The Drugs Like Me

So Lars von Trier recently confessed a number of things.  First, he admitted he was undergoing treatment for drug addiction.  I commend him for this.  Second, he admitted he’s attending AA to get a grip on alcohol problems.  I hope he sticks with it.  Third, he admitted he’s afraid sobriety will cost him his creativity.  I…wait, what?!

I’ve had my own problems with drinking until the day came when my family and friends voiced their concerns and frustrations.  They were worried about my health.  They were embarrassed by my actions.  Like a number of artists, I felt like I had to drink ravenously in order to get in the zone.  But reading this article about von Trier had me feeling about as much an expert on addiction as Sean Hannity is an expert on politics.

So I asked my friend Patrick O’Neil – friend, writer, and tormentor of TSA agents – to chime in.  Patrick has written extensively on his own addiction and recovery, and his response to von Trier was mind-blowing:

“This is a fear that a lot of us in recovery have had.  Not just with creativity, but with our entire lives.  If we stop using and drinking will we still be the same persona?  Will we be able to still do the creative things that we were doing?  And of course the answer is yes.  You can live your life anyway you want.  Yet when von Trier says he’ll never be able to make a movie again because he stopped taking drugs and drinking like a fish, it’s pretty fucking lame.  So you have to be shitfaced to make a film.  Really?  That’s a drastic stance and the reality is you might not be able to make the movies that you are currently making, but you’ll make different ones.  And isn’t that what artists do?  They evolve and in turn the personal internal changes are revealed in their work.  My addiction took me as far away from being a creative artist as I possibly could go.  I went from a filmmaker/musician to a street junkie/armed robber and it has taken me years to get back to being that creative person I was before the drugs took over.  Von Trier is actually lucky he didn’t have to fall too far from grace before getting help with his addiction.  And of course we’re hearing this from him in a very short time clean and sober – the brain’s chemistry hasn’t even leveled off yet.  It’s all a big mystery at this point.  It’ll be interesting to hear what he says in six months or a year.”

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