“Basically, I’d been fairly drunk or high since I was 14.” Colin Farrell
Why do so many creative people use and abuse drugs, often to the point of addiction?
There is of course no easy answer, but one of the factors for many people may be childhood trauma.
In his article Emotional Trauma: An Often Overlooked Root of Addiction, David Sack, M.D. writes, “A history of childhood neglect or sexual, physical or emotional abuse is common among people undergoing treatment for alcoholism and may be a factor in the development of alcohol use disorders…
“Trauma has been associated not only with drug addiction but also overeating, compulsive sexual behavior and other types of addictions.”
Another article notes, “Children who have a history of abuse, neglect, or trauma may exhibit oppositional behavior as a response to their experiences. Experiencing any kind of traumatic event increases a child’s likelihood of acting out, as they must cope with challenging feelings, thoughts, and memories.”
From Oppositional and Defiant Behavior in Children and Teens, goodtherapy.org.
Actor Colin Farrell has been sober for several years, but engaged in a lot of “acting out” behavior earlier in his life: As a teen he was caught shoplifting, smoking marijuana, driving over the limit, using multiple drugs, having early sex and drinking.
When he was thirteen or fourteen he engaged in hair-pulling, a form of self-injury also associated with trauma.
A profile said he “often fought in school, did not adhere to the school’s strict discipline. He often skipped classes and would spend lunch drinking at a local pool hall. At seventeen he was expelled because he threw a supervisor against a wall and threatened him because the supervisor grabbed him.” [Famous Self-Injurers – on self-injury.net]
In an interview he talked about his rehab:
“I began to come out of the haze that I was in and had burrowed myself into so deeply…Basically, I’d been fairly drunk or high since I was 14. I was very drunk and high for 16 years, so it was a tough life change, and I was dying. I’m one of the lucky ones.”
He refers to part of what led to his addictive behavior:
“Desperation will allow you to do incredible things in the name of survival…I had created an environment for myself, a way of living for myself which, on the outside, seemed incredibly gregarious and vivacious.” …
“I don’t believe I have any chemical predisposition towards depression, but let’s just call it…I was suffering from a spiritual malady for years and I indulged it. You can feel very alive when you’re in pain.”
[From Colin Farrell on Rehab: “I Was Dying” by Gina Serpe E! Online, Oct. 14, 2008.]
There are many forms of trauma we may experience in life, and what is traumatic for one person might not be for someone else.
Among the challenges Farrell experienced was bullying – both of himself and his older brother Eamon.
[Both brothers reportedly support Stand Up! Don’t Stand for Homophobic Bullying, a campaign by the Irish LGBT youth organization, BeLonG To.]
A final quote: Colin Farrell said he is finding that he is more creative being sober and happy.
“I was terrified that whatever my capacity was as an actor would disappear when I got sober,” he admitted. “I ascribed to the notion that to express yourself as an artist, you have to live in perpetual pain. And that’s nonsense.”
Those quotes are ones I think many creative people may relate to.
I included them at the end of Part 2 of my long article Artists and Addiction – which includes quotes by and about Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edie Falco, Russell Brand, Tatum O’Neal, Johnny Depp, Ed Harris, Michael J. Fox, Robert Downey Jr., Faye Dunaway, Carrie Fisher, Colin Farrell, Lynda Carter and other artists, plus comments by psychologists, and links to resources: books, articles, programs.
That video: “Colin Farrell is more creative being sober and happy” is from my article Pain and suffering and developing creativity – which includes other artists, plus quotes and a video with psychologist Cheryl Arutt, who comments:
“Many creative people carry the belief that their pain is the locus of their creativity, and worry that they will lose their creativity if they work through their inner conflicts or let go of suffering.”
And as Farrell has found out, that just isn’t true; you can be more creative without suffering and drug abuse.
Also see quotes by and about many artists who have experienced rape, physical abuse and other experiences, such as Alice Sebold, Allison Anders, SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy), Halle Berry, Lady Gaga, will.i.am, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonathan Safran Foer and many others, in my article “Creative People, Trauma and Mental Health” (which includes link to the Emotional Health Resources page with videos, book quotes, programs and other resources).