Drew Barrymore Reveals How She Got Sober After "Numbing the Pain" of Her Divorce
"It was a messy, painful, excruciating walk through the fire," the actor and talk show host said.
Actor, producer, and talk show host Drew Barrymore famously battled addiction when she was a teenager, dealing with her substance use and mental health issues in rehab and an institution. Now 47, the former child star has a lengthy list of credits, two children, and a successful daytime show. But in recent years, she found herself again on a journey to sobriety. In a new interview with People, Barrymore opened up about weathering her divorce from Will Kopelman by drinking and how she was able to quit once she realized that she was in familiar, dangerous territory. Read on to learn more.
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Barrymore has been married three times.
Barrymore married bar owner Jeremy Thomas in 1994; the couple were divorced in 1995. In 2001, she tied the knot with MTV comedian Tom Green. They split the next year. She wouldn't marry again until a decade later, when she wed art consultant Will Kopelman. The couple welcomed two daughters—Olive in 2012 and Frankie in 2014—before separating and then divorcing in 2016.
"There was no scandal," Barrymore told People of the end of their relationship. "Nothing went wrong, which is cleaner, but makes it harder and more confusing because there isn't The Thing to point to. We tried so hard to make it work. [A friend] said to me, 'Divorce is the death of a dream.' That's exactly what it feels like, something so final you can't get it back."
She realized that she was using alcohol to "numb the pain."
Barrymore explained to the magazine that she felt that the divorce "broke" her, mostly because she had wanted her children to have a stable family. She herself had emancipated from her mother—who had accelerated her addiction by taking her to Studio 54 and other clubs as a child—when she was 14. The star described the years after her split from Kopelman as "cripplingly difficult" and said that she began drinking more to manage them. She had also moved to New York from Los Angeles to be near her in-laws, which made her feel lonely.
"It was just trying to numb the pain and feel good—and alcohol totally did that for me," Barrymore told People.
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She credits one thing in particular for motivating her to quit.
Her alcohol use brought up familiar feelings of inadequacy for Barrymore.
"The drinking thing for me was a constant, like, 'You cannot change. You are weak and incapable of doing what's best for you,' she said to the magazine. "'You keep thinking you will master this thing, and it's getting the better of you.'"
She was able to get sober by focusing on her daughters. "It was my kids that made me feel like it's game time," the star said. Working on creating The Drew Barrymore Show also helped, as did therapy.
Because of the responsibility Barrymore felt for the health and happiness of her children, she said that giving up drinking as an adult was "harder than the stuff [she went through] as a kid."
"It was a messy, painful, excruciating walk through the fire and come back to life kind of trajectory," Barrymore explained.
She hasn't had alcohol in over three years.
Barrymore first shared the news of her sobriety in December 2021 on CBS This Morning. At the time, she said that she had not had a drink in over two years and that she hadn't opened up about it previously because she wanted to get sober "quietly and privately."
"When you are stuck in a pattern or if you are going through things and you not only admit them out loud, but you force yourself to say, 'I'm willing to make big changes,'" the actor said on the morning show. "I think we all think we're very weak when we don't make those changes."