Many know Stacey Dash as Dionne Davenport from the hit 1995 film "Clueless" or in later years, as a commentator on Fox News. But what many don't know is that the 54-year-old and mother of two has lived with a prescription pill addiction for years.
Dash opened up exclusively on "The Dr. Oz Show" about her opioid addiction on Thursday and said she wanted to speak out for the first time after so long because she believed Dr. Oz could "help bring understanding" to her story.
A rough beginning
Dash, who grew up in the South Bronx in New York City, said her parents were drug addicts and that she tried drugs for the first time at the age of 8.
She told Dr. Oz that her father was a heroin addict and while she doesn't know if her mom used heroin, she knows she smoked crack and used cocaine. She explained she stayed mostly in the care of babysitters when she was young and also revealed that she was sexually molested when she was 4.
"That was pretty terrible and that was something that I had to later deal with, and I'm so happy that I did," Dash said.
Dash said that she was a straight-A student and was accepted to the Dance Theatre of Harlem, but that her mom wouldn't attend. "Instead, for my Sweet 16, she gave me my first line of cocaine."
She said the memories of her childhood trauma didn't reveal themselves until she was 17 when she tried to end her life.
"I was a very angry, angry teenager," she said.
Dash credited a friend for saving her life after they showed up at her house and drove her to the emergency room. After that, she left home to live with her godfather, who she said was also a drug addict, and began to pursue her own dreams.
A desire to change
Although her family life was unstable, Dash made it clear that she doesn't want people thinking she's a victim. "Yeah, there were things that happened to me at a young age ... when you're a child, OK, you might be a victim. But, after that, choices I made are my own, who I became is me. I'm blaming no one."
Dash told Dr. Oz that it was the pandemic that spurred her to share her story because she could see so much pain and darkness in people.
"I don't want them to be in darkness. It kills me to drive past the tent cities and see these young kids asking for money so they can get a fix," she said. "But I know what it feels like to be jonesing. I know the pain."
She added, "I feel like telling my story, letting people know that there is no shame in being an addict. There is no shame in getting help because that's what we need. And for people who are not addicts, I would ask them to please look at people with more compassion and empathy, understanding, because they need help. They need help. Can't do it on their own."
A stark realization
Dash said she became addicted to Vicodin after she was prescribed the painkillers while getting treatment for uterine fibroids, which were very painful.
"I was taking 18 to 20 pills a day," she said of her Vicodin habit. "And no one knew."
"I lost everything," she said, revealing that she spent between $5,000 to $10,000 a month on pills.
Dr. Oz explained how risky her addiction was, noting that many of her vital organs would have been affected. "It's not just the acute episode that can take your life, it's the effects of chronic abuse," he said.
Dash said her opioid addiction nearly killed her, causing her kidneys to shut down before she was rushed to a hospital for a full blood transfusion. Dash's two children, who are now adults, were shielded from what was going on and doctors warned her she had to stop her addiction or she would die. But Dash went back to using.
She said she even took to taking Vicodin before television appearances.
Eventually, Dash said reached out to her sister and her attorney who put an intervention into action and sent her on a plane to Utah for rehabilitation.
"Even in rehab ... it wasn't until the last 10 days that I finally said, 'Oh snap, I'm an addict,'" Dash said.
Today, Dash says she is celebrating five years of sobriety. "I'm clean," she said, adding that she realizes her parents did love her and that they were "just sick."
The next chapter
Now, Dash said she wants people to know she sees things in a totally different way and moving forward with her life.
"I have never been more happy in my life because I have God."
She added she mostly wants to apologize to her children and to anyone she's ever hurt.
"I would like to just say to anyone that I've ever hurt because of the way I said things that they misunderstood me."