For sober celebrities, getting clean from drugs and/or alcohol (and even sex addiction) is one tough task. After all, various organizations established to help with those issues say that the important word is “anonymous” — whether it be Alcoholic Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Celebrities, regardless of in what realm their fame arose, are famously in the public eye and being able to do anything without it being documented is incredibly daunting.
For headline grabbers, like Robert Downey Jr. and Charlie Sheen, their downward spirals were so sensationally covered by the press, it is a miracle that both are still alive and well. Neither is embarrassed to serve as a living, breathing warning about the perils of addiction and the importance of following through with the recovery process.
Addiction impacts anybody from the rich to the poor and famous or not. It also knows no bounds within the entertainment industry and stikes musicians, movie and television stars equally.
The following 20 sober celebs should be celebrated for breaking the cycle of alcohol, drug or sex addiction. Downey and Sheen may be some of the more chronicled addiction-to-recovery journeys, but they share company with these 18 others who might surprise.
Robert Downey Jr.
Vice: Drugs and Alcohol
When: 1996 to 2001
Rock bottom: Downey was arrested in 1996 for possession of heroin (as reported in Radar Online), cocaine and a handgun. A month later, he was arrested in his neighbor’s house believing that it was his own home. In 2001 after being fired from Ally McBeal, he would soon be arrested again (per Radar Online) but then put himself in rehab. One would have thought that his 1997 stint in the Los Angeles County Jail (for failing to show up for a court ordered drug test) might have done it, but it took a few more falls from grace before Downey sought help and accepted it. The Iron Man star was arrested in his hotel room in Palm Springs where cops found cocaine and valium. Due to California Proposition 36, he was sentenced to rehab for a whole year, and this time it stuck.
Robert Downey Jr.
What helped? Family, friends and work helped the celebrated actor get back on track. But he fully admitted that the greatest element in his sobriety was meeting Susan Levin. The producer became his wife and he knew that if he fell off the wagon, she would leave him. The Avengers superstar has even been there for his son Indio, saving him from drug horror.
Vice: Pills and Alcohol
When: 1997 and then 2001
Rock bottom: His addiction to Vicodin started after a jet skiing accident in 1997. Eventually it consumed Matthew Perry, and he was visibly different while on the most successful sitcom in the country at the time, Friends. He lost a ton of weight and looked healthy. The actor later admitted that about three years of his run on the Emmy-winning show was a complete “blur.” Perry went to rehab in 1997 and in 2001 for his painkiller and alcohol addiction. “I was a sick guy,” he was quoted as saying in Us Weekly.
What helped? The camaraderie of his Friends cast and coming to grips with the reality that drugs and alcohol masked problems and it was time to confront them. "I had a big problem with alcohol and pills, and I couldn't stop," he told People in 2013. "Eventually things got so bad that I couldn't hide it, and then everybody knew." Like many who struggle, it took a couple of stints in rehab for it to truly stick. He has since started his own rehab facility and has made getting sick people well his life mission, even testifying before Congress. Some are worried, though — as reported in Radar Online — that he might be relapsing.
What helped? Her 2010 stay in rehab had been working wonders until she relapsed and overdosed in 2018. After emerging from her latest rehab experience, it seemed as if friends were the key to keeping her grounded. In an Instagram post in 2019 she stated, “You’ve traveled across the country to visit me and stayed with me at my house for days on end when I’m struggling to make sure I’m okay but most importantly you never abandoned me like others did.” Her journey from rehab to one year sober anniversary was inspiring, as reported in Radar Online.
When: 2001, 2017 and then 2018
Rock bottom: Getting photographed having liquor delivered to his house, as reported by Radar Online, alarmed all those close to Ben Affleck, especially his ex-wife. This happened after several previous stints in rehab. This did not look good for the actor who was trying to maintain a relationship with his three children with ex, Jennifer Garner.
