Eva Rausing and Elton John shared extensive news coverage this week. Both are famous, wealthy, and generous. And both suffered from addiction yielding entirely different outcomes.
Socialite Eva Rausing was found dead in her London home on July 9th. A philanthropist with ties to various treatment centers and addiction agencies, she is suspected to have died as a result of her own battle with drugs and alcohol. Her death was discovered because her husband, heir Hans Rausing, was arrested on suspicion of DUI. He is currently being medically treated for withdrawal. The details surrounding these events are lurid in nature and not worth repeating. Suffice to say, the disease of addiction won this round.
Conversely, Elton John is alive and well, 20 years sober, and the proud author of a new memoir, "Love is the Cure: On Life, Loss and the End of AIDS." He documents his "awakening" from his own drug-laden denial. In an interview with Matt Lauer he says:
"I wasted such a big part of my life, when the epidemic was beginning to happen in the early 1980s. And I was a drug addict and self-absorbed. You know, I was having people die right, left and center around me, friends. And yet, I didn't stop the life that I had, which is the terrible thing about addiction. It's that -- you know, it's that bad of a disease...[but] I'm making up for it. There is so much more to be done."
Besides the obvious connection of addiction in their stories, both Rausing and John invest(ed) enormous personal time and resources into service, or "giving back". However, Rausing's death illuminates a subtle foe many face in recovery: hiding behind service. Many addicts have relationship difficulties and codependency (broadly defined as putting someone else's needs before one's own) is rife in families/couples suffering through addiction/alcoholism. Rausing's father even claims his daughter had recently left a rehabilitation center in CA to seek out her husband in England and bring him into treatment with her.
Her death is an unfortunate reminder that we cannot help anyone before we take care of ourselves. This goes for our spouses, kids, parents, friends and philanthropic commitments.
We reserve no judgment for Rausing's actions nor her terrible fate. For that matter, we also have a great deal of compassion for her husband, who is probably suffering in ways few could understand. But we do know that for recovery "to stick" we have to do it for ourselves. Only then can we help someone else with their oxygen mask.