It’s well-known that many celebrities – from musicians to actors to athletes – are in recovery.
Here on our blog, we’ve recently published two posts containing helpful lists:
This post contains two more lists. The first is a short one with four famous historical figures known for their alcohol and drug use, and the second one is a longer list, including 36 contemporary celebrities who are currently in recovery or have been in recovery. Our second list also includes two beloved figures – Carrie Fisher and Amy Winehouse – who are no longer with us.
The first list is to show people in recovery that their challenges are not new, and that people have been facing addiction for ages. The second list is to show people in recovery that they’re not alone, and that some of their heroes are in the same boat as them. They put their pants on one leg at a time, their shoes on one day at a time, and manage their recovery one day at a time.
Historical Figures and Alcohol/Drug Use
Vincent Van Gogh
This famous artist met an untimely demise as the result of suicide in 1890 at the age of 37. While it’s impossible to diagnose someone over a hundred years after the fact, biographers assert Van Gogh likely had depression or manic depression. This may have caused his well-documented excess use of absinthe, which means he likely had co-occurring disorders. Together, his depression and drinking may have contributed to his death by suicide.
While we’ll never know if Edison entered recovery, but resources confirm his love of, and regular consumption of Vin Mariani, which is wine infused with cocaine. In addition, biographers now believe Edison had attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and was dyslexic.
Records show that the famous author of “Oliver Twist” experienced depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Both these conditions likely contributed to his documented excess use of opium, both in the form of laudanum, an oral tincture, and by smoking in opium dens in London. Like Van Gogh, it’s likely Dickens had co-occurring disorders. He died of a stroke in 1870, during a time he regularly used opium.
The father of psychoanalysis is famous for his cocaine use. He praised the drug for the mental clarity he says it induced, and wrote a paper in 1884 called “On Coca.” However, after seeing the problems it caused in himself and others, Freud reduced his use, and ceased altogether by the 1890s. In retrospect, we could say Freud – since he ceased cocaine use – is one of the only historical figures we know of who may have actually been in recovery.
That’s our historical list. Next up, our list of current/recent celebrities in recovery.
36 Contemporary Celebrities in Recovery
Robert Downey Jr.
RDJ’s drug and alcohol exploits are well-known and began when his father gave him marijuana at age 6. During his early career, Downey bounced from film set to rehab and back countless times. He finally hit an extended bottom, spending the years between 1999 and 2003 in and out of jail and prison. Downey has been in recovery since 2003, twenty years now. Does his later success in the Marvel Comic Universe have anything to with his recovery? He says, yes, absolutely.
In an interview in 2020, the pop star discusses her issues with alcohol use disorder (AUD). During the interview, she said she’d been in regular therapy and in recovery for five years. Perry now prioritizes self-care and mental health above all other things.
The music star first entered recovery in 2008, at the urging of his father. He says, “getting that help saved my life.” Macklemore is a good reality check for the rest of us. He relapsed in 2020, went public, took ownership, and got back on his program. “I stopped doing the work,” he said. Again, a lesson for us all: keep doing the work. That’s what all celebrities in recovery advise, as well.
The famous Harry Potter star openly discusses his co-occurring disorders, which are obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD). Radcliffe began drinking to handle the stress of stardom and the intrusive thoughts associated with OCD. However, he’s been in recovery since 2010, and is one of the most well-known celebrities in recovery for co-occurring disorders.
The famous actor and sobriety podcaster describes his ups and downs with recovery in an interview in 2020. Although he’d been in recovery from alcohol use disorder (AUD) and cocaine use disorder (CUD) for years, he relapsed on pain pills, and was embarrassed to admit he was using when he told his addiction story at an AA meeting celebrating his 16 years sober. He soon stopped taking pills and has redoubled his commitment to recovery.
She began her career as a child star with Disney. She’s had problems with alcohol and drugs since early in her career, and was in and out of treatment between 2010 and 2012. She relapsed on fentanyl-laced heroin after six years of recovery in 2018, which caused three strokes and a heart attack. Lovato is now back in recovery, and committed to the process.
This famous child star developed problems alcohol and drugs, attempted entered rehab, and started her recovery journey – all by age 14. Since then, she’s been open about her addictions and her recovery. In 2021, she told reporters she’d completely given up alcohol, finally, in addition to drugs.
The pop music icon and legend is also a hero in the recovery community. In his early career, he used cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol to manage the complex emotions associated with being simultaneously intensely shy and a music superstar. A pivotal meeting with a fan changed his trajectory in 1990, and the star has been in recovery since – over 30 years. As we mention, among celebrities in recovery, Sir Elton is an elder statesman and hero.
