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Jamie Lee Curtis marks 22 years of being sober: 'I was a young star at war with herself'

Erin Donnelly
·4 min read
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Congratulations are in order for actress Jamie Lee Curtis, who has hit the 22-year mark of being sober.

On Wednesday, the 62-year-old A Fish Called Wanda and Knives Out star shared an Instagram post reflecting on her past substance abuse. Calling her former self a “young star at war with herself,” Curtis added an old photo — seemingly from the early 1980s — in which she’s cradling a drink.

Jamie Lee Curtis (pictured in 2020) is marking her 22nd sobriety anniversary. (Photo: Mike Coppola/FilmMagic)
Jamie Lee Curtis (pictured in 2020) is marking her 22nd sobriety anniversary. (Photo: Mike Coppola/FilmMagic)

“A LONG time ago … In a galaxy far, far away … I was a young STAR at WAR with herself,” Curtis wrote. “I didn't know it then. I chased everything. I kept it hidden. I was [as] sick as my secrets.

“With God's grace and the support of MANY people who could relate to all the 'feelings' and a couple of sober angels ... I've been able to stay sober, one day at a time, for 22 years,” she added. “I was a high bottom, pun kind of intended, so the rare photo of me proudly drinking in a photo op is very useful to help me remember. To all those struggling and those who are on the path … MY HAND IN YOURS.”

Curtis’s candid post was met with messages of support from followers, many of whom shared their own stories of fighting to get clean.

“Thank you for openly sharing,” read one comment. “Your story is relatable and encourages all of us. Thank you for living an authentic and inspirational life.”

“Thank you for working to remove the stigmas of recovery and addiction,” another fan wrote.

Curtis, the daughter of late Hollywood icons Tony Curtis (Some Like it Hot) and Janet Leigh (Psycho), was 40 when she attended her first recovery meeting in February 1999, according to an interview she gave to Variety in 2019.

“I had been nursing a secret Vicodin addiction for a very long time — over 10 years,” the actress said of a friend catching her downing a handful of pills along with some wine just months before that fateful meeting. Weeks later, she started stealing Vicodin pills prescribed to her injured sister Kelly. But reading an Esquire article about a painkiller addiction that February at last prompted her to get help — including coming clean to husband Christopher Guest for the first time — and she’s been sober ever since.

“I was the wildly controlled drug addict and alcoholic,” she told Variety of her Vicodin addiction. “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. 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 painkiller addiction began after getting “routine plastic surgery” around her eyes after a cameraman complained that hers were “too puffy.” But her experience with other substances started much earlier, with Curtis admitting that she and her famous father would do drugs together.

“I knew my dad had an issue because I had an issue and he and I shared drugs,” she told Variety of Tony Curtis, who abused alcohol, cocaine and heroin. “There was a period of time where I was the only child that was talking to him. I had six siblings. I have five. My brother, Nicholas, died of a heroin overdose when he was 21 years old. But I shared drugs with my dad. I did cocaine and freebased once with my dad. But that was the only time I did that, and I did that with him. 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.”

Curtis, who has attended recovery meetings around the world while filming on location, credits her own success to an unflinching self-awareness and a willingness to be open about her battle.

“I also drank too much in a very controlled way, in a very Jamie way,” she shared. “It is the only disease that is self-diagnosed. No one else can actually tell you you’re an alcoholic. They can tell you that you drink too much or in their opinion that you drink too much or that when you drink too much, it really makes them angry.

“But to call yourself an alcoholic or a drug addict is a badge of honor. It is a way of acknowledging something that is a profound statement and can be, for many people, life-changing. 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.”

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