Celebrating Recovery is a story about how “even the biggest movie star in the world could survive addiction, one day at a time, just like you and me” as Dr. Howard Samuels wrote about Elizabeth Taylor upon her untimely death.
Even though she was not from my generation, Elizabeth Taylor’s death came as a sad shock. While she was known worldwide for being a famous actress with beautiful violet eyes who was a major advocate for AIDS, Taylor was also known for being a recovering alcoholic and addict.
I came across an article today on www.huffingtonpost.com by Dr. Howard Samuels who brings to light the pain and suffering Taylor went through before getting sober. Today, there are many celebrities who have “beat” their addiction and are celebrating recovery, such as Robert Downey Jr., Eminem, and Russell Brand. As Samuels explains, Taylor's dedication to recovery laid the foundation for many individuals, from celebrities to doctors and executives to even common housewives, to find the courage to check into a drug or alcohol rehab for help.
In 1983, Taylor entered a treatment center after she was given a drug alcohol intervention—an attempt by family and/or friends to get someone to seek help with addiction and many other problems—by her family. Unlike many other celebrities, Taylor was extremely open about why she was headed to rehab—she had a problem and wasn’t afraid to express it.
Taylor never hid behind her press team or lied to fans about rehab, as many celebrities do in giving the "preventative rehab" or "exhaustion" excuse, which just promotes that feeling of shame that keeps all addicts stuck in their addictions. Instead, Taylor focused on finding a solution. She was really celebrating recovery and didn't care what anyone thought.
Although I am not a celebrity, much as I may like to believe I am, I have struggled with letting anyone—friends and family—know about my addiction and time in treatment. I found myself telling people that I decided to take a year off from college to earn money, when in reality I was asked to leave school after a night of binge drinking, a trip to the ER as a result of passing out from alcohol poisoning, and sent straight to rehab for 6 months. I felt the shame Samuels expressed in his article about my own problems with asking for help, overwhelmed with fear. I was fearful that I would look weak for not being able to deal with these problems on my own, along with being fearful of what people would think and say about me. Even though my excessive drinking and using was no secret to anyone, the knowledge of my actual label as an alcoholic and addict scared me to death.
Though I am currently clean and and celebrating recovery and have had long amounts of time in sobriety, I still find myself searching for the courage to truly be proud of my new sober life.
In an article by C. David Heymann, he picks a part from Taylor’s journal which states that “not until her second week could she admit to herself, and to other patients, what she had become: ‘My name is Elizabeth Taylor. I am an alcoholic and a drug abuser.” We are not alone, nor are we unique; no matter what we are going through or are feeling, there is guaranteed to be someone who has been through something similar.
Dr. Samuels was correct when he stated that, “as most of us never realize until much later, Elizabeth more than likely had no idea the profound affect her willingness to face her demons in such a public way would have on those suffering in silence.” My hope is that, after reading this or other articles about addiction and/or Taylor, those who have problems with addiction who are afraid of getting help will consider seeking treatment to start a new, better life. My hope is that people will be celebrating recovery and won't be ashamed of their addiction.
In meetings, some say that relapse can, but doesn’t have to, be a part of recovery. I was introduced to AA back in the spring of ’09 and since then, I have had 6 months (4.5 months in treatment plus 1.5 months) and then 9 months sober; I truly believe that I almost needed those relapses to happen. To me, the first relapse after 6 months was inevitable. I had spent an intense few months in treatment knowing I was going to get high again, and went back to my drug of choice, weed. After getting caught, I got sober and had almost 9 months before my next (and hopefully final) relapse. After everything I had been through, I still convinced myself that I could get high and suffer no consequences. The car accident I had after getting high really shook me up; I can honestly say I had never been more willing to fully accept my addiction until after the accident.
Like me, Taylor also relapsed. But as Dr. Samuels pointed out, the fact that Taylor went into rehab twice helps to reinforce the fact that the only way you will fail recovering from addiction is to stop trying. Relapses are part of recovery. Giving up is the failure, not the relapse. With her courage to seek and get help, Taylor influenced her longtime celebrity friends Liza Minnelli and Michael Jackson to also get help. Her strength to take care of herself and stay sober one day at time can be a lesson to us all. She has proved that addiction cannot only be overcome, but it can change one’s life for the better.
Now whenever I feel like I can’t stay sober or that I can’t deal with life on life’s terms, I can now think about Samuel’s powerful closing statement about Elizabeth Taylor and how “even the biggest movie star in the world could survive addiction, one day at a time, just like you and me.” I am truly blessed to know more about Elizabeth Taylor and her addiction to alcohol and drugs and can proudly say that I, too, am an alcoholic and an addict and can overcome this battle of addiction. I, too, am celebrating recovery.