Valerie Bertinelli comes clean on drugs, infidelity

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/ Source: TODAY
By Jen Brown and Bob Considine

Once known as squeaky-clean Barbara Cooper on "One Day at a Time," Valerie Bertinelli's personal life actually included drug abuse, cheating on then-husband Eddie Van Halen and a long struggle with body-image issues.

Bertinelli, currently the spokeswoman for Jenny Craig, comes clean in her new memoir, "Losing It: And Gaining My Life Back One Pound at a Time," which hit the stands today.

"It's really about what happened to me, the choices I made — good, bad, ugly — and how it changed me and how I was able to get beyond that," Bertinelli told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira. "I figured I really had been under this façade for so long. And then when Jenny Craig called me and I was able to successfully do their diet, I thought there's nothing left to really hide from anymore."

Bertinelli said she tried cocaine for the first time as a teen with her troubled "One Day" co-star Mackenzie Phillips, but she really got into the drug after getting together with rocker Eddie Van Halen, whom she married when she was 20, just eight months after they started dating.

In her book, Bertinelli confesses that drugs were part of the marriage from the start ... literally: "The priest we tapped to perform the ceremony gave us questionnaires so he could get to know us better and offer more personal words. As we filled out the forms at home, we each held a little vial of coke."

"It doesn't really bode well for the marriage, I don't think," she told Vieira.

Drugs were more of a way to fit in on the rock 'n' roll scene — as well as a way to control her weight — than a pleasurable experience for Bertinelli, however ("I'm a food addict, that's my downfall," she said), and she eventually gave up partying while Van Halen continued to struggle with his addiction.

It was just one of many problems with the marriage. Another was infidelity; Bertinelli and Van Halen cheated on each other, with Bertinelli first engaging in an affair early in the union. (Van Halen maintains she was the first to be unfaithful.)

"Yes, I did, four years into our marriage, cheat," she said. "And it was a shame and it was a guilt that I carried with me for a very long time. And I don't like that, so I really wanted to get that out of me."

Bertinelli also added the events of Sept. 11, 2001, prompted her to reassess her true life's journey. She and Van Halen, who have a 16-year-old son, Wolfgang, separated that year and their divorce was finalized this past December.

"I got tired of, once again, hiding and thinking this is not the life I want for myself, for Wolfie, especially, and I don't want to keep treating Ed so badly."

But with Lindsay Lohan's and Britney Spears' every indiscretion splashed across the tabloids, how did Bertinelli manage to hide her vices from the public for so long?

"Better at hiding it?" Bertinelli, 47, said with a laugh during a phone interview. "I didn't go out a lot. Any partying I did, I did at home. I didn't want to be in the spotlight ... There's an easy way to get away from the paparazzi; they're not that difficult to hide from and you don't need to go out for coffee every five minutes."

An older and wiser Bertinelli has been making her relationship with financial planner Tom Vitale work since 2004. She is also winning the weight battle she has been waging her entire professional life, having lost 40 pounds since she became a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig.

She cleared up the misconception that her weight gain was a product of her divorce.

"I think a lot of people think because I was getting the divorce, that was really the catalyst for gaining so much weight," she said. "[But] I had so many problems all through the years, ballooning and going down again. But I think really what my sorrow was, that I wasn't giving my son the life I thought he deserved and I wasn't keeping the family intact. And I think I had a lot of grief about that and that was how I soothed myself."

Wolfgang is following in his father's footsteps, playing bass with Van Halen on the band's highly successful reunion tour with David Lee Roth. Bertinelli wasn't wild about her son joining the band at such a young age, but said that she also trusts "Wolfie."

"I don't like it," Bertinelli said. "He told me, 'You were working at this age, too.' He really gave me a good argument and I said, 'I don't want you to go, but I'm not going to stop you.'

"He's at home right now. They're having a little break. He's 17 in a couple of weeks. He's driving around. He's got a girlfriend. I'm losing him!"