Drew Barrymore’s life may seem like something out of a movie because everything that happened to her by the time she was 14 sounds unreal. But, her life was all too real for her.
The Charlie’s Angel was nine when her alcoholic father, John Barrymore, left her mother, Jaid Barrymore. Since then, her mother took her to nightclubs and parties five days a week, where she had access to alcohol and drugs unrestricted. She was already famous, thanks to the Steven Spielberg film ET. However, instead of nurturing her talent and allowing her to grow in a wholesome environment, her unavailable (emotional and otherwise) parents set her on a course that was off right from the start.
The lowest point in her life came when she was 13 and had to check into rehab for her addiction problems. “Just knowing that I really was alone. And it felt… terrible. It was a really rebellious time. I would runoff. I was very, very angry,” recalled the 50 First Dates actress, according to The Guardian. However, when she asked herself why she was angry, she seemed to be able to let go of the negative emotion. She even let them off, saying, “Lots of people don’t have parents. They were gone, they couldn’t handle any of it, and I get it.”
It was also at the age of 13 that her mother locked her up in an institution. When she reflected on the difficult time now, she said that it gave her the discipline she needed in her life. “It was like serious recruitment training and boot camp, and it was horrible and dark and very long-lived, a year and a half, but I needed it. I needed that whole insane discipline. My life was not normal. I was not a kid in school with normal circumstances. There was something very abnormal, and I needed some severe shift,” she said.
Her mother, Jaid, visited her only occasionally while she was there, reported GoodtoKnow. When she left the institution, she left her mom too. She got legally emancipated from her. That set her on a life of immense financial hardship in the beginning, but her iron-will brought her up again.
She was managing an apartment on her own by the age of 14. “There was fungus growing everywhere, it was a disaster. It was in a dangerous neighborhood and I was so scared to sleep. I had bars on the window and alley cats fucking 30 feet away. I was so terrified,” she said.
The stardom she had earned had worn off and she found herself scrubbing toilets of restaurants by the age of 16. However, things took a better turn soon when she was cast for Poison Ivy at 17.
When she was asked if she knew, as a teenager, that she would taste success later in life, the mother-of-two told The Guardian, “Half no, in that I was so scared of not knowing where I was going. I really had a fear that I was going to die at 25. And half yes, because no matter how dark shit got, I always had a sense that there should be goodness. I never went all the way into darkness. There were so many things I could have done that would have pushed me over the edge and I just knew not to go there.”
As a mother herself now, she realizes how complicated her relationship with her mother was and doesn’t want to raise her children as her mother had raised her. “My relationship with my mom is so complicated… I’ve always been empathetic toward my mom, and I was even more so when I had a kid and we had a really amazing conversation about it,” she told Marie Claire. “However, it hasn’t enabled me to lessen the distance. It’s the hardest subject in my life. I’ve never just been angry with her. I’ve always felt guilt and empathy and utter sensitivity. But we can’t really be in each other’s lives at this point.”
She even makes sure that her mother has everything she needs now. “I still support her — I must know that she is taken care of or I simply cannot function. I am grateful to this woman for bringing me into this world, and it would crush me to know she was in need anywhere,” she wrote in her memoir, Wildflower, according to Vulture. “It is not who I am to harbor any anger for the fact that our life together was so incredibly unorthodox.”
Even though her family, especially her mother, put her through a lot of emotional abuse, the cheerful and funny actress has come a long way and become a powerhouse all on her own now.