The Psychology of Addiction in the Celebrity World

Whitney Houston performs at the Annual American Music Awards in Los Angeles. Photo: AP

Whitney Houston. Amy Winehouse. Michael Jackson. Isn’t it amazing that artists who touch our lives have such tough, unrelenting struggles of their own? The gift that was given to these vocal artists, creators of sound, rhythm and soul, became an Albatross that wore them down, leaving them hopeless, helpless and alone. The legacy left by each of them is staggering. Touching so many of us with the enormity of their talents yet leaving us bereft and confused. How could this happen? How could we not see? How have they been propelled in death to a stature not unlike the Gods in Greek myths while in life they were deposed, down hearted and addicted? Addicted!

Addiction.  The psychology and the cause of addiction in the celebrity world may have more to do with the public life they have chosen then merely addiction as it relates to genetics. Addiction. It is never good.  It is almost impossible to conquer. Addiction. It banishes you from the life you love, the people who love you and the dreams of fulfillment. Chasing you, begging you to continue, convincing you that without it you cannot be. Funny, it is really quite the opposite, isn’t it? Addiction. Without it, you can be! How is it that addiction and its muses have the ability to take the song out of the singer, rendering them silent?

We grieve. We mourn the death of our entertainers, especially the ones, like Whitney Houston, who transported us through her voice in ways that no one could. That is what creates a unique artist. She made it seem as if everything and anything were possible. It was possible to be in a church choir and be discovered. It was possible to get out of Newark, New Jersey. It was possible to look gorgeous. It was possible to make it against all odds.  Addiction returned her to the very roots she tried to leave behind.

Addiction to any drug leads to a psychological death that takes place before the actual dying occurs. Whitney Houston’s death, and the deaths of two other icons, Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse, reminds us that even when their lives seem charmed, they struggle, and battle with their own gremlins. The fear of making it and not making it is certainly part of the internal mayhem that contributes to the need to disappear into a drug state. The joy of watching fans as they become immersed in their music is in contrast to the internal struggle the artist faces while in a constant state of creation and originality. Find a release and find relief.  Addiction.

When we think about any of the artists we have loved and lost through addiction, please remember your own family and friends who suffer from addiction. Don’t let them disappear in to the depths. Don’t give up.

Lets talk about this. Do you know someone who suffers from addiction? How did Whitney’s death affect you? Who have you lost through an addiction and how did you cope with it?

One day at a time.


  1. rebecca says:

    I am struggling with addiction everyday & somedays I’m surprised that I’m still alive.

  2. In my family, domestic violence and substance abuse is woven into the fabric of our lives from generation to generation. Grief is at the root of it and is the constant. Abusers continue to be enabled because living in darkness and not taking responsibility is what’s easy and comfortable. We don’t talk. We self sacrifice. That’s our culture. So, we stay stuck in a cycle of abuse, negative behavioral patterns, and physical and mental health issues because those thoughts and emotions eventually do surface. Usually, the kids live as prisoners ruled by fear, unpredictability, and hopelessness. Of childhood, my cousins and I recall anger, debilitating fear, and indescribable loneliness. We grew to be awkward and complicated. As a young adult, I made a conscious effort to break free of that culture and survive without the safety net of family support. After 20 years, I hit a wall with my own personal growth. I had regret for times I had been unaccountable to family, and wondered if things could be different without an all or nothing mentality. Since then, I’ve taken the initiative to reconnect with everyone, and although we’ve reconciled, our family is still broken because that vicious cycle persists in much of the younger generation. I wonder what my role is in all this, and I think it’s a few things. Some of us are working to change the culture to one in which we can talk openly and honestly. We are transparent which invites others to do the same. This has been most therapeutic. I also try to approach matters from a place of understanding and take actions that I hope will influence positive outcomes. I’ve let go of my judgements, ideas of what could have been, and have reconciled so that we can live and die more peacefully. This journey has been a crazy ride and a lot to process. I sometimes wonder if the hassles are worth it. Love is like that, I guess. We are bonding, but disappointments happen often, and it’s hard not to be attached to outcomes. I remind myself that I only have control over my perception and response. I’ve replaced walls with boundaries. I also acknowledge my emotions and de-stress through journaling, music, and various meditative forms. I’m taking time for me and to do whatever I want without feeling guilty no matter how hard others try to make me feel so. These things help me cope in addition to helping me be present for those that want love, support, and change. Ultimately, I think we are only responsible for ourselves, our children, and reshaping our destiny. We can save ourselves by getting out of the situation, finding support, and focusing on the self to grow and to experience joy. This helps show others the way. Getting the help and support of professionals is the addict’s responsibility. Recognizing they have a problem means they are likely to do something about it.

  3. Great article, thank you for sharing it with us.

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