Philip Seymour Hoffman
In an interview, Philip Seymour Hoffman [Best Actor Oscar nominee for “Capote”] admitted he used drugs and alcohol earlier in his life. A lot. “It was all that stuff. It was anything I could get my hands on. I liked it all.” He got sober, he says, because “You get panicked. I was 22, and I got panicked for my life.”
An exceptionally talented actor, Hoffman is far from alone: many of us use and abuse. According to federal statistics within the last few years, more than 19 million Americans age 12 or older, about 8 percent of the population, are illicit drug users; 121 million are alcohol drinkers and about 26 million men and 22 million women are smokers.
Addiction psychologist Marc F. Kern, Ph.D., says “Altering one’s state of consciousness is normal” and that a destructive habit or addiction is “mostly an unconscious strategy – which you started to develop at a naive, much earlier stage of life – to enjoy the feelings it brought on or to help cope with uncomfortable emotions or feelings. It is simply an adaptation that has gone awry.”
William H. Macy
William H. Macy, also an Oscar nominee [in 1997, for “Fargo”] once commented, “Nobody became an actor because he had a good childhood.”
While that may not be literally true, many actors (and other people too, of course) have had painful lives, and use substances to cope.
For example Tatum O’Neal, an Oscar winner at age 10, says in her autobiography (“A Paper Life”) that growing up she had to deal with her mentally unstable mother and volatile and unpredictable father, in an environment of drugs, neglect, and physical and mental abuse. By age 20, she was addicted to cocaine.
Psychiatrist Leon Wurmser, M.D. says “Anxiety of an overwhelming nature and the emotional feelings of pain, injury, woundedness, and vulnerability appear to be a feature common to all types of compulsive drug use. Child abuse is, in the simplest and strongest terms, one of the most important etiologic factors for later drug abuse.”
Johnny Depp has said he felt so intimidated by his celebrity status during his early career, that he drank. “I’d go to functions and back in those days I literally had to be drunk to be able to speak and get through it. I guess I was trying not to feel anything. My drug of choice back then was alcohol more than anything.”
Continued in article Actors and Addiction