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Video: ‘Full House’ star comes clean about drug use

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    announcer: of all. a hallmark card.

    >>> we're back at 8:21. with former child star jodie sweetin . for eight years she played stephanie tanner on the hit sitcom " full house ." take a look.

    >> if he could talk i'm sure he would say -- hahahaha.

    >> more than a decade later, she's telling her story in the book "unsweetined," a frank account about growing up onset and the turbulent years of drug addiction and turmoil that followed. good morning. did you like the eight years on " full house "?

    >> i loved the eight years on " full house ." it really was a wonderful experience in my life.

    >> when you left the show -- you started when you were --

    >> i was 5.

    >> you end when you're 13. you wry in t you write if the book stephanie's image was squeak request-clean, goodie two-shoes. you set out in some ways to become the antistephanie.

    >> yeah. going to school everybody expected you to be stephanie tanner and to be one way. i think part of establishing myself as a separate entity from stephanie all those years, i kind of did everything that i could in the beginning to be everything but stephanie tanner .

    >> you write that you had your first drink -- a weding?

    >> yes. it was at a wedding. i was 13 or 14.

    >> you say were you never the same. that it was a pivotal moment. once had you that first drink you were never the same.

    >> yeah. it was the beginning of my drinking and using and for me, it was -- i had always been looking i guess for that thing made me fit in my own skin and like i was like everyone else. then i found alcohol and drugs and that was to continue for the next few years.

    >> if the alcohol started at a wedding, how did the drugs start?

    >> the drugs really didn't start -- there were occasional times that i smoke pot during high school and things like that but the real heavy drug use really didn't start actually until my early 20s until after i had had a period of sobriety. i had experimented in college.

    >> make sure what we're understand. you were doing meth, you were doing cocaine.

    >> yes.

    >> and yet you managed in some ways to let the people around you think that everything was still pretty cool.

    >> yeah. yeah. it was -- i was leading two completely different lives and that was something that i talk about in the book that i had kind of done all of my life was be two different people simultaneously.

    >> you were acting basically.

    >> yeah.

    >> you write once you did the drugs and you got into recovery, that you went on kind of a recovery tour. you started going out telling the story of recovery on television and you started to give speeches to students at universities.

    >> right.

    >> one of the things that stands out in the book it me, you were getting ready to go to marquette university to talk to students about recovery and what it was like to live clean and sober , and you were anything but.

    >> right. when it first came out that i had gone through rehab and that i was trying to get things together, it wasn't of my own choosing that that story came out and i don't think that i was really in a place at that point in my life to really do what it took to be honest and to get to a place where what i was saying was actually true and that i was actually living by those principles in my life. you know, this book was really a chance nfor me to finally tell the story where i wanted to tell it and get to a place where i was ready to be honest.

    >> but eight hours before you speak to these students about sobriety, you're sitting with your face in a pile of drugs. it is an amazing contradiction.

    >> yeah, it is. it is something i wish i could change.

    >> motherhood changed things. your daughter zoe is 18 months old now. i was doing a little of the math and some of the hints you dropped in the book. i wonder have you been clean and sober throughout her entire life?

    >> not throughout her entire life. i will have a year clean and sober on december 8th . there were occasional instances of me drinking and making some really poor choices. but now i'll have -- i'm almost a year clean and sober and i hope that she will never have to see some of the things that i did before.

    >> is there a lesson here? we hear a lot about child stars . is there a real quick lesson?

    >> you know what? i think that everybody has to go through these things. some of us have to do it more publicly but i'm just really fortunate that i get to be honest an live my life the way i want to now.

    >> thanks, jodie.

    >> thank you so much.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 11/2/2009 11:04:08 AM ET 2009-11-02T16:04:08

In April 2007, former “Full House” child actress Jodie Sweetin took to the podium at Marquette University to tell college kids how she overcame drug addiction and try to inspire them to stay clean and sober themselves.

Little did those students know that even as she spoke, Sweetin was coming off a cocaine bender — and using her speaking fee to fund a still-raging drug habit.

Sweetin appeared on TODAY Monday to discuss her new autobiography, “Unsweetined: A Memoir,” which details a hellish battle with drugs and alcohol that began at age 14, just a year after “Full House” closed shop in 1995. Her battle continued even after she was an in-demand speaker on sobriety — and even after she gave birth to her daughter, Zoie, in 2008.

The anti-Stephanie
“Everybody has to go through things like this; some of us have to do it more publicly,” Sweetin told Matt Lauer. “But I’m just really fortunate that I get to be honest and live my life the way I want to now.”

