Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Harry Potter Star Daniel Radcliffe Gets Sober After Years of Teenage Booze Binges

G has been away on vacation with family for the past 12 days… Whole lotta shakin goin on, and got lots to tell you, but it’ll take a few days for me to get back up and running.

I promise not to make every post about a celebrity, but this one is interesting. Imagine Harry Potter, trashed: a few days ago Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who plays the young wizard, admitted he’s been sober for almost a year after having become “reliant” on booze. Radcliffe, 21, tells British GQ:

There were a few years there when I was just so enamored with the idea of living some sort of famous person’s lifestyle that really isn’t suited to me.

He also admits that he wishes he were the kind of person who could go out and enjoy a couple of drinks, but “that doesn’t work for me,” he says.

Daniel Radcliffe on his 21st birthday

Radcliffe talks about having gotten away with a great many drunken binges without paparazzi capturing him on film, but it’s easy enough to find pictures of Radcliffe’s 21st birthday at the end of last July, celebrated with lots of vodka shots in St. Petersburg (as in Russia, where they make the best vodka).

Salon, HuffPo and others are marveling at Radcliffe’s uncanny ability to conceal his habit (News Flash: Alcoholics Hide Their Drinking!).

“The real surprise is how well he hid it,” Mary Elizabeth Williams writes in Huffington Post.

But… is it possible that, like so many other stars who’ve been given so much so soon, he’ll seek consolation again in substance abuse? … It’s one thing to calm down when you’re an older, partied-out Robert Downey Jr. or Eminem. It’s another when you’re barely out of your teens and the character who’s made you famous is retiring.

The character made him very rich, too. Radcliffe is estimated to be worth £48 million ($77 million). And yeah, he’s been “given” a lot, but he’s also earned a lot: Radcliffe has devoted more than half his life to maintaining this film franchise.

Nobody’s looking at Radcliffe’s sobriety date: August 2010, just after the pictures were published of his sodden birthday party. He obviously went out and got rip-roaring drunk in front of somebody’s lens, he saw the photos (or, likely, a parent or handler forced him to look at the photos), he decided it was bullshit, and he hasn’t picked up a drink since. Who knows if he’s in AA or what, but he’s sober.

IMO, the real news flash happens when ANYONE is able to get sober and stay there. One key is being teachable.

Radcliffe seems to be someone who is able to learn from the mistakes of others. He tells GQ:

There’s no shame in enjoying a quiet life, and that’s been the realization of the past few years for me. I’d just rather sit at home and read, or go out to dinner with someone, or talk to someone I love, or talk to somebody that makes me laugh.

To many other 21-year-olds, this kind of life sounds—well, fucking boring, quite frankly. It’s hard to get sober at the point when you’ve just reached legal drinking age and can buy your booze without having to sneak around anymore. I’ve known some people who have managed it (usually people, like Radcliffe, who started drinking alcoholically in their teens, sometimes even before their teens).

I have so much respect for the young people I see trying to get sober. To me, having gotten sober at 44, their lives look like an open road with lots of interesting places to visit along the way.

But to them, in the middle of the hard work of early sobriety, the road usually looks like a path through a Vietnamese forest in 1968—or else monotonous, like a blank road through a Kansas cornfield. I’ve talked to lots of young people about the difficulties of giving up drinking and using at their age. A lot of their questions come from the stress of being at the verge of adulthood and not knowing how to make decisions—and no longer having alcohol to blunt the resulting fear.

Of course, owning £48 million and houses in London and New York, as Radcliffe does, are responsibilities that bring their own “stresses.” But when you have a lot less than £48 million in the bank and you live in an obscure apartment that you can’t afford to furnish or even stock with food, in a small town that feels like (or even is) nowhere—when you’re still struggling to get a college degree and are facing an uncertain career picture in the middle of a deep recession—giving up the one way you cope with hard feelings is like cutting off a part of your body: your lips, say, or another equally sensitive part.

“How will I ever have fun again?” I’ve been asked by young newcomers.

Opportunity is worth more than any money in the bank or any deed to the most valuable real estate. You can’t buy opportunity, even opportunity to have fun. But there are sure and certain ways to squander it when it comes along.

7 Comments

  1. My daughter’s sobriety date is less than a month before her 21st birthday. Ironically she has never had a legal drink. Its been almost three years. I bet she would tell you that she has experienced far more than she has missed.

  2. guinevere

    July 7, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Wow, Dave, amazing, and good for her.

  3. Sobriety makes a better life than not. I quit when I was 26 (back in the Stone Age of 1984) and I am still alive to tell the tales. Had I continued to drink at the only rate I knew–“flat out to black out”- it’d definitely be jail, institution or dead. There is no doubt about that. Without AA or any other program, I have stayed away from that One Drink that’s too many for more than half my life. That said, I know without a doubt that were AA not around, many people wouldn’t be here to tell their tales either.

    Whatever works is the best program for each of us who want to live to see the morrow.

  4. I’m constantly amazed by the process of getting – and then staying – sober. I got sober when my daughter was 12, only to have her spend the next 6-7 years wasted out of her mind. At one point she was young enough that I could literally scoop her up and deposit her in a rehab far from “home.” She then went to a sober living facility which was awesome and stayed sober a year. Then, she went back to her lover, er, heroin. Currently she’s on beer/pot maintenance. All I can do is save a seat for her. And turn it over.

  5. Great post! For me it looked like that long dreary road in the flat lands…..I’m so glad that my fear didn’t stop me when I’d finally made the decision. Life is so much more wonderful.

  6. I hope that he gets it. Fame and fortune are like a drug for many–the ego goes wild and so do impulses. Welcome back G.

  7. I, for one, am so glad you post the celeb news, because I’m so out of touch that I never come across it. Thanks~!

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