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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”