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.