Jamie Lee Curtis: ‘I refer to myself as a junkie simply so I demystify it’

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Jamie Lee Curtis is one of the celebrities profiled by Variety for their recovery issue, which also features a really wonderful interview with Danny Trejo. He’s been sober 51 years and he still goes to meetings and helps other addicts. They also have an article about the science of addiction and recovery as well as an interview with Elton John! Jamie has been open for years about the fact that she was an opiate addict for about ten years up until the late 90s. Addiction runs in her family, she’s said her parents were alcoholics and she lost a brother at just 20 to a heroin addiction. She’s been sober for over 20 years. She stopped by going to meetings after her family and friends noticed her addiction and urged her to stop.

Did you ever take pills while you were working?
I was the 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. 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.

Who knew about your addiction?
No one. No one knew at all. Not one person knew except the people I would get [the painkillers] from.

What did you say to your friend who caught you taking the pills in the kitchen?
I think I sobbed and thanked her, and told her I loved her.

Do you remember standing up for the first time in a recovery meeting and saying, “I’m an addict”?
For me it’s a hybrid because I also drank too much in a very controlled way, in a very Jamie way. 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.

[From Variety]

I almost didn’t cover this, but the way Jamie described her addiction was so much like me. My problem was booze, I thought I was hiding it and I thought I was controlling it. I would drink at home every night, but I didn’t start until after dinner, and I tracked my intake so I couldn’t have been an alcoholic. I ran my own business, my house was always clean and no one knew, I thought. Only I was miserable, I could never have just one and I was always planning my life around my drinking. I never went out at night because I was responsible and wouldn’t drink and drive. So many people live like this, the way that Jamie describes. She said that things were great on the outside and her marriage, family and career was going great but that she was an addict behind the scenes. She decided to go public after two years sober because she didn’t want people looking at her life, thinking it was perfect and wondering how she achieved that. I could relate to so much of what she said.

Variety also has a video with Jamie, which is where I got the quote in the title. It’s so much more powerful than just reading these quotes and I cried watching it. She said “If you are asking yourself ‘can I stop this?’ then you are in a prison in your own mind, and I was in that prison, even though I was fabulous.” Thank you Jamie.

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photos credit: WENN and Variety

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39 Responses to “Jamie Lee Curtis: ‘I refer to myself as a junkie simply so I demystify it’”

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  1. Minnie says:

    She is still a badass!!!!

    • BayTampaBay says:

      Love this woman. She hand Helen Mirren, Queen of the Island Nation of Fuckingfantastica, are my two favorite badass broads.

  2. Originaltessa says:

    She’s always so real and honest, but not in an attention seeking way. She just tells it like it is and how she lived it. I really love her.

    • Chelle says:

      I’ve always liked her too.

      I also know people who have had standards and boundaries around their addictions (until they didn’t). Therefore, in their minds, it wasn’t an addiction and they weren’t addicts. In past, I guess they would be called functional addicts. Meaning the other areas of their lives hadn’t yet collapsed, they were showing up at work on time and looking like they should be looking. Not reeking of alcohol, cigarette smoke if they sat up all night at a casino or not jumpy and irritable due to lack of sleep or because they needed a hit or the next fix.

  3. Sarah says:

    I am concerned people living with chronic pain will be demonised and discriminated against if we keep publishing articles like this

    • DaisySharp says:

      Me too. You can’t even get a painkiller these days. I go through periods where my back flares up something terrible and I just can’t get them. My heart goes out to those suffering chronically. This has all been overkill. So she takes a Vicodin at the end of the day and she’s a junkie. Give me a break.

      • Carina says:

        @Daisy

        Forgive me if this is an ignorant suggestion but have you tried medical marijuana? There are some potent Indica strains ( Indica been the particular type of marijuana plant that helps people with excruciating physical pain )

        Often I know some people that had to switch from opiates to that because they were at risk for getting either addicted or too dependent on them. I wish you luck in recovery nonetheless – there’s so little understood, not enough empathy for this. Stay strong – you know it, I don’t even need to say that to you guys – you are strong for dealing with it. Every day. Hug.

