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The start of a new year always arrives with wellness-fueled New Year’s resolutions matched by the voluntary tradition of “Dry January,” a month marked by abstaining from alcohol.
But 2021 has made for a unique mix of the above as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in alcohol sales and drug overdoses, per recent studies. The CDC reported in December that 81,000 people died from drug overdoses between May 2019 and May 2020, the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period.
That said, sobriety has received generous PR as of late from a slew of high-profile stars, among them Anthony Hopkins (who celebrated 45 years clean); Elton John (who said Zoom 12-Step meetings have been a lifesaver); Chrissy Teigen (who gave up booze after being inspired by Holly Whitaker’s book Quit Like a Woman); French Montana (who marked a year sober following an ICU scare due to “too much drinking, too many pills”); and Rumer Willis (who celebrated four years of sobriety).
“Anytime celebrities or public figures, who appear to have it all, reveal they too had to question their own behaviors and face truths about their need to use alcohol or another substance to soothe difficult emotions or experiences, out of boredom or loneliness to connect — especially during the isolation of quarantine — it inspires their fans to do the same,” explains Jennifer Musselman, a former Nickelodeon executive turned psychotherapist and leadership consultant who founded the Musselman Institute for Leadership Insight & Marriage Therapy, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “To the everyday person, it says, ‘If Chrissy Teigen or Anthony Hopkins, who have it all, suffer from this, then maybe I’m not a weak loser after all.’”
Helping smack down that notion is Danny Trejo who, at 52 years sober, recently filmed a PSA on behalf of CRI-Help, an L.A.-based nonprofit treatment center. The spot finds the former inmate turned boxer turned actor fighting his demons — literally and figuratively — in and out of the ring. “I got honest. I got clean. You can too,” Trejo says in the spot, which debuted in December.
Musselman says that the start of a new year often leads people to survey their decisions and life goals, especially after “indulging” around the holidays. But this year is different. She suggests anyone who is leaning toward recovery or even a “Dry January” to have grace for oneself, enlist a “trusted buddy” for compassionate accountability, and seek out the vast network of online resources.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is not your normal start of a new year, and that’s important to remember,” she adds. “Usual coping mechanisms are not readily available to people and can undermine their success. In-person support groups like AA, smart recovery or even friends and family support are mostly online. Gyms are closed, all social activity is limited. Even medical and mental care is restricted due to the outpouring of people who need support right now. These are critical components to many people who need extra support to start the path of recovery off successfully.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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