He make the decision to stop drinking before alcohol made it for him.
“Sobriety was the greatest gift I ever gave myself. I don’t put it on a platform. I don’t campaign about it. It’s just something that works for me.” — Rob Lowe
In 1988, well before Kim Kardashian made having a sex tape “cool,” Rob Lowe was wondering if his career was over because of his.
He was 24 years old, and a videotape had just been released of him having sex with two women that he met at an Atlanta nightclub, one of which was confirmed to have been only 16 years old at the time.
This scandal almost did ruin his career and was much of what people associated him with for some time.
I never watched Rob Lowe growing up, but his portrayal of Chris Traeger on one of my favorite shows of all time, Parks and Recreation, made me want to learn a bit more about him, as I heard he had turned his life around and was much different than the stories of his younger years.
When I remembered hearing about his previous persona and the sex tape scandal, I was under the impression that he was a raging alcoholic known in the Hollywood community as someone with a significant problem, e.g., Robert Downey, Jr.
What I learned, however, was that not only was Rob not seen by many of his peers as a raging alcoholic maniac, but he was, in fact, the one who recognized that he had a problem well before anyone else approached him about it.
His story of self-awareness and proactive decision-making provides several helpful lessons.
His relationship with alcohol
Rob rose to fame in 1983 due to his roles in two well-received movies, The Outsiders and Class.
Being in movies and shows with other young and up-and-coming actors like Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, and Demi Moore made the world that was being created around him almost surreal in some way, as they were seen as the future of Hollywood.
Only 18 years old at the time, you can imagine the change in lifestyle that resulted from becoming one of the hottest teenage actors overnight.
He was thrust into the world of drugs and alcohol and embraced it completely, living a life of partying non-stop that was typical during this time in Hollywood in the 80s.
He was on top of the world, and no one saw an end in sight until the sex tape was leaked in 1988. This knocked him off the A-list of celebrities during this time, as he had to deal with the potential criminal implications of the situation.
Lowe credits part of his sobriety and ability to change his life to that sex tape and the scandal that ensued with it. He told People Magazine in an article back in 2019,
“It’s one of the reasons I got sober. I woke up one day and I was like, ‘What am I doing with my life?’”
He knew that his life was going down the wrong path, and while he was able to settle the case in court with the underage girl’s family to avoid criminal charges and jail time, this was the beginning of him knowing he needed to make a change in his life.
The final straw came a short while later when he said he came home from a night of partying to a message from his mom asking him to return her call because his grandfather had just had a heart attack and she needed his help.
He said he remembered being so hung over and hyped-up on drugs that he couldn’t bring himself to call his mother back in that state, even though he knew he needed to badly.
He said at that moment, he knew that he needed to get help or that alcohol and drugs would completely ruin his life and his relationships with the people he cared the most about.
Two days later, he checked himself into rehab and never looked back.
Today, his career is still thriving as significant roles in successful shows like The West Wing and Parks and Recreation revived his career and put him back on the Hollywood A-list map.
However, he’ll be the first to tell you that this is not the most important part of his sobriety story, as he appreciates the personal aspects of his life that he entirely credits with making this decision. He said,
“…it got me sober, sober got me married. I’ve been married 29 years and I have two great sons.”
He is over 30 years in now and continues to make sobriety a focal point of his life and something that he will never take for granted. He said he is always honest with himself and takes his sobriety on a “minute-by-minute basis” because he knows that he always has to face the truth that it’s still there.
He credits it for his continued success as an actor since he feels that is one of the aspects of what it takes to be a truly good actor — “being real and honest.”
And it has paid off, as he’s now a prominent star player on the Fox series 9–1–1: Lone Star, and his podcast, “Literally! With Rob Lowe,” is also highly successful.
Even though he admits that his mom’s voice message about his grandfather was part of the impetus for him to get clean, he believes that you ultimately have to decide on your own.
“Nothing can make you get sober except you wanting to do it,” he says. “The threat of losing a marriage, losing a job, incarceration — you name the threat, it will not be enough to do it. It’s got to be in you.”
And lucky for us, he did because I “LITERALLY” can’t see anyone embodying the role of Chris Traeger any better.