“Secrets will eat us alive, they keep us really sick … Once we talk through those secrets, even if it’s talking through them with yourself, there’s a lot of power in that.” — Jessica Simpson
An accomplished pop musician, reality TV star and fashion mogul, Jessica Simpson has long been nicknamed “America’s Sweetheart.” She’s known for platinum singles like “With You” and “I Wanna Love You Forever” and for taking on various roles in film and television. She also launched The Jessica Simpson Collection as a successful fashion line in 2005. In February of 2020, she published the memoir Open Book and saw it top the New York Times Bestseller List.
What Convinced Jessica Simpson to Make Her Life an Open Book
In a piece about his conversations with America’s celebrity sweetheart, “Coach” Mike Beyer reminds us that while the path to recovery often starts with a single decision, a point of recognition, recovery itself is an ongoing process (from PsychologyToday) that’s different for everyone who undertakes it. As Beyer says:
“Alcoholics Anonymous uses the analogy of a ‘loose-fitting garment’ to describe [recovery] … When we envision our recovery as comfortable, loose-fitting clothes, our mindset is more flexible, allowing us to adapt to the ups and downs of this major change … It is important to get comfortable with the ambiguity for a while and know that our healing is going to look different from others’. In other words — there is no ‘one size fits all’ method for recovering from addiction.”
According to Jessica Simpson, the writing of Open Book was partially about her own recovery “fit.” She revealed to Beyer that journaling, one of the mental health tools that many counselors recommend for undertaking the project of recovery, had helped her immensely when she decided to get sober. The quote that opens this post was about what her journaling process did for her, helping her come to grips with her own past and the secrets and pressures that helped drive her to abuse of pills and alcohol, without the judgment of others.
The result of that process was ultimately a memoir that is very open and makes a strong statement about abuse, addiction and the power of speaking out, seeking help and taking control of your life.
Too Many People Share Experiences Like Those Discussed in Simpson’s Memoir
What’s most surprising about the experiences Simpson reveals in Open Book is, in a way, how unsurprising they are — how much they resemble experiences and pressures that people without celebrity struggle with every day.
For example, she discusses having been sexually abused by a family friend, close to her in age, during her childhood. This is a kind of experience she shares broadly with millions of other Americans who have experienced sexual assault in their lifetimes, many of whom prove to be at higher risk of going on to develop a substance use disorder.
She also discusses struggles with feeling objectified and undervalued as a person during her marriage to Nick Lachey and bizarrely intrusive demands from music executives during her career that she remain at a specific weight to get signed. Those were the kind of pressures that led to the development of an eating disorder and an addiction to diet pills, pressures that affect more than just celebrities. A shocking 50% of women use unhealthy behaviors for weight control, and 70% of women aged 18-33 have a negative image of their bodies.
Even as her success increased, Simpson found herself in a struggle with the bottle that her means made it easier to hide. She describes her lowest point as a Halloween party in 2017 when she couldn’t even remember who had gotten her daughters into their costumes. That was the moment she knew something had to change. She recalls saying to friends at the time:
“I need to stop. Something’s got to stop. And if it’s the alcohol that’s doing this and making things worse, then I quit.”
How the Stories of People in the Spotlight Can Be Important
Although Jessica Simpson’s types of experiences aren’t uncommon, her profile and platform as a celebrity certainly are. One healthy development that has come about in modern celebrity culture has been an environment where, no matter how long it takes, people who are willing to come out and talk about past abuse and trauma, drug addiction or mental illness have a space to do so.
It makes a real difference. As the Washington Post notes, quoting clinician Renee Solomon, if approached the right way — as complicated as finding the right approach might be — celebrity advocacy and speaking up can have a positive effect on the public: “It gives people hope that they can get through their own issues and come out on the other side stronger.” While that specific quote is about the conversation around mental health, it applies just as strongly to often-related issues like eating disorders or substance use disorders.
Jessica Simpson has remarked on the hope that her comments in Open Book on addiction, alcohol abuse, eating disorders and recovery can have a similarly positive impact on those who’ve followed her career and looked up to her success:
“When I finally said I needed help, it was like I was that little girl that found her calling again in life … I found direction and that was to walk straight ahead with no fear.”
She also says:
“It’s been a long, hard, deep emotional journey … one that I’ve come through the other side with pure happiness and fulfillment and acceptance of myself. I’ve used my pain and turned it into something that can be beautiful and hopefully inspiring to people.”
It’s Never Too Late to Seek Help
Despite spending years in the glare of the spotlight as America’s Sweetheart, Jessica Simpson suffered with eating disorders, drug addiction and alcohol abuse and the overall after-effects of childhood trauma for years, at the apparent height of her fame and success, before seeking help. One thing her story illustrates powerfully is that no matter how long you’ve suffered in silence or tried to hide your problems from the world, it’s never too late to seize happiness and retake control of your destiny so long as you’re still alive.
If these kinds of issues are currently controlling your life, or the life of a loved one, seek out hope. Call FHE Health now at (877) 609-3017 to learn more about our intensive inpatient treatment and outpatient detox center in South Florida.