More: Congratulations on your new memoir, Happy Accidents. Why that particular title?
Jane Lynch: It works on many levels. The book is the conclusion of my life taking care of me. I learned I needed to go one way in order to do what I wanted to do.
More: In the book you talk about your teens and your struggle with your sexuality. Why was it a struggle? Were you trying to deny you were gay?
JL: Yeah. I wanted to be just like everyone else and fit in. I didn’t want to be different. I didn’t know anyone who was gay. I thought it was a sickness. I had friends one who told me about boys holding hands in South Florida on the beach, and I thought to myself, “Oh my God, I have that, or at least the girl version of that.” It felt like a curse and this horrible thing that had befallen me. I knew I had to keep it a secret.
More: When did you know you were gay?
JL: When I was, like, 11 or 12, but I always knew I liked girls and didn’t want to be with boys. It wasn’t until my friends put a label to it that I was like, “Oh gosh, I have that. I am different.”
More: No one knew?
JL: No. I felt I didn’t even fit in with my family, even though I knew they were a very loving group of people. I was always looking to be understood. I remember walking up the street in my neighborhood and asking the women, “Do you understand me? Will you be my mommy?”
More: What did they say?
JL: I would find a few that would take me in and give me a cup of milk.
More: You write about how you turned to alcohol to deal with this struggle.
JL: I loved the feeling of that soft place you go to when you drink. I was constantly searching for that place and so I ended up drinking too much.
More: Were you an alcoholic?
JL: I started around 14 years old and I drank until I was 31. Although everyone in my town drank when they were young, I was still drinking when everyone else was starting to get married and have children. It got to a point where I knew emotionally I had to quit. It was a big problem.
More: How big?
JL: I had debilitating hangovers. I lived to have the drink and I did anything I could to have the drink. It didn’t matter if I had to have it alone or in a bar—I just had to have it.
More: Did you drink when you got up?
JL: No. I would start around 5 pm. I wasn’t one of those people who got up looking for the drink or the drug. The people in town who knew me never knew I had a problem. But I knew I had a problem.
More: How did you hide your problem?
JL: I didn’t really hide it. Everyone in my culture did the same thing, only they didn’t suffer the way I did. I don’t think they had the compulsion the way I did.
More: What made you get sober? Did you hit rock bottom or get a kick in the tush?
JL: I got a wake-up call. I hit my own bottom. It wasn’t dramatic. I was struck sober. It wasn’t like things got really bad and I lost everything. I kind of got a plunk on the head and have been sober ever since. Something just clicked and I said, that’s it. After a few months of sobriety, I started going to AA and I've stuck with it ever since.
More: Now that you are a big star and attend tons of Hollywood parties, is it hard to be surrounded by people consuming alcohol?
JL: No. I have been sober 20 years, so I have been at this a long time. At the end of the day I rarely say, “Hey, I got through the day without drinking” because now it is my habit not to drink.