Dennis Quaid: Cocaine Addiction Taught Me Humility

Celebrity Body Apr. 11, 2011 AT 2:07PM
Dennis Quaid: Cocaine Addiction Taught Me Humility Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty

Dennis Quaid spent the majority of his early career high on cocaine.

In an essay for Newsweek, the 57-year-old Soul Surfer actor comes clean about his drug-riddled foray into Hollywood -- and how it almost cost him everything.

"My greatest mistake was being addicted to cocaine. I started after I left college and came to Los Angeles in 1974," the actor recalls. "It was very casual at first. That's what people were doing when they were at parties."

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Due to his small-town roots, Quaid felt overwhelmed by the pressure to keep up with life in the fast lane.

"Coming from where I came from -- lower-middle-class life, from Houston into Hollywood -- and all of a sudden this success starts happening to you, I just didn't know how to handle that," he writes. "Doing blow just contributed to me not being able to handle the fame, which, at the time, I guess I felt I didn't deserve."

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What was once an occasional party habit quickly turned into a severe drug dependency when Quaid began filming The Big Easy in the late '80s.

"I was getting an hour of sleep a night," the actor recalls. "I'd wake up, snort a line and swear I wasn't going to do it again that day. But then 4 o'clock rolled around, and I'd be right back down the same road like a little squirrel on one of those treadmills. The lack of sleep made it so my focus wasn't really there, which affected my acting."

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When his band, The Eclectics, broke up following a gig at the China Club in L.A., Quaid "had one of those white-light experiences that night where I kind of realized I was going to be dead in five years if I didn't change my ways."

The following day, Quaid -- who was married to actress Meg Ryan at the time -- checked himself into rehab. Things only got worse once he was released, as Quaid relapsed after 1990's Wilder Napalm flopped at the box office.

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Now clean and sober -- and a married father of three -- Quaid says he wouldn't trade his experiences for anything.

"That time in my life -- those years in the '90s recovering -- actually chiseled me into a person. It gave me the resolve and a resilience to persevere in life," he says. "If I hadn’t gone through that period, I don’t know if I'd still be acting. In the end, it taught me humility. I really learned to appreciate what I have in this life."

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