7 Infamous Giants Who Shook The World While Battling Drug & Alcohol Addiction
Whether overcoming addiction by means of extensive treatment, or diving into your passions, like Iron Chef Jesse Schenker, the disease is sneaky- because it disguises itself as the cure-all remedy for depression, anxiety, social stress, and anger. Those who turn to drugs and alcohol as a source of overcoming personal grief can triumph against the odds to delve into an untapped potential for creative direction.
We’ve done some digging to come up with seven infamous giants who changed the world, but struggled to overcome (and who sometimes embraced) drug and alcohol addiction. Their successes are living testaments people today can take strength from their pasts and still bring about lasting change in their own lives on their journey to recovery; still inspiring those around them to greatness.
Take a look at our top seven recovered addicts who awed the world with their contributions:
1. Samuel L. Jackson
We’re bringing the big guns out first with Hollywood’s finest A-lister, Samuel Jackson. Jackson grew up in the time of segregation, and had a difficult upbringing as the whole world began to reform at his feet with the dawn of integration; in fact, according to the Telegraph, Jackson took part as a noble rabble rouser in a hostage situation in his hometown of Atlanta to demand a black studies program at the Morehouse College.
But that’s in the past now. Or is it?
If there’s an important thing to remember about drug use and addiction, it’s that the past shapes how you’ll respond to stress. You’ll continue to carry your past traumas around with you, and eventually if you don’t find an outlet of expression, they manifest in their own ways (often to the detriment of the one who holds them).
In the throe of struggling to become a distinguished actor (who the heck would have known?) Jackson fell into a perilous depression, breaking down around the time he was 41 to immerse himself into the comforts of marijuana and crack cocaine. His addiction became so profound his eight year old daughter and wife found him unconscious and sprawled on the floor with lines of un-snorted cocaine laid out on their livingroom table.
During his drug laden escapades, Jackson claims he overdosed on heroin three times. New Hope quotes Jackson,
“The third time I OD’d on heroin I quit the drug completely. It’s too dangerous, I was mad. I was crazed. I was not happy with who I was.”
That’s when Jackson knew he needed help.
After checking into a drug rehabilitation center he landed a role in Jungle Fever, and everything aligned into place from there.
2. Daniel Radcliffe
As the infamous Harry Potter, it’s no wonder Radcliffe descended into the realm of alcohol. Starting out as a child actor in a multimillion dollar franchise is enough to make anyone go a little crazy. Radcliffe recounts, everywhere he went he was plagued with the ever looming presence of his role as the boy who lived.
In response to his exponential fame and fear of losing his position as a successful actor, Radcliffe indulged in alcohol, to the point where he now forbids himself from drinking altogether, because he cannot control the urges to drink once whetted.
The Guardian quotes Radcliffe as he explains the anxieties which moved him to drink,
“It is a pressure of living with the thought, ‘Oh, what if all these people are saying I am not going to have a career? What if they are all going to be right and will be laughing and I will be consigned to a bunch of ‘Where are they now?’ lists?’”
Well Danny, fear not, on this list you are an infamous giant kicking alcohol’s butt! Radcliffe continues as quoted by the Guardian,
“I’d stay in my apartment for days and drink alone. I was a recluse at 20. It was pathetic- it wasn’t me. I’m a fun, polite person, and it turned me into a rude bore.”
Since his stint with alcohol (which included him showing up to the set of harry Potter drunk), Radcliffe has steered clear from the stuff, and is continuing to deliver magnificent performances, as he continues to vary his acting chops away from the role of Harry Potter.
Did You Know?
J.K. Rowling, the mastermind behind the Harry Potter empire, wrote another book entitled Casual Vacancy. The novel is written for adult readers and follows the events of Terri Weedon, who is a struggling heroin addict and miserable prostitute.
3. Johnny Depp
This is the day that you’ll find out Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow wasn’t entirely acting. The Huffington Post quotes him regaling of his merriment of alcoholic elixirs,
“I investigated wine and spirits thoroughly, and they certainly investigated me as well, and we found out that we got along beautifully, but maybe too well.”
Depp confides his misadventures with drugs and alcohol was a marred attempt to cope with the stressors of his life, as a means to cut out the emptiness and anxiety that sometimes comes espoused with multi million dollar films and infamous attention.
According to Courier Mail, production of Pirates of the Caribbean Five has been postponed, on account of Depp struggling to collect himself after relapsing into the comforts of alcohol. The producers insist Depp will remain in the lead role as the beloved Captain Jack Sparrow- and will resume production upon his return.