Rapper Marshall Mathers openly rapped about vodka, Vicodin, marijuana, and other drugs on his early hits. However, after some close calls and a possible overdose in 2007, Eminem entered recovery, and is proud to be past his days of drinking and “taking 75-80 valium a night.” While he eschews most contact with celebrities, Eminem is one of the most well-known musical celebrities in recovery.
The legendary blues guitar hero experience heavy alcohol and heroin addiction early in his career, during the 1960s and 1970s. Clapton entered recovery in 1983, relapsed in 1985, then entered rehab in 1987, and reports he has not relapsed since.
The famous actor, and star of movies like 300 and Chasing Mavericks, entered rehab for painkillers in 2012. Before that, he reports that he “had not had a drink in 15 years.” Does this mean he’s in recovery? We can report that his time in rehab at the Betty Ford Clinic helped him stop taking painkillers, for which we applaud him: it’s not easy to ask for help.
The most decorated Olympian in history, gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps admits to experimenting with marijuana as a teenager. He was famously caught on camera using marijuana. Phelps was also arrested twice for DUI, and spent six weeks in an Arizona treatment center in 2014, then joined Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to help him stay on track.
We’re seeing a theme here: children who grow up around fame often fall into early drug use. Nicole Richie, adopted daughter of music superstar Lionel Richie, hit bottom after a DUI and a short time in jail in 2008. She entered rehab, and has been in recovery since then.
Known as the “nice judge” on American Idol, and before that as a pop star and influential choreographer, Paula Abdul developed an addiction to opioid pain relievers as a result of a back injury and several surgeries. She entered treatment for opioid use around 2008, and has been in recovery since.
An integral member of the second “Brat Pack,” Rob Lowe became famous at an early age as a star in the movie “The Outsiders” in 1983. After years of Hollywood excess, Lowe hit a low point in 1989 when a sex tape surfaced in 1989. In the legal aftermath, and with the help of his mother, Lowe entered a treatment program on May 10th, 1990, and has been in recovery since.
The controversial comedian and actor has been public about his experience with alcohol use disorder (AUD) and heroin/opioid use disorder (OUD). Brand has been in recovery since 2002, and since the overdose death of Amy Winehouse, has been and activist for both mental health and addiction treatment.
The most famous and successful horror author in history has been in recovery for 33 years. King, whose books and movies have scared the pants off of audiences for decades, reports heavy drug and alcohol use in the 1970s. His family staged an intervention, and he’s been in recovery since. According to King, recovery “has become part of my life.”
Frontman for the influential hard rock band Aerosmith, Tyler enthusiastically engaged in the culture of excess that characterized 70s rock and roll. However, his bandmates staged an intervention in the 80s, and he has been in recovery since. Tyler has relapsed more than once, but is still working hard on his program, and after a relapse in 2022, reports he attends AA meetings regularly.
The Grammy-winning country artist credits his wife Faith Hill for helping him stay in recovery. He developed an alcohol use disorder (AUD) while a young musician, but decide he’d had enough in 2008. He’s been in recovery since then, and again, credits his wife for her support on his journey.
The teen star of “High School Musical” developed an alcohol use disorder (AUD) after becoming a Hollywood mainstay in the mid-2000s. His use escalated until he started attending AA meetings in 2013, then entered a treatment program in 2014. He’s been in recovery since, and credits his treatment experience, and his ongoing attendance in AA, with saving his life.
Superstar actor Pinkett-Smith says, “My sort of addictions jump, they jump around.” She began combining alcohol, marijuana, and ecstasy as a teenager, but considered herself a “binger” rather than a regular user. “It’s a miracle I’m alive,” she says now. After a scare in 1996 which almost derailed her career, she found treatment, and has been in recovery since.
Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis has been a cultural icon since her role in “Halloween” in 1978. The star says “My sobriety has been the key to my freedom,” and has been in recovery from alcohol and drug use for over 20 years. She’s an outspoken advocate for treatment, and wants anyone who needs to know that help is available, but understands the courage it takes to stand up, admit you have a problem, and ask for help.
Another icon of film and stage, Sir Anthony Hopkins is most famous for his role as Hannibal Lector in “The Silence of the Lambs.” The 85-year-old actor developed an alcohol use disorder (AUD) early in his career. Now, with close to 50 years of recovery under his belt, he’s an advocate for both mental health and addiction treatment.
It’s hard to believe, but the song “Piano Man” was released in 1973, fifty years ago. According to Joel, for the first half of his career, if he had a problem, “I’d just drown it with booze.” He first entered treatment in 2002, but it didn’t stick until his time at the Betty Ford Clinic in 2005. He’s relapsed several times, and at last report in early 2023, he’d been sober for two years.
The Hollywood heartthrob admits to excessive alcohol use during his early career, which escalated to problem use during his divorce from Angelina Jolie. He started attending AA meetings, and credits fellow actor Bradley Cooper with helping him take his first steps on the recovery journey.
