Voices: Like Bradley Cooper, I hit rock bottom with drink – and I have one request…

Bradley Cooper is 19 years sober  (Getty Images for Karl Lagerfeld)
Bradley Cooper is 19 years sober (Getty Images for Karl Lagerfeld)

Bradley Cooper has spoken out about how “very lucky” he is to be alive after his addiction nearly killed him.

The actor, 48 – who talked about his sobriety journey in a recent episode of National Geographic’s Running Wild with Bear Grylls: The Challenge – has been sober for 19 years.

This means that for nearly two decades, he’s bound to have dodged people asking him the dreaded question at parties: “Why aren’t you drinking?”, like I have.

Please stop! With so many people getting sober these days and talking candidly about it – and Cooper deserves praise for being so honest – surely it’s common sense not to grill anyone who isn’t drinking?

Like Cooper, I also got sober in my twenties – I’ve spent the last 24 years without taking a drink. Like Cooper, I also hit rock bottom. And he’s not alone. Countless other celebrities have very publicly walked through the doors of AA and NA over the years – and hopefully realised what I learned: that addiction is a great leveller.

In the luxury London neighbourhood where I attend a local AA group, recovery meetings are often populated by celebrities. But what unites us is the common bond of what can only be described as something similar to surviving a plane crash.

I could never have imagined not craving a drink when I first walked into my first recovery meeting – to be honest, I just wanted to curl up and die. I felt so powerless – and I was.

Cooper – who recently sparked backlash over his prosthetic nose in the upcoming Netflix filmMaestro – has spoken before about his addiction issues, telling GQ in 2013 that his substance abuse would “sabotage [his] whole life” if he did not get help. He has admitted that he nearly suffered a relapse in 2011 when his dad died of cancer.

The actor has spoken about how he had “zero self-esteem” and felt like he was “worthless” – that’s how addiction can make you feel. And I know exactly what he means. It’s a hard slog, getting sober. If you’re lucky enough to achieve it, keeping it that way really does mean taking things a day at a time.

The trouble is that in the first few years of sobriety when I felt most vulnerable and self-conscious, I’d always panic about going to weddings or parties. What ruined it was not the fact I couldn’t drink, but that people would come up to me and made a big deal out of the fact I was ordering sparkling water – not a stiff drink.

I was treated like a killjoy or a party pooper. I always had the story planned in my mind well in advance: “Oh, I’m on antibiotics” or, “I have to drive home”. But people would always try and tempt me to the bar for a cocktail.

These days, I don’t bother lying about why I don’t drink. Only last week I was quizzed about it in a hotel bar in Cornwall while ordering my dad a G&T – I just said “I don’t drink”.

It’s nobody’s business why somebody isn’t drinking – and we should stop asking the question.