Rob Lowe was 26 when he hit rock bottom. It was 1990, and the actor had been partying, as usual, when his mother rang his home. He didn’t pick up, so she had to leave a message on the answering machine.
“I didn’t want to pick up because I was really, really hungover and I didn’t want her to know,” Lowe told Variety. “She was telling me that my grandfather, who I loved, was in critical condition in the hospital and she needed my help. And I didn’t pick up.”
Instead, Lowe drank straight from a bottle of tequila, thinking that if he went to sleep, he’d be able to deal with it in the morning.
It was a turning point. Deciding that was “no way to live” he went to rehab two days later.
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Lowe has now been sober for more than 30 years, and married for the same length of time, but he went through some pretty wild times before that.
As a boy, he always wanted to act, landing his first role in a professional theatre production when he was 12. He also started drinking when he was young – in his early teens – after his family moved from Ohio to a working-class part of Malibu. He and his brother Chad hung out with the neighbourhood kids, who included Sean and Chris Penn, and Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez.
Lowe scored his breakthrough movie role alongside Estevez and Tom Cruise in The Outsiders when he was 17.
"People talk about how the industry has changed... Warner Brothers would provide beer in the van for 15-year-old Tommy Howell and 17-year-old Rob," Lowe told People.
The movie roles kept coming – St Elmo’s Fire, Youngblood, About Last Night – and Lowe kept partying.
“Cocaine was the thing that successful people did,” he told Variety. “There was always that wonderful moment when as an active drug abuser you’d go on the set and figure out which department was selling the coke on the set. Those days are long, long, loooong gone.”