      • DaisySharp says:

        If you have to ask, then you haven’t needed a prescription painkiller in the last 5 years.

      • Allie says:

        Thank you for this nice reply. Well, not.

        From the article I got the impression that she got her painkillers illegally so I do not see the problem for people who have chronic pain and go to a doctor that already knows them.

    • Lizzie says:

      you should be more concerned that people living with chronic pain are at risk b/c of doctors who don’t pay attention, science that is not focused on treatment outside of pain meds b/c it is $$$ for lots of industries to focus on pain control rather than healing and the fact that whether or not you abuse prescription drugs you are still physically addicted to opiates when you use them for long enough there will be on a course of escalation in use as your body gets used to them and your pain worsens. people who use opiates responsibly can and will still suffer from withdraw that puts them into worse physical pain, depression and temporary painful side effects that could derail their healthy treatment. increased opiate use is still a problem for people who need it not b/c of their behavior but the medical industry and how it deals with these new pain disorders.

      • BayTampaBay says:

        Daisy, Lizzie and Sarah, My thoughts and prayers are with all of you as I have a friend with the same chronic pain problem you have described.

      • DaisySharp says:

        Thank you Bay, but I do not suffer chronically. Just flare ups. It was a lot easier when I could get Vicodin so on those days I would take one, or one in the morning and one at night before bed, and viola! so now I struggle through those days and nights, but it’s not daily or even weekly. I’m fine. I just know what it’s like, and worry it could become chronic some day. And so my heart really goes out to those who have chronic pain now. And are taken off of the meds that allowed them a quality of life they cannot have without them. It’s become puritanical IMO. Sorry, that is how I feel.

      • Lizzie says:

        @BayTampBay – thank you but i do not suffer from chronic pain myself. my mother does. however – i work in the medical industry, specifically the business side of research and development. i see what is being developed in clinical trials in the US and what science is not being focused on. i see the attitudes of the government (in terms of funding), academia (they get shit end of stick) and pharmaceutical companies and at the end of the day – whatever makes the $$ and solves the problem fastest is what gets settled on and it isn’t always what is best for people with the diseases.

    • Noodle says:

      Totally agree. I suffer from chronic migraine, and my neurologist is wonderful about making sure I have the meds I need to manage my disease. I had to sign pages of contracts saying He would be my only provider of medications, and he tracks my pill usage to ensure I’m not also getting meds from other sources. That said, I don’t tell many people what I’m on or how often I take meds for my migraines, because they don’t understand. I’ve had a lot of people, who, when I explain that I have chronic migraine, ask me if I’m dehydrated, or if I’ve tried essential oils/gluten-free diet/counseling. I know people mean well, but essential oils are not going to take away migraines that occur 4 times a week. Then they go on a rant against “Big Pharma” and how medicine uses people like me to make money. There are things that help (massage, acupuncture, meditation), but that’s more for managing the pain rather than taking it away. The medications are the only thing that works 90% of the time; they ARE addictive and I wish I didn’t have to take them. That said, I would not be able to function as a wife, mother, friend or employee if I didn’t have some pain relief. I’m thankful I found a good doctor. So many people suffer needlessly because doctors fear the fallout of prescribing.

      • DaisySharp says:

        I’m glad you found this doctor. Reading what people say to you enrages me. Essential oils! Bah!

      • Lizzie says:

        omg – please throw essential oils on those people and light a match

      • megs283 says:

        people are idiots. Noodle, I’m glad you have a supportive doctor and you have found treatment that works for you. As an “outsider” – I see a clear difference between someone who is responsible with their doctor about their medication and someone who just wants to slip into a warm bath, as JLC put it.

      • lucy2 says:

        I know someone who has chronic migraine as well – she tried eliminating all kinds of stuff, nothing helped, but medication does. The injection works the best for her, don’t know if your doctor has tried that yet?

      • Ali says:

        I’m currently managing a spinal pain issue and if one more person says oh Advil, ice and rest is all you need I’m going to rip off my throbbing arm and beat them with it!!!

