Drew Barrymore has been famous since she was a young child and, as a preteen and young teenager, publicly battled with drug and alcohol dependence. After she got sober at age 14, she became a box office darling, and now, the host of The Drew Barrymore Show has disclosed her much more recent fight with alcohol dependence.
“It just took me down,” Barrymore told People in a wide-ranging cover story published Tuesday. “There are times where you can look at someone you think is a strong person and see them so broken and go, ‘How the f*** did they get there?’ And I was that person. I broke.”
She said she started drinking again during the “crippingly difficult” years following her divorce from Will Kopelman in 2016, when she moved her then-2- and 3-year-old daughters from California to New York so they could be closer to extended family.
“I was just trying to numb the pain and feel good—and alcohol totally did that for me,” Barrymore told People.
The divorce and the end of what she thought her life would look like was obviously devastating, and Barrymore took it hard. “After the life I planned for my kids didn’t work out — I almost think that was harder than the stuff [I went through] as a kid. It felt a lot more real because it wasn’t just me. It was about these kids that I cared so much about,” the actor explained.
Barrymore became a massive child star after E.T., and so the story goes, she started going to parties with her mother where there was drugs and alcohol present and became a cautionary tale. But rehab helped her get sober as a young teenager—and she drew from those memories and experiences to pull herself through her most recent bout of problematic drinking. “I probably cared so much that I was only giving to [her kids] and not taking care of myself. It was a messy, painful, excruciating walk-through-the-fire-and-come-back-to-life kind of trajectory,” she said.
I’m sure it’s difficult to talk publicly about falling backward in your addiction journey, especially when it’s such a public part of your biography. But talking about relapses and changes in addictive behavior is important, and Barrymore being comfortable talking about her relapse (my word choice, not hers) is brave. Being honest about our failings is brave.
“It was my kids that made me feel like it’s game time,” Barrymore said. Then she started developing The Drew Barrymore Show, and it “gave me something to focus on and pour myself into. It gave us something to believe in.”
I’m very proud of Barrymore for sharing all this, and on a lighter note, I’m so glad she was able to focus her energy on her talk show. Otherwise, we would have missed out on her utterly deranged and delightful interview with Aubrey Plaza—and no one would be better for that.