I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
— Emily Dickinson
Fame seems to be no protection from addiction. Just makes it all a lot more public. Having the world as your oyster doesn’t keep the Addiction Monster from your door. Addiction gets to the most famous amongst us – and to the nobodies like me.
I started thinking about all this as I was reading about the death of actor Jan Michael Vincent. He was in a few big films, and then caught fire with a hit series called Airwolf in the 80s. He was the hottest of hot ‘it’ boys, as handsome as they come – destined for the top of the Hollywood heap, with everything laid out before him…
And yet addiction, in the form of drink and drugs, destroyed him. It seems he started drinking when all the good career stuff started happening. His on-set reputation was shattered early on – and slowly and then faster no one wanted to hire him. I don’t know if he ever tried to sober up or if he spent any stints in rehab at all in his life. His career started sliding downwards pretty fast – and he lost his fortune. He lost everything. He never recovered. Jan lived decades of ill health – including almost dying a number of times, and also having a leg amputated. He lived his decrepit ruined life in a decrepit trailer park – never once escaping the tight grip of addiction. The pictures of him in the article shocked me.
There are so many stories of successful people who lost it all – lost everything to drink. From being on top of the world in anything — e.g. sports, Hollywood, films, TV, old stars, teen stars, writers — to skidding down to the bottom. All played out in public.
And the ignominy of their disease. For example, the gorgeous William Holden, a massive star in his day, died an alcoholic alone in his house when — utterly drunk — he tripped over a foot stool, hit his head and never recovered.
So. Damn. Sad.
So. Damn. Sobering.
Addiction isn’t confined to celebrities. Nope. Us ‘nobodies’ just get to play out our addiction to a smaller private audience – without TMZ or National Enquirer stalking us.
Addiction doesn’t discriminate. All that money and fame doesn’t protect them. Being a ‘nobody’ doesn’t protect me.
We each of us have to WANT to get out of its grips, and fight and struggle to do so. I am feeling good about my soberness, though not taking it for granted. Seems easy to write that. I feel so frickin’ lucky that my problems with drink were played out in private – and that I DID finally address them. Feel so lucky. The only regret I have of being sober now and not famous – I’ll never be invited onto Oprah to talk about my aha! moments with her … LOL.
Pic here of Jan when he was the ‘it’ boy… and then his decrepit self … God, how drinking ages you. He seemed to have looked like that decrepit self since he was in his 30s. He was a very sickly 74 when he died.