The actor Samuel L. Jackson got his breakout role in the 1991 Spike Lee movie Jungle Fever weeks after leaving addiction treatment. He went into treatment after his wife LaTanya and then-8-year-old daughter Zoe found him passed out drunk in their kitchen, in the process of cooking cocaine.
Jackson said, “I drank and used drugs. I liked the feeling of not being cognizant of what was going on around me.” In Jungle Fever, he played a person who was addicted to crack. “I was a week out of rehab when I started doing Jungle Fever,” he said, “so I didn’t really need makeup. I was still detoxing.”
Addiction may run in Jackson’s family. His father, who he only met twice, died from complications of alcohol use disorder.
Before Jackson got sober in 1991 when he was in his early 40’s, he’d been doing drugs since age 15. “I was tired as f*ck,” he said. He managed to become well-regarded as a stage actor even during active addiction, but he was never able to make it to where he wanted to be.
He said, “Before [getting sober], I used to do stuff on stage and kinda look for the reaction from the audience: ‘Aha! I got ’em good that time!’ Once I was able to ignore that and focus on the relationships with the people I was onstage with, I was finally able to blossom into whatever I might think I am now.”
Before he entered recovery, Jackson played major roles in a couple of August Wilson plays. However, he was replaced before those plays made it to Broadway.
“I was doing Pulitzer prize-winning plays,” he said. “I was working with people who made me better, who challenged me. So I was doing things the right way; it was just that one thing that was in the way: my addiction. And once that was out of the way, it was—boom! The door blew wide open.”
Three years after getting sober, Jackson played perhaps his best-known role, as Jules Winnfield in the movie Pulp Fiction. Today, he’s the highest-grossing actor of all time.
Still, after all his success and decades of sobriety, he is not immune to alcohol and drug cravings. He’s talked about having dreams where he’s drunk or high. This is a common experience for people in recovery, even many years after getting sober.
“I didn’t drink yesterday and I’m not planning on it today,” Jackson said. “People treated for cancer might go into remission, but there’s a chance it will come back. I feel the same about alcoholism.”
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build the tools to find success in long-term recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.