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How Celebrities Like Wendy Williams & Lala Kent Are Making Recovery Less Isolating For People With Addictions

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What Is A Sober Living Home? How Wendy Williams & Lala Kent Are Helping Recovery From Alcoholism & Addiction

You're not alone.

On Tuesday, Wendy Williams set the internet ablaze with her very public revelation that she is currently living in a sober house. The tearful admission came during an episode of The Wendy Williams Show, during which Williams described her ongoing struggles with addiction and her day-to-day as she enters this new phase of her sober journey.

According to Wikipedia, "Sober living houses (SLHs) are 'alcohol- and drug-free living environments for individuals attempting to maintain abstinence from alcohol and drugs'. Many of them are structured around 12-step programs and sound recovery methodologies."

This news came just a day after Vanderpump Rules star Lala Kent revealed on her Instagram stories that she identifies as an alcoholic.

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Although the news may have come as a shock to their respective fans, the outpouring of love and support for the two stars has been incredible, echoing the kind of support that Demi Lovato received last July when news broke of her overdose.

It seems that, as more and more celebrities admit to their own personal struggles with addiction and sobriety, the perception of people living with addiction is changing.

Some might accuse Willians and Kent of exploiting a vulnerable subject for press. However, as someone who has felt the desperate isolation of addiction, I sincerely doubt this is the case.

As New York Times bestselling journalist and author Johann Hari put it during his Ted Talk on addiction, which has so far received over 5.6 million views, "the opposite of addiction is connection." By sharing their personal stories, these celebrities are opening up to the often life-saving connections we form with others as a way to battle and heal from our substance abuse.

And although their public admissions may put them into an even more vulnerable place, should they have a public "fall off the wagon" as Lovato did, it's precisely this which makes them even braver and more deserving of our respect and admiration. The risk of a public fail is great but not revealing their truth, and not inspiring millions in the process, would be even worse.

The stigma that has long surrounded addiction and addicts themselves is slowly falling away thanks to brave souls like Williams and Kent.

As an addict in recovery, and someone who has been sober for over three years, I am not-so-secretly thrilled whenever a celebrity “comes out” as someone dealing with addiction.

It’s not that I wish any celebrity, or human for that matter, to deal with substance abuse.

But for every one of us that raises their voice and says, as Kent recently said, “I came to the realization that I am an alcoholic,” another person might see themselves, might just relate, and finally get the help they need. And with our celebrity-obsessed culture, people like Williams and Kent admitting to their addiction might just be the push someone needs to end up in a meeting room or sober house instead of in a body bag.

RELATED: 10 Early Warning Signs That You're Becoming An Alcoholic

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths from drug overdose have been on the rise for the past twenty years.

More than 70,000 people died in 2017 alone, with 68% of those deaths involving an opioid. As for alcohol, the CDC reports that “excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost each year in the United States.”

Those numbers are astounding but, unfortunately, many people still don’t know how much alcohol misuse and drug abuse is affecting the lives of people in the U.S., and worldwide too for that matter.

When I was in the depths of my alcohol addiction, I didn’t know who to turn to. The images I saw in the media of addicts didn’t seem to describe me.

 

A post shared by Give Them Lala (@lalakent) on Mar 16, 2019 at 5:18pm PDT

Like both Kent and Williams, I appeared glammed-up and as if I was keeping it all together. During Williams's emotional video, she admitted that those who see her on her television show might not know anything was off even as she has been living in a sober house. Only her husband and her son knew the truth.

That’s a feeling I very much remember. When I went to rehab — and then subsequently to live in a sober living house for months afterward — none of my friends knew where I was truly going.

I was embarrassed to admit my problem. As a successful, self-assured feminist, it felt like the biggest failure that I couldn’t stop drinking on my own.

At the time, I didn’t understand how the cycle of feeling bad about my drinking had actually kept me drinking. I isolated myself and didn’t tell anyone except my parents for far too long. But seeing Williams and Kent admit their deepest, darkest secret in public to their millions of fans gives me new hope. I wish I had them as examples when I was going through this but, for now, I’m grateful that they are providing such great examples for all of the others out there who are still stuck in active addiction.

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Seeing these messages of hope is invaluable to the addicts who are still suffering, provides a renewed determination to those of us already in recovery, and helps those who are not addicted to see that we are all humans just trying to get through the world.

Williams's admission put it best: “I know either you are calling me crazy or the bravest woman you know,” she said. “I don’t care.”

She doesn’t care because she knows what she is doing is right for her and, deep down, I bet she also knows that her public “coming out” as a person in recovery will help others, too. Living in a sober house can be scary and shameful, as it was for me, but it can also be empowering for those that need a push to get sober. She is, indeed, brave.

At the end of the day, though, it’s Kent’s words of hope in her Instagram stories that I’ll remember — and hope recovering addicts, those in active addiction, and everyone else will remember too.

“Being in my right frame of mind every single day is truly incredible,” Kent said. “When I’m having the roughest day that I could possibly have, I — for once in a very, very long time — see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know that tomorrow I’m gonna be okay.”

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Irina Gonzalez is a freelance writer and editor based in Florida, covering Latinx culture, sober living, and all things lifestyle. Follow her at @msirinagonzalez.