The Miracle That Saved Robert Downey Jr.

It is nice to read about successes in addressing drug addiction and the damage it causes to people. Robert Downey Jr. continues to provide such an example with his long successful career after years of struggles with drug addiction.

Susan Downey: Iron Woman

For a long time, however, it seemed as if that never-grow-up quality was going to land Robert in an early grave. After sauntering into our hearts as the doomed rich kid Julian in 1987’s Less Than Zero and proving himself a comic genius with his Oscar-nominated performance in 1992’s Chaplin, Robert spent roughly five years (from 1996 to 2001) in a long, heavily publicized death dance with crack cocaine, heroin, gunplay, and prison — at one point, even wandering into a neighbor’s home and passing out in a child’s bedroom. By the time he was released from court-ordered rehab in 2002, he was largely considered unemployable in Hollywood and was able to convince producer Silver to hire him for Gothika only by agreeing to have a good chunk of his salary withheld until the film wrapped.

But Robert was not quite finished with what he refers to as his Darth Vader side. “I did meet Darth Vader, for like a minute,” Susan acknowledges, “right after the movie wrapped, and I said immediately, ‘This isn’t gonna work.’ I made it clear that to stay with me, nothing could happen.”

Something about Susan’s ultimatum clicked. Around July 4, 2003, Robert stopped at a Burger King on the Pacific Coast Highway, threw his drugs in the ocean, and decided that he was done for good. “I think he saw what we had,” Susan says. “There was something magical there, something we couldn’t put our finger on. He always says that we became this third thing when we got together — something that neither of us could have become by ourselves — and I think that’s true.”

Success for one individual don’t easily translate to others. It is normally many individual things that all line up to make it work. Robert had been to rehab before and relapsed. Plenty of addicts get ultimatums and relapse. Plenty of people find love and proceed to mess it up. But in this case Robert was able to make a change and has been able to enjoy great success and happiness.

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