Robert Downey Jr. is in the news again for addiction. Except this time it’s about his 20-year-old son, Indio Falconer Downey. Police arrested Indio for cocaine possession on Sunday.
I can’t speak for Indio or his family, but this event got me thinking about addiction, lies, media, and the family.
The lies addiction makes you believe
So many times I thought that my drug and alcohol use only affected me. I’d tell myself that it’s my choice and short-lived pleasure and no one else’s business. I don’t have a problem. I can stop at any time; I’ve got it under control. And the lies go on.
What’s worse is family members have their own lies too. For instance, “They’ll be okay. It’s just a phase. I did drugs and I didn’t die.” “It isn’t that bad; they’re not an addict.”
Looking back I can see it in big fat letters: DENIAL—Don’t Even Know I Am Lying. The ability to deceive ourselves is astounding!
Addiction affects the entire family
The truth is addiction hurts more than just you—it affects the entire family.
Combine the genetic predisposition toward addiction with the environment influences that affect a person’s choice to use, and that’s a hard cycle to break. Because the environmental factors that affect the person’s choice to use drugs and alcohol (e.g. stress, early physical or sexual abuse, witnessing violence, peers who use drugs, and drug availability) are also the side effects of growing up with addicted parents (who passed on the genetic predisposition for addiction).
Since addiction affects the entire family, the family needs healing just as much as the person, or persons, abusing drugs and alcohol.
I heard an addiction professional say the other weekend, “Codependents kill more people than drugs and alcohol do.” And he’s so right. If the family is not recovering from dysfunctional and destructive behaviors, they can easily sabotage their loved one’s recovery. Another professional agreed, saying, “A family can undo in one hour what a treatment center has done in nine months.” I want to think he’s exaggerating. Even if he is, the point is the family is extremely important to a loved one’s long-term sobriety.
Media sensationalizes drug use and arrests
Okay, enough of my musings and back to the Downey family.
I get it. You’re famous, so if your actions, or those of someone connected to you, make irresistible headlines and stories, they will, regardless if they shouldn’t. (Why arrests involving drug and alcohol use make more irresistible headlines than someone’s recovery is another story.)
It is sad that Indio’s arrest is plastered everywhere, but I hope a few good things can come out of it: understanding, compassion, and hope.
Since Robert Downey Jr.’s drug use, arrests, break-ups, jail times, and treatment entrances were so public, we have a little more insight about how this disease is affecting the Downey family. His dad suffered from addiction, which also meant that Downey grew up with plenty of pot and coke around and started using at 8. Using drugs with his dad was the way they bonded. His parents divorced when he was 13. (This doesn’t mean that his parents are to blame or that he never had a good moment growing up, but given these circumstances, it’s easier to understand Downey’s path.)
As for Indio, with his father’s struggle in the lime-light, it’s easy to overlook that he was growing up in the midst of all of the chaos: dad being gone, arrests, court cases, family conflict.
Did we need the media to tell us all the details? Probably not, but since we have them, I think it can help us have more understanding and compassion for what they’re going through. And I have seen so many other families share a similar story of suffering from addiction.
It doesn’t have to stop at the suffering though. We can have hope. Hope for Indio and hope for all the other families going through the same journey.
Downey is a prime example. He should have died, but he’s been clean and sober since 2003. It certainly hasn’t been easy, but recovery has allowed him to get his career back and be present with a supportive family.
Downey’s statement about his son’s arrest is one filled with gratitude and hope for change:
“Unfortunately there’s a genetic component to addiction and Indio has likely inherited it. Also, there is a lot of family support and understanding, and we’re all determined to rally behind him and help him become the man he’s capable of being. We’re grateful to the Sheriff’s department for their intervention, and believe Indio can be another recovery success story instead of a cautionary tale.”