First Posted: 3/24/2010
PEMBROKE As child actor Jodie Sweetin spoke to about 400 people Tuesday in Pembroke, she bumped the microphone with her hand.
She laughed, saying 16 months ago a mistake like that would have sent her looking for alcohol.
I would have been like, Ill be right back, she said.
Sweetin, the final celebrity in the Distinguished Speaker Series at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, played Stephanie Tanner on the TV show Full House from 1987 to 1995. She talked mostly about her 14-year struggle with alcohol and drug addiction, which began with feeling like she didnt belong. She was adopted from an alcoholic mother and a convict father, a year younger than her classmates, an only child, and on TV from age 3 and friends with people older than her.
Even going into first grade, I already had these issues of being different, the 28-year-old said. … I was looking for that key to unlock that thing inside myself that would make me OK.
As she embarked on this search, Full House was canceled and her quarter-life crisis hit. She was conflicted about continuing her career or just being a student.
At age 13 when I started high school, I felt completely lost, she said. … I never felt right-sized in my own skin.
She also tried alcohol for the first time at 13 when she attended the wedding of a Full House cast member. Someone poured her a glass of red wine. She drank it and felt smart enough, pretty enough, perfect enough. I found it; Im OK now. I want to do this as often as possible, she thought.
I wanted to drink to the point of oblivion, she said.
Her first taste of alcohol resulted in her first black out. By 15, she smoked marijuana before school and loaded down a mug with coffee and Kahlua to take with her. She began to disconnect from family and friends as she headed to college.
I did everything I could possibly do to get my next drink or next bag of weed, she said.
After earning a 0.9 grade-point average, attending drug and alcohol counseling and cutting herself, she elected to quit drinking.
Im going to smoke pot and thats it which is a pretty good plan if you want to be a big pothead, she said.
She dabbled with cocaine and Ecstasy before obtaining sobriety and placing a Band-Aid on a big gaping wound. She thought her problem would go away even if she didnt work at it.
My life was getting better and everything was OK, she said. … I still didnt know how to get along with others, my parents, myself.
For more than two years, her life went well. She finished college, married in 2002 and bought a house, then tried alcohol again and methamphetamine. As her speed addiction escalated to daily usage, she hid the abuse from her husband and parents for another two years. Only a hospital stay for severe alcohol poisoning led her to admit the truth and enter rehabilitation.
I felt panicked because the one thing that kept me going was gone again, she said.
She used several times during rehab, a fact she only recently disclosed in her 2009 memoir unSweetined a story of facing demons, finding yourself, and telling the whole truth.
I wasnt ready to jump in and work at it, she said.
She publicly talked about her addictions after a second trip to rehab an act that garnered an offer to be a national speaker against drug and alcohol use. She relapsed again, coming off benders as she spoke.
I was too scared to be honest, she said.
In 2007, she married again, thinking a relationship would fix me, that would make me better, she said. She became pregnant and stopped using.
I was physically sober and miserable, she said, adding that she drank occasionally during the nine months. The birth of her daughter, Zoie, in 2008, gave her something to live for and terrified her. She returned to alcohol when Zoie was a month old and rehab at 5 months old.
Sober and clean since December 2008 the best 16 months of my life Sweetin said she is free now from the insecurity and lies. No one can taunt her with secrets because she wrote them in her book, even the ones about her biological parents and drug and alcohol usage while in rehab that she hid for years.
I can walk into a room and not be afraid of myself and you liking me, she said.
I work the 12 steps. I go to therapy. I hang out with sober people. I had to change my friends, my environment. And I try to be of service. … I now realize that a child, a relationship, a house cant keep me sober. Its work I have to do.
At the close of her talk, Sweetin answered questions from members of the audience. One woman said her parents were an addict and alcoholic and thanked Sweetin for striving for sobriety for her daughters sake. Sweetin wiped away tears and thanked the woman.