The 5 Best Ways to Stay Sober, According to Stars Who Have Done It
These A-list celebs are opening up about breaking free of addiction.
If you're struggling to overcome an addiction, you may be wondering how to break free from unhealthy patterns. While seeking out appropriate support groups or treatment facilities is key, and confiding in trusted friends and family members can be helpful as well, these are just the first steps in reclaiming your life and sobriety.
Thankfully, the stigma of addiction is beginning to fade, making it easier for more people to get the help they need. In that spirit, some high-profile celebrities are opening up about their own roads to recovery by sharing the lessons that made long-lasting change possible for them. Read on to learn some of the best tips for staying sober, from five celebs who have done it.
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Be honest with yourself.
Rob Lowe dealt with addiction throughout the '80s, after rising to teenage fame as a member of the Brat Pack. He resolved to get sober in 1990 after his drug and alcohol use nearly destroyed his life and career.
While speaking with Variety in 2021, the star shared his hard-earned perspective on what it takes to stay clean. "The only way to stay in recovery is to be honest with yourself on a minute-by-minute basis. No secrets, no double life. And you have to get real," he told the outlet.
"Nothing can make you get sober except you wanting to do it," he added. "The threat of losing a marriage, losing a job, incarceration—you name the threat, it will not be enough to do it. It's got to be in you. The reason that people don't get sober 100 percent of the time when they go into programs is that people aren't ready when they go to use the tools," said Lowe.
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Address the underlying issues.
Jada Pinkett Smith says that throughout her youth, binging on drugs and alcohol was a regular part of her weekend routine. Though the actor would regularly combine ecstasy, marijuana, and liquor, she explained on her popular talk show, Red Table Talk, "I wasn't doing things that I thought were addictive."
The star says she realized her habits had spun out of control while drinking alone at home. "Once I was going for that third bottle of wine, I said, 'You've got a problem.' And it was cold turkey that day," she said, noting that she quit "excessive" drinking, but still has a glass of wine from time to time.
Pinkett Smith now believes the key to staying sober is to address the underlying issues that make you vulnerable to addiction. "I've learned that recovery isn't just for those suffering from substance abuse, but that recovery is about recovering from our traumas, abuse, neglect, abandonment, lack of self-worth, disappointments, failed relationships, the loss of loved ones and so on," she said. "I think back on my life, like, I am a walking miracle, no doubt about that," the star added.
Quiet your mind.
Oscar-winning actor Brad Pitt famously got sober in 2016 after his high-profile split from wife Angelina Jolie. The star spent a year and a half in Alcoholics Anonymous, a support system he now views as an essential part of his early recovery. "You had all these men sitting around being open and honest in a way I have never heard," Pitt told The New York Times in 2019. "It was this safe space where there was little judgment, and therefore little judgment of yourself… It was actually really freeing just to expose the ugly sides of yourself. There's great value in that," he said.
Pitt explained that throughout his early career, his addiction grew in response to his fame. "In the '90s, all that attention really threw me," he told the newspaper. "It was really uncomfortable for me, the cacophony of expectations and judgments. I really became a bit of a hermit and just bonged myself into oblivion."
As part of his recovery, the actor had to actively learn to quiet those internalized judgements, which anyone—not just celebrities—can experience. "Those dubious thoughts, the mind chatter, the rat in the skull—that's comedy," he told The Times. "It's just ridiculous that we would beat ourselves up that way. It doesn't matter. I spent too much of life wrestling with those thoughts, or being tethered to those thoughts, or caged by those thoughts."
Break the cycle.
Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr. famously battled a drug and alcohol addiction, which he says began during his childhood when his father introduced him to marijuana."When my dad and I would do drugs together, it was like him trying to express his love for me in the only way he knew how," he said in 1988, in an interview for the book The New Breed (via People).
In 1996, the star nearly sabotaged his life and career with a string of three high profile arrests within the span of a month. In and out of rehab in the years that followed, he finally committed to sobriety in 2003.
Speaking with Vanity Fair in 2014, the star shared that he views sobriety as a two-part process: breaking the cycle, and making longer-lasting changes. "Job one is get out of that cave," he told the magazine. "A lot of people do get out but don't change. So the thing is to get out and recognize the significance of that aggressive denial," he said. "Come through the crucible forged into a stronger metal."
Follow the rules.
Parenthood star Dax Shepard has struggled openly with addiction, having publicly relapsed several times during his 18-year effort to stay sober.
However, the actor says he consistently returns to Alcoholics Anonymous for support, and relies on the concrete rules of the program to provide structure to his sobriety. "The thing I like about AA is it's not abstract: Here's what you do; write this list; call this person; be available to this guy; take that person to a meeting," Shepard shared on his podcast, Armchair Expert (via Us Magazine). "You can't wake up one morning because you're so demoralized from the night before and decide, 'I'm going to permanently remember that I felt this demoralized in six years and this will be sustainable.' For me, at least, I will forget six years later what it felt like. But if I have actions that are a part of my regular muscle memory and routine, those things will do the lifting for me," he said.
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