It’s not easy for any celebrity to come out in sobriety after years of scrutiny under the public eye, which is why it is particularly impressive when someone famous admits to having a problem and becomes an advocate against the stigma of addiction. Recently, Jessica Simpson became one of those brave stars to own up to her truth and tell the world about her struggles with drinking and pills.
“I was killing myself with all the drinking and pills,” she writes in the book, revealing to the world a truth that we didn’t know was in her.
“I was killing myself with all the drinking and pills.”
For the first time in her life, Simpson reveals that she was sexually abused as a young girl and how the lingering emotional trauma, along with career pressures, led her to self-medicate with alcohol and stimulants. In the new book, which was released on February 4th, 2020, she talks about how getting sober was easy — it was what came after that was difficult.
“Giving up the alcohol was easy,” she told People. “I was mad at that bottle. At how it allowed me to stay complacent and numb.” The hard part came when she attempted to heal her childhood pain with therapy. Therapy, as it turned out, was not easy as she worked through her feelings about being sexually abused and learned to sit with her uncomfortable feelings without numbing out. “With work, I allowed myself to feel the traumas I’d been through.”
It’s a story familiar to many of us who struggle with substance use disorder: Childhood trauma can be a risk factor for nearly all behavioral health and substance use disorders, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). But recognizing you need to get help can still be difficult, as Simpson bravely writes in Open Book.
For Simpson, that moment of recognition came on Halloween 2017.
“It was 7:30 in the morning and I’d already had a drink,” she wrote about her own personal rock bottom. Later in the afternoon, she got dressed for a Halloween party but was too inebriated to help dress her kids when her husband, Eric Johnson, asked. “I was terrified of letting them see me in that shape,” she wrote. “I am ashamed to say that I don’t know who got them into their costumes that night.”
The next morning, after taking Ambien to go sleep, Simpson kid from her kids until they left and drank. Finally, her closest friends came over that same day and she was able to reveal the truth: “I need to stop. Something’s got to stop. And if it’s the alcohol that’s doing this, and making things worse, then I quit.”
“I need to stop. Something’s got to stop. And if it’s the alcohol that’s doing this, and making things worse, then I quit.”
From there, Simpson was able to get the help she needed. With her friends around her, a team of doctors, the support of her parents, and twice-a-week therapy sessions, Simpson faced up to the emotional pain she experienced from her childhood sexual abuse and the anxiety that led her to reach for a drink. Over the past year, she has slowly reclaimed her life.
“It was a long, hard emotional journey,” she told People magazine.
Today, Simpson has been able to find joy in being more present with her family (husband Johnson and their three kids, daughter Maxwell, son Ace, and baby Birdie.) “I had room for so many wonderful moments that I would have missed: Sober for the first time ever in my studio and seeing Maxwell grab a guitar. Ace in pajamas he put on himself, proudly adding a sticker to his bedtime chart.”
“There’s just no better gift,” she said. “There’s no better gift I can give my kids, there’s no better gift I can give my husband. More importantly, there’s no better gift I can give myself.”