How A Hollywood Writer Beat His Addiction

Aaron Sorkin, famous for penning high profile dramas such as A Few Good Men and The Social Network, has opened up about how he managed to overcome his cocaine addiction.

Recently nominated for a Golden Globe for his HBO series Newsroom, Sorkin is one of America’s hottest film and TV writers. Earlier in his career he was not only addicted to cocaine but he claims it nurtured his creative output. As he recalls in an interview given to an online magazine: “It gave me a lot of energy. It gave me a lot of confidence. You think everything you’re writing is brilliant. Everything was also hundreds of pages longer than it needed to be.”

While he was succeeding as a script writer with A Few Good Men and The American President his addiction spun out of control and, in 1995, Sorkin checked himself into a rehab center.

After rehab, those around him expected him to crack under the pressure and relapse. And in 2001 he did just that in a series of what he thought would be one-off weekend binges.

In one of the most infamous celebrity arrests in recent memory, Sorkin was caught at an airport with cocaine and “magic” mushrooms. For Sorkin, this experience was a warning and the moment when he decided his drug-fuelled years are over.

For many writers, one of the biggest impediments to quitting is the fear that giving up the habit might result in having to give up the craft. Sorkin subsequently discovered that writing itself was the best deterrent for remission: “Opportunity and free time are the biggest temptations. If I feel like I might be able to get away with taking drugs, I’ll make appointments and find ways to be busy.”

Post-addiction he has managed to turn round his career and turn out some of the best output of his career. The West Wing TV show won multiple awards and launched the recent trend of cinematic TV series, dramatic plot twists and famous film actors in starring roles. These features would become his trademark, seen also in the The Social Network, the Mark Zuckerberg biopic that became a box-office and critical hit.

Sorkin’s case is an interesting example but not a solitary one. Successful recovery cases have come from people that have sought refuge and redemption in writing. Heroin addict and author of The Basketball Diaries, Jim Carroll, embarked on a lengthy career as a poet and writer chronicling his addictions. The most famous front-line correspondent of addiction and drug abuse, William S. Burroughs, saw writing as a way out of addiction and its dangerous life-style.

Sorkin’s run-in with addiction is also subtly reflected in his writing. His characters are talented, principled yet often idealistic individuals who are fighting their inner egos as much as they are struggling with the hypocrisy of the world around them.