Perhaps as a glimpse into the reasons why, New Hope quotes Depp,
“I was poisoning myself with alcohol and medicating myself. I was trying to numb things. I was trying not to feel things, and that’s ridiculous. It’s one of the dumbest things you can do, because all you’re doing is postponing the inevitable. Someday you’ll have to look all those things in the eye rather than try to numb the pain.”
Most times overcoming the tendrils of addiction is easier said than done, it it appears that’s what’s going on in Johnny’s case. No one is perfect, and relapse is fairly common among those who haven’t found a way to successfully vet their emotions inducing substance abuse; but he’s done it once and we’re certain he’ll do it again.
4. Elton John
Deviating a bit from the cinematic experience, we come to rest on Elton John’s larger-than-life glory. As one of the most influential figures of his (prime) time, and beyond, John began experimenting with addictive substances as a means to overcome his personal misgivings about his aesthetic appearance and social anxieties, according to Everyday Health.
For those who think the idea teens and adults alike don’t do drugs because it’s the “in” thing to do, John helps to shed light on the age-old debate by weighing in on how he began his traverse down the road of addiction.
Everyday Health quotes him,
“I never thought of myself as being handsome or good-looking or whatever. I always felt like an outsider. And I think that’s why I started doing drugs, to be one of the gang.”
During his time as an active user Elton John blundered through his life as a lost soul, attempting suicide multiple times, developing drug use disorders, and eating disorders along the way. John attests his recovery and renouncement of self odium saved him from the dredge of addiction, and reflects the relinquishment of fear helped him to finally stop running into the abyss of drugs to bask in the sun of his accomplishments.
Did You Know?
Although it’s no secret the rap superstar Eminem struggled with addiction, did you know he overcame his drug and alcohol use disorders (as glorified by many of his popular hits) by coming under the wing of Sir Elton John? So reveals Celebrity Gossip.
5. Stephen King
It’s no surprise the king of darkness hides a few skeletons in the folds of his pages that we didn’t even know were derived from his real-life experiences. Many of the crazed characters in his novels are modeled after the likeness of himself, especially those which draw on the degradation of alcoholism. (Which by the way, isn’t a loathsome disease at all- just the regular treatable kind with the right direction.)
King admits until he was able to set himself apart from what his addiction was doing to him, from the outside looking in, that he truly understood the gravity of the disease. He recounts a particularly low point in his stint as an alcoholic in the open, as opposed to secreting himself admid his late hour editing sessions locked away in his study; The Guardian quotes,
“The thing that I remember is being at one of my son’s Little League games with a can of beer in a paper bag, and the coaching coming over to me and saying, ‘If that’s an alcoholic beverage, you’re going to have to leave.’”
He recounts not going to bars to avoid people like himself, that were too miserable and insufferable to be around; instead he took comfort in plying himself with drink in seclusion.
6. Sigmund Freud
Ah the father of psychology, and cocaine? An unlikely combination, or is it? Since Freud allegedly only ate white foods. According to Salon, Freud advocated the use of cocaine as a wonder-drug to rival morphine, and was a regular user of the substance himself. He confided a letter to his fiance of the wonderment of cocaine, in anticipation of composing a revolutionary essay on the pragmatic application of the substance. Salon quotes him,
“I take very small doses of [cocaine] regularly against depression and against indigestion and with the most brilliant of success.”
As a result of his experimentation, and self medication- if you’ll note his use of cocaine to cope with depression, Freud proposed cocaine as a substitution for addiction. Of course now we know cocaine is highly addictive and would never dream of such a thing, Freud was on the trail of medically assisted drug treatment and maintenance therapy as early as the late 1800s.
Freud was one of the pioneers into cocaine research, and proposed its use for asthma, stomach problems, anesthesia, and treatment for wasting diseases, according to Scicurious. Perhaps more scandalously, Freud suggested cocaine as an aphrodisiac.
Even though Freud proposed treating alcohol and morphine addiction could be remedied by replacing their intake with cocaine, his research paved the way to explore substitution treatment for substance use disorders- which are currently employed today. And no, we don’t use cocaine.
7. Vincent Van Gogh
The infamous painter, that will forever dominate the hallowed halls of museums for the rest of time, suffered from an acute addiction to absinthe. The substance is a potent alcoholic beverage. According to Absinthe101 Van Gogh scholars agree the artist exhibited the full spectrum of signs confirming his absinthe addiction.
Interestingly enough, Van Gogh may have had a fond penchant for yellows and odd color combinations because he may have suffered from taking a prescribed drug to help mitigate seizures. His medication, Digitalis could may have caused Van Gogh to see yellow spots, according to FinerMinds.
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About the Author
Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.