It is news to no one that connections are often made between many of the most famously creative figures in history and drug or alcohol abuse. Creative types have a reputation for being complex and conflicted individuals, and those characteristics also tend to be associated with alcohol and drug abuse. Not to say that creative types must be alcoholics or addicts, but to at least acknowledge how many addicts or alcoholics are incredibly talented people who still find ways of self-expression even through their struggles.
While we hear so many stories of modern celebrities who have either overcome their battles with substance use, or lost their lives to drugs and alcohol, some of the most influential artists in history also faced down similar issues. Whether it is music, art or literature, some of the most amazing works of cultural depth and significance came from people in the grips of addiction or alcoholism.
Here we take a look at 6 famous artists with addictions throughout history. NOTE: Not all the artists are of the visual variety.
Charles Dickens is probably most well-known for his part in changing the world of storytelling with the famous holiday fiction “A Christmas Carol” and the epic “A Tale of Two Cities”.
What is probably not nearly as well-know was the fact that Charles Dickens was also an opium user. After each day of writing it is said Dickens would settle down to smoke poppy latex from a hookah. He eventually died at the age of 58 from a stroke on June 9, 1870, which many have partially attributed to his opium use.
The idea of Jackson Pollock having a little chaos in his life is probably not that strange to anyone who has seen his paintings. Pollock is revered for his messy “drip painting” technique, with the canvas of his work often splattered and streaked with a frenzy of color. In the 1940s Pollock gained instant fame. So when looking into the chaos of his life as an alcoholic, it is easy to see the metaphor.
Pollock’s alcoholism is said to have been exacerbated by the pressure of his success, and in 1956 he died in a drunk-driving accident that also killed one of his passengers.
Ernest Hemingway is probably one of the most notorious alcoholic artists in literature. As a Nobel Prize winner in 1954, Hemingway has been described as a “economical and understated” voice of that “changed the nature of American writing”; one of the greatest writers of the early to mid-twentieth century. He authored such historical works as:
- “A Farewell to Arms” (1929)
- “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (1940)
- “The Old Man and the Sea” (1852)
However, he is also well known for the intimate relationship he had with alcohol. In one tragic peek into how Hemingway reached to the bottle to cope with the world is a quote stating:
“Modern life, too, is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief.”
It is believed that his heavy drinking intensified a medical condition, which led to mental confusion and depression. Hemingway eventually took his life in 1961.
Philip K. Dick
You may have heard of the cult classic science fiction film Blade Runner, and if so you should get to know the source material, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”
This deeply philosophical novel was written by American author Philip K. Dick. Other well-known sci-fi films were also inspired by his work, including:
- Total Recall
- Minority Report
This writer commonly utilized his art as a window into struggles with mental health or substance abuse. In fact, the author wrote dozens of novels about his own experiences of paranoia, schizophrenia, and drug abuse. He was known for taking drugs, particularly amphetamines. Eventually Philip K. Dick suffered a stroke at the age of 53, which cost him his life. Some have attributed this tragedy to the devastating impact of drugs on his body.
Jean-Michel Basquiat is a famous street artist from Brooklyn who went from homeless and unemployed to selling paintings for 5 figures in just 2 years. Suddenly a single work of art by Basquiat was imposing a price-tage of $50,000. This was a height completely unheard of for any artist.
Needless to say, the sudden surge of fame was a shock to the young man’s system. Especially considering he was a self-admitted heroin addict. At one point the young man claimed he was using up to 100 bags of heroin a day.
Tragically, this astonishingly successful artist was found dead in his East Village apartment from a heroin overdose in 1988.
Basquiat was only 27 years old.
Vincent van Gogh
This may be the most ‘house-hold name’ on this list; Vincent van Gogh. Just the mention of his names stirs the feeling of fine art, while his impressionist style was a bold and dramatic footing from which the concept of modern art flourished.
In what can be seen as brilliant and breathtaking, his landscapes and soft self-portraits may not seem like the yearnings of a tortured soul. Staring into his most pivotal pieces, such as the instantly recognizable “The Starry Night” one may see bright optimism in the swirling clouds or burning stars. However, Van Gogh grappled with a deep depression and enervating alcoholism.
Van Gogh spoke of his drinking at one point stating alcohol had, “undoubtedly been one of the great causes of my madness.” His drinking grew worse as he indulged deeply in absinthe, and at the young age of 37 years old, Vincent van Gogh took his own life.
Whether you would say an artist is more likely to be an addict or alcoholic is debatable. However, even in the grips of a disease that diminishes the mind, body and spirit there have been those who have used their art to reach out and express their hopes, or their fears in a way that touches so many others. But some of the most talents and inspiring people have been taken from us far too soon by their addictions. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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Recently Jeff Salinas, an Alumni from our Palm Partners facility contacted our Alumni department with some exciting news; on the road to recovery he hit the ground running, and soon will be competing in a triathlon, but it isn’t his first since he took off from the starting line he got while in treatment. Jeff shared with us an article written about his awesome new ambition on Florida Today, in which he was quoted saying
“Triathlon saved my life,”
Coming up Sunday, July 25th is the fifth annual Indialantic Boardwalk Triathlon. This is Jeff’s next giant leap on the road of transformation and recovery. The report shares that Jeff has become a regular to the local triathlons, as much as possible, while also competing in local foot races. According to Jeff, all this athletic action is more than just a sport; it has made a lasting imprint on his life, especially in recovery from alcoholism.
