By Cheryl Steinberg
When you’ve been to drug and alcohol rehab 4, 5, 7, even 10 times, you might think your situation is hopeless; that you’ll never “get it.” It certainly might seem that way but that’s just not the truth.
You often hear people in the rooms of recovery say they were a “hopeless dope-fiend,” and that now they are a “dope-less hope fiend.” It might get a little old but, it’s a really powerful statement, especially for people who have tried to get clean and sober many times only to relapse again.
If you think you’re destined to be caught up in your addiction the rest of your life, you need to keep on reading.
My experience has been that the most powerful people in ‘the rooms’ are those who were the most ‘hopeless’ of all in their active addiction: the street prostitutes, the ones in-and-out of jail or even prison, the homeless ones, the ones who had been to treatment over and over again. Any of these sound like you? Well, listen up, because these same drug addicts are just as capable of getting – and staying – clean and sober as anyone else.
Treating Addiction: Is anyone hopeless?
It’s fine if you don’t believe me. Just take these next examples into consideration.
There’s the current national drug czar, Michael Botticelli, who is a high-ranking government official – and a recovering alcoholic. Botticelli, in his active addiction, caused a drunken driving accident and subsequently did jail time.
Then there’s the ever-popular, larger-than-life celebrity we know and love: Robert Downey, Jr. Iron Man, himself, who was perhaps most hopeless of all. In his active addiction, RDJ was in and out of jail on drug-related offenses. One time, just hours after he was charged with one drug offense – possession of cocaine and heroin – the actor was arrested on a new narcotics charge when a neighbor found him passed out in her child’s bed, being under the influence of heroin.
Are you a fan of Orange Is The New Black (OITNB)? Well, one of the main characters is played by Natasha Lyonne, a brilliant actress and recovering heroin addict. In the show, Lyonne’s character is also in recovery from heroin and has a scar in the middle of her chest as a testament to the days of her active addiction. The story goes that, as an IV heroin user, the character had contracted a serious infection of the heart, related to her drug use, and for which she needed open heart surgery. This is not mere fiction, Lyonne’s scar is real, and so is her story.
In the past, Lyonne was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, and on a separate occasion was charged of criminal mischief, harassment, and trespassing.
Today, Lyonne is a successful actress and an inspiration to others in recovery.
Multiple Treatment Stays Not an Indication of Failure
Just because you have been to rehab more than once – even more than 10 times – it doesn’t mean that you’re destined to fail. In fact, research shows that treatment in cumulative, meaning that you simply don’t lose what you’ve learned and experienced in your past treatment programs and stints in recovery; it all adds up.
I heard a really good metaphor for this the other day. Say you eat an apple. You experience the taste and texture of this delicious, juicy apple. No one can take that experience away from you. You ate that apple and you experienced your experience. After eating the apple, it’s broken down by your body’s processes and its nutrients enter your bloodstream and then are absorbed by the cells in your body. You can’t undo this process. The apple is now a part of you, on a cellular level. That’s what going to rehab and having some time in sobriety is like – it’s always with you as your past experience. You can add to it and draw upon it at any time.
It’s up to you. You are not hopeless nor are you helpless.
They say that recovery isn’t for those who want it; it’s not even for those who need it. It’s for those who do the work.
Are you seeking treatment for substance abuse or addiction? Have you been in treatment before but feel like you’ve failed because you can’t seem to stay sober or clean? There are treatment centers whose approach is different from the rest. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 today to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist who can tell you about our program. We offer holistic treatments as well as spiritual nourishment to supplement your addiction treatment. These include cutting-edge techniques and technologies combined with tried-and-true methods of therapy. You are not alone. Help is available.
Long before Amanda Bynes and Lindsay Lohan had highly public, drug fueled meltdowns, Natasha Lyonne was making headlines for her behavior.
In 2004, Page Six dubbed her the “cracktress” who was regularly spotted roaming below 14th Street, confused and unwashed and hitting up passerby for money.
“I was definitely as good as dead,” Lyonne has said. The Guardian has called her “the original queen of the career capsize.”
Today, Lyonne, now 34, is clean and sober, having recovered from heroin and alcohol addiction, and she is on the verge of a remarkable career resurgence: She has a supporting role in the upcoming Kristen Wiig comedy “Girl Most Likely,” has done guest spots on “Weeds” and “Law & Order: SVU,” and a has a handful of indies in the pipeline.
Most promisingly, Lyonne stars in the Netflix’s smash hit “Orange is the New Black,” which premiered in July. The critically acclaimed show is already garnering a very large following. It’s based on a memoir by Piper Kerman, a highly educated middle-class woman who did 15 months for drug dealing and money laundering. In it, Lyonne plays a fellow convict called “the junkie philosopher.”
