Charles Slack, Ph.D. Princeton University 1954, was an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at Harvard University at age 26. He is also a recovered drug addict, abstinent from all drugs and alcohol since March of 1976.
“With fame I become more and more stupid, which of course is a very common phenomenon.” – Albert Einstein
Many more people think they can handle fame than can ever do so. The average life-span of rock stars is less than forty. Celebrities who do survive – like Barry Humphries, Shirley Temple, Dr. Phil, Reese Witherspoon, Clint Eastwood, Barbara Streisand, David Beckham, Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep, – all remain conspicuously sober and drug free.
Prognosis is not good for celebrity addicts. The inevitable consequence of stardom combined with addiction is early death. While most ordinary drug addicts have their lives shortened by being over-indulged by a few co-dependent rellies and friends, celebrity addicts get worshipped, adored and adulated (as well as envied and condemned) by a multitude.
Celebrities are surrounded by sycophants and yes-men including legal and illegal drug-suppliers. The pressure to perform to perfection, to fulfil expectation by living up to an image, is so relentless that, should a celebrity desire drugs, nothing can interfere with supply.
Treatment of substance-abusing celebrities must provide an effective rationale by which the celebrity can discern, identify and fully understand, in an interpersonal context, otherwise-impenetrable motives of cohorts as well as the devouring public and the fickle mass-media “beast”.
So famous substance-abusers in recovery will always encounter more spiritual and social problems than will anonymous addicts. Adulation, which is a substitute for natural adult devotion, blocks realistic adult cognition required for recovery and maturity. Since little or nothing can be done to limit mass-adulation (and since attempts to discourage hero-worship usually only make matters worse), successful treatment of substance-abusing celebrities requires a modality which can identify, objectify, explicate, and ultimately deconstruct adulation and other harmful effects of celebrity status.
The best combined diagnosis of the state of celebrity plus the condition of addiction to drugs is emotional, spiritual and interpersonal immaturity. Upon entering treatment, the celebrity addict is effectively a self-centred child, the object of the attention of others. Although others appear to do the celebrity’s bidding, the celebrity addict feels out of control and reacts childishly. The celebrity also feels unworthy due to the conditional nature of public acclaim. Like all humans, celebrities need a minimum of unconditional love in order to feel OK about themselves. They must experience enough self-regard to make their inner child feel OK. Any effective treatment must provide means to esteem the mature self and make adult choices and take adult actions.
The Solution in Transactional Analysis[i]
All treatment modalities have advantages and disadvantages. Because I was a psychologist during my drug-using days and because my own former therapeutic biases failed the “physician heal thyself” test, I have devoted the second half of my life to exploring as many treatment and recovery alternatives as possible.
I found Transactional Analysis (TA) to be a treatment modality providing an effective, easily grasped framework, a conceptual rationale, not just for counsellors but (in easy-to-remember colloquial terminology) for clients. Without such a relational model to facilitate understanding of the various social transactions between (and within) self and others, celebrities are helpless to respond in a mature manner to family, friends and associates – let alone to the general public, audience, crowd, fans and capricious media. And continued immaturity almost always leads to relapse into substance use and abuse.
[i] an explanation of TA terminology can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transactional_analysis