As part of Variety‘s Recovery Issue, Jamie Lee Curtis opened up about her experiences battling addiction in the entertainment industry, an industry known for easy access and prevalence of drugs and alcohol. It’s not the first time Curtis has spoken about sobriety, but it’s her most candid interview to date about her experiences with Vicodin and how she manages to stay sober.
Curtis starts all the way at the very beginning of her struggle with addiction. She says she began taking Vicodin, a synthetic opioid, as a painkiller after routine plastic surgery on her under-eyes. In a 2017 national study on opiate addictions, researchers found that an estimated 1.7 million people in the U.S. suffer from addiction to opiates that were prescribed by their doctors. More than 10 years later, in 1998, a friend who was staying at her home “caught” Curtis taking some pills with a sip of wine.
According to Curtis, “The jig was up. Now I knew someone knew. I had been nursing a secret Vicodin addiction for a very long time—over 10 years.”
The Halloween star says that while she was taking Vicodin, she was a “wildly controlled drug addict and alcoholic…I never did it when I worked. I never took drugs before 5 p.m. I never, ever took painkillers at 10 in the morning,” she told Variety.
That could be why she said she was able to keep her addictions a secret. She had a stable family life and career success, so, as she said, no one would have suspected what she was going through behind the scenes. (In fact, the first the public heard about her addiction was a 2001 Redbook interview when she told the reporter that she was two years sober.)
It was a January 1999 Esquire article about Vicodin that prompted Curtis to attend her first recovery meeting. Though she has been sober since, Curtis says that she will always be “recovering,” and never considers herself “recovered.”
Part of her recovery is “paying a lot of attention” to her sobriety, she said. Curtis attends recovery meetings all over the world as she films.
She calls herself a “very careful sober person,” telling Variety, “When I work, if there are no recovery meetings available, I make them. I put a sign up by the catering truck saying, ‘Recovery meeting in my trailer.’”
She was about nine months sober when she filmed Freaky Friday, hosting daily meetings and calling it “the Mobile Home Recovery Meeting.”
Of that experience, she says, “It was probably my favorite grouping of sobriety that I’ve ever participated in. I’ve participated in groups all over the world, but there was something about the cross-section of ages and genders and jobs and races, and it was profound.”
Curtis has attended meetings wherever she is in the world, including a meeting in Panama conducted in Spanish. She says, “I didn’t understand a word anybody said, but I went and sat down and met people, shook hands and talked.”
By sharing her story, the legendary actress hopes to remove some of the stigma surrounding addiction.
She says, “Because the secret, the shameful secret, is the reason why it is such a pervasive illness in our industry—in every industry, in every socioeconomic stratum, in every country in the world. It is the secret shame that keeps people locked up in their disease.”
We hope Jamie Lee’s candor helps those going through similar experiences and working on recovery feel a little less alone in what they might be dealing with. Talking about these issues really does matter to help lessen the stigmas and misconceptions, so bravo to her for being so honest about it.
If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction and need help, use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find treatment near you or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).