Not surprisingly, I’m not much of a sports person. Yet I’m a news and pop culture person so clearly I’ve seen the Mike Tyson story unfold like the rest of the planet. From unbeatable boxing champ to certified hot mess, Tyson’s story is a difficult one but really not that different from any we in recovery hear of or lived through ourselves. It is hard not to roll your eyes when the press sensationalize the adventures of celebrity drug addicts and drunks. Things like arrests, hospitalization, criminal charges and bar brawls are sort of the norm for non-famous addicts. But when celebrities do this things, it winds up on the front page. Over the weekend, Mike Tyson railroaded his own press conference to confess that he’s been lying about being sober.
The press called these “startling revelations” but really this another day at the office for your run of the mill alcoholics and addicts. This isn’t to minimize Tyson’s struggle however. Tyson, like the estimated 60% of people who enter drug and alcohol recovery programs, is a chronic relapser. And Tyson, like myself in my disease, is a bullshit artist and a liar. That’s just kind of how we roll.Yet just like me and the thousands of others who tried to get sober over and over and finally did, Tyson stands a chance. He seems pretty beat down and fucked up which are good signs, even if they don’t sound like it. Near the end of the press conference Tyson told reporters, “I wanna change my life, I wanna live a different life now. I wanna live my sober life. I don’t wanna die.” From my experience, that’s an excellent place to start.
Also over the weekend, Lamar Odom was reported missing for three days. Tabloids reported that the NBA star had vanished and his family was concerned he was on a “Crack binge” (you know, as opposed to using crack in social setting like tea party or at an ice cream social). His family now says he wasn’t missing and brushed the whole thing off. Whether he was or wasn’t on this crack binge, this kind of behavior is also par for the course with addicts. In addition to relapsing and lying, we like to hide out and disappear. I bring all of this up today because the more I stay sober the more I realize it’s all the same. No matter who you are or where you go. Addiction and alcoholism doesn’t care what you do for a living or if you’re on a reality show. It just wants to kill you.
The real news, in my mind, isn’t that these things happen. The stories that save lives are the ones of survival are the afters, not the befores or durings. I’m inspired when I see famous addicts (Matthew Perry, Robert Downey Jr. Kristen Johnston) transcend the normal behavior and fight their demons head on. But as longtime media watcher and pop culture fan, I also know those kind of stories don’t sell as many magazines either.