What helped? His ex-wife, Garner, who took him to rehab. His kids were inspiring too. He told the Today show that seeking help was about "yourself, your life, your family." He has now celebrated one year sober and is not looking back. “He continues to want to be the best father and friend he can be,” a source told Us Weekly. All the support from people on Instagram and Twitter truly aided his recovery as well. “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 is supporting me in ways I didn’t think was possible. It helps to know I am not alone. As I’ve had to remind myself, if you have a problem getting help is a sign of courage, not weakness or failure.” In a statement he released to the public, he sounded like someone ready to live life for his little ones. "I want to live life to the fullest and be the best father I can be," Affleck wrote. "I want my kids to know there is no shame in getting help when you need it and to be a source of strength for anyone out there who needs help but is afraid to take the first step."
Rock bottom: Daniel Radcliffe said that he started drinking to deal with the fame that Harry Potter had brought him, and it escalated into a serious problem. He reportedly knew it was bad when he started having blackouts in public and he was drunk on the set of his movies. “I can’t tell you what kind of drunk I am because I don’t remember what kind of drunk I am,” he was quoted saying in Radar Online. "I have a very addictive personality. It was a problem," Radcliffe told Heat magazine. He said he became a “recluse at 20” and drank at home. Radcliffe also said, "I can honestly say I never drank at work on Harry Potter. I went into work still drunk, but I never drank at work. I can point to many scenes where I'm just gone. Dead behind the eyes."
What helped? Reading and exercise was a huge help to the actor. He has since come to grips with his fame and now sees that that name recognition has gotten some passion projects attention — such as playing literary icon Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings. After “blacking out every time he drank,” he now lives a quieter life. According to Radar Online, he relapsed in 2013 after the death of his best friend, Richard Griffiths, but he got himself sober once again and has been clean ever since.
Vice: Alcohol and Sex
Rock bottom: Rob Lowe was ready to change his life and felt if he didn’t, the spiral would end only one way — death. A typical evening of Lowe and his pals was recounted by the star in Radar Online, quoting his memoir Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography. “As usual, a night out with the boys leads to tequila and a party,” he wrote. Lowe was finally shaken to his senses when he woke one morning with a raging hangover, a strange girl in his bed and a phone call saying his grandfather was dying. “I’m so hammered I can barely stand,” he admitted, so he pulled a card out of his wallet for a drug-and-alcohol counselor named Betty Wyman. “I make the call. It’s May 10, 1990.” That whole sex tape scandal (what with him getting caught with two underage girls at the Democratic National Convention in 1988), the movie and television star admitted, was “the best thing to ever happen to me.”
What helped? Lowe admitted that going into rehab saved his life. He stressed in his memoir that too many people enter rehab programs for the wrong reasons — for other people instead of for themselves. When he went, it was his idea and Lowe felt that was the key to his sober success. Like many on this list, a special someone was his reason that sobriety stuck. Lowe’s wife, Sheryl Berkoff, has been by his side for over two decades. “She wanted me to win, to be the best I could be,” he told Piers Morgan while promoting his book. He also embraced Buddhism and credits the religion with centering him, as reported by Radar Online.
What helped? After that fateful night and seeking help, the award-winning actress admitted that knowing one has substance abuse issues is the absolute key. She talked to NPR in 2014 and said the 12-step programs are life-savers. “The addiction piece … is a huge part of my life. Not just my own, but that of many people I love. The helplessness around that, and learning to deal with that, and all the various 12-step programs I’ve been a part of over the years, and how much they’ve helped me, and how hard it is to love somebody who is going through that and remain distant enough to not let it crush you each time.” Given her portrayal of an addict in Nurse Jackie, Falco was quoted in Radar Online saying that her past horrors did indeed help her performance. “I have enough distance from that in my real life to not actually worry that it’s dangerous because it might be for someone else,” she admitted.
Vice: Alcohol and Marijuana
Rock bottom: Splitting from his wife at the time, Angelina Jolie, and the reaction his kids had to how he was behaving set off alarms for the superstar actor. It forced him to take a look at his behavior. "I can't remember a day since I got out of college when I wasn't boozing or had a spliff or something,” Brad Pitt told GQ. “You realize that a lot of it is pacifiers and I'm running from feelings."
