“To call yourself an alcoholic or a drug addict is a badge of honor because this secret – the shameful secret – is the reason why it is such a pervasive illness in every industry, in every socioeconomic strata, in every country in the world.”
Last week, in Variety’s Recovery issue, Jamie Lee Curtis opened up about her addiction, her recovery, and being sober for over 20 years.
Curtis, whose addiction to painkillers started following plastic surgery, reported that she used to be a “wildly controlled addict and alcoholic,” stating that “nobody knew” about her addiction.
“It was that sort of late afternoon and early evening,” she stated. “I like to refer to it as the warm-bath feeling of an opiate. It’s like the way you naturally feel when your body is cool, and you step into a warm bath, and you sink into it. That’s the feeling for me, what an opiate gave me, and I chased that feeling for a long time.”
A Family Problem
As the 60-year-old went on to talk about how she lived in secrecy for over ten years, she recalled addiction being an issue within her family.
“Drugs were very much a family problem,” said Curtis. “I had six siblings. I have five. My brother, Nicholas, died of a heroin overdose when he was 21 years old.”
Meanwhile, the actress also noted that her own father, actor Tony Curtis also struggled with addiction. “I knew my dad had an issue because I had an issue and he and I shared drugs … I did cocaine and freebased once with my dad. But that was the only time I did that, and I did that with him,” she revealed. “He did end up getting sober for a short period of time and was very active in recovery for about three years. It didn’t last that long. But he found recovery for a minute,” before dying in 2010 at age 85.
“You’re A Dead Woman.”
At the time, nobody knew about her addiction to painkillers. Though, in 1998 when a friend saw her casually swallow a handful of pills with a swig of wine, she was taken by surprise.
“I heard this voice [from the doorway of the kitchen]: ‘You know, Jamie, I see you. I see you with your little pills, and you think you’re so fabulous and so great, but the truth is you’re dead. You’re a dead woman,’” Curtis recalled. “Now I knew someone knew. I had been nursing a secret Vicodin addiction for a very long time — over 10 years.”
While Curtis wasn’t yet ready to get sober, she continued to steal painkillers from her sister shortly after that incident. However, after her sister told her she wouldn’t watch her die, Curtis came across an Esquire article entitled, “Vicodin, My Vicodin,” which prompted her to attend her first recovery meeting.
Still, while she attended recovering meetings, the fear that someone would sell her story to the tabloids lingered.
“I was just terrified that someone in the recovery community was going to betray my trust. But it is my experience that that doesn’t really happen and that my fear was unfounded,” she explained.
Later, the mom of two went public with the news herself, once she was two years sober, in an interview with Redbook.
“I Bring Sobriety With Me.”
Thankfully, Jamie Lee has now been sober for two decades, which she attributes to being “very careful.”
“I bring sobriety with me. I have attended recovery meetings all over this world,” she told the magazine. “I was probably about nine months sober when I made Freaky Friday [in 2002]. I put a big sign up by the catering truck, and it said, ‘Recovery meeting in Jamie’s trailer every day.’ I left the door open and didn’t know if anybody would show up. We ended up calling it the ‘Mobile Home Recovery Meeting.’ It was probably my favorite grouping of sobriety that I’ve ever participated in.”
Today, with over 20 years sober, Curtis continues to be an inspiration for those around her. “I’m breaking the cycle that has basically destroyed the lives of generations in my family,” she said in another interview. “Getting sober remains my single greatest accomplishment … bigger than my husband, bigger than both of my children and bigger than any work, success, failure. Anything.”
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Am so happy @variety has made a commitment to focusing on recovery in our industry. Alcoholism and addiction know no boundaries and wreak havoc in all industries and communities. Proud to represent my hometown and continue the conversation of transformation that sobriety offers. ? @joepug