Some of the finest artists in the world are recovering addicts: Eric Clapton (blues guitarist), Steven Tyler (lead singer of Aerosmith), Jean Cocteau (film director), Eugene O’ Neill (playwright), Drew Barrymore (actor), Stephen King (novelist), and Anne Rice (novelist). No doubt you can also name a great many artists with addictions who were never able to find recovery. There are lots of them: Dylan Thomas (poet), Margaret Laurence (novelist), Kurt Cobain (musician), Jimi Hendrix (rock guitarist), and John Belushi (comedian).
Here’s a question that has stumped the experts for decades: why is it that some addicted artists are able to get over the drugs and live great lives, while others who plunged into the abyss couldn’t make it back out?
It’s a very interesting question, and it gives important insight on how to recover from addiction. One of the key findings we’ve discovered is that those artists who recover from addiction seem to see life as precious, important, positive, filled with hope, and worth fighting for. Those artists who succumb to death from their addiction see life as negative, filled with loneliness and suffering, and are, to quote a famous addict-writer, “always a little in love with death.”
Geoff Thompson, MA, is the Program Director at Sunshine Coast Health Center, a private addiction treatment facility for adult men. His book, A Long Night’s Journey into Day, explores Eugene O’Neill’s life to uncover the truth of addiction and recovery.