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Patricia Heaton says a drunken moment in front of her sons led her to get sober.
The Everybody Loves Raymond alum opened up on Elizabeth Vargas's addiction podcast, Heart of the Matter, about giving up alcohol for good in 2018 after the incident in which she was left "humiliated."
The Emmy winner, 63, said she experienced "a lifetime of alcohol," starting when she grew up in Cleveland where "heavy drinking is the norm. And I love alcohol. I love bourbon. I love vodka. I love Maker’s Mark. I mean, you can feel it. You have a drink, and you feel it from your head to your toes, just this thing that goes through your body. It’s fantastic. Until it’s not."
She said that while starring in Everybody Loves Raymond, she had four young boys under 5, so she would unwind at night with a glass of wine. However, working in front of the camera and all that entailed — looking camera-ready, knowing her lines, nailing her takes — "kept overdrinking at bay" during the week. After tape nights on Thursday, she would go out with the cast for drinks.
However, time passed, Raymond ended and her little boys grew up, leaving her and her actor husband, David Hunt, as empty nesters.
"My kids were out of the house [and] I just noticed that if it was 5 p.m. and I don’t have anything to do the next day, I would start drinking automatically," she said. "Then I would be waiting for it to be 5. Then I would go to lunch with friends [and] have a drink at lunch, which I never, ever did before. ... I really started looking forward to drinking and thinking about it in a way that I hadn’t before. ... If we went out to dinner, I would have two cocktails before the meal and then at least two glasses of wine and then maybe an aperitif. If I was with really good friends that I knew well, I would have three cocktails before dinner."
Heaton recalled thinking as this played out, "I’m not an alcoholic, but I could see it down the road. I could see it flipping over into that."
The tipping point came when she was visiting one son in Nashville along with two other sons. She thought ahead to becoming a grandmother down the road, in 10 years, and how she wanted to give up alcohol ahead of that. However, she had concerns that she could not do it — which she expressed out loud while talking to God — because she had previously tried to quit drinking and could not.
The next day, she went to her son's home for a dinner party. She brought a few bottles of wine and drank — a lot.
"We drank while we were making dinner," she recalled. "We drank while we were eating dinner. We drank while we cleaned up. And then we were drinking while we were all playing this board game. There were like 10 of us there: three of my sons, and then their friends. And I was just filling my glass with red wine throughout the five or six hours that we were together. I don’t know how many glasses it was, and I felt completely sober and fine. I was making a joke to the table, and I started saying, 'You know, in our family it’s a tradition …' And I could not pronounce the word 'tradition.' I tried three times, and I couldn’t say the word."
While that was happening, she said, "My son at the end of the table says, 'Oh great, Mom. You can’t even talk.' And I was so humiliated in front of my sons and their friends. God knows that that’s all it takes for me — for that kind of sense of their mom looking drunk in front of them."
She also feared for her health.
"I thought ... 'What is happening in my brain? What is the alcohol doing to my brain where the synapses are misfiring to the point where I can’t say this word?'" she said. "It’s almost like having a stroke or something. And it shook me up. I thought, 'That’s it. That’s it.' ... It had every element that I needed. It had a logical element and had this 'oh my gosh, my sons have seen me drink too much.' "
The next day, she went to breakfast with a friend who was sober, and she said, “Well, you’re the first person I’m telling this to, but this is my first day of never drinking again.”
That was three years ago this past July and she has not had a drink since.
"I feel now that I can do anything if I can get rid of alcohol," she said. "Alcohol’s the hardest thing in my life."
In the interview, Heaton also recalled using cocaine in the 1980s but being able to stop when she realized it was triggering depression. ("The depression I felt was so intense," she recalled. "I thought, 'I am never going to do this again, because I feel like I’m going to kill myself.' And I didn’t.") She also spoke about losing her mother suddenly to an aneurysm when she was 12 and how it left her with unresolved trauma.