The wildly popular show Roseanne is one of the most iconic sitcoms in TV history. There is no question that America was clamoring for a reboot for years. According to The Nielsen Company, about 18.2 million viewers watched the show’s premiere – which is a 10% jump from the number of people who tuned in for the 1997 finale.
The behavior of one cast member, however, could have derailed the reboot effort before it even got off the ground.
John Goodman, who plays family patriarch Dan Connor, has been speaking candidly about his struggle with alcohol abuse during the show’s original run (1988-1997). He admits that his alcohol addiction got so bad at one point that he would even drink while on the job.
“I got so lucky, because I was still getting hired for things, but the fact is, I was drinking at work,” Goodman said on Sunday Today With Willie Geist. “My speech would be slurred. I thought I was fooling people. My cheeks would turn bright red when I was liquored up. I just looked like a stop sign.”
Costar Roseanne Barr recently joined Goodman on Howard Stern’s SiriusXM, where both recounted an instance where she confronted him about his drinking problem on set during production of one of the show’s earlier seasons.
“She was scared for me, but she was more confrontational,” Goodman said. “She’d already had a husband go through the process.”
During the same interview, Goodman said his drink of choice was “anything that was wet and of a certain proof.” He added, “The last four years [of the show] were pretty bad, and I was drinking at work and [Barr] was scared for me. I was ashamed of myself, but I couldn’t stop.”
Alcohol Abuse by the Numbers
It is important to know that alcoholism is an addiction that ultimately leads to disease. The American Psychiatric Association describes addiction as a mental disease characterized by compulsive substance use despite known consequences. People with addiction issues are intensely focused on using their substance of choice to the point where the use consumes their lives. Pursuit of the substance guides almost every life choice, and people with addiction typically have distorted thinking and experience changes in the brain that disrupt their judgement, decision making, memory, learning, and behavior control skills.
Alcohol abuse in the US is extremely pervasive due to the social nature of drinking. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) the number of adults who self-report either past or present alcohol consumption is about 86.5%. Of this number, 71% report consuming some amount of alcohol within the last year while nearly 57% report consuming it during the past 30 days.
With those statistics it should come as no surprise that 33% of all visits to the emergency room are related to alcohol consumption. There is a common misconception that alcohol isn’t a dangerous substance because it’s legal, and since drinking alcohol is a very common element of social activity and celebration, it makes sense that alcohol use disorder (AUD) is extremely common. NIAAA data show that nearly 7% of American adults, or more than 16.3 million people, were classified as having an AUD in 2014. Going further, NIAAA reports that 2.7% of all people between the ages of 12 and 17, or nearly 680,000 people, had an AUD during the same year.
The following are telltale signs and symptoms of alcoholism:
- Mood swings, changes in motivation levels or overall attitude even when sober
- Drinking first thing in the morning before doing anything else
- Having conversations about alcohol cravings
- Drinking in secret and hiding empty bottles from people
- Binge drinking
- Reckless behavior, such as drinking and driving, fighting, having unprotected sex or putting themselves or others into risky situations
- Lack of impulse control
- Inability to quit despite an expressed desire to do so
Repeated episodes of excessive drinking can cause long-term negative health consequences, including:
A physical dependence could form if binge drinking occurs frequently. Higher tolerance and physical dependence can occur without necessarily having an addiction, but a psychological dependence on alcohol is likely to develop. Going to be rehabilitation facility is often the best way to treat alcoholism.
Brain health issues
Unfortunately, some people who engage in binge drinking behaviors for a prolonged period can suffer from brain damage due to structural damage. The parts of the brain responsible for learning and decision-making are especially vulnerable to this type of damage. Ultimately, this damage can work against AUD recovery in the future.
Liver health issues
Most people know that drinking too much can affect healthy function of the liver, and binge drinking is no exception.
Having a high blood alcohol content can put undue stress on the heart. If excessive drinking persists, people may face an increased risk for heart attack and/or stroke.
Ongoing excessive drinking can reportedly cause erectile dysfunction in men. A higher likelihood for risky sexual behavior and lowered inhibitions characteristic of alcohol use can also contribute to higher instances of sexually transmitted diseases.
Entertainment: An Enabling Industry?
John Goodman is most certainly not the only person in entertainment to develop an alcohol issue. The nature of the entertainment industry is bustling, busy and social – which all contribute to an enabling culture. It’s not out of the ordinary for actors and actresses to have a few drinks during an awards ceremony, or for a DJ to drink a bit during a long night working in a club atmosphere. In many other cases, entertainers may just want to enjoy a nightcap after a long and potentially stressful day.
