I realize there have been no updates in a long time. Also that I have not finished the Avengers 30 Day Meme. I will finish it… eventually. I’m horrible at finishing those kinds of things. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever finished one in my life. But I will complete this one just to say that I CAN DO IT! haha
This update is somewhat related. This entry is about my love for Robert Downey Jr. But not in a creepy way. In a respectful way. I was not aware of Robert for a long time, until the Iron Man movies. And I didn’t even really like those until I watched them a second time. This entry is about the massive amount of respect I have for Robert Downey Jr. as a person and as a recovering addict. As a Psych major, I am very interested in psychological issues like this and wanting to help people heal and recover from substance abuse and use disorders. As a person, I hate to see people struggling with something so destructive and want to see them/help them kick the habit and get their lives on track. It’s one of the hardest things to do, but it can be done. Prime example: Robert Downey Jr.
Robert has stated in various interviews that drugs and alcohol have been a factor for him almost his entire life. His father, Robert Downey Sr., was an addict and exposed Robert Jr. to the substances at a young age. Nature and nurture combined against the younger Robert, unfortunately. As Robert got older, his substance dependence became a growing problem. At first it started out as a young guy “having fun;” that’s the way it starts out for a lot of people. Sadly, Robert became a very heavy user of alcohol and hard drugs.
Through the 80s and 90s, his career was largely separate from his life as an addict. He showed up stoned out of his mind, provided profoundly talented performances, and went back home again. As long as his work was top quality, no one noticed at first. Then when people started to notice and notice how extreme his behavior was, they still didn’t fire him or refuse to hire him as long as he continued to turn out excellent performances. For Robert, his natural talent largely sheltered his professional life from negative fallout due to his addiction. He was a high-functioning addict, an extremely high-functioning addict. High-functioning does not mean unaffected, however. Ask Robert today what he remembers about filming most of his movies from the early 90s, and he will answer that he does not really remember. He was in such a blur, that he literally has almost no recollection of large portions of years of his life. That’s how damaging his addiction was for him.
More importantly, Robert’s addiction revealed itself in personal troubles, even when his professional life was still rolling along mostly smoothly. Sarah Jessica Parker left him after a years-long relationship due to his drug and alcohol usage. His first wife left him and took their toddler son with her after only a few years of marriage due to his addiction (though they did not officially divorce until many years later). Friends were worried about him and tried to help him. None of it worked, though, because Robert wasn’t ready to get sober. Robert has said, “When you’re having a ball and everyone else is miserable, that’s when you know something’s wrong.” At the time, Robert didn’t really realize just how miserable everyone else was. He was still having a great time. Sean Penn essentially kidnapped him and sent him to rehab, but Robert escaped within a day or two. It doesn’t matter how badly other people want you to get clean, you have to want it for yourself, according to Robert Downey Jr. And he didn’t really want it yet, in spite of everything he had already lost.
The mid-90s to early 2000s brought a string of run-ins with the law. Robert served jail time. This was when his professional life truly began to suffer because of his problems. People would not hire him because he could not be insured due to his legal problems. And still, Robert struggled to get clean. At first, he was offered probation as long as he went to rehab, attended AA meetings, had a basically live-in sober coach, and sponsored other young addicts. According to those around Robert, this helped him for awhile before he backslid right back into prison. Robert has said, “When you’ve lost your job, your wife leaves you, and you’re looking at prison, it’s time to make some changes.” He had to literally hit rock bottom before he was ready and willing to make some serious changes.
By all accounts, he emerged a changed man. According to his now-wife Susan (who is another person I highly respect), she made it clear that his sobriety was a non-negotiable factor in the continuation of their relationship. Robert has been sober and with Susan since 2003. He can tell you the exact moment he decided never to do drugs again. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t even smoke anymore. In order to help him maintain his sobriety, he practices different forms of meditation and other things like that. By all accounts, he has a fantastic support system.
The main reason I love and respect Robert Downey Jr.? He’s not afraid to talk about his past. He will honestly and willingly tell anyone who asks what he remembers about that period of his life. He will tell people what it’s like to get clean. He will make fun of himself for his mistakes and not take himself too seriously. In other words, he is a fantastic role model for others who are recovering from substance use or who are currently using and still need that incentive to get clean. Not only has Robert been healthier and happier since getting clean, he has been more successful as well. Since 2003, his career has been more successful than it ever was before he got clean (with the possible exception of Chaplin.) He didn’t need the drugs for creativity or talent or anything. He is an incredibly inspiring success story. Honestly, I could listen to him talk about this subject all day. I think he is fascinating, and I think he is so blessed to still be alive. I sincerely hope that he will continue to remain sober for the rest of his life, not only for his sake but also for everyone else who looks to him as an example. That level of honesty and sincerity (even when it comes in a sarcastic package) is highly needed and appreciated today. Robert made the decision to get clean for himself, something he believes every addict needs to do, but he does not take all the credit for his sobriety or success. He will be the first to credit his wife Susan with it all.
Susan Levin Downey. She’s basically my favorite woman on the planet. I want to be her best friend. I respect her so much as well. By her own admission, she is a straight-laced, honor roll, career-minded woman. Basically, a woman after my own heart. Before she met Robert, she never even knew anyone who did drugs. It wasn’t love at first sight with Robert. In fact, he was essentially everything she never looked for in a husband. According to Susan, he was divorced, had a kid, had a criminal record, was an ex-addict, was an actor, and was 9 years older than her. Despite all these things, they ended up being the perfect match for each other. I guess sometimes we have to be willing to compromise on our mental checklists.
This is not to say that she compromised herself in the relationship. There was one encounter with Robert and drugs a few months in, and Susan put her foot down and made it clear that would not be tolerated. She may very well have saved Robert’s life. The point is, Susan is exactly what Robert needs. They are the most inspiring case of “opposites attract.” Guy Ritchie has said that “they are the perfect example of a symbiotic relationship.” There is no greater compliment. She gave up her red wine in consideration of Robert. In my opinion, they have mastered the art of compromise and coexistence, though I’m relatively certain that Susan is the boss at the end of the day. As well she should be. I respect them as individual and as a couple. I hope someday that I can have a marriage as strong and happy as theirs. People look at them and can’t help but compliment them on their relationship. That’s what I want when people look at me and my spouse.
Robert has become such a better father to his oldest son Indio, and I know he and Susan will be great parents to Exton. Also, I just want to say that Susan is a role model for working women everywhere. She did what she needed to do to get where she wanted to be in her career. She wasn’t focused on a relationship, but when one came to her, she didn’t turn it away. She managed to set herself up as a strong, independent woman who could then be with a man as her equal partner. She didn’t get married until her early 30s, and she didn’t become a mom until she was 38. She didn’t rush anything. She took her time for her career and her marriage and herself first. I respect that so much. Many women today try to rush and pack everything into a few years, which leads to nothing but overwhelming feelings of stress and unhappiness. Some women will seek one at the expense of the other (relationship or career or vice versa). Susan found a great way to balance it all, space it all out, and still get everything she wanted. What an inspiration! I really hope I can manage to do that throughout my life and career, especially since my undergraduate university career is coming to a close and I have to figure out the next steps in my life.
I know it sounds strange to spend an entire blog entry extolling the live of two celebrities. I am just so impressed and so thankful that, in a culture where those in the public spotlight are three times more likely to behave badly and make poor choices, there are some people who still make good decisions and are strong enough to recover from their bad ones and never look back. We need more people like Robert and Susan to look up to, both as individuals and as a couple. I have the utmost respect for Robert and Susan and wish them nothing but the best. And I just want to thank them for being some of the too rare good examples in this world.