Andie MacDowell Details How Her Mother's Alcoholism Affected Her Life

By Lindsey Weedston 09/20/19

"I think I’ve felt responsible all my life. But I’m good at it. I’ve been in training for a long time,” MacDowell said.

Andie MacDowell

Actress and fashion model Andie MacDowell spoke on growing up with a mother who was addicted to alcohol and how that affected her own desire to consume intoxicating substances in a recent interview with The Guardian.

The 61-year-old star of film classics such as Groundhog Day and Sex, Lies, and Videotape recalls being a young model in New York and being introduced to cocaine. Thankfully, she was not a fan.

Cocaine Was Ubiquitous In Her Modeling Days

“There was a lot of cocaine around