Demi Lovato. Ben Affleck. Whichever celebrity is getting a DUI this week.
There’s no shortage of news about celebrities and their predilection for substances. While so-called regular folks may shake their heads at what appear to be people who have everything but are intent on destroying their lives, the fact is the cunning and baffling nature of addiction can be especially challenging when you’re famous.
Why else would Demi Lovato throw away years of sobriety and come close to ending her life, as she did last July?
Even once stars are clean, the criticism doesn’t stop. According to Yahoo! Lifestyle, Lovato’s goal is to “’live a more relaxed lifestyle before she dives back into working.’” Still, the article continued, “Although most fans are happy to see Lovato looking healthy, the star has been the target of hurtful comments about her weight. ‘Damn she got fat,’ one person commented. ‘She turkied up,’ another added.”
Fat-shaming in itself is cruel but when strangers are criticizing the weight of someone who has been open about struggling with an eating disorder, the commentary steps over the line into abusive.
“’When I feel lonely, my heart feels hungry and I end up bingeing,’” Women’s Health magazine quoted Lovato saying in her documentary Simply Complicated. The magazine reported that “Demi traced her issues with eating back to her childhood, noting that she first began bingeing when she was 8, after her little sister was born and she felt like less attention was on her.”
“’The less I have to think about food, the easier it is to go about having a normal life and I don’t want to let anybody down so when I do have moments when I slip up, I feel very ashamed,’” she said, according to Women’s Health.
Those who work in the field of recovery understand how closely tied drugs and food are.
“’It has been stated before that food is the most overused ‘drug’ to treat anxiety or depression, and exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant,” Dr. Vijaya Surampudi, an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Human Nutrition who works in the Center of Obesity and Metabolic Health at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) told Healthline. “Many people then start to feel ashamed or hopeless to reach out for help so they start to develop disordered eating patterns to work on weight control.’”
Healthline continues, “For many people, disordered eating can be a lifelong battle. ‘It is unfortunately a lifelong struggle with their relationship with food once it starts so early,” she [Surampudi] said.”
But Lovato isn’t the only star battling the gossip mill. Since completing treatment, Ben Affleck has been the victim of constant rumors that he’s relapsed, even when he’s out promoting a movie.
“Several reports surfaced over the weekend claiming that the 46-year-old actor had re-entered rehab,” reported accessonline.com, “but a source close to the situation tells Access that they are 100 percent false. In fact, Ben was actually out at a Celebrity Fan Fest convention with his Justice League pals in San Antonio, Texas.
Ray Fisher, who plays Cyborg in the hit franchise, posted a photo with his co-star at the event and shared it on Twitter.
‘Catching up with this guy today in San Antonio @celebfanfest Come check us out! #BORGLIFE @benaffleck,’ Ray wrote alongside the smiling snap,” according to accessonline.com.
Affleck entered rehab in August, after photos surfaced of him accepting deliveries of large boxes of alcohol. (He had already made headlines for going to treatment in both 2001 and 2007.) While he’s now back at work (on Gavin O’Connor’s Torrance, where he’s actually playing a former All-Star basketball player who’s battling addiction), Warner Bros. seems to have pulled the plug on his Batman movie.
But gossip isn’t the only things that makes sobriety challenging for celebrities.
It’s also the fact that recovery requires humility and one of the greatest keys to success is the ability to understand that you’re just like everyone else. “Addiction takes people from Yale and people from jail,” says Darren Prince, a recovery advocate and the author of the bestselling book Aiming High: How a Prominent Sports Agent Hit Bottom at the Top.
Prince, who is over 10 years sober after a crippling addiction to opiates, is more than familiar with the travails of celebrities struggling to stay sober. He is, after all, the longtime agent to Dennis Rodman (not to mention Hulk Hogan, Magic Johnson and many others).
“When you have everyone coming at you all the time and a lot of yes-people catering to your every need, it can be hard to keep everything in perspective,” Prince explains.
That’s something that Affleck seems to be coming to understand. “Battling any addiction is a lifelong and difficult struggle,” the actor wrote on Instagram. “Because of that, one is never really in or out of treatment. It is a full-time commitment. I am fighting for myself and my family. So many people have reached out on social media and spoken about their own journeys with addiction. To those people, I want to say thank you. Your strength is inspiring and supporting me in ways I didn’t think was possible.”
Above that, he wrote, “The support I have received from my family, colleagues, and fans means more to me than I can say. It’s given me the strength to support and speak about my illness with others.”
“It helps to know I am not alone,” he added. “As I’ve had to remind myself, if you have a problem, getting help is a sign of courage, not weakness or failure.”