Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. is known for his success in the Iron Man franchise, among other movies, but before that he was tagged as a “drug-addled lowlife”. Downey started abusing drugs as a kid, and developed a habit that accelerated with his fame. His drug problem and arrests quickly made him “uninsurable” by agencies, meaning no one wanted to hire a man who could end up in jail in the middle of shooting a movie. Throughout the 90’s and into the early 2000’s, Downey developed a reputation of waking up in other people’s homes confused as to how he got there after going on drug benders. After spending time in prison, twice, Downey purged all of his drugs into the ocean in 2003 and decided to get clean.

What is interesting when reading about Downey’s journey through drug addiction is that he is quick to dismiss the past as merely something he had to get through, and distances himself from what he feels was a different person. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Downey looks back on his time in jail and rehab as having an inflated importance. He firmly says, “I am not my story” and goes on to frame addiction as “a function of age,” something he inherited, and possibly a product of human evolution. Downey saw the press tour for Iron Man as more of a “firing pin” to make it through the hard times rather than a “victory lap.” His fight isn’t over, and he acknowledges that his sobriety could derail at any moment. Downey comes across as a family-focused man, and uses lying low as a possible strategy to continue of his path of recovery.

Never once does Downey attribute his problems to mental health, nor use interviews as an opportunity to speak out about getting help. Maybe this is because Downey broke out of rehab multiple times. It could also be because his own son has faced addiction and arrest for drug possession, to which Downey responded with a statement reiterating his family history of addiction and emphasizing his support of his son. We all cope in different ways, both while we’re tackling adversity as well as in the aftermath. In one sense, Downey is a normal person like the rest of us who wants to find and keep  his job.. On the other hand, Downey has access to a wide-reaching platform reserved for movie stars and performers. After reading various interviews with Downey, he can begin to come off as dismissive and aloof; however, who am I or anyone else to ask him to speak on behalf of someone else’s recovery process. Downey is also 53 years old, and of another generation than the myriad of young celebrities we currently see speaking out about mental health. Regardless, it is fascinating to read about the tumultuous path of Downey’s career and how he reflects on that past now.