The Sad Way That Jamie Lee Curtis Developed a Drug Addiction

Be careful what you wish for. For most actors and actresses, the dream is to have a long career in Hollywood, landing job after job. But many of them find out the hard way that the camera lights are a little harsher than they expected. And the longer their career in the industry, the more problems they encounter.

Jamie Lee Curtis is a staple in the acting world. From Halloween to Freaky Friday, Scream Queens, and beyond, she has been in classic after classic. And while her success has been great, it also drew her to a life of addiction.

Jamie Lee Curtis
Jamie Lee Curtis | Rachel Luna/FilmMagic

What made Jamie Lee Curtis start using drugs?

All addicts have different origin stories of how their addictions started, Curtis’ began with a comment on set.

“I had a routine plastic surgery because of a cameraman,” she told Variety. “I naturally had puffy eyes. If you see photographs of me as a child, I look like I haven’t slept. I’ve just always been that person, and we were shooting a scene in a courtroom with that kind of high, nasty fluorescent light, and it came around to my coverage in the scene, and [the cameraman] said, ‘I’m not shooting her today. Her eyes are too puffy.’ I was so mortified and so embarrassed and had just so much shame about it that after that movie, I went and had routine plastic surgery to remove the puffiness. They gave me Vicodin as a painkiller for something that wasn’t really painful.”

And from that prescription, Curtis became addicted to the drug.

“I was the wildly controlled drug addict and alcoholic,” she said. “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.”

How did Jamie Lee Curtis get sober?

Curtis had been abusing pain killers for over ten years when she was finally caught.

One evening in 1998, her friend walked in on her taking five Vicodin.

“I heard this voice: ‘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,'” she recalled her friend saying.

Knowing that someone knew about her addiction meant that she had to do something about it.

Fast forward to February of 1999 and Curtis came across an article called “Vicodin, My Vicodin,” in Esquire that detailed Tom Chiarella’s addiction story. Reading it inspired her to go to a recovery meeting and start her own journey to being clean.

What made Curtis come clean about her addiction in public?

After being sober for two years, Curtis went public about her addiction in a cover story for Redbook. When the interview first started, the actress hadn’t been planning on talking about her addiction.

“It was an interview with my family, with my daughter sitting at the table in my pretty bougie house, with my pretty bougie life, with my pretty bougie dogs and my pretty bougie clothes,” she said. “And everything is really neat because I’m really neat, and all of the things that make people go like, “Oh, my God, I want that.” I was talking about how whatever was difficult — maybe something with my daughter or my husband — something had gotten so much better. I was talking about growth and metamorphosis and all the beautiful aspects of development as a human being. And the writer said, ‘What do you attribute it to?’ I looked over, and there was my daughter. And I looked back at the writer, and I said, ‘Well, I think the fact that I’ve been sober for almost two years is a big part of it.’ And 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.