No one is more aware of the irony than she. “I think I’ve certainly done my fair share of research and investigation into that subject,” she tells The Post. “I mean, I’ve never really been put into the system, in a uniform. But yeah, I’ve done time.”
Lyonne was born in New York City and attended a Jewish prep school on the Upper East Side. Her parents signed her to Ford as a child model. Her breakthrough came at the age of seven with a regular role on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. By her late teens, she was ascending professionally at quite the pace, her role as the narrator of Woody Allen’s highly acclaimed musical Everyone Says I Love You, alongside Julia Roberts, Edward Norton, and Natalie Portman, led to appearances in almost 30 films over the next 10 years. These include her widely praised performance in The Slums of Beverly Hills, and the role she is perhaps best known for- wisecracking Jessica in the American Pie films.
But by 2001, Lyonne was dating fellow troubled actor Edward Furlong, himself so far gone on drugs that he was dropped from Terminator 3 and could no longer get work. That same year, Lyonne was arrested in Miami on a DUI, infamously telling cops, “I’m a movie star — can I talk to my entertainment lawyer?” In August 2002 she pleaded guilty to drunk driving and paid $1,000 in fines and court fees, performed 50 hours of community service, took part in a victim’s panel organized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was placed on probation for one year and had her license suspended for that same period. In 2003 she was evicted by her landlord, actor Michael Rapaport, following numerous complaints by other tenants about her behavior.
Rapaport, infuriated about the condition of his property, penned a letter to Jane magazine in May 2005.
“It looked like a grenade had gone off in her bedroom,” he wrote in Jane. “There was garbage everywhere: scripts, contracts, pages from Hustler magazine, photos, letters and things I can’t even mention. There were glasses smashed in the kitchen and there was standing water in the clogged tub with flies hovering over it. When the plumber saw the condition of the bathroom, he said he’d never seen anything that bad before. A freakin’ New York
City plumber — that’s how bad it was.”
Rapaport spent $16,000 repairing the damage; even the ceiling had to be ripped open to fix the pipes. “I know that girl needs help, and I tried to help her — a lot of her friends did,” he wrote. “But she screwed me. She can kiss my ass.”
Between 2004 and 2006, dispatches were filed to Gawker and elsewhere by NYC residents who’d seen Lyonne in bars, drugstores, restaurants, on streets and stoops, the actress in varying states of decomposition, such as: “I saw her in the pharmacy section of [Walgreens on Union Square]. She walked right up to the cashier and asked for syringes! Specifically, she said, ‘Can you get me a pack of 1-cc syringes?’ The cashier made her sign her name in a book, Natasha paid for them, shoved them in her bag, and then left the store. I was very surprised she would be so open about buying them.”
“Listen, I did not think I was coming back,” she says in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “So I didn’t really care. When you go as deep into the belly of the beast as I went, there’s a whole other world going on and something like show business becomes the dumbest thing on planet Earth.”
In July 2005, Lyonne was admitted first to Bellevue, then transferred to Beth Israel’s Intensive Care Unit. She had a collapsed lung, hepatitis C and a heart infection (interesting side note: at one point in the “Orange is the New Black”, we see a huge scar on Lyonne’s chest from a heart surgery her character received related to her drug abuse. In reality, she actually had that exact surgery and that scar is real.)
In 2006, Lyonne was in the Caron Foundation, a drug and alcohol treatment center, and appeared in court after missing several court dates to face earlier charges of mischief, trespass and harassment.
The wisest thing she ever did, she says, was really take the time off work to get sober. “I mean, I didn’t have a 28-day drug problem. I had a take-five-years-off drug problem.” She told Vulture. It helped that because of “my well-publicized drug problem, there was many years I couldn’t get work.”
Since the break, Lyonne has been steadily working her way back into the limelight. Her most recent role, as an incarcerated “junkie philosopher” has caused a renewed interest in her own dark past.
“I certainly think that my personal experience gave me a lot of access to my character’s internal world,” Lyonne tells The Post. “She’s not too different from me. She comes from a pretty good home, not a ton of financial difficulty, but still with its own dysfunction.”
On The View recently, she had to spend the entire segment relating her character’s heroin use to her own “I’m so old now, and also it’s so long ago. We’re working our way towards ten years,” she says to Vulture. “It’s like, how much longer are they going to make me talk about this?”
The first season of “Orange is the New Black” is available on Netflix.
If you or someone you know needs treatment for Alcohol or Heroin Addiction please call us at 800-951-6135.