By Sondra Barr
In the chaotic world of Hollywood, where stars often flicker and fade, Sharon Stone, 65, exemplifies an unusual durability, showcasing a narrative that triumphs over adversities. Beneath the deceptive allure of fame, she’s emerged not as a victim but as a symbol of perseverance.
At the peak of her career, prior to a cascade of devastating health issues, Stone enraptured global audiences with her sensual and commanding performance in “Basic Instinct,” and later garnered critical acclaim for her role in “Casino.” Her trajectory was steeped in a kind of success story that many only dreamed of—she was an undisputed movie star, embodying both charisma and mystique, offering the world a seductive yet empowered picture of femininity.
Yet, beneath this glamorous exterior, a storm was brewing. In 2001, a ruptured vertebral artery bled into her brain for days, leaving her with a 1% chance of survival, throwing her life into disarray. It wasn’t mere chance that allowed Stone to identify the onslaught of her stroke; it was a piercing headache and numbness in her leg, which became an omen of the cerebral hemorrhage that could have ended her life. Stone’s awareness of her own physicality in that dire moment paved the way for the medical intervention that ultimately saved her.
“The pain was still so wildly intense that I was put on a 24/7 drip of Dilaudid, which is a kind of synthetic heroin. I was in and out of consciousness,” she writes in her memoir. “… We were now on day five of my brain bleed and I had been coming and going. I had been ‘sleeping’ more than waking. I had not eaten since the initial incident…After a couple more days, I was unable to get up, stand up, or think clearly and function. I had lost 18 percent of my body mass…The general consensus was that I should go on home and stop faking it.”
Sharon Stone further shared with The New Yorker: “I didn’t know until I got home and read People magazine that I had to wait 30 days to see if I was even going to live. Nobody was communicating with me. Even 20 years ago, women’s rights were so much less than they are now, and nobody was listening to me, which is why I still scream to be heard. I still fight with doctors because I panic when people don’t listen to me.”
The cataclysmic ripple effect of the event reverberated far beyond the physical realm for Stone, laying waste to not just her health, but dismantling her once-sturdy life in shattering ways. Prior to the debilitating event, Stone was basking in both professional and personal luminescence. An Oscar nod for Casino had already etched her name into the annals of Hollywood’s recognized talents, and on the home front, she and then-husband, newspaper editor Phil Bronstein, had recently welcomed their adopted son Roan into their lives.
However, the stroke heralded a cruel and unforgiving storm that left no aspect of her life untouched—career, finances, and even motherhood were unceremoniously wrested from her. Her marriage crumbled in its wake, ending in divorce from Bronstein in 2004, and the once-buzzing phone, linking her to Hollywood’s bustling opportunities, fell eerily silent.
“I lost everything,” she openly confided to journalist Nigel Smith, her words bearing the weight of every stripped-away piece of her past self. “I lost all my money. I lost custody of my child. I lost my career. I lost all those things that you feel are your real identity and your life.” Stone’s narrative unearths more than mere personal pain and loss; it stands as a haunting epitaph to the often underestimated fragility of what we perceive to be steadfast and enduring in our lives.
When Stone speaks about the demise of her once-thriving career in Hollywood, the lost custody of her child, and her financial ruin, there is an evident tranquility in her acceptance of that period as a mere chapter, not the entire narrative of her life. Sharon’s unapologetic embrace of her life’s calamities and her aptitude to turn them into opportunities for transformation makes her more relatable, and in many ways, inspirational.
Stone’s journey through trauma, recovery, and self-discovery took a turn when she chose to no longer be governed by fear, fighting for over a decade for custody of her son Roan.
“I fought for my son, put him ahead of getting anything at all back in my life. I did that for 13 years; I played a very long, very difficult game of custody chess in an effort to get him everything I could for his health and well-being,” she pens in her memoir. Her endeavors demonstrate not just a commitment to family above all, but an unwavering dedication to the well-being and future of her children.
Subsequently, Stone expanded her family, adopting biological brothers Laird and Quinn.
It was her 2021 memoir, “The Beauty of Living Twice,” that delved into Stone’s deeply human and relatable story. In it, she addresses her Hollywood career’s collapse, lost custody, and financial ruin with a tranquil acceptance, viewing it as a chapter, not the entirety, of her life. Her unreserved acceptance of life’s adversities and her ability to convert them into transformative opportunities lend relatability and inspiration.
Stone’s wisdom extends to wellness and contentment, both physically and mentally. Post-turmoil, she found peace in the arts, painting, and pickleball, not merely as hobbies but as mediums of recovery and expressions of joy.
In April 2023, Stone unveiled her first-ever art exhibit, Shedding, an intimate exploration of her multifaceted self through abstract and landscape paintings. Art, it seems, has been an ever-present force in Stone’s life. She studied in the discipline at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania before her studies were cut short by the advent of her modeling and acting careers. “All of those paintings I sold to other students to eat and live,” Stone recalls in a chat with Maxim. “And then, you know, this acting thing—that took up quite a bit of my time, and I didn’t paint anymore.”
The return to painting occurred when the world locked down, a friend’s gift of a paint by numbers kit reigniting a subdued flame. Stone, thereafter, invested in brushes, paint, canvases, and boards, progressively crafting over a dozen paintings before allowing herself the luxury of prepared canvases.
Giving back through her work with the Barrow Neurological Foundation and ensuring others battling neurological conditions have a fighting chance is also important to Stone. Her lived experiences, once shrouded in layers of Hollywood glamor and superficiality, now serve as the foundation of her advocacy, focusing on education and research to light the path for others navigating similar dark tunnels.
In a universe that often reduces individuals to their pain, Stone redefines what it means to be a survivor, to reclaim, rediscover, and revel in one’s identity beyond trauma. Stone encapsulates a wellness that is not solely built upon the absence of disease but the continuous and intentional act of crafting one’s wellness every day. Today, Stone is not just a movie star – she is a beacon of relentless authenticity, a testament to harnessing one’s past to forge a future with unwavering determination, a journey where living well means valuing oneself.