4. Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. has overcome decades of serious problems with substance abuse to become an immensely respected, accomplished actor. Throughout his childhood, both of his parents were addicted to drugs and alcohol. Appallingly, his father encouraged him to try smoking marijuana when he was only 6 or 7 years old. He and his father continued to do drugs together while he was growing up; in a truly sick way, it was their way of bonding as a father and son. As Downey explains, his father was “trying to express his love…the only way he knew how.” Downey’s childhood upbringing was dysfunctional, to say the least.
Downey started to pursue an acting career as a teen. However, his personal life was fraught with trouble due to his problems with addiction. His eight-year relationship with actress Sarah Jessica Parker ended because of his drinking and drug use. Between 1996 and 2001, he was in and out of court (and prison) for charges including possession of marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. In 2004, he and former wife Deborah Falconer were divorced because of his stints in jail and rehab, and Falconer took custody of their son.
Finally, Downey decided enough was enough; his addictions had wreaked more than enough havoc on his life, and he knew he needed to change. He managed to overcome his addictions and reboot his career, becoming one of the most renowned and successful actors in Hollywood. His remarkable transformation and comeback are truly inspiring.
Downey has been openly supportive of his son’s own struggles with substance abuse. When his son, then 20 years old, was charged with felony cocaine possession, Downey stood by him and issued a public statement. He recognized there was a genetic component to addiction, which his son had likely inherited, and he vowed that he and his family were committed to helping the young man overcome his current hardship and become the person they knew he could be. His son successfully completed a rehabilitation program and the charges against him were dismissed.
Photo source: Robert Downey, Jr. by Gage Skidmore