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David Harbour’s Commitment to Sobriety

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

March 22, 2024

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With over twenty years in the industry, David Harbour initially devoted himself to theater, with The Rainmaker in 1999 serving as his debut on Broadway. Since then, he has amassed an extensive portfolio of stage productions, TV appearances, and film roles.

Although it wasn’t until his portrayal of Jim Hopper in Stranger Things that Harbour achieved widespread recognition, his career has since thrived. From starring in unconventional projects such as Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein to appearing in major blockbusters like Marvel’s Black Widow, Harbour’s versatility has become increasingly apparent.

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Beyond his professional endeavors, Harbour prizes family time, engaging with his fan base, and advocating for environmental causes, notably joining Greenpeace in their efforts to preserve the Antarctic habitat. While he maintains a level of privacy around his personal life, he remains candid about his past addiction struggles and his ongoing experience with mental health challenges. Through his transparency, Harbour aims to inspire his followers, showcasing the potential for personal growth and the capacity to make a positive impact on the world through acts of kindness and altruism.

David Harbour’s Addiction History

David Harbour has been candid about his battle with addiction during his youth. In an interview with Esquire, he discussed his heavy drinking habits during his early 20s, describing himself as “the life of the party” until things took a turn for the worse. As he confided in Off Camera, Harbour’s alcohol dependency led to the loss of relationships, romance, and nearly his place of residence. He even contemplated suicide, but concern for his cat prevented him from following through. Instead, he reached out to a sober friend, initiating his journey toward recovery. 

Reflecting on his past, Harbour acknowledged the toxic environment he was part of during his drinking days and expressed gratitude for the kindness he received during his recovery. He further conceded to being a “terrible human being” in his intoxicated state and emphasized how sobriety allowed him to mend broken connections. Harbour made the pivotal decision to embrace sobriety at the age of 24 and has since remained committed to his recovery journey.

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David Harbour Mental Health Issues: The Complications of Co-occurring Disorders

A year after his decision to embrace sobriety, David Harbour received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. During an interview on WTF podcast, he disclosed, “I was 25, and I did have a manic episode,” elaborating on his experience of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Harbour recounted the period of his institutionalization following the diagnosis, acknowledging that his prior romanticized notions of mental health hospitals gave way to the stark reality of the workaday atmosphere.

With the support of his parents, he voluntarily committed himself to a treatment facility, humorously remarking to Esquire that the voluntary aspect of commitment seemingly dissipated upon stepping over the threshold of the facility. 

It took roughly a year for Harbour and his medical team to identify an effective treatment approach. Harbour flagged the role of acting in managing his condition throughout his life. While he continues to rely on medications, he emphasized the benefits of psychoanalysis in maintaining his stability. Additionally, Harbour emphasized the supportive impact of fame on his journey. He expressed his belief in the importance of stronger communal support and heightened empathy towards individuals grappling with mental health challenges, underscoring the need for society to take greater responsibility in this regard.

Rebirth and Ongoing Sobriety

During the Covid pandemic, David Harbour discovered a reason to rejoice. Beginning their relationship in 2019, Harbour and Lily Allen became quarantine housemates as Harbour moved into Allen’s residence. With Allen being a mother to two daughters, Harbour emphasized his commitment to care for them as a stepfather and friend, stating his deep affection for Allen in an interview with The Guardian. Motivated by these sentiments, the couple opted for marriage.

Although they aimed for a discreet and private wedding, the intrusion of social media altered their plans. Traveling to Las Vegas for the ceremony, the couple, accompanied by Allen’s daughters, secured a marriage license, only for the Clark County registry office to announce the news on Twitter. Reflecting on the situation, Harbour humorously referenced the outdated notion of “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” during the interview with The Guardian.

With the news already out in the public domain, Harbour and Allen chose to share snapshots from the wedding on Instagram. Captioning his post, Harbour playfully remarked, “In a ceremony officiated by the king himself, the people’s princess united with her devoted, humble, yet generous credit card holder, in a striking ceremony illuminated by the hazy skies emanating from a distant state engulfed in flames, all amidst a global pandemic.”

David Harbour’s Mental Illness Advocacy

Being a prominent public figure who has grappled with mental health issues for much of his life, David Harbour feels a sense of obligation to promote awareness and discover ways to assist others. During an interview on Fresh Air, Harbour expressed that following his success with Stranger Things, he felt empowered to speak out, aiming to convey that individuals could maintain strength, success, and a significant cultural presence despite living with mental health challenges. While he initially revealed his bipolar diagnosis on WTF podcast, Harbour initially intended to disclose this information at the SAG Awards of 2017, where he had prepared a speech but did not win.

Harbour shared with Esquire that his prepared address was geared towards children diagnosed with mental health disorders and their parents, intending to reassure them that a diagnosis does not signify an end. He hopes that his narrative inspires others, highlighting that despite any diagnosis, they could accomplish anything. Reflecting on this, he mentioned, “Either it gives them hope of achievement or, perhaps even better, makes a bit of a circus of the whole thing and takes the air out of either side of the equation.” Harbour continues to openly discuss his experiences, driven by his commitment to demonstrating that “we’re human. And we’re all a mess,” fostering empathy and understanding amongst individuals.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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