Renowned actor Robert Downey Jr. delves into his haunting memories of serving a prison sentence in 1999, revealing the chilling sensation of “feeling the evil in the air.” Speaking candidly during a recent episode of the popular “Armchair Expert” podcast with Dax Shepard and Monica Padman, Downey, now 58, vividly recounts the harrowing ordeal that forever changed his life.
Transporting listeners back to the courtroom, Downey recalls the moment an irate judge delivered a Latin phrase, which seemed to cast a malevolent spell upon him. It was this fateful event that marked the beginning of his year-long incarceration at California’s Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison. The punishment stemmed from Downey’s failure to comply with court-ordered drug tests, following a 1996 cocaine possession charge.
Within the confines of the holding center, Downey was immersed in an atmosphere teeming with malevolence. The actor poignantly describes the palpable sense of darkness that pervaded the facility, instilling a feeling of trepidation. Comparable to residing in a perilous neighborhood, he emphasizes the absence of opportunities, only met with constant threats.
Downey’s experience took a unique turn when he became the subject of amusement among fellow inmates during a shower routine. The accidental blunder of wearing his underwear backwards led to some hearty laughter and jests. Amid the grim surroundings, this brief moment of shared humor offered a respite from the pervasive somberness.
However, Downey’s time behind bars was ultimately curtailed, as he secured an early release in 2000 after posting bail. During his confinement, he was transferred to a “receiving center,” an inherently hazardous environment that brought together individuals with varying degrees of risk. It was here that the gravity of his circumstances gradually sank in, forcing him to confront his own reality.
Reflecting on the ordeal, Downey muses on the remarkable human capacity to adapt to seemingly insurmountable challenges within a relatively short span of time. Despite acknowledging that his stint in an institution was not the worst thing that could have befallen him, he affirms that it remains the most arduous experience he has endured.
Following his release, Downey sought solace and rehabilitation in a dedicated facility. His arduous battle with drug and alcohol addiction, which had plagued him from a young age, culminated in a life-changing decision to embark on the path to sobriety. This pivotal turning point came in 2003 when, after his eventual wife, Susan Downey, issued an ultimatum, he discarded his drugs into the ocean near a Burger King on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Embracing a new chapter in his life, Downey found love and stability in his marriage to Susan Downey, whom he wed in 2005. The couple shares three children: sons Indio, 29, and Exton, 11, and daughter Avri, 8. Downey’s resilience and unwavering commitment to sobriety have paved the way for his successful acting career, with his upcoming movie, Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” slated for release next month.
Through his gripping tale of adversity, Robert Downey Jr. reminds us of the strength that can emerge from even the darkest of circumstances. His journey serves as a testament to the power of resilience, self-reflection, and the pursuit of a brighter future.