At 43 years old, this powerful example of passionate self-improvement has always been an athlete, even before turning his life around. However, when he spoke with journalists about his new competitive edge, he shared how the decision to clean up his act gave him a breathtaking second wind.
“In 2013, 2014 and 2015, I struggled really badly with alcoholism,”
“I finally battled those demons in 2015 … And then I trained for an Ironman triathlon. I made some life-changing moves, and to maintain them, I committed myself to the Ironman Florida Triathlon in Panama City.”
Jeff has been running a long time. Before, you may have said he was running from something. Today, however, it looks more like he’s running toward a better, brighter future.
Jeff has finished 7 marathons, and in 2013 he decided to try on a triathlon. Of course by his timeline, he was still actively drinking. Apparently he was able to put off drinking during triathlons and compete well enough.
It would appear that looking at the face value, one might categorize Jeff as a “functioning alcoholic”. He was working after moving with the company from San Diego. Jeff was providing for his wife Alpha and daughter Athena, not to mention caring for four dogs and staying active. Yet despite all the running, his drinking was catching up to him and gaining fast. When the question came in regards to if his drinking impacted his family, Jeff states in the interview:
“Bigtime. They’re the ones who got me into recovery. The most important thing is that you have to want it. You don’t go to make someone happy or because it is a good idea … You’ve got to do it for yourself; you have to make those life-changing decisions yourself. I had to ask myself, ‘Am I an addict or an athlete?’ ”
Jeff was put on a new track, with a new gym and new trainers who were ready to run a different kind of race with him; a race toward transformation.
Jeff Salinas found his way to Palm Partners, a Palm Healthcare facility that specializes in the treatment of people struggling with substance use disorder and dual diagnosis. In treatment Jeff found himself among recovering individuals of every economic and social background. While in treatment at Palm Partners Jeff experienced some of the most effective and innovative holistic methods, including personal trainers, exercise, good nutrition and yoga classes. Palm Partners and all Palm Healthcare facilities are designed to address every element of physical, emotional and mental recovery to help create lasting change. When asking Jeff about his experience with Palm Partners, and he wrote:
I remember during one of the classes in Palm Partners, we were to think of some kind of short term goal to have us look forward to in order to maintain our sobriety post Palm Partners. I always did want to participate in an Ironman Race Triathlon, which is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride followed by a 26.2 mile run. I thought, I can do this..
While in Palm Partners, this seed was planted. After coming home and maintaining my sobriety , the “Pink Cloud” eventually wore off, and I was starting to get depressed again and lose my momentum in my drive of wanting to stay sober. Then I remembered about the Ironman that I always wanted to do. So I did what I could to sign up for that race which was a year prior to the event. And from there, what’s in the FL Today article did follow suit.
I honestly do value the teachings and classes in PP. And it’s all relative, it doesn’t have to be triathlon or running, but it’s that internal driving force we had since our youth of purity, but somewhere along the timeline of growing up we lost it through addiction. Palm Partners helped me rekindle that fire inside me that almost went out. And, I’m forever greatful…
Becoming an Ironman
After finding himself back in the present, Jeff said:
“In Delray, I took everything in and really determined that I wanted to change… And so I committed to triathlon.”
Jeff credits the structure and strict training the sport demands to much of his attraction to it. The training requires a great deal of focus and dedication to practicing the three specific forms, leaving not much energy for the thought of drinking. In his interview with Florida Today, Jeff states:
“I committed to a seven-month training plan for the Ironman and fitted it around work and my personal schedule,”
“I tried to do (recovery) meetings, but that wasn’t what I needed. Instead, I’d show up for training and then go home and feel spent. It has been showing up for training that has helped me change.”
Last November in Panama Beach Jeff reached a milestone in his journey to a more fulfilled life. Jeff went on to say,
“I knew my mission was over once I crossed that line, when the commentator announced, ‘Jeff Salinas, you are an Ironman!’ ”
Alpha and Athena supported Jeff through every step of this race; from the decision to enter treatment and then to crossing the Ironman finish line.
Staying on the Path
Jeff has run in:
- Pineapple Man Triathlon
- Boardwalk Triathlon
Jeff has also qualified for and finished the Florida Triathlon, and is a member of the Donner Wealth Management Triathlon Team.
So what is next for the Palm Partners Alumni?
According to the report his new goal to finish the big race this Sunday in an hour, 10 minutes (give or take) to break his own record. After that- qualify for the Boston Marathon which he would like to do in November’s Space Coast Marathon.
One thing Jeff says during the interview that speaks volumes to his commitment to change is when talking about the race after-parties. Most of the events have food after, and beer is a common addition. Apparently the race community has plenty of it to go around. But in Jeff’s words,
“Well good for them. But not for me. Not for me.”
Jeff Salinas will be putting his passion to the pavement at the Indialantic Boardwalk Triathlon this Sunday, June 25th at 7 AM. The event takes place in Nance Park, 100 Miramar Ave., Indialantic. The event is for the benefit of Candlelighters of Brevard in Indian Harbour Beach.
We are happy to cheer for our Palm Partners Alumni, especially when they are sharing how passion, dedication and transformation make such amazing things possible. Jeff Salinas is a moving example of how willingness and action can change your life. On the road to recovery, Jeff is truly a trailblazer. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398