What helped? Being self-aware and ready to change his life proved to be a priceless one-two punch to getting sober. “I mean, we have a winery. I enjoy wine very, very much, but I just ran it to the ground," he said in that GQ chat. "I had to step away for a minute." Also, something that helped was seeking professional help to deal with emotional issues that can cause an individual to self-medicate. "I just started therapy. I love it. I went through two therapists to get to the right one." The Once Upon a Time in Hollywood star admitted to Us Weekly that he is all right with leaving this chapter of his life behind. “I had taken things as far as I could take it, so I removed my drinking privileges,” he added.
What helped? Structure and his burgeoning career. The acting star joined Alcoholics Anonymous and began working with a therapist. He even brought a “sober coach” as his date to the 2014 Oscars, as reported in Radar Online. “I think it’s changed my life. I’m much more comfortable in my own skin,” he told Elle. “Things are so much easier now.” Anyone who saw him in Baywatch knows all too well that he loves to work out and it shows. In hindsight, Efron realized that exercise produces a natural high and has credited it with keeping him on the straight and narrow.
Rock bottom: For Lucy Hale — and for many on this list — a major self-awakening arrived that they credit with getting them sober. Being surrounded by what she called “tall girls” on her hit show Pretty Little Liars led to body issues (as reported by Radar Online), and one of the ways to numb that insecurity was also to drink. One day she woke up and decided that enough was enough. Alcohol would be part of her past and no longer part of her present and future.
What helped? She was quoted in Us Weekly saying that “I’m just always trying to surround myself with better people and be the best version of myself possible. I tried really hard to be the social butterfly.” Now, she has “no interest” in being part of the Hollywood party scene.
Vice: Alcohol and Painkillers
When: 1996, then again in 2012
Rock bottom: Gerard Butler hasn’t had a drink in many years. He quit after realizing that his drinking was affecting his zest for life. Butler said, “I had gone from a 16-year-old who couldn’t wait to grasp life to a 22-year-old who didn’t care if he died in his sleep,” as quoted by Radar Online. In 2007, the Angel Has Fallen star had an accident on set that required him to take painkillers — something people in recovery are supposed to shy away from. He did OK, but then in late 2011 he was shooting the surfing drama Chasing Mavericks and injured himself again. Painkillers were prescribed to relieve the pain, and before long Butler realized he needed help. He admitted himself into the Betty Ford Center. He was given tools for dealing with drug-free pain management. Butler reported that he knew he had an addictive personality and therefore was proactive about when to remove the prescription drugs from his life.
What helped? He fully credits the Betty Ford Center with saving his life. “I think, on a basic level, I have a pretty addictive personality,” Butler was quoted as saying in Us Weekly. “Both good and bad.” The three week stint provided him with the tools to mentally battle addiction. “They really do rip you apart. But it’s like spring cleaning, you know? You get rid of a bunch of s--t, realize a bunch more s--t, and you make a plan.”
Vice: Drugs, Alcohol and Sex
Rock bottom: To celebrate his 16th year of sobriety, Russell Brand posted on social media what happened on the day he decided to change his life. “I remember being eggshell fragile, this time 16 years ago. I’d scored two brown — that’s heroin, two white — that’s crack. It may be a little more, I can’t remember. I remember using it in Camden. I would have been hanging out with my various mates’ houses, none of whom were drug addicts, I was just sort of sneaking off to do drugs in their toilets,” he reported. “I can’t think about it too much because I start to miss it,” he exclusively told Us Weekly. The UK comic also keenly knew that turning to sex was another outlet with the potential to lead to addiction, which it did — he also told the publication.
What helped? A 12-step program changed his life, and, according to the Get Him to the Greek star, a whole lot of love. “I had the privilege of going to a 12-step treatment center, getting three months there, the hugs, man, the hugs, the optimism. And then coming out and finding other people, support groups where people would sort me out. Other, meeting mentors to hold my hand along the way lights further down the path to look at and guide me,” he said in the sober anniversary post. Now 16 and a half years later, Brand has a happy marriage, two little girls, dogs and most importantly, “piece of mind.” He now is the messenger of hope to those who have traveled down the same path as him as he openly speaks about his recovery.