Kat Von D
The famous model, tattoo artist, and star of the reality show Miami Ink was known for hanging with the Jackass crew and hard-partying co-star Bam Magera. She entered rehab in 2007, when she realized her drinking had a negative impact on her career as an artist. She celebrated twelve years of sobriety with an Instagram post in 2019.
Star of the hit TV show “Sex and the City,” Davis said in an interview in 2008, “I’m a recovering alcoholic. I’ve never hid it, but I’ve been sober the whole time I’ve been famous.” Davis has been in recovery for a whopping 36 years – proof that it’s possible to navigate the ups and downs of stardom and stay in recovery the entire time.
The pop star, born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, admits that before entering recovery, she would smoke 18-20 marijuana cigarettes a day in order to help her creative process. Although she has never had formal treatment, Gaga says she is in recovery now, and uses her art as therapy. She recognizes recovery is an ongoing process, and reports her challenges began as a teenager, when she engaged in self-harm behaviors such as cutting.
The famous actor and singer had very public run of legal issues related to alcohol and drug use between 2007 and 2014, when she spent over 250 days in court-mandated drug and alcohol treatment programs. The last public reports about her sobriety – on Oprah in 2013 – indicated she was committed to recovery. She’s now married, living in Dubai, and has a slate of Netflix films ready to release.
Hollywood megastar Bradley Cooper may be a posterchild for what a successful recovery looks like in Hollywood. In an interview in 2023, he said, “I was lucky. I got sober at 29 years old, and I’ve been sober for 19 years. I’ve been very lucky.” He credits fellow actor Will Arnett for having a hard conversation with him in 2004, when Cooper was using cocaine regularly. That conversation woke him up, and he’s been in recovery since. Among celebrities in recovery, Cooper is known for his openness, honesty, and willingness to help others.
Everyone loves Princess Leia, and perhaps that was part of the problem: a star from a young age, Carrie Fisher also had bipolar disorder. This means she had co-occurring disorders – a diagnosis of a substance use disorder and mental health disorder at the same time. She most likely used drugs to manage the uncomfortable emotions associated with her mental health disorder. Fisher died of a heart attack at age 60, after years in recovery. Toxicology reports indicate she had both heroin and cocaine in her system at the time of her death. We’ll miss you, Carrie, and admire your courageous advocacy efforts over the past decades.
Just over ten years ago, celebrity actor Charlie Sheen – son of famous actor Martin Sheen, brother of actor Emilio Esteves – went through what amounts to a public breakdown, characterized by his repetition of the catchphrase “winning.” To everyone watching, Sheen was clearly not winning – and appeared to be lost in substance use. He reported two years of sustained recovery in 2019. At last report – in an interview with his father in 2021 – Sheen was in recovery and thriving. “His recovery and his life is a miracle,” the elder Sheen said.
This Irish superstar got lost in the Hollywood party lifestyle early in his career. However, he woke up in 2008 and went to rehab. “After 20 years of drinking the way I drank, the sober world is pretty scary,” he said in an interview in 2021. By all accounts, Farrell is thriving in recovery to this day.
Famous before taking the role of the number one bad guy in history, Thanos, Brolin began his recovery journey in 2013. In an Instagram post celebrating five years of recovery in 2021, Brolin wrote, “Sobriety is when your children look at you and trust what they see.” For millions of people in recovery worldwide, this has a significant impact: one thing recovery can heal is family relationships.
The “Friends” star went to rehab 15 times and had 14 surgeries related to his alcohol and drug use. He says he doesn’t remember acting in seasons 3-6, because his alcohol and drug use was so severe. In 2001, his drug use became so extreme he quit. He told the New York Times “I didn’t get sober because I felt like it. I got sober because I was worried I was going to die the next day.” He spent another month in treatment in 2011. In 2015, he received the 2015 Phoenix Rising Award for helping other celebrities and people on the road to recovery.
Winehouse, a well-respected singer, musician, and performer, died of alcohol poisoning in 2011 at age 27. She’s another celebrity with co-occurring disorders: in addition to alcohol and drug use problems, she had an eating disorder, clinical depression, and engaged in self-harm. She entered treatment in 2007, after an overdose involving heroin, ecstasy, alcohol, and ketamine. Sadly, she never fully embraced recovery after treatment, which led to her untimely death 4 years later. Celebrities in recovery worldwide hold her up as a cautionary tale for up-and-coming stars.
Finding Help: Pinnacle Treatment Centers
If you or someone you love has a problem with alcohol or drug use, and you think you – or they – have an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD), then we encourage you – or them – to arrange a professional evaluation administered by a mental health professional sooner rather than later. Treatment works – as many celebrities on the list above can attest – and the earlier a person who needs treatment gets the treatment they need, the better the outcome.