There is no scientific evidence linking substance abuse to a career in the entertainment industry, but some research does suggest certain career paths may affect recreational drinking habits. A 2007 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) on worker substance use and workplace policies and programs found that about 9.4 million full-time workers ages 18 to 64, or 8.2% of the working population, reported illicit drug use in the previous month. Among these workers, about 3 million met criteria for illicit drug dependence of abuse, while 10.6 million were dependent on or abused alcohol.
The report further broke down which industries had the most addiction-prone careers. Arts, design, entertainment, sports and media was ranked third on the top 10 list with about 12.4% of workers struggling with addiction falling into one of these career buckets. The full list of top 10 most addiction prone-careers includes the following:
- Food preparation and serving (17.4%)
- Construction (15.1%)
- Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media (12.4%)
- Sales (9.6%)
- Installation, maintenance, and repair (9.5%)
- Farming, Fishing and Forestry (8.7%)
- Transportation and Material-Moving (8.4%)
- Cleaning and Maintenance (8.2%)
- Personal Care and Service (7.7%)
- Office and Administrative Support (7.5%)
Goodman says one of his triggers to turn to alcohol was the loss of anonymity and subsequent depression that came with his stardom. Self-medication and comorbid mental health issues are common reasons for people to begin abusing alcohol.
“I got complacent and ungrateful. And after nine years—eight years, I wanted to leave the show,” he explained. “I handled it like I did everything else, by sittin’ on a bar stool. And that made it worse.”
Now sober for ten years, Goodman was lucky enough to not join the ranks of celebrities and entertainers who ultimately succumbed to substance abuse and addiction. This list includes:
Michael Jackson (Age: 50). Cause of death: Acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication
Whitney Houston (Age: 48). Cause of death: Cocaine, heart disease, drowning
Heath Ledger (Age: 28). Cause of death: Acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Age: 46). Cause of death: Acute intoxication by heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and benzodiazepines
Amy Winehouse (Age: 27). Cause of death: Alcohol poisoning
Anna Nicole Smith (Age: 39). Cause of death: Acute combined drug intoxication from Methadone, chloral hydrate and three different drugs used to treat depression and anxiety
Chris Farley (Age: 33). Cause of death: Cocaine and morphine overdose
River Phoenix (Age: 23). Cause of death: Cocaine and heroin overdose
John Belushi (Age: 33). Cause of death: Cocaine and heroin overdose
Janis Joplin (Age: 27). Cause of death: Heroin overdose
Jimi Hendrix (Age: 27). Cause of death: Barbiturate intoxication
Cory Monteith (Age: 31). Cause of death: Mixed drug toxicity, including heroin and alcohol
Scott Weiland (Age: 48). Cause of death: A toxic mix of drugs including cocaine, ethanol and the amphetamine MDA
Elvis Presley (Age: 42). Cause of death: Officially attributed to cardiac arrhythmia, however toxicology results showed 14 drugs in his system, including codeine, methaqualone, morphine, meperidine, ethchlorvynol, diazepam and barbiturates
Recovery from Alcohol Addiction
Despite how common addiction is in the entertainment industry, many entertainers avoid seeking treatment out of fear that it may affect their employment status and ability to get jobs in the future. Thankfully, in the majority of cases, people cannot be fired for admitting they have a problem. Going to rehab and keeping a job do not have to be mutually exclusive.
According to SAMSHA, “the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is perhaps the most important federal civil rights legislation that affects employers when developing and implementing drug-free workplace policies. It prohibits all U.S. employers with more than 15 employees from discriminating against qualified job applicants and employees because of a physical disability.”
Furthermore, “The ADA does not, in any way, prohibit employers from having a drug-free workplace policy, nor does it provide any special protection to individuals who are currently using illegal drugs. However, it does make it illegal for employers to discriminate against recovering alcoholics and drug users who have already sought treatment for their addiction.”
Goodman ultimately received treatment at a specialized facility after reaching to his wife for help. The decision was an extremely wise one, as severe withdrawal symptoms are a major reason why so many people relapse. Additionally, detoxification from alcohol can potentially be deadly. Withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Delirium tremens
- Insomnia and/or fatigue
- Shakiness, which usually happens in the hands
- Sudden changes in blood pressure and heart rate
Unfortunately, many others don’t receive the help they need. In 2015, less than 10% of adults who needed treatment at a specialized facility for their AUD actually received that treatment. Meanwhile, only 55,000 adolescents classified as having an AUD received treatment for their issues at a specialized facility.
Detox is not a treatment, but rather the first step in addressing an addiction issue. Seeking help at an independent, comprehensive outpatient treatment center is the best way to get the tools needed to fight addiction and get back on the right track for a healthy, fruitful life. Look for a facility that offers the right combination of multi-faceted treatment strategies like songwriting, art therapy, equine therapy, adventure therapy and music therapy as well as one-on-one therapy session and cognitive behavioral therapy strategies.