Lena Dunham on getting sober: ‘I thought drug addicts were depraved lunatics’

Guests attend the Friendly House 30th Annual Awards Luncheon

Here are some photos of Lena Dunham at a weekend fundraiser/event for Friendly House, the rehab/sober house which helped her get clean. Lena abused prescription drugs and she finally seemed to get clean last year. Since then, Lena has been quieter. I mean, she still does very annoying things and she’s still an a–hole. But less so. While she was at this event, she spoke to Variety about sobriety and doing the work and all that:

“Being sober in life is hard,” Lena Dunham told Variety. “But being sober is the first step to facing all the things that made you want to hide in the first place. Part of why I love Friendly Houses is because they don’t discriminate,” said Dunham, who celebrated a year of sobriety in April. “It’s not a rehab for the rich and famous. It’s a place where women who need help are never turned away for financial reasons. It’s sad that in this country, recovery has become a privilege, not a right.”

Dunham has amassed an impressive collection of awards since her 2010 debut as writer, director and star of “Tiny Furniture,” including a Golden Globe. But her Woman of the Year honor from Friendly House is “the most meaningful,” she said. “I joke: ‘Oh, my God. I’m getting an award for not doing drugs,’” said Dunham. “The recognition for my work did not come with the same sense of unity and personal satisfaction but it gave me a voice. Now I want to use it to support mental healthcare, trauma work and recovery.”

Dunham reflected on her journey to self-acceptance and sobriety. “I didn’t think that I was a drug addict,” she said. (After all, she was taking prescription medication — not buying heroin in Washington Square Park — but “pills that I thought dulled my pain actually created it.”) She joked that media portrayals of addiction had left her with a skewed idea of what an addict is. “I thought drug addicts were depraved lunatics who wandered the streets, demanding crack from innocent children and flaunting their open wounds in public parks. And I was a successful, capable celebrity who wandered red carpets demanding attention and flaunting her open boobs on TV. It’s totally different,” she deadpanned, before becoming more serious.

“When I was dropped off at rehab, I thought it was the end of my life,” she recalled. “Seemingly overnight, I had lost almost all of what I hold dear: My relationships, my body and my career were in relative shambles.” But Dunham gained the support of other women who shared similar stories of loss and struggles with substance abuse, which eventually helped her to identify as an addict. “Even as a chronic over-sharer I lived in fear of anyone finding out. Will people still want to work with me, kiss me, hang out with me … and would everything I’d ever done be viewed through the lens of addiction? Being me has sometimes hurt so much that I couldn’t bear it. But being me is also a super-power, and it’s the same for all of you.” Now 18 months sober, Dunham is “living a life that’s beyond my wildest imagination,” she said. “And I’ll put my money on sober women any day — because a woman who has overcome an addiction can do f—ing anything.”

[From Variety]

“I thought drug addicts were depraved lunatics who wandered the streets, demanding crack from innocent children and flaunting their open wounds in public parks.” I realize that she’s half-joking here and maybe the delivery made it better, but really? RLY?? She was 31-32 when her sober journey began, not some kid who could blame addict-stereotypes on “the media.” I get that denial is a big part of addiction, but in Lena’s case… so was her privilege. She really thought that because she was WHITE and RICH, she couldn’t possibly be one of those dirty addicts. Oh well – at least she’s using her sobriety and privilege for something good, I guess.

Also, maybe the nose ring was a bad idea.

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Photos courtesy of Getty and Backgrid.

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45 Responses to “Lena Dunham on getting sober: ‘I thought drug addicts were depraved lunatics’”

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  1. JennyJenny says:

    She’s just so massively unlikable…

  2. perplexed says:

    Prescription drugs are normalized. In that sense, I can see why she would view it through a different lens. If your doctor is willingly prescribing you drugs, your initial perception wouldn’t be that you could get addicted to it. If she has OCD, I wonder what she would use to treat it now. Would she still use certain prescriptions to treat it? She does acknowledge at the beginning that she has the privilege to treat her recovery whereas others do not.

    • Erinn says:

      And it’s a lot easier to think of prescription drugs as something separate, which is dangerous. I think there are a lot of people out there who don’t realize they’re addicted to drugs or booze because they don’t see themselves at rock bottom. But there are so many functioning alcoholics or prescription drug users who can keep up a relatively normal life, that I can see how someone would let the denial convince them that they don’t have a problem.

