Author: Justin Mckibben
As the host of the Late Late Show, and subject of his quasi-autobiography, American On Purpose, Craig Ferguson has made a pretty respectable name for himself as a comedian and entertainer. He has starred in plenty of films, television shows, and had a decent few runs as a stand-up comedian. Beyond all his celebrity successes, Craig Ferguson is also 22 years sober as of February 2014, and he has taken time both in his book and on his night-time television show to speak openly about his experience in recovery. Craig Ferguson is the ‘real deal’ in my opinion based off of the aspects of alcoholism he relates his story to, as well as how he understands the affliction and how he sought out a solution.
All Jokes Aside
At 29 years old Craig Ferguson was on a very fast track to the end of his rope. On February 20th 2007 15 years later he had taken time at the beginning of the Late Late Show to touch on the topic of how his jokes had recently been poking fun at celebrities who were struggling with scandals, especially some involving suspected substance abuse, and how he was beginning to feel that is was wrong of him, or anyone to be attacking people when they are vulnerable.
The subject of poking fun at vulnerable celebrities was relevant at the time due to Brittany Spears having had her very public break-down and then had checked into rehab. Ferguson wanted to be clear about the fact that people who suffer wit issues involving substance addiction and alcoholism have a very serious condition and it is to no fault of their own when they need to seek help.
Sharing His Story
Christmas Eve of 1991 Craig Ferguson had been on an all-night drinking binge, and instead of heading home to Scotland he had blacked-out in a room above a pub in London. He explained during his 2007 Late Late Show bit that he woke up Christmas morning covered in his own urine and bottomed out and miserable. It was at this time that he said he came to the conclusion, ‘I’m going to kill myself today.’ His initial plan was to stumble through his drunken stupor to a bridge and swan dive to his death. According to Ferguson in his comical but sincere tone,
“I’m going to show them! I didn’t even know who they were, but I was going to show them! I was desperately confused!”
Luckily for Craig on his way out the bar another drunken friend of his named Tommy woke up from his resting place behind the bar and stopped him from leaving. Tommy had reminded Craig at that point that he could not go to Scotland because there was no transportation running on Christmas day and he might as well stay and have a glass of sherry with him to celebrate the holiday.
Having indulged in an excessive amount of sherry with him friend Tommy, Ferguson says he just forgot to kill himself, so the alcohol actually save his life, because it was there when he needed it and didn’t even know he needed it. He continued to self-medicate for a few months, and is able to now identify that looking back it is obvious to him he was a real alcoholic, because he needed alcohol!
Experience in Sobriety
As of February 18th 1992, Craig Ferguson embarked on his sober journey and has enjoyed an amazing quality of life today. He is very out spoken about his beliefs, but maintains that his is not an expert or an authority on alcoholism. He only hopes to share his own experience with others.
After a short period of binge drinking, full of stand-up shows and pub visits he says he can’t really remember, he was able to get in touch an old drinking buddy who had abandoned the pub scene and gotten sober. This old friend was active and recovery and helped get into rehab, however according to Craig is was not a flashy and cushy celebrity rehab, and in fact he had a 65 year old priest from England as his roommate with a few funny stories of his own.
During the same segment on the Late Late Show Craig shared his opinions on some of the myths of alcoholism. He said some believe alcoholism can be cured by 28 day stay in rehab- and he maintaints that this is absolutely incorrect. But again when he shares these views he makes sure to clarify ‘that’s not MY experience,’ and he talks about how alcoholism is a chronic condition. To his experience, as well as the experience of a great majority of those in recovery, it is a condition you deal with for rest of life.
Craig Ferguson also sticks close to another common quote from the rooms of recovery,
“Don’t have a drinking problem, I can get one fast, but I have a thinking problem!”
He goes on to joke about how Guinness later release a brew with only 125 calories a pint, and his initial thought was, ‘maybe I should go on a diet- what could possibly go wrong?’ After a laugh he goes on to explain that he now understands this exact type of thought process to be clearly insane. He explains that he is not advocating temperance in any form, prohibition is not his intention, he just recognizes the fact he cannot drink.
“You can’t say to kids- ‘drink responsibly’- I’ll try! But I can’t”
He keeps the edge of humor going throughout the speech, and says that once he realized he had issues much deeper and more serious that he had to throw in the towel with alcoholism, and due to that experience he knows he should try his best to sympathize with anyone in the media struggling with substance abuse, even celebrities. He drives home the idea that you can’t beat alcoholism with money, if you could rich people wouldn’t die.
“It’s your responsibility to deal with the condition you have in whatever way you can”
According to Ferguson the best way he found after leaving rehab was finding others with similar experiences and talking to them, for free, about their experiences. He even had a chance to joke around on the show later on that year with fellow recovering alcoholic Anthony Hopkins in November 2007. Craig continues to be a respectable and exceptional example among celebrities in recovery who speak up and speak out against alcoholism and addiction, and relate the message of recovery in a serious and yet very humble and human way.
It is so refreshing to hear statements from celebrities who openly express their experiences with alcoholism and recovery, and can share a message of honest and humble hope. Craig Ferguson is very clear about the point that he was desperate and on the brink of self destruction before finally reaching out, getting to rehab, and finding support from fellow alcoholics. He enforces the new standard for celebrity recovery stories, and shows that making the call for help and getting treatment can save your life and change everything. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135