Melissa Gilbert Now Says No to Drugs

Melissa Gilbert wants you to know all about her troubled past. Instead of shoving it under the rug or locking it in the closet, Gilbert is sharing her story with the world because she hopes her Hollywood tale can save millions of lives. An edited version of our interview with her follows

by Ilyssa Panitz • More.com Celebrity Reporter
melissa gilbert image
Photograph: Kristen Blush

More: What prompted you to get clean?
MG: It was a gradual process. I tried drugs and alcohol recreationally in my early twenties and late teens. I mean, I was into some heavy partying with the wrong crowd. But then everything stopped when I had my first child, Dakota, at 25 years old. It was then I realized I am responsible for another life, so I’d better get my act together. Even though I still had moments where things got out of control, I was vigilant to stay healthy.

More: So you have been sober ever since?
MG: Eight years ago, my grandfather passed away, and something triggered inside me. I found myself at the end of the day not being able to fall asleep. I was full of all of these feelings that were more than just being sad. These feelings were not just about my grandfather passing away, but there were other things that had been building up. To deal with it, I would have a glass of wine or two or three or four or a couple of martinis. Before I knew it, I was drinking up to more than two bottles of wine a night.

More: By yourself?
MG: Yes, by myself. It was my son Michael who saw me refilling my glass and said point blank, “Mommy, you are not going to drink anymore, are you?” It was at that moment—August 9, to be exact—I knew I had to get sober. I haven’t had a drink since.

More: What about prescription drugs?
MG: They terrify me. I had to deal with them on an intimate level a couple of years ago when I broke my back while touring with The Little House on the Prairie Musical. We didn’t know my back was broken. If anything, we thought it was a disk. Turns out I broke part of my vertebra; it was just floating in my back. To help deal with the pain, I was traveling with all sorts of pain medications and muscle relaxers to help deal with what was going on. There were even times when I could not get out of bed due to the pain. It was so bad they would have to take me to the nearest hospital to give me morphine and steroids. But I was really scared taking this because addictions slide from one base into the other.

More: Such as?
MG: They can go from alcohol to shopping to sex, you name it. They are very patient because they just waited for the next fix.

More: Who did you turn to?
MG: My sponsor, a close friend and Dr. Drew, who worked out a plan for me to deal with this constant pain and not become addicted. Man, was that hard! I could take the medications for three days, and then I had to switch to Tylenol, which did nothing for this outrageous pain I was experiencing.

More: Has getting involved in something like this campaign helped you move away from your demons?
MG: Absolutely. One of the principles of Alcohol Anonymous, which is hard for me to do without being noticed, is to pay it forward. It is about volunteering, teaching, dealing with the problem, preventing it and getting help when needed. By taking on this job, it guarantees I will stay sober.

More: You’ve mentioned that your own children have gone down a dark path. 
MG: Yes. One of my stepsons from my last marriage had a battle with cocaine. Unfortunately for him, he got arrested right after he tried it for the first time. You would think we would know what to look for since we all tried it back in the 1980s.

More: Do your children know about your past?
MG: My family knows I am an open book. My 17-year-old recently asked me if they could go down a list of all the drugs out there and then answer yes or no as to what I have tried.

More: Your response was?
MG: I have no reason to lie.

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