It’s a tragic cliché. Celebrities struggling with the trappings of fame seem to fall into addiction in disproportionate numbers to the rest of the world. Or perhaps, the truth is that addiction is more prevalent than experts are led to believe. (Current estimates project that about 10% of the US population is recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, but the real number is likely far greater.)
But when TV host Wendy Williams made her tearful revelation on The Wendy Williams Show that she was currently staying in a sober house, she did more than just reinforce a sad cliché. She shone a much-needed light upon the reality of addiction and recovery.
No filter needed
Williams has a reputation for speaking plainly. Her candor has earned her thousands of fans, many of whom will hopefully never experience addiction or recovery themselves. She has been honest about her struggles with drugs in the past, telling People magazine in 2014 of her decade-long battle with cocaine. Earlier this month, having just returned to her show following a long hiatus to treat her Graves’ disease condition, she elaborated on her addiction.
“Once you’re a substance abuser, you have to battle that for the rest of your life,” she said. “I’ve told you about my 10-year ride with the cocaine and the crack. Oh, yes, crack is wack — but it was very good to me at a particularly stupid point in my life. … I was a mess, functioning, killing myself. I realize that I am a walking addict. Do you know what I’m saying? You can’t just clean it up and stop it and think it’s not going to affect you.”
So even though her on-air revelation this week that she was living in a sober house may not have been surprising, its sheer honesty was unmistakably powerful. So powerful, that it has sent shockwaves through social media channels.
The revelation itself was very simple. Williams, as she often does, looked through the camera straight into the eyes of her fans and described what her day-to-day “truth” is, from recording her show, doing pilates at a facility near the studio, and then returning with her 24-hour sober coach to a sober house that she shares with “a bunch of smelly boys who have become (her) family.” There, she added it’s “doors locked by 10 p.m. lights out by 10 p.m., so I go to my room and stare at the ceiling and fall asleep to come here and see you.”
It was far from the detached, paparazzi-tinged news items that typically announce a celebrity entering rehab. Her plain, straightforward description of living in a sober house seemed so at odds with the glamor of a celebrity lifestyle that it has prompted accolades from the recovery community, as well as from other celebrities.
The View co-host Meghan McCain tweeted that “speaking your truth and showing your struggle and darkness on national television is not for the weak of heart.” CNN news anchor Don Lemon called Wendy Williams the “bravest woman I know.” Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, who is also in recovery, tweeted “YOU KNOW WHATS BRAVE..? ADMITTING YOUR FAILURE…ADMITTING YOUR TRIUMPHS WITHOUT A CARE FOR JUDGEMENT,” he tweeted. “STRENGTH TAKES TIME TO BUILD…BETTER LATE THAN NEVER…CONGRATS TO @WendyWilliams FOR SPEAKING YOUR TRUTH.”
It was also personal for Scandal star Bellamy Young. ““I learned a long time ago in #AlAnon that ‘we’re only as sick as our secrets.’ So shine your LIGHT. Let us heal w/you. There are very few lives untouched by addiction: it’s so important that we share how we heal & how we grow. I’m w/you 100%.”
Doing something about it
In addition to speaking out, Williams also launched a foundation in 2014 to help young people and families struggling with addiction to receive treatment. The Hunter Foundationspreads awareness and partners with Facing Addiction with NCADD to turn the tide on America’s addiction epidemic.
During her on-air revelation on Tuesday, Williams proudly announced that the foundation had successfully placed over 50 young people in treatment facilities.
The power of the truth
Next Chapter is proud to join in the many voices supporting Wendy Williams in her struggle. As one of the US’s premier addiction and trauma treatment programs, we know all too well of the truth behind addiction and recovery. It’s not cool or fun or glamorous or easy in any way. It is a life-or-death battle that addicts must choose to fight every day, for their own sake, and for the sake of those they love.
We hope that Wendy Williams’ striking revelation continues to resonate. We hope that the truth of it is able to deter people from falling into addiction, while at the same time providing support to those in recovery.
It is not easy to speak these kinds of truths, or to seek help or treatment for the conditions that we face. But we salute Wendy Williams for being brave enough to shine her light upon us for the benefit of us all.