Throwback: “Stop Hugging the Cactus” with Robert Downey Jr. and Mel Gibson
In 2011, Robert Downey Jr., who has publicly spoken about his struggles with alcoholism and substance abuse, once again spoke about how he got sober and who helped him. He did this all while receiving a prestigious award for his work in cinematography. Not only did he talk about the person who helped him get sober however, he asked for us and the audience to forgive that individual. That individual, was Mel Gibson.
Downey Jr., during the award ceremony, spoke of being in the grips of his alcoholism after the media world had turned its proverbial back on him. He spoke of how Mel, not only took him into his home, fed him, and gave him work, but gave him a few simple suggestions on how he could change his life. The suggestions included finding a higher power, getting honest with another person, finding some humility, and to “stop hugging the cactus.” He said once he did all of those things his life DID begin to change as Mel had told him it would. The final thing Mel mentioned, before Robert turned his life around, was that he then help the next guy who was suffering like he had. The next guy, just so happened to be Gibson himself.
Stop Hugging the Cactus
What is the meaning behind stop hugging the cactus? To hug the cactus means the individual confronts life’s hard knocks head on for the purpose of getting over them as quickly as possible and move on. So to stop hugging the cactus, is to realize your problems are not unique. That hanging onto your past and all of your guilt and shame, which is common, is doing you no use in the present moment and is actually hurting you. As hugging a cactus would. Letting go, is a huge part of finding recovery. Realizing that our past does not define us, and that playing the victim no longer serves us, is paramount to moving forward. As Mel told Robert Downey Jr. in this instance. Hanging onto all the hurts, resentments, fear, lies, shame, and remorse was doing him no good and was keeping him in a perpetual state of selfishness. Selfishness meaning, all he was thinking about was himself. As soon as his focus changed, as soon as he let go all of the past, as soon as he stopped hugging the cactus, he began to recover.
It is a powerful statement that shows the true ability of one alcoholic being capable of helping another. And then, in turn, that person being able to turn around and pass it back. Both Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. have found sobriety. And while their pasts may have had some dark times, they managed, with the help of each other, to find the way to sobriety again.
If you’d like to watch the video and hear the whole speech, you can see it here, Robert Downey Jr. Asks Forgiveness for Mel Gibson.