Perhaps a hilarious part of the otherwise painful Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial was when Amber’s lawyer asked Johnny if he had poured himself a “mega pint” of wine just before he was pictured in a video smashing up the kitchen in their country home. Depp chuckled as he responded, “A mega pint? I poured myself a large glass of wine, I thought it necessary in the circumstance”.
This moment in court has gone on to form the butt of many jokes and hundreds of social media memes, but it does underlie a grave issue that seems to accompany many celebrity breakups, career breakdowns, or untimely deaths; Addiction.
Addictive behavior comes in many different ways; for celebrities like Johnny Depp, it was alcohol and pills. Other celebrities like Demi Lovato, Ben Affleck, and Nicki Minaj have also threaded a hard path on the road to recovery from alcohol addiction. Luckily, mental health issues are becoming less stigmatized, and celebrities are finally finding the courage to speak up.
Is it tougher for celebrities?
“Not necessarily” was Maggie Jenson’s direct response to whether celebrities find it tougher to avoid addictive behavior. Mental health issues are pervasive across social divides and are the usual precursors to addictive behavior.
“However, the sheer social pressure on celebrities, the fact that anyone at any time could make a post about them, start a trend about them or publish an article about them without their consent, does make them a little more prone to becoming reluctant to start the recovery journey or when they do, it predisposes them to relapse at a slightly higher rate. At the end of the day, we all have our social triggers, and our dependence on social media isn’t helping.”
Jenson is the founder of Magnify Progressive Wellness, a health consultancy company devoted to being a one-stop-shop for wellness with an emphasis on mental health. Jenson is an avid student of addictive patterns, having dealt with addiction for about 15 years and growing up going to AA meetings with her Mom, who was also an addict. Jenson’s treatment concept was born from a firm refusal of one of AA’s often touted mantras; once an addict, always an addict. She believes in helping individuals struggling with addictive behavior to “think better to drink better or never again” by helping them build a health consciousness and a sense of purpose.
In Jenson’s opinion, social pressure is one of the strongest reasons behind addictive behavior. As Demi Lovato put it during her appearance on the Ellen Degeneres Show on the 22nd of February, 2021, “…we live in a time where nobody’s perfect, and we’re not going to get role models by watching people not make mistakes. We’re going to meet and learn from our role models who have overcome their deepest, darkest struggles.”
Building a more tolerant social media landscape would be the obvious solution, but besides implementing stiffer restrictions on social media, this problem has even the most pronounced social scientists miffed.
The road to recovery
In July of last year, Hollywood veteran actress Jamie Lee Curtis celebrated 22 years of being sober. The Knives Out star spoke about her sobriety journey to AARP Magazine; “I’ve been sober 22 years, off of alcohol and pain pill addiction….the process of being a super person puts you in the one day at a time mentality.”
Jamie Lee Curtis’ journey is probably one of the most documented in Hollywood and has been discussed repeatedly since 1999. In an interview in the year 2002, Curtis discussed the deadly effects of addiction; “It kills people. It killed my brother. It kills young people, old people, it ruins families, It’s ruinous.”
A few months ago, Academy Award-nominated actor Josh Brolin also took to social media to celebrate eight years in recovery. Drew Barrymore also recently announced that she had given up drinking after a tussle with addiction, and singers, The Weeknd and Adele have also made similar admissions. This list is not extensive but goes to show that recovery is possible.
According to Jenson, “Addiction is largely steeped in declining mental health states. A fearful, depressed mind is ten times more likely to fall into addictive patterns. Addiction is not a disease but rather a level of consciousness and awareness that can be reprogrammed.”
She continued, “The way forward is not creating an identity of shame, guilt, and lack of control but rather an identity of empowerment, self-control, focus, and drive. In other words, a reawakening of a strong sense of purpose is usually the most powerful step on the road to recovery. I don’t focus on alcohol or the substances, that is giving your power over to them. I believe that people can reprogram their habits to the point where they go from ‘addict’ to taking a drink occasionally and in a healthy manner. I also utilize harm reduction as a formal term for teaching over-consumers to cut back and reduce harm.”
Jenson’s suggestions are consistent with what many recovering celebrities have admitted; It does seem like the strongest panacea to addictive behavior is a strong sense of purpose and the realization of the depth of the harm that the addiction is causing.
In her November 2021 interview with CBS, Adele admitted to struggle with alcohol addiction amid her divorce from Simon Konecki. In her words, “Once I realized that I had a lot of work to do, I stopped drinking and started working out, to keep me sort of centered.” Adele has famously lost a lot of weight as a result of this switch and has admitted to feeling more confident as a result. Adele credits her quitting drinking for how she was able to get to know herself and learn to love herself again.
Drew Barrymore was a bit blunter in explaining why she quit drinking by admitting that alcohol “did not serve any purpose in her life.” Unlike Adele and Barrymore, award-winning singer/songwriter Tim McGraw admitted that the moment of clarity came when his wife hugged him after he had taken a “big shot” (his version of a mega-pint) at around 8 am and expressed her fear and concern for him.
“Knowing the harm that addictions cause is not the same thing as understanding it,” Jenson explains, “Oftentimes, the most effective techniques are not found in AA or the 12-step program. They are found in enlightenment programs that show a very clear picture of purpose and the alternative to missing out on purpose. I have been able to generate positive results for 100% of my clients by focusing on these aspects rather than making them view themselves as damaged or diseased and needing some form of recovery.”
Hollywood is a high-performance and high-maintenance industry. It is little wonder celebrities have so much stress to deal with. However, these pressures are not limited to the high and mighty; we all struggle with these pressures ourselves; relationship pressures, social pressures, and physical ailments. These celebrities who have come out at the other end are a testament that anyone can lay off the “mega pint” and live a life of fulfillment and purpose.