Celebrities Share Lessons Learned From Relapse

in Addiction
Published Jul 30, 2020
demi lovato

Relapsing is not uncommon, with as many as 60 percent of all people with substance use disorder experiencing a return to use. There is no shame in relapse, but it is important to develop strategies for relapse prevention, manage triggers, and take the opportunity to learn key lessons from the experience.

How common is relapse?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) 40 to 60 percent of people with substance use disorder will relapse at some point. The rate of relapse depends on the type of drug, too. Dr Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital told the New York Daily News that the rate increases to 80 percent for those with opioid addiction.

The chronic nature of addiction sometimes means that for some people in recovery a return to use is part of the process. NIDA state that relapse rates for substance use disorder are similar to other chronic illnesses — if a person stops their medical treatment plan it is likely they’ll relapse.

While relapse is part of the recovery process for some, we should highlight that it can be fatal, especially when the person uses more serious drugs (like opiates) because their tolerance will have decreased.

Clinical Director, Steve Carleton, warns that return to use is most often a slow drift back into high risk situations. “Change is such a difficult process and over time there is a natural move back towards old thoughts, feelings, and behaviors,” he says.

There are certainly times when unforeseen triggers arise and despite best efforts the pressure to use is overwhelming he warns. The main cause of returning to use is a trigger. “The vast majority of treatment is designed to help people become aware of the people, places, things, experiences, and internal cues that lead to thoughts about using,” says Carleton.

“Humans spend the majority of our lives on auto-pilot. Overcoming years of auto-pilot that results in use requires a tremendous amount of awareness. Identifying and anticipating triggers is the work of recovery. If addiction is a Ferrari with really crappy breaks speeding out of control, recovery is like a mail truck driving on the opposite side and making frequent stops. Slowing down the process is essential to success.”

Another crucial element of recovery is sharing our stories. We benefit from the community of experiences, especially when people share their most vulnerable moments, like relapse. This reduces shame and helps us to better identify triggers and get back on the road of recovery.

We can take some of those lessons from celebrities who have openly shared their struggles with relapse.

Celebrity Lessons Learned From Relapse

These three celebrities have spoken very publicly about their relationship with drugs and alcohol as well as their relapses.

Robert Downey Jr.

Actor, Robert Downey Jr. has spoken openly about how drugs and alcohol nearly ruined his career and despite completing treatment several times he returned to use. The key lesson here is that he kept on trying. He has now been drug-free since 2003. He credits therapy, family support, AA, meditation, yoga, and the practice of martial arts for his success.


Demi Lovato

Singer, Demi Lovato has struggled with addiction since 2010. She first sought addiction treatment at the age of 18, but returned to use several times. In 2018, she was hospitalized for a drug overdose. Reflecting on her experience with relapse and addiction, Lovato said:

What I’ve learned is that this illness is not something that disappears or fades with time. “It is something I must continue to overcome and have not done yet.”

The lesson here is that substance use disorder is an illness requiring life-long treatment.


Kelly Osborne

Singer, actress, and fashion designer, Kelly Osborne grew up in the limelight as the daughter of Black Sabbath singer, Ozzy Osbourne, who also struggled with addiction. While both father and daughter are sober they have both struggled with relapse. Kelly has previously shared that she didn’t think she could do anything if she wasn’t drinking or taking drugs.

However, her stints in treatment and relapses has changed her perspective. In an interview last year, Kelly stated that she was approaching two years sober and that sobriety has completely changed her life.

“Now seeing that I don’t need that and my life is better … I don’t have any drama in my life.”

Relapse doesn’t have to mean disaster. We can use these experiences to strengthen our recovery and identify future triggers.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please call us today to see how we can help: 720-704-1432.