Vice: Alcohol and Drugs
Rock bottom: As Sia spoke on The Late Late Show with James Corden she described what it was like to come to the realization that she no longer wanted drugs and alcohol in the mix. “I was a singer already for like 10 or 11 years to mediocre success, and I was an alcoholic and a drug addict, and I sobered up and decided I didn't want to be an artist anymore," she said on the late night show. In a 2013 Billboard interview she explained further, "All I wanted to do was write for pop stars. For one reason or another it never happened for me." "Then I got seriously addicted to Vicodin and Oxycodone, and I was always a drinker, but I didn't know I was an alcoholic. I was really unhappy being an artist and I was getting sicker and sicker."
What helped? Instead of quitting music, she changed her focus. "I was starting to get a little bit famous and it was destabilizing in some ways...so I thought, 'What doesn't exist in pop music at the moment?' and it was mystery," she recalled to Corden — as detailed in Us Weekly. What she came up with is what we see today with her trademark long bangs covering her face and a style that is uniquely hers. With hits like “Cheap Thrills” and filling arenas on her concert tours, Sia has come out on top. She recently posted a sober anniversary tweet as she clearly hoped to inspire others in this same effort. "Eight years sober today. I love you, keep going. You can do it," she tweeted.
Vice: Drugs and Alcohol
Rock bottom: Pick one! He claimed he had quit doing cocaine and had stopped drinking for years when speaking to Dr. Oz in 2016 but reportedly fell off the wagon when he got his HIV diagnosis. Some might think that it would serve as a wake-up call, but it actually did the opposite. "It was to suffocate the anxiety and what my life was going to become with this condition and getting so numb I didn't think about it," he told Dr. Oz in 2016. "It was the only tool I had at the time, so I believed that would quell a lot of that angst. A lot of that fear. And it only made it worse."
What helped? The actor told Us Weekly in 2019 that his daughter helped him realize he needed to get sober. "It was a Sunday. My daughter called and said, 'I need to get to this appointment immediately,' and I'd already had a few drinks," he said. He phoned a pal, who gave him and his daughter a ride — but it struck him. “On the drive back, I was just like, 'Damn, man, I'm not available. I'm just not responsible, and there's no nobility in that.' It was that night. If you can't be available for the basic necessity of being there for your children, then something really needs to shift. It was that next day that I said, 'All right. It's time. Let's give this a shot.' And then a month went by, a couple months went by, I'm like, 'Alright. This feels good. This feels good.'"
Vice: Alcohol and Drugs
Rock bottom: Because of his addictions, Keith Urban was not great at relationships. Once he wrote a love song once and played it to his girlfriend at the time, who called him a hypocrite. “I couldn't argue. I realized I was writing from the place of the person I wanted to be," he told Rolling Stone. That stung. He also felt that drugs and alcohol were sucking up his creative time, so he made a change, but it wasn’t easy. He also reported in that candid interview that the decade before the new millennia was rough. "I stepped up my drinking. I started doing more drugs," he stated. "Yeah, man. The whole back end of the 90s were just awful." In a tell-all report with Radar Online, his dealer detailed how the singer would smoke crack cocaine in his bathroom.
What helped? He struggled with staying sober, but quickly realized that he had regrets … not about getting sober but about being drugged and drunk. "You know, early on in my sobriety, there was a period when I wished I hadn't succumbed to drugs and everything the way I did. It sucked up so much creative time, when I should have been in the studio working,” he said in that Rolling Stone interview. “But I don't know what came from that time, other than that I'm where I am because of, or in spite of, nobody knows and never will." Since he married Nicole Kidman staying sober has been much easier. Prior to marrying Kidman, he went to rehab two times, but it didn’t stick. Four months into their wedded bliss, she staged an intervention. Then, sobriety stuck for good. “I was spiritually awoken with her,” he admitted. “I use the expression 'I was born into her,' and that's how I feel. And for the first time in my life, I could shake off the shackles of addiction."
Vice: Alcohol and Painkillers
Rock bottom: Bradley Cooper, who played a recovering addict in the Oscar-winning A Star is Born (which he also directed), had issues with substances himself and gave them all up in 2012. He had a self-realization that spurred the difficult change. Cooper realized that he couldn’t be there for the people in his life who meant the most to him and needed him.
