable episodes of “The Closer” began with him giving his qualification in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, then moved to a raucous fight scene where he takes out a perp. The episode explores AA and its private, truly anonymous nature. Beyond fiction, Denison created a website to leverage his famous name and handsome face to draw people to sobriety – Get Sober with Tony.
Robert Downey, Jr.
One of those 1990s party children was actor Robert Downey, Jr. who eventually became considered unemployable in Hollywood. His level of addiction was so egregious that it landed him in the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison. Once released, Downey Jr. had to start over completely, even moving in with a friend. He committed to sobriety though and returned to film, cast at first in supporting roles such as a rogue FBI agent in the Tommy Lee Jones vehicle “US Marshals.” Sober for decades now, you probably know him best as Tony Stark aka Iron Man. He anchors the Avengers films in that character, as well.
“Job one is getting out of that cave. A lot of people do get out but don’t change,” Downey Jr. told Vanity Fair in 2014. “So the thing is to get out and recognize the significance of that aggressive denial of your fate, come through the crucible forged into a stronger metal.”
A heartthrob since his beginnings as an actor in the 1980s, Rob Lowe partied his way through multiple decades as a member of the Brat Pack. The media consistently documented his epic escapades, but he tops Denison in clean years, celebrating 29 years sober. In 2015, he received the Spirit of Sobriety award to commemorate his first 25 years sober. His determination to get and stay sober can from family and career goals. Today, he credits a relationship with God as one of the keys to staying clean.
In his Spirit acceptable speech, Lowe said, “Being in recovery has given me everything of value that I have in my life. Integrity, honesty, fearlessness, faith, a relationship with God and most of all gratitude. It’s given me a beautiful family and an amazing career. I’m under no illusions where I would be without the gift of alcoholism and the chance to recover from it.”
Another Brat Packer who partied through many decades, Charlie Sheen, had cleaned up years ago in 2008. Sheen remained sober for many years until receiving an HIV diagnosis in 2016 sent him into a depression with anxiety. He began drinking again to cope. His moment of truth came in 2018 when one of his five children phoned him to say she needed him to pick her up and drive her to an appointment. He couldn’t because he was already a few drinks in for the day. He had to call a friend to drive them.
“I was just like, ‘Damn, man, I’m not available. I’m just not responsible, and there’s no nobility in that.’ It was that night, I just sat with all that,” Sheen told US Weekly in 2019. “If you can’t be available for the basic necessity of being there for your children, then something really needs to shift.” Sheen celebrated one year of renewed sobriety in 2019.
Lead singer of the legendary rock band, Aerosmith, has gone to rehab so many times that his friends joke they’ve lost count. Tyler stands as another example of the need to renew your commitment to sobriety. He has done so numerous times. His most recent stint in rehab for alcohol occurred in 2010, his fourth for that drug. Now nine years sober, he credits the change with literally saving his life.
If he had not returned to rehab, Tyler says, “[I’d] be dead by now.”
You do not have to be a movie, television or rock star to need to clean up. You do not have to be famous to live a beautiful, clean life. You can save yourself, one day at a time.