Affluence, Art and Addiction Assessment

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.

Credit Card

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.

In the theater alone. Don't give into addiction.

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.

Calling in and Cushioning Drug and Alcohol Treatment


People Places Things - Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Denise Gough in Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places and Things

Witnessing the Cycle of Addiction

About mid semester last fall, I was exercising my favorite method of procrastination: reading plays that I might produce post-grad. All of my friends who had been abroad in London last year were raving about Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places, and Things. I had gotten my hands on a copy and snuggled up on a couch on the second floor of the CFA.

The play followed an addict, Emma, who committed herself to a drug and alcohol treatment center. Emma refuses to admit she’s an addict from the beginning, and resists the program, believing herself to be above it. Once she’s released, she comes back some time later, begging for help and finally seeing the way her addiction runs her life. In the final scene of the play, Emma returns to her home. And everything we believed about Emma is turned upside down.

Although we have just seen one cycle of this behavior, her family has bared witness to it for most of her life. When Emma attempts to apologize, her mother reminds her of the time she stabbed her when her mother attempted to flush her stash of drugs down the toilet. Her parents’ sympathy for her has run dry. She guilted, manipulated and used her family too often for their relationship to ever really heal.

People, Places and Things - On Stage
Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places and Things

How to Know When To Call In for Help with Drug and Alcohol Abuse 

More often than not, families of addicts don’t know when to say enough is enough. Despite all the common portrayals of addiction, when a loved one becomes an addict, empathy and pity are a valid response. Seeing a loved one in pain is horrible, and doling out second chances is tempting.

But when nothing seems to create a long term change, what does one do?

It seems like calling in for professional interventionist help may be necessary, but how can one be sure? That’s when tools like an intervention quiz become vital. These quizzes can help contextualize one’s experience and see if professional intervention is what your family needs.

Do you feel like you often sacrifice your own needs to help your loved one?

Does your loved one make you feel guilty often?

Do you feel responsible for your loved one’s behavior?

Does your loved one depend on you (or others close to them) for financial support?

These are just a few of the questions from Family First Intervention’s quiz. If the answer to any of these questions is yes, I would strongly suggest taking the quiz.

People Places and Things - Drug and Alcohol AbuseDuncan Macmillan’s People, Places and Things

Unknowing Cushions of Addiction 

The painful truth of it is that addicts were family first, and it’s difficult to resist enabling them. To support their addiction, they will convince their loved ones to believe that they are capable of helping themselves. This so often turns people into unknowing enablers. Family members become cushions to support their addiction, not their recovery. It’s understandable, but at the end of the day, it can be fatal. In situations like this, addicts and families need professional interventionists to aid them in effective and long-term recovery.

None of us want to look at our loved ones and find our reserves of love depleted.


For more resources, refer to the Family First Intervention’s website.