What helped? Those same people he cleaned up for were there for him when he decided to kick alcohol and painkillers to the curb. “I wouldn’t have been able to have access to myself or other people, or even been able to take in other people, if I hadn’t changed my life,” Cooper said on the recovery focused website TheFix.com. “I never would have been able to have the relationships that I do. I never would have been able to take care of my father the way I did when he was sick.” He is so grounded now that, according to Radar Online, Cooper was even able to offer Pitt help in the sobriety department.
Vice: Alcohol, Drugs and Sex
Rock bottom: One word that has emerged from the Jada Pinkett-Smith show on Facebook, Red Table Talk, is honesty. The actress has always been an open book but especially on the social media giant’s video service. The Angel Has Fallen star has admitted to addictions that ran the gamut — from alcohol to drugs to sex, as reported by Us Weekly. She admitted that her mother (who was also on her Facebook show) was addicted to drugs and beat them. Pinkett-Smith reported drinking alone every night to numb the emotional toll of her childhood. It was when she got to two bottles of wine a night that she knew she had to stop, as chronicled in Radar Online.
What helped? Her mother was a living and breathing role model for triumphing over substances. Pinkett-Smith has admitted to being a drug dealer in Baltimore in the 80s, but it was alcohol that proved to be her greatest challenge. “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 stated. She told the Los Angeles Times in 2013 that “I had many addictions, of several kinds, to deal with my life issues, but today, I have my wisdom, my heart and my conscience as the only tools to overcome life’s inevitable obstacles.”
Vice: Alcohol and Drugs
Rock bottom: The moment came when he was driving his car and realized that no one else was drinking. “I’m driving down the road, I’m having a drink. It’s 4 o’clock; I’m supposed to have a drink. But one day I went, ‘I don’t see anybody else in their car with a plastic takeout container filled with ice and wine. They’re drinking coffee, they’re drinking Diet Coke. They’re not drinking wine,’” Alec Baldwin said to the New York Post. He also recently admitted in his memoir, Nevertheless, that he overdosed not once, but twice.
What helped? When he got sober, he was determined to never go back. “As a daily drug abuser, as a daily drinker … boy, that was a tough time. There was really, really a lot of pain in there,” Baldwin said, as quoted in Us Weekly. The 30 Rock veteran was sober for years when he met his now wife, Hilaria Baldwin.
Rock bottom: Amanda Bynes started using marijuana at 16, which she stated in that famous Paper interview. After “retiring” from acting, she would “wake and bake and literally be stoned all day long. I got really into my drug usage and it became a really dark, sad world for me,” she admitted. That claim was backed up by a photographer, Giovanni Arnold, who stated (in Radar Online) that “she probably gets so high that sometimes she won’t even leave her house.”
What helped? Her parents stepped in and helped her realize that if she was using drugs to try to find who she was, it was in fact not using drugs that would help her find her true self. “Those days of experimenting with substances are long over. I’m not sad about it and I don’t miss it because I really feel ashamed of how those substances made me act,” she stated in Paper. "Everybody is different, obviously, but for me, the mixture of marijuana and whatever other drugs and sometimes drinking really messed up my brain. It really made me a completely different person. I have no fear of the future. I’ve been through the worst and came out the other end and survived it, so I just feel like it’s only up from here.”
Vice: Alcohol, drugs
Rock bottom: Looking at herself, well … she couldn’t anymore and that meant it was time to get help. Naomi Campbell told Vogue that "the time between 1998 and 2005 was especially bad. During that time, I avoided looking in the mirror, because I didn't like the person who was looking back at me. To be honest, there were times I thought I wouldn't survive. I used to have a lot of problems. Amongst others I drank too much, so I joined Alcoholics Anonymous to get and stay sober."
What helped? The treatment and joining other recovery patients. “My chore was to do the kitchen. I walso as treated the same as everyone else and I met all these people from all walks of life.” She joined Narcotics Anonymous for her cocaine addiction, which has been priceless. “I have many friends there, my phone is open 24/7 and if there is anyone who wants to reach me for that reason they can,” she said in that Vogue article. “I reached out to people and people helped me. It doesn’t matter what walk of life — addiction and alcoholism doesn’t discriminate.” The notorious model who used to scream at people admitted that those outbursts were a product of her addiction (as reported in Us Weekly).