        Pain is no joke. It interferes with regular daily life. Pain remedies should be available and research better funded.

        My mom died of a pain pill overdose (accidental she was addicted and weak and her heart gave out). She had a pain pill mill dr. The system is very, very broken.

      • TheOtherViv says:

        I feel you. I have had to sit on my hands in order not to slap “helpful folks”. I’ve been told to have a glass of water, to never ever drink Coke again, to meditate, to not eat wheat or corn by peeps who did not know me from Adam. Even my better half was annoying the first year we got together asking me “Do you really need to take this pill? Maybe take a nap? Go see another doctor! Someone who can heal you!” He understands better now, bless him. Everyone and their mama has a quick solution for your 40 yr old chronic disease. My favorite one is: “oh I used to have a migraine sometimes, my jaw/shoulder was dislocated- I got an acupuncture session and it was GONE FOREVER”. Now these people I want to throw essential oils on like suggested.

      • Noodle says:

        @lucy2, I have tried the preventative Emgality (I think that’s the injection you refer to, or one like it, like Aimovig or Jovy). The Emgality did help with my migraines, but the side effects were brutal. I had terrible, constant pressure behind my eyes, so much that I could barely read or function. My neuro took me off of it. These meds are so new that no one really knows what the side effects will be; on my migraine sub on Reddit (r/migraine if anyone wants to join), those medications have helped a lot of people, but some, like me, had side effects that negated their use. I also get Botox for migraines, as well all the abortives (triptans, etc), but those can’t be taken more than two days in a row, max 9 pills a month. I cannot take NSAIDS (due to gastric bleeding) so in terms of pain relief for my neck (where my migraines start), I’m limited to Tylenol, opiates, and Toradol.

      • Noodle says:

        @megs283, @lizzie I share your feelings towards essential oils, and most migraine sufferers do as well. For so many of us, strong smells trigger migraines (along with lights and hormones), so the thought of using EOs to treat them is asinine. One person told me that the EO’s I used weren’t pure enough and wouldn’t you know it, SHE could sell me the super-pure ones that would cure me. These are the same people who tell me I don’t have enough faith or I would be healed, and that they get migraines too and a little Motrin and EOs cure her “migraines.” Yeeeaahhh, get out of here with that BS.

      • Nina says:

        Oh man. If I could wish for anything (aside from not getting migraines at all), it would be for people to stop offering suggestions the moment they hear I have migraines.

        Yes, I know that they are just trying to be helpful but there is a 99.999999% chance that I have already hear this suggestion before from several people. I have a neurologist. I don’t need Random Person #2,783,684,763,287,498,347 telling me that I should cut out MSG and meditate more.

        That’s really too bad that Aimovig did not help you — I’ve gone from 12+ migraines a month to .. none. Granted, it’s only been a month and a half but I cannot even remember a time when I went a month and a half without a migraine.

        I hope you can find your magic bullet too. <3

    • Kristen says:

      I don’t think it’s reasonable or fair to say that addicts can’t talk openly about their own experiences because others are differently struggling with access to medication. People being afraid to talk about their addictions is a big reason that those behaviors continue – telling someone struggling with addiction that they can’t speak about what they’re going through because of how it might impact others’ perceptions of you is pretty short-sighted.

  4. Lucy2 says:

    I had no idea she went through that, I’m glad she’s doing well and speaking up to help others.
    Also, that black jacket with the bird and flowers is stunning.

  5. Allergy says:

    That cover photo is really nice.

  6. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    She’s a bad ass and the way she shares her experience is great. I’m jumping over to read Danny Trejo’s story next. I LOVE him!

  7. Cindy says:

    I can’t say I control my addictions like she does, but I can relate to the self-diagnosis part. For the longest time I convinced myself I was just a stoner and I smoked 3 joints a day because it’s what I like. It’s just weed.

