Brad Pitt is no stranger to drama. He’s been in the film industry for three decades, with roles as simple as uncredited background characters and as involved as producer and star of the upcoming Netflix film, “War Machine.” But over the past year, drama has taken a new form for the seasoned actor — a public divorce and frenzied custody battle that all harkens back to boozing.
In a recent interview with GQ Magazine, Pitt opened up about the collapse of his 2-year marriage and 12-year relationship with Angelina Jolie. The screen star got candid about his long-term affair with drugs and alcohol, a battle that he says he is “really, really happy to be done with.”
The Beginning of the End
Hollywood’s power couple officially tied the knot after spending over a decade together and forming a clan of six children. Because family had long been the couple’s focus, their September, 2016 split took the world by storm — leaving the tabloids and internet to repeated lament that “love is dead.” But as details emerged about the separation, quiet rumors of anger issues and a now-cleared child abuse investigation left the media bewildered.
A drunken altercation on a private jet was the tipping point for both his marriage and substance use. Five days before Angelina Jolie officially filed for divorce, the family was traveling to Los Angeles when Pitt got into a row with the couple’s oldest son. While it was ultimately determined that there was no repeated history of physical violence, there was a problem with alcohol.
As the media clears through the fog of the fallen romance, Pitt himself set the record straight, saying “I was boozing too much. It just become a problem. And I’m really happy it’s been half a year now, which is bittersweet, but I’ve got my feelings in my fingertips again.”
“I can’t remember a day since I got out of college when I wasn’t boozing or had a spliff, or something.”Brad Pitt
A Change in Approach
Like many who turn to drugs and alcohol to cope, Pitt recognizes that he was using substances as “pacifiers” for deeper issues. Instead of “running from feelings,” the dissolution of his marriage helped him realize the harm his alcohol addiction was causing.
“I had to step away for a minute.” he said on realizing he had a problem. “And truthfully I could drink a Russian under the table with his own vodka. I was a professional. I was good.”
But alcohol hasn’t been the actor’s only vice throughout his career and personal life: “I can’t remember a day since I got out of college when I wasn’t boozing or had a spliff, or something. Something.” After giving up marijuana and other substances in favor of family life, alcohol was one of the only vices that remained. But that doesn’t mean it was an innocent one.
“I’ve become absolutely tired of myself,” he said. Pitt isn’t alone in his silent struggle. Afterall, Hollywood is famous for lavish depictions of drugs and alcohol. It’s part of the deal for many people; although it often takes the role of a temporary bandaid to hide bruises caused by life’s mishaps. Pitt chalks it up to being “part of the human challenge.” He has chosen to evolve, seeking respite from the harsh effects of alcohol by reevaluating his priorities, addressing internal issues and growing as a person.
“For me this period has really been about looking at my weaknesses and failures and owning my side of the street.”Brad Pitt
A far cry from a midlife crisis, Brad Pitt’s transformation over the past few months has been a catalyst for change. Of his journey towards a balanced family life, Pitt says: “I know I’m just in the middle of this thing now and I’m not at the beginning of it or at the end of it, just where this chapter is right now, just smack-dab in the middle.”
Taking those first steps toward sobriety can be challenging and seemingly insurmountable. Identifying the issue is a difficult task; one that is often outside of a person’s own control. For Pitt, it came in the form of a fateful drunken flight and a divorce that left his world (and the rest of the world’s idea of a perfect Hollywood romance) crashing down.
He reflects on the past six months, admitting, “For me this period has really been about looking at my weaknesses and failures and owning my side of the street.” And while it may take months or even years to get this to point, Pitt’s self-realization is a poignant reminder that substance use disorder is an issue that can and does impact people from all walks of life.
Addiction can take many forms, and for those faced with it, it is a lifelong battle. Pitt jokes that he only drinks “cranberry juice and fizzy water now,” but has come to realize that “the terrible thing is I tend to run things into the ground. That’s why I’ve got to make something so calamitous. I’ve got to run it off a cliff.” An addictive personality doesn’t have to be centered around alcohol or illicit substances: It can be as simple as overdoing it on a bubbly soda or obsessing over the euphoria of fame. As Pitt exemplifies, substance misuse is often the manifestation of deeper, unattended issues.
“I am those mistakes. For me every misstep has been a step toward epiphany, understanding, some kind of joy.” Brad Pitt
A New FoundationBrad Pitt describes his gradual growth as a metaphorical home renovation, “You start by removing all the decor and decoration … You get down to the structure.” By addressing underlying issues like co-occurring mental disorders or relationship woes, substance misuses can be treated more successfully.
Facilities like The Recovery Village can offer a new lease on life with in-depth treatment options and evaluations that address larger emotional and mental issues — instead of patching substance use disorder with a temporary fix.
For those struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, Pitt sums up the path to recovery pretty eloquently: “I am those mistakes. For me every misstep has been a step toward epiphany, understanding, some kind of joy.”