Courtney Love, an Advocate for Addiction Recovery
Elle Magazine called her “the world’s most controversial blonde.” The Wire described her as having “an all-purpose destructiveness.” Her half-sister called her “the human Enron.” She is the epitome of the hot mess. She’s no role model.
But then, she doesn’t pretend to be.
Instead, she’s become the icon of the celebrity addict. An outsized character whose mixture of public struggles with substance abuse and a diminished sense of self-preservation have made her an enduring punchline for more than 20 years. Her drug-addled public appearances have become the stuff of YouTube and urban legend. But what we were looking at was a tragedy and not a joke. It was a person in the throes of a life-threatening disease, a disease borne of addiction, trauma, and mental illness.
She also stands as a strong argument for the concept of recovery as a spectrum. As Joe Schrank of The Fix describes it, recovery is not a light switch decision: “It’s a batting average and no one bats 1000.” As someone who has battled addictions with heroin, cocaine, and benzos, she’ll be the first to admit that she suffered her share of strike outs.
So why would Courtney Love make a great advocate for recovery?
- Because she owns her addictions and her past: Love may be of the When You Tell Your Secrets, They Lose Their Power Over You school, She even talks openly about her suicide attempt. Nothing seems to be off-limits. While culture has responded to her by shaming her as a skank and a crackhead, she refuses to give in to it. (Often what’s said in the media pales in comparison to what she says about herself.) In fact, she has lets us watch while she struggled. In every interview the drug issue always comes up. She can’t avoid it nor does she try.
- Because drugs were her destiny: Love claims her mother gave her Riatlin and Valium when she was eight years old. Love would start smoking cigarettes at 11, tried heroin at 16 and marijuana somewhere before, and we know the rest. Love’s addictions have deep roots.To her credit Love has never been arrogant about her addiction. Arrogance for an addict can be deadly. It leads to lies, denial, defensiveness, and self-destruction. It seems that Love has always been well acquainted with her fallibilities (which may explain why she was such an early adapter with drugs). She’s battled depression most of her adult life. An addict has to admit that their life is going wrong and that they need help. Love knows she’s an addict. When an addict can admit this, there is hope.
- Because she took on another discipline to help her cope with sobriety: In her case it was Nichiren Buddhism. She claims to have a daily chanting practice. She says that it’s the chants and meditation that turned her life around. Love, who’s practiced Buddhism since 1990 (clearly, she had some chanting lapses over the years) says that on the days she doesn’t chant bad things happen. Studies show that recovery can be much more successful with some kind of spiritual practice.
- She’s committed to rehab: This may sound ironic but it’s not meant that way. Not that this has always been the case – Love has been through rehab on numerous occasions, including a six month court ordered lockdown. (You could say that she’s proven her commitment because she’s been through it so many times.) She has claimed to have remained sober since 2007 and this was confirmed in 2011.
Yet through it all she acted in television and movies, was nominated for four Grammys and a Golden Globe, became a platinum-selling recording artist, and is practically a self-contained media cottage industry. She has also battled depression, endured the suicide of her husband, lost custody of her daughter twice, and relapsed multiple times. It’d be an awful lot for anyone to have to handle. A person with less courage and a less enduring flame of hope would never have survived.
Clearly, it was something her husband didn’t have. Praise to Courtney Love.