It’s not often that I have the time (or the inspiration) to post more than once a week, but the devastating passing of Robin Williams gave me much cause to pause and think over the last few days. Something that seems prevalent in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood is how many truly unhappy people there seem to be in what can only be described as a fish bowl. But the more I thought about it, the more I started to wonder why should celebrity pain and suffering be any more tragic than the garden-variety kind. I’m not for one moment trying to marginalise the grief that many people must be feeling around the death of such a beloved star, but every day there are people living lives of quiet desperation and I only wish that the public’s attention wouldn’t shift quite so quickly from the issues that these people’s deaths raise.
Whenever someone famous meets a tragic end there is a short-lived focus on the issue that was the root of their demise. Whether that be drug addiction, like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heath Ledger, or alcoholism which took Amy Winehouse or those suffering from a co-occuring disorder such as seems to be the case in so many of these untimely deaths. Pills washed down with vodka to overcome sleeplessness is probably not the most holistic way to rest. But whether the disorder is in the realm of substance abuse, mental challenges or a combination thereof, attention on the subject is ever so short! Outpourings of sympathy, righteous indignation over the epidemic of addiction and then a silent retreat until the next person falls prey to something unnatural. I understand that it sounds like I am advocating capitalising on death, but if the celebrities of the world have so much influence in life, then surely their battles can help others find answers and paths to mental, emotional and physical recovery.
It also made me wonder why people in the limelight are celebrated so much for their attempts at recovery while the average man on the street is not given quite as much support. Actually there is still some sort of lingering stigma attached to treatment (in a variety of forms) when it comes to us normal lot. While celebrities are applauded for their efforts to get clean and sober a lot of us are trying to side-step the truth about our addiction and recovery. And I’m not talking about shouting it from the rooftops, just being able to comfortably state in certain situations that you are in recovery. However, I do think more influential people should start talking out about their addictions and lead the charge in throwing off the cloak of anonymity. I’m not saying we should all go around declaring our challenges in inappropriate places. I definitely don’t go around introducing myself as an alcoholic, but if the subject comes up as to why I don’t drink, I am don’t make a big fuss of it and simply state that I am in recovery. Subject closed and moving onto those yummy little mini quiches at the cocktail party. But I do believe that it is time for people to stop feeling so ashamed.
Maybe you did bad things in active addiction, but there are politicians and business people who ruin the lives of hundreds and thousands of people on any given day and sleep just fine at night. Again, I’m not condoning their behaviour, but what I am trying to say is that there are more shameful things in life than having tried a substance at some point, and for whatever reason, become a chronic user of it. No one wants to be an addict! No one aspires to suffering from a mental disorder! I don’t think the same can be said of people that actively exploit and harm others. Your recovery is as important and significant as any world renowned star! You’re as valuable to the people who love you as the multitude of fans that still weep at certain rock stars gravesides.
So even though you may feel a little sad when someone like Robin Williams takes his life, spare a thought for the millions of people that are in similar situations. The man on the street corner begging for change to fuel his habit might just have taken a slightly different course in life to the mega star drying on at an exclusive five-star treatment centre. Addiction and mental disorders are not picky, they’ll take whatever they can get, so take a moment and honour yourself and your recovery journey (even if it’s been a bit of a stop-start process). You’re as much of a star in someone close to you’s eyes as those fallen stars are to their fans, and possibly more because they have the privilege of knowing and loving you. And in closing today remember, “Don’t judge my path if you haven’t walked my journey.”
‘Til next time