Tom Arnold is a former alcohol and drug addict. He’s also an an American actor and comedian.
His Hollywood profile exploded in the 90s when he starred in True Lies, a film directed by famous director James Cameron.
He secured the role after just finishing up the audition with Cameron and Schwarzenegger. When Schwarzenegger left the audition room, Tom Arnold said to Cameron, “I can take him!!”.
Cameron would later say that comment was the reason why he got the role.
Arnold was first introduced to American audiences in the 80s after developing a stand up routine called “Tom Arnold and the Goldfish Review“. It attracted the attention of Roseanne Barr who thought he was funny. She would go onto ask him to write for her show Roseanne. The two later dated and married. He remarked that marrying a celebrity was the second worst way of getting famous (after murdering someone).
His First Drink
Arnold developed his alcoholism from the age of 11 when he had his first beer. He said on a recent episode of Michael Rosenbaum’s Podcast Inside of You:
“The first time I had a beer, a tall boy… Man I knew.. I felt, suddenly, I felt good about myself. It was the first time I ever did it. I thought: Oh I like this. I need more of these.”
Up until that point, Arnold had had a very traumatic childhood. His alcoholic mother abandoned him and his family, and they were raised by their single parent father.
From the ages of 4 to 7 he was sexually abused by a male babysitter. As an adult, Arnold would later buy the abuser’s house and bulldoze it completely, just like in the scene from Forrest Gump.
Marriage to Roseanne Barr
His marriage with Roseanne Barr was complicated because of his drug and alcohol addictions. Early in the relationship she would visit him in Minnesota and they would “party” together. When he moved to Los Angeles to write, she asked him if he “partied” everyday. She would tell him he would need to stop the behaviour for their relationship and his career. This is when he realised he would need to keep the everyday “party” habit a secret.
He moved in with her and soon after, Roseanne confronted him again. Arnold told tell her that he needed help. It’s at that point he went into rehab and sought help for the first time. On Rosenbaum’s podcast he mentions that he has no doubts that Roseanne and the kids, “saved his life”. They helped him get sober and he wouldn’t have done it without them in his life at the time.
They would later divorce in 1994 but he would remain sober until 2007 until breaking his back in a motorcycle accident. He was prescribed pain medication which he wasn’t worried about because he was a “stimulant guy”. He didn’t think he would get addicted. But he did. And he did quickly.
In 2010 he decided to seek help from an addiction specialist. In the process of winding down the pain medication under this medical supervision, he developed a stomach ache that they would eventually discover was a ruptured colon. He would fall into a coma and stay there for three weeks. He was transferred to a rehab upon waking.
His first sponsor on his journey back to sobriety reminded him that he had helped a lot of people for the 20 years after his first stint at rehab and that he wasn’t worthless.
He used that as a source of hope and motivation to get sober again and as fuel to help and serve more people. He would later remark:
“Any kind of service is always of more benefit to me than the person I am serving, because it reminds me not to be such a grumpy asshole. It reminds me of everything I have to be grateful for.”
Today, Arnold spends a great deal of time working with charities including “Community Alliance” – a group that promotes mental illness awareness. He says that he works on himself daily to avoid falling into a depressive state. He does this by keeping a gratitude journal and staying active. This alongside trying to find ways of helping and supporting others.
Main Points from Tom Arnold’s Story
- Childhood trauma doesn’t need to define you.
- Failure can be used to improve your life
- Giving service to others for Arnold is a source of strength and a recovery method.