The actor has opened up about her decade-long addiction to painkillers in a powerful new interview.
Visitors to the set of Freaky Friday, the 2003 body-swapping teen classic starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan, might have been surprised by the notice pinned to the board outside the catering truck. ‘Recovery meeting in Jamie’s trailer every day,’ it read.
At the time of filming the movie, Curtis was nine months sober after a decade-long painkiller addiction and knew that she needed regular recovery meetings in order to make production work.
“I am a very careful sober person,” Curtis told Variety in a revealing interview about her struggles with addiction. “When I work, if there are no recovery meetings available, I make them… I bring sobriety with me. I have attended recovery meetings all over the world… I left the door open [on Freaky Friday] and didn’t know if anybody would show up. We ended up calling it the Mobile Home Recovery Meeting. It was probably my favourite grouping of sobriety that I’ve ever participated in.”
Since getting sober in the early 2000s, Curtis has attended recovery meetings all over the world. Once, when working in Panama, she attending a recovery meeting that was entirely in Spanish even though she couldn’t speak a word of the language herself. “I went and sat down and met people,” she recalled. “Shook hands and talked.”
Today, Curtis is sober. “Am I going to be sober for the rest of my life? I hope so. I’m going to do everything I can to be,” she told Variety.
But this wasn’t always the case. For a decade, Curtis was addicted to Vicodin, a strong painkiller she was first prescribed because of plastic surgery she had on her eyes. (A cameraman told Curtis that he wouldn’t work with her because “her eyes are too puffy”, leading the actor to undergo surgery to remove the puffiness. Vicodin was prescribed for the pain.)
Curtis thought her addiction was secret. She never took pills when she was working and only in the “late afternoon and early evening”, she said. “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,” she said. “That’s the feeling for me, what an opiate gave me, and I chased that feeling for a long time.”
Soon, though, Curtis was stealing pills from her sister and taking handfuls of five pills a night, washing them down with a glass of wine. Once, a friend caught her.
“I heard this voice: ‘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.’ The jig was up,” Curtis recalled. “Now I knew someone knew. I had been nursing a secret Vicodin addiction for a very long time – over 10 years.”
A few months later, she read an article in Esquire about Vicodin addiction that made her feel like she wasn’t alone. By the middle of 1999 she was attending recovery meetings and she has been sober ever since.
Curtis has always spoken openly about her struggles with addiction. She does this, she has explained, because she wants everyone to know that addiction does not discriminate. It is something that impacts everyone, including famous Hollywood actors with happy marriages, beautiful families and successful careers.
It’s why, she told Variety, she first spoke openly about her addiction in a cover story for a glossy magazine. The interview was happening “in my pretty bougie house, with my pretty bougie life, with my pretty bougie dogs and my pretty bougie clothes,” Curtis recalled.
“I was talking about growth and metamorphosis and all the beautiful aspects of development as a human being,” Curtis said. “And the writer said, ‘What do you attribute it to?’ I looked over and there was my daughter. And I looked back at the writer, and I said, ‘Well I think the fact that I’ve been sober for almost two years is a big part of it.’ And I knew in that moment that what I was doing is what I’m doing here right now, which is that I was stepping over the line of anonymity and privacy into a public conversation.”
If you are struggling with addiction, Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. In the US, contact the National Drug Helpline at 1-888-633-3239.
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