In my experience, addiction affects people from all walks of life. Doctors, nurses, musicians, police officers, and crime scene investigators can all be addicted to drugs, alcohol or destructive behaviors. Addiction isn’t restricted to real life, either. These nine TV character’s struggles with addiction reveal the danger and struggle of addiction. Can you relate to any of them?
1. Charlie Hieronymus Pace (Lost), Drugs
While playing in his successful band, Charlie becomes addicted to heroin and refuses to enter rehab. He resorts to manipulation to fuel his addiction, shattering family ties and relationships. He eventually trades drugs for a guitar, sobriety, and romance as he fights hard to recover. His story is not uncommon amongst real musicians who embrace drugs as the pressure of stardom overwhelms them. While not all recover, Charlie conquers his addiction despite disbelievers and ultimately becomes a hero.
2. Dr. Gregory House (House), Pain Killers
Dr. House’s drug of choice, Vicodin, dulls his chronic leg pain. It also serves as a familiar comfort as his antisocial behavior and sharp tongue keep people at a distance. He is driven to immorality and recklessness, eventually suffering from hallucinations. When House does come clean through psychiatric help, he discovers new hobbies and finds love. Although a massive scare plunges him back into addiction again, the window of time that he was clean shows the purpose and happiness that can be found without drugs.
3. Jackie Peyton (Nurse Jackie), Prescription Drugs
The strong-willed nurse juggles her duties and personal life by abusing prescription drugs, including Adderall, Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin. In addition to sleeping with the pharmacist so she could get her fix, she violates the nursing Code of Ethics in numerous other ways. Jackie does achieve sobriety with help from a 12-step program, leading her to find love. However, her newfound joy ignites confusing emotions and leads her back to her drug crutch. Many addicts relapse for the same reason, but there’s always hope for a complete recovery with the proper support.
4. Abby Lockhart (ER), Alcohol
She’s a recovering alcoholic when she joins the ER, having suffered much loss and pain throughout her life. She attends AA meetings, eventually becoming a sponsor to a fellow doctor. A tumultuous relationship and loneliness drive her into drinking again, and soon life begins to spiral out of control. An alcohol-induced blackout compels her to make a disastrous decision, forcing her to confront reality to save herself and her family. She checks back into rehab and begins mending her life upon completion. Her story demonstrates that admitting the depth of one’s addiction is crucial to beginning the journey of recovery and a happy, sober life.
5. Don Draper (Mad Men), Alcohol
Don Draper begins the series as the creative director of the advertising company Sterling Cooper. Excruciating details of his childhood surface as the show progresses, revealing a history of alcoholism and in caregivers. Abuse, loss and distrust are deeply rooted in this character. He turns to alcohol when emotions get out of hand and it twists every aspect of his life. It unravels his inhibitions, urging him to infidelity and sometimes hurting his work ethic. He is a deeply flawed but charismatic anti-hero, confusing fans into not knowing whether to love or despise him. Only time will tell where alcohol will take Don, but many suspect rock bottom is fast approaching. Some argue that if he could work through his issues alongside a therapist, he could break free. This is a realistic portrait as many of those suffering from addiction are trying to numb the pain of past trauma. For many, uncovering these buried fears is essential to break the cycle.
6. Charlie Harper (Two and a Half Men), Sex and Alcohol
Womanizing alcoholic Charlie can frequently be found sleeping with almost any woman he meets. Long-term relationships never work, partly because of his drinking and partly because he struggles to commit. He does not achieve sobriety and dies the day after he’s found cheating on his fiancé Rose. Although I prefer to focus on success stories, this one serves as a shocking wake-up call.
7. Warrick Brown (CSI), Gambling
Before and during his time with CSI team, Warrick grappled with a gambling addiction. He counted cards in order to get an edge in poker despite the illegality of such a method. Gambling inflicts him with financial and psychological issues, sometimes pushing him to the point of breaking the law and abandoning his job. This results in a fellow investigator getting killed. His supervisor, however, believes in him and guides him along a more stable path. Although he veers from the straight and narrow several times, it is later revealed that he viewed his supervisor as a father figure. This demonstrates how beneficial it is for a addict to have a sponsor or mentor.
8. Sam, Billie, Dan and Adam (Starved), Eating Disorders
Although short-lived, this series focuses on four characters with an addiction to food. Sam and Billie suffer from anorexia. Dan questions if his wife could still love him despite his weight and repeatedly reschedules gastric bypass surgery. Adam extorts food from restaurants. While none of these characters recover from their eating disorders, they stand as another poignant reminder that addictions aren’t exclusively to drugs and alcohol. It also exposes the emotional turmoil addicts suffer from constantly and urges viewers to approach with understanding and compassion rather than blame.
9. Sam Winchester (Supernatural), Demon Blood
Drinking demon’s blood gives Sam Winchester power to destroy adversaries and protect the people he loves. The shame of such an act drives him to hide it and lie, compromising situations and tearing apart the trust of his family. He is also cruelly manipulated by the enemy, blinded by the need to get his fix. Fans were shocked by this development as Sam had always been so empathetic and disciplined. His family takes matters into their own hands, forcing him into an abrupt detox. Of course, this type of addiction is supernatural, but most recovering addicts I talk to speak of changes to their personality and performing acts they never imagined they would do. Relationships are severely wounded, lives fall apart. Despite this, healing is possible with patience and tenderness.
Addiction can affect anyone as evidenced by the struggles these nine TV characters face. Although fictional, each offers a perspective that can be learned from. No matter what the addiction is, seek the help you or a loved one need to recover successfully. Although writers are in charge of what these characters face and the outcomes of their addictions, we are in charge of our own lives. We can choose a happy ending for our own stories.