Sweetin, now 27, warmed hearts during her eight-year run as squeaky-clean, goody-two-shoes Stephanie Tanner on “Full House.” While she told Lauer the show “was a wonderful experience in my life,” it left her with adjustment problems after it ended.

“Going to school, everybody expected you to be Stephanie Tanner,” she said. “Establishing a separate entity from Stephanie after all those years, I did everything I could in the beginning to be everything but Stephanie Tanner.”

TODAY
Jodie Sweetin (in Bob Saget’s arms) played Stephanie Tanner on “Full House” — then went out of her way to prove she wasn’t like her character.
In 1996, Sweetin had her first taste of alcohol when attending “Full House” co-star Candace Cameron’s wedding. It was a fateful first step toward a descent into substance-abuse hell.

Downward spiral
In her book, Sweetin says she drank a couple of times a week through high school, and while she experimented with pot, she began using harder drugs such as cocaine and Ecstasy in college. She said she would return home on weekends and sleep off her week of revelry to “put myself back together.”

Her drug use only increased. Sweetin admits to snorting crystal meth in a bathroom stall at the premiere of her “Full House” castmates Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s film “New York Minute” in 2004. Sweetin said she always traveled through airport security with drugs on her. In a nine-month period bridging 2006 and 2007, she estimated, she spent $60,000 on drugs.

Still, her years playing Stephanie Tanner made her an accomplished actor and made it easy for her to fool her friends and family. “I was leading two completely different lives. And that was something I had done almost my whole life, be two different people,” she told Lauer.

Jodie Sweetin recounts her years of addiction in a new memoir, “Unsweetined.”

Speaking with Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford later on TODAY, Sweetin said that, perhaps surprisingly, her drug use escalated after she married Los Angeles police office Shaun Holguin when she was 20. She became a cop's wife by day, addict by night.

“At the time I started doing the hard drugs, the methamphetamine and coke and stuff, it was a lot easier to hide than drinking,” Sweetin told Kotb and Gifford.

And while Sweetin was later also able to hide the effects of her drug use when lecturing college students about the dangers of drugs, the lies ate away at her psyche.

“I was trying to be that person that everyone was expecting me to be,” she told Kotb and Gifford of her lecture tours. “I felt like a fraud, and a lot of shame went with that. And with all that, came more using, and feeling bad about it, and continuing to do it.”

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Video: Jodie Sweetin: ‘I felt like a fraud' Sweetin’s secret habit escalated to the point where she could no longer hide it — she said she was so high on drugs one night in early 2007 that friends rushed her to the emergency room, likely saving her life in the process. She then checked into Promises Treatment Center in Malibu.

As the press caught on about her rehab stint, Sweetin became a much sought-after interview. She told her tale of recovery in a People magazine cover story and also appeared on television shows to talk about her battle.

Faking recovery
Trouble was, the battle wasn’t over. In her book, Sweetin says her story of recovery “was a good one, and it landed me the speaking jobs I needed to keep my career going and the drug money rolling in.”

It led to her engagement at Marquette, when, she now admits, she snorted cocaine until 5 a.m. the night before speaking on the dangers of drugs — and did more cocaine just before taking the stage.

“[I] put on my best TV smile … they didn’t think I was coming down from a two-day bender of coke, meth and Ecstasy, and they didn’t think I was lying to them with every sentence that came out of my mouth,” Sweetin wrote in her memoir. “I finished, they applauded. Just how I liked it.”


Sweetin told Lauer that in retrospect, she “wasn’t really in a place at that point in my life to do what it really took to be honest, and to get to a place where what I was saying was actually true.”

Sweetin did do her best to straighten out her life when she learned she was pregnant by husband Cody Herpin (they are now separated). But just a few months after daughter Zoie’s April 12, 2008, birth, she had a dangerous relapse.

TODAY
Jodie Sweetin with her baby daughter, Zoie. She admitted she used drugs even after the baby was born.
“I had two glasses of wine and drove with (Zoie) in the car,” Sweetin writes in her book. “I not only put myself in danger, but also my daughter, who I loved more than anything. I felt terrible.”

Poor choices
Sweetin has also admitted she wasn’t completely clean and sober even as she started writing her tale-of-redemption book last October. She pinpoints her date of sobriety as Dec. 8 of last year.

She’s had to pay the piper for her actions. Sweetin says she was investigated by child services after admitting driving with Zoie in the car under the influence of alcohol. And her daughter is foremost in her mind as she continues on the road to recovery.

“I made some really poor choices,” she told Lauer. “But now I’m almost a year clean and sober and I hope that [Zoie] will never have to see some of the things I did before.”

She added writing “Unsweetined” was a catharsis, allowing her “a chance to tell the story the way I wanted to tell it, and get to a place where I was ready to be honest.”

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