Cara Delevingne is four months sober after seeking treatment for addiction last year.
The British model and actress opened up about her personal life overhaul Vogue‘s April cover story. The Suicide Squad star, who’s now in a 12-step recovery program amid abuse of substances and alcohol, admitted, “I was not OK” last year, and said those paparazzi photos of her looking disheveled, sans shoes at the Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles September, were a wakeup call she’s “grateful” for.
“The way that I was living was not sustainable,” Delevingne told the outlet.
Delevingne had long had a reputation for partying, but last summer she took things to the max. A three-week vacation in Ibiza culminated with her throwing herself an elaborate Alice in Wonderland-themed 30th birthday party in August. That was followed by traveling to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for Burning Man.
“I decided I was going to party as hard as I could because this was the end,” she said, telling herself that at 30 — which she turned on Aug. 12 — she was going to scale back on consumption. “I decided … I’m going to go crazy, in a fun way.”
But what was fun to her worried her inner circle. “There’s an element of feeling invincible when I’m on drugs,” she said, not mentioning specifically which substances she was using. “I put myself in danger in those moments because I don’t care about my life. I would climb anything and jump off stuff,” she said, noting she’d be covered in bruises. “It felt feral. It’s a scary thing to the people around you who love you.”
The photos of her — hair wild while wearing a Britney Spears T-shirt, track suit and socks and acting erratically — were published in early September and quickly went viral amid concerns over her well-being.
“I hadn’t slept. I wasn’t OK,” she admitted. “It’s heartbreaking because I thought I was having fun, but at some point it was like, OK, I don’t look well. You know, sometimes you need a reality check, so in a way those pictures were something to be grateful for .”
She said, “All I knew is that if I was continuing to go down the road I was, I’d either end up dead or doing something really, really stupid. That was scary.”
Delevingne “had interventions of a sort” before but “wasn’t ready,” she said. However, by the fall, “I really was.” She checked herself into rehab late last year to face her demons, including struggles with “self-hatred,” and has since committed to a 12-step program.
“Before I was always into the quick fix of healing, going to a weeklong retreat or to a course for trauma, say, and that helped for a minute, but it didn’t ever really get to the nitty-gritty, the deeper stuff ,” said Delevingne, who grew up with a mother who suffers from mental illness and addiction. “This time I realized that 12-step treatment was the best thing, and it was about not being ashamed of that. The community made a huge difference. The opposite of addiction is connection, and I really found that in 12-step.”
She said getting therapy, which she hadn’t had in three years prior to going to treatment, was also key, specifically psychodrama, during which patients act out events from their past. “I always thought that the work needs to be done when the times are bad, but actually the work needs to be done when they’re good,” she said. “The work needs to be done consistently. It’s never going to be fixed or fully healed but I’m OK with that, and that’s the difference.”
Delevingne said she’s been prioritizing her health by getting outside, working out, meditating and doing yoga, among other forms of self-care.
“This process obviously has its ups and downs, but I’ve started realizing so much,” she said. “People want my story to be this after-school special where I just say, ‘Oh look, I was an addict, and now I’m sober and that’s it.’ And it’s not as simple as that. It doesn’t happen overnight… Of course I want things to be instant—I think this generation especially, we want things to happen quickly—but I’ve had to dig deeper.”
Delevingne talked about her upbringing, including getting drunk for the first time at a family wedding at the age of 7. By the age of 10 she was modeling, but also taking prescription sleeping pills to manage insomnia. She was then diagnosed with dyspraxia, a disorder that affects movement and coordination, noting it “was the beginning of mental health issues and inadvertent self-harm.” She tried many forms of therapy, but continued to struggle, suffering a breakdown at 15, when she was put on antidepressants which she said “saved my life.”
“I hadn’t uncovered the f***ing hole inside, the real whirlpool inside,” she said. “And I still think there’s a part of diagnosis and labeling that is damaging. There were so many times that I was encouraged to take this or be put on that.” Now, “I’m more of a naturalist, a purist in a sense, when it comes to medications.”
Delevingne pinpoints the beginning of her more recent unraveling to the COVID lockdown. She started quarantine with her girlfriend of two years, Ashley Benson, in March 2020 but they split the following month.
“And then I was alone, really alone … it was a low point,” she said. “I just had a complete existential crisis. All my sense of belonging, all my validation — my identity, everything — was so wrapped up in work. And when that was gone, I felt like I had no purpose. Instead of taking the time to really learn something new or do something new, I got very wrapped up in misery, wallowing, and partying. It was a really sad time.”
When the world opened back up, the host of Hulu’s docuseries Planet Sex continued to struggle, recalling a low point of getting “blackout” drunk at the Met Gala after-parties last year.
As she sought help last fall, she said she was supported by her many friends, who told her she deserves “‘a chance to have joy'” in her life. Selena Gomez, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Margot Robbie and Sienna Miller were among those interviewed for the piece.
Delevingne also spoke of the support from her girlfriend of one year, Leah Mason, a musician who performs under the name Minke. She admitted her behavior took a toll on their relationship and Mason “wasn’t going to have it much longer.” The pair marked Delevingne’s first sober holidays together. She said they were in Utah together, “just the two of us,” and while she was in bed by 12:15 a.m. on New Year’s, she had “the nicest time.”
Of her partner, she said, “It’s the first time I feel like I’m in a relationship not trying to rescue someone.”
Delevingne, who says she’s “calmer” and “stiller” these days, said she’s taking life “second by second.” And with a clear mind, she gives thought to her future, including pursuing her dream of having children (she’s planning to freeze her eggs). She’s also considering removing her many tattoos, calling it all a “fresh start” amid “new beginnings.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Referral Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357)