Over the past two months, my social media feed has been decked with decorated caps, selfies with diplomas, and dope commencement speeches. The School of Theater class of 2017 was extremely near and dear to my heart, and even though I could not attend their graduation, I’m so proud of them and what I know they will accomplish.
Yet, along with that excitement, I’m all too aware of the realities of the world my friends are facing head on. To begin with, a theater artist’s life is not a particularly stable or easy one. No one heads into this career expecting to make a lot of money. Rejection is a daily companion, and in a profession where it’s dangerously easy to confuse your identity with your art, it takes vigilance to remain emotionally healthy. Now contextualize this with the current administration, a steady increase of global carbon emissions and far too many cultural idols overdosing: no wonder Millennials experience the most stress.
Now, my love and support are with those who are hit hardest by our current climate: my POC friends, my disabled friends, my Muslim friends, my immigrant friends, and my poor friends. But I don’t pretend to speak for these communities, and I have an issue that often goes unnoticed that I want to explore: Today, I’m going to take a look at the state of my affluent friends, my friends who have safety nets, and how a life of easy access can result in prolonged addiction.
Addiction in Affluence
This issue has surfaced for me after a few ideas had coalesced. It began when I read an article my friends were sharing: ‘Can Only Rich Kids Afford to Work in the Art World?’ This article examined how art students are far more likely to receive financial help from their parents for school and post grad life than the average student. While I know students in my program who are here on full scholarships or work three jobs to attend school, they are definitely in the minority. With BU’s tuition being hiked up every year, this school and the School of Theater, continues to serve wealthier students.
Thinking about these wealthier students, some of whom were born into Hollywood families, it reminds me of the time that one acting teacher told a student that she was riding on her mother’s success. When you come from a world of money that you didn’t earn, a world where almost any mistake can be remedied, it’s all too easy to feel like an imposter. The myth of American exceptionalism is indiscriminate: it affects everyone.
Combining these feelings of insecurity with the tortured artist stereotype, post-grad pressures and how Hollywood perpetuates cycles of addiction, it creates the perfect environment for an addiction to be contracted, to fester, and to grow.
I’m writing about this to dispel myths of addiction in all demographics. Although the wealthy experience many privileges, their lack of financial limit often leaves addictions untreated because of their inability to visibly hit ‘rock bottom’. With being able to purchase alcohol online, drugs online, and delivered to your door, access is easier than ever before.
It can be difficult to identify whether you or a loved one has an addiction: because of societal narratives, addiction is associated with moral failings and a lack of self-control. Luckily, there are many available resources to help. To start, there are many online quizzes associated with Alcohol Rehab Centers. These are sometimes good places to start because they’re all online and you don’t have to feel worried about being judged. From the Center The Dunes East Hampton, here are some questions you can ask yourself or your loved one:
Do you find yourself drinking before and/or during work hours?
Have you found yourself budgeting more money for alcohol each month?
Has a friend or family asked you to cut back on your drinking?
Have you and your partner argued frequently about the nature of your alcohol abuse?
Have you accidentally injured yourself (or others while consuming alcohol?
Do you ever drink in response to feeling strong emotions such as anxiety or anger?
Do you consistently feel guilty about decisions you make when you’re drinking?
Are you unable to stop consuming after having a few drinks?
If you or your loved one answered yes to any of these questions, it may be beneficial for you to educate yourself about the disease of addiction and explore treatment options.
It’s at these times I think of the great artists we’ve lost to overdoses. Even over the short span of my lifetime, it’s been devastating: Prince, Carrie Fischer, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger, Robin Williams, to name a small few. And I’m lucky enough to have worked with students at my school who have moved me as those great artists have moved me. To think, that when professional help is available, we could lose anyone capable of reminding us of our humanity with such power is harrowing.
To all my friends, in all walks of life, while working and fighting for kindness and justice and art, be gentle with yourselves in these hard, hard times.