Addiction is a painful and complicated disease, and Ray Charles had the extreme misfortune of being a celebrity whose excessive drug use was paraded in front of the world in the cruelest way possible. According to the Weekly View, while at a tour stop in Indianapolis in 1961, Charles received an unsolicited phone call offering to sell him drugs. He purchased weed and heroin, and later got high. The next morning, however, cops showed up at his hotel room door saying the drug dealer had tipped them off.
Charles was purposely humiliated, both with the charge of being a “common addict” and by being paraded in front of the media. One reporter asked, “How did you get started on drugs, Ray?” He told the sad story. “I started using stuff when I was 16. When I first started in show business. Then I had to have more and more … A guy who lives in the dark has to have something to keep him going. The grind is just too much.”
The public learning his secret did not stop Charles using heroin. As he told Rolling Stone in 1973, “Let’s face it, man, if a guy doesn’t want to stop doin’ somethin’, the judge, the psychiatrist, the jailer, ain’t nobody gonna … it’s a made-up mind of what you want to do with yourself.” Charles finally got clean after another drug bust in 1965.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).