Dennis Quaid: Cocaine Addiction Taught Me Humility

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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."

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."

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."

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.

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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