    But deep down I knew it was more than that. I smoked 3 joints a day because if I didn’t I’d get crazy anxious. I burned away all my money. I straight up started buying less food to smoke more weed. I’d wake up in the morning saying this is my weedless day. Then I’d smoke a joint after breakfast. Like Jaime I never did it before work but I ALWAYS had to do it right after. I didn’t even enjoy it anymore – out of 10 highs, 2 were fun and enjoyable, 4 just gave me a numb feeling that was gone before I noticed, and the other 4 were *horrible* guilt trips or getting extremely paranoid about the most far-fetched and implausible scenarios.

    I still can’t control it. It’s so weird. I go through cycles were I can just smoke 1 well-timed joint a day or spend a few days without smoking, and then I go back to 3 joints a day. Thing is even when I control myself – I’m still thinking about weed. When I contain myself to just smoke 1 joint, it is so I can feel guilt-free about smoking it.

    Just to be clear I’m not trying to demonize weed here – I know a lot of people have a healthy relationship with it, but I sure as hell don’t.

  8. A says:

    She’s so brave for talking about this publicly. I wish her the best.

  9. Veronica S. says:

    From what I’ve experienced, more we take away the stigma attached to drug addiction, the more we stop seeing it as a “drug” problem and more of a “disease” problem. There’s no reason to deny people with chronic health problems necessary opioids if we look honestly at cases of addiction with a mind toward rehabilitation. Why is this person being driven to drugs and alcohol, not why do they *like* drugs and alcohol. It’s one of the most complicated diseases because active it’s one of the few where you actively choose to create your disease state, so we need to treat it with equal nuance in the approach toward healing.

  10. stormsmama says:

    This really speaks to me:
    ” Only I was miserable, I could never have just one and I was always planning my life around my drinking. I never went out at night because I was responsible and wouldn’t drink and drive. ”
    This was me.
    I finally told my doc in september that i needed to see a shrink. I saw the shrink.
    But the one thing I was still not admitting TO MYSELF
    and that was SO FREEING was when i said outloud I am really struggling – the alcohol is a problem! I was probably an alcoholic from my first beer!
    And now that i am not drinking every day feels so amazing! Bc I’ve committed to ME. I am suddenly not planning my life around drinking and hiding how much I’m drinking…
    And I can be a good present parent and spouse.

  11. 20 year junkie says:

    Addiction is a decision that passes a cost benefit calculation for the addicted party. Most people use substances and do not become addicted. Those who abuse substances quit when they get something in their lives that means more to them than the drug, like a family, which is why excessive use ends at around 30 years of age for most people.

    It is cataclysmically painful and shameful to admit that your family means less to you than your drug. These are the people who have generational emotional trauma driving their need to patch their feelings with their substance, and that is where they need to start work.

    AA only works for 5-10 % of people in the long run; so the disease/higher power model doesn’t pass an audit. Please look up Gene Heyman, Stanton Peele, Alice Miller. Thank you.

    • Sunnydaze says:

      THANK YOU for your comment on 12 step programs. For some people, great. But it’s not the majority and we need to treat them as “a tool in the toolbox”. There was an excellent article a while back, I think it was called “the irrationality of AA”or something like that, but basically pointed out we can’t say it’s effective (cuz you can’t study it by it’s anonymous nature), there’s no way to regulate it, no way to protect vulnerable people from predators (recalling a story a while back about a woman killed by her so-called sponsor for rejecting his advances – turns out he had been mandated to AA as part of domestic violence court) . Some groups (not all!!) Even go so far as to prohibit use of any medication, including psychotropic for mental health. People struggling with opioid dependence do exponentially better on buprenophine, methadone, hell even naltrexone. There is research for that and I see it ever day in my line of work. Unfortunately many do stop taking it because their home group doesn’t consider MAT being “clean”. So yes, 12 steps can be great, but we need to do better destigmatizing medication and actual therapy and stop putting 12 steps on a pedestal. If it works for you awesome! But understand that’s the minority of folks.

  12. Justwastingtime says:

    my family has been dealing with my mom’s addiction and it’s been so painful. Weirdly the thing that my mother is addicted to, opioids, I am allergic to…so I wonder if we just both are genetically programmed to respond oddly to that drug