      • Lady D says:

        Where do I fit in? I take time-released morphine twice a day, the stronger dose at night, and I have for the past ten years. I am unable to walk due to pain without it. I work part-time, and I maintain my home and yard well. I take care of my pets, I drive places, I have several good friends and I volunteer 3-4 times a week at the senior residence. I also recently finished a hospice volunteer course and am working on collecting the volunteer hours needed for the position of helping those dying to do it with dignity, kindness and care. I know I’m a drug addict and I know I will suffer if and when I quit taking morphine. There is no cure for what I have, my feet will have to be amputated, so it will always be switching painkillers, never stop taking them and the strength of them will increase as the pain does. Privately I know I’m not a drug addict, but publicly I don’t tell people I take morphine because of the instant contempt it brings out in some people. Some laugh and some are way too interested in how, when, where, how much do I use? So I ask again, where do I fit in? Do you think I’m a drug addict?

      • Case says:

        @Lady D I don’t think Erinn is implying whatsoever that all people who take prescription medication for serious medical problems are drug addicts. Not at all. Many people take substances that CAN be addictive, but they take it in a controlled way (as you said, twice a day) and do not abuse it. Many of us rely on prescriptions (sometimes quite heavy prescriptions) in order to live life comfortably. Your body is dependent on it, yes, but you’re not taking it to get high or anything like that. That is very different from abusing drugs. I’m sorry if anyone makes you feel that way for taking prescriptions that you need to live a better life.

    • Eleonor says:


    • Lizzie says:

      @LadyD you certainly are drug dependent in that you have a medical condition that requires you use pain medication to function. the fact that you take an opiate means you probably have a physical addiction to the medication you take and if you tried to stop taking it you would experience physical and mental withdrawal symptoms. my mom is in the same boat.

      but you’re asking if erinn thinks you’re a “drug addict” as in the stereotypical drug seeking addict to be high. i don’t think that was implied. i don’t think it is fair for people to automatically treat you with contempt but i don’t believe that was the poster’s intention.

      • Lady D says:

        I didn’t mean that and I didn’t mean to convey that with my comment. My apologies Erinn, if you took it that way. I don’t for a minute think you treat anyone with contempt.

      • Ali says:

        @Lizzie – agree completely that drug dependent is not the same as an addiction where the addiction is to a high unrelated to the underlying medical condition. Plenty of people are drug dependent for a variety of reasons, opioids have a negative connotation because of the addictive qualities and misuse, as do ADD meds, but they exist for necessary reasons.

        @LadyD no shame at all in using medicine to treat a medical condition and I’m glad that there is a medicine that works for you to be able to live your life. I’m sorry for anyone who may make you feel otherwise.

      • lulu who says:

        @LadyD and to add to the societal and internalized pressures of “am I an addict?”, if you ever move and have to change medical providers/insurance, whatever, you’ll certainly be treated as if you are one. My sister was on time relief morphine the last few years of her life to help (barely) her chronic pain due to a neuromuscular disease. When my parents moved to FL, she had to move with them as they were her caretakers, but her new medical team and her new insurance wouldn’t allow her to continue on the morphine until she had a full panel review (her out of state doctor’s recommendation was considered worthless). There was a 5 mo waiting list because of the opiod crisis in FL. She went in to full withdrawal and ended up in the hospital for almost 2 months, down to 80 lbs. It was horrific and without a doubt hastened the timeline of her passing a few years later.

  3. Sarah says:

    Does she wears clothes that intentionally don’t fit? I mean, the seams on the top are CLEARLY designed to go under the breasts, not over them. What is the point of this intentional misfitting?

    • Tiffany says:

      Attention and a reason to play victim when she is called on it.

      • Ann says:

        This is exactly why she does it. It’s not enough that she is wearing objectively ugly clothes, they also always don’t fit and there is always something(s) else off, in this situation I’m referring to the obviously greasy hair. She knows she looks bad. She wants people to comment on it so she can cry victim of body shaming or whatever. She’s terrible, just in general.

    • Mo says:

      It’s a self esteem thing. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wearing ill fitting and non-flattering clothes because it’s too depressing to realize how bad you look in clothes that fit “properly.” Better to wear what you want and like and have people talk about how weird the clothes are.

  4. Christina says:

    She is a smarter version of Lori Loughlin.

  5. MariaS says:

    She’s incapable of not saying stupid things.

  6. Relli80 says:

    Good for her for getting sober and tackling her addiction. But that outfit…..

