In an interview with Variety for its “Recovery Issue”, the Halloween actor discussed everything from how she became addicted to painkillers after a plastic surgery procedure to her continued efforts to stay sober and how she once took drugs alongside her movie star father, Tony Curtis.
The 60-year-old stated that addiction runs in her family, revealing that her brother, Nicholas, died of a heroin overdose when he was 21-year-old, and that her father also struggled.
“I knew my dad had an issue because I had an issue and he and I shared drugs,” Curtis said.
“There was a period of time where I was the only child that was talking to him. I did cocaine and freebased once with my dad. But that was the only time I did that, and I did that with him.”
Curtis went on to explain how her father managed to get sober for a short period of time but that it “didn’t last long”.
Her father died in 2010 from a cardiac arrest after suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for years. He was 85-years-old.
The True Lies star also opened up about her first experience of drug addiction which occurred when she was prescribed opiates in 1989 after minor plastic surgery for her “puffy eyes”.
“I went and had routine plastic surgery to remove the puffiness,” Curtis said.
“They gave me Vicodin as a painkiller for something that wasn’t really painful.”
Curtis described how she found herself taking up to five Vicodin at once and washing it down with alcohol.
However, she said her addiction was “wildly controlled” because she never took pills while at work.
“I never took drugs before 5pm I never, ever took painkillers at 10 in the morning,” Curtis explained.
“It was that sort of late afternoon and early evening — 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.”
The Freaky Friday actor added that nobody — including her husband, actor Christopher Guest —knew she was taking the painkillers, but that her secret unravelled when was exposed 10 years into her addiction in 1998 when a friend saw her swallow a handful of pills with wine while cooking dinner.
“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 the person saying.
“The jig was up. Now I knew someone knew. I had been nursing a secret Vicodin addiction for a very long time.”
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
A post shared by Jamie Lee Curtis (@curtisleejamie) on Nov 5, 2019 at 6:13am PST
Curtis also admitted to stealing painkillers from her sister, Kelly Curtis, at the height of her addiction.
“When I came home that night, I was terrified that she was going to be so angry at me, but she just looked at me and put her arms out and hugged me and said, ‘You are an addict and I love you, but I am not going to watch you die’,” Curtis revealed.
After reading an article in Esquire magazine titled “Vicodin, My Vicodin” about writer Tom Chiarella’s painkiller addiction, Curtis realised she wasn’t alone and decided to seek help, attending her first recovery meeting. She has been sober ever since.
“I’m no hero. I’m a worker amongst workers. A fellow alcoholic and drug addict connecting with other alcoholics and drug addicts. A shared illness and a shared recovery. I’m not perfect but I can look in the mirror.” 📷 @joepug @variety
A post shared by Jamie Lee Curtis (@curtisleejamie) on Nov 5, 2019 at 7:52am PST
Curtis said she was initially worried that talking about her addiction in group meetings would mean the news would make it to tabloids, but it never did.
The mother-of-two went public with the news herself, once she was two years sober, in an interview with Redbook magazine.
“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,” Curtis said.