Celebrity Rehab: Growing up in Public


There are probably more stories now on the web about Charlie Sheen than there are about Charlemagne, even though most people would recognize that one has a much greater importance, historically speaking.  It’s not that the media blinds people to what’s really important, but that famous people behaving badly is terribly interesting.  Celebrity is something that carries with it a body of myths that are as attractive and evasive as winning the lottery.  For some, misbehaviors are reminders that we are all human and make mistakes.  But for others, it can be a subject of scorn, stemming from insecurities that are disguised as moral superiority.


That is one of the very difficult things about stories of celebrity rehab.  They’re interesting to everyone, but they hold something special for those who are wondering if there is a path for recovery in their future.  It’s a delicate balance.  On the one hand, there are principles of anonymity from 12-step programs that are designed to keep famous names from taking over the public perceptions of the organization.  On the other hand, when famous people get their lives together, it can absolutely inspire others.


It is necessary, then, to look at the 12-step tradition of anonymity.  Members uphold this tradition by maintaining “personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.”  There is some confusion about this, where some might perceive it to be cult-like, in depriving members of individuality.  The core of the tradition, however, is to protect the name of the organization, and to ensure that no one can achieve any kind of special attention because of their affiliation.  It becomes a spiritual principle, then, where one is required to leave their ego at the door.  In principle, there are no celebrities in recovery.

This can be very central in the decision-making process for someone considering looking into drug rehab information.  The rate of relapse is significant among addicts and alcoholics, and celebrities don’t have a better chance than anyone else.  However, if a celebrity does relapse, it is in the public eye, so if they are making any claims to membership to an organization, the organization is held in suspicion.  But perhaps even more importantly, in the lives of these individuals, who happen to be celebrities, the choice to try and get sober is a very intensely personal one.  They have the right as much as anyone else to start living one day at a time.  It is like growing up in public, like Lou Reed sings about, and the rewards fame offers the ego are as powerful as the ego’s defeat when someone relapses under public scrutiny.  They are simply good people trying to get better, like anyone else trudging the road.

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