  7. Snowslow says:

    She is more articulated than smart which makes her say really dumb things in a nice package.
    I used to like Girls until it became blatant that she’d exhausted all her ideas and all that remained were her prejudices and privilege.

    • DragonWise says:

      That’s a perfect summation of her “appeal.” Her writing ability allows her to string words together fairly well, but her privilege and complete lack of self awareness and insight means that whatever she articulates so well is likely to be problematic. And some people are still snowed, thinking she’s deep just because she says she is. She is the hottest of messes!

  8. My3cents says:

    That’s the most relatable and tolerable she has ever been.

  9. Chimney says:

    She always says things in a blatantly controversial way but she does have a point about prescription drug abuse. It is a hard addiction to pin down because your lifestyle doesn’t have to change, you get the pills from your doctor, etc. You can easily lose sight of real life. Good for her for getting clean!

  10. Jess says:

    I think a lot of people are in denial like that though, they make a lot of money and have nice things so they think they can’t be a true alcoholic or opioid addict. Addicts are portrayed as people who lose everything, people who can’t function in daily life, but some addicts are very high functioning. Doesn’t make them less of an addict, or their sobriety more impressive, good job Lena.

    • GreenTurtle says:

      100% true. The homeless drunk living under a bridge or scary person in a crack house stereotype absolutely persists, and it’s just not the reality. There are just as many middle class and upper class highly functioning, highly educated addicts around, as you say.

  11. Mignionette says:

    The embodiment of ‘look at me’ and white female privilege rolled into one.

  12. Giddy says:

    She says that she used to think that all drug addicts were depraved lunatics. I would say that the description fit her beautifully. Hopefully with getting sober she is no longer a depraved lunatic, but there is no excuse for the way those pants fit.

  13. perplexed says:

    I think she’s just saying that she didn’t see that she had a problem because she didn’t fit a certain stereotype. I don’t think addiction is one of those things people really recognize in themselves, not even after someone has hit rock bottom.

    I also think maybe we don’t recognize that others on these kinds of drugs might be abusing prescription drugs. When we look at old interviews of Heath Ledger, we can see that he looks jittery, but would we have recognized that maybe prescription drugs were a problem for him? When I see a celebrity acting strange, my first assumption will be some hard drug. But it could be some drug prescribed by a doctor causing the problem. I think we’re all semi-guilty of succumbing to that kind of stereotype. Imagine my surprise when Michael Jackson dropped dead of morphine. Up until that point, did any of us on the outside even think he had an addiction?

    • GreenTurtle says:

      I agree. I think people are being more harsh than they would be with someone else, because it’s Lena, and she’s generally insufferable.

  14. Lala11_7 says:

    As ill-fitting as that outfit is….not to mention the color…fabric…etc…

    This is about the BEST I’ve seen her look…

  15. The Recluse says:

    If only there was some sort of rehab/intervention for such annoying self-gazing privilege.

  16. The lady says:

    So we can’t even be nice to someone struggling to overcome an addiction. Part of the problem…

    Plus I thought you cancelled her…

  17. Golly Gee says:

    You don’t say.

  18. Sassy Pomeranian says:

    I always think back to her book where she bragged about wooing her little sister like a sexual predator and trying to digitally penetrate her. I don’t remember the exact words from her book but NO NO NO to her on every level. I can’t even care about her thoughts on addiction.

  19. Shelley says:

    I so appreciate Lena’s oversharing. I find her inspiring. I actually LOVE HER OUTFIT! And I hope she doesn’t go away.

  20. A says:

    Tbf, a lot of people still hold this perception about addicts that they’re garbage and awful and don’t deserve support or compassion. I don’t blame her for being quite so self-absorbed that she thought the same thing.

    She sounds smarter here. She still has a quirky sense of humour, but she’s a lot less interested in being in your face about this, which I guess is good for her and everyone else.

  21. N says:

    I’m glad she’s focused on staying clean and well. Addiction is a beast. Hopefully she has a strong support system. Her eyes are clear and she looks healthy.

  22. raincoaster says:

    She’s dressed like that and thinks she can claim to be sober?

  23. Case says:

    I think a lot of people have this vision of an addict, when there are so many people who have good jobs, families, etc. and are addicts. Look at all these mommy bloggers and their wine “juice” nonsense. There’s a culture around wine, specifically, that makes drinking seem cute and like moms “need” it and honestly, all I see is alcoholism (not that drinking wine a few nights a week = alcoholism, but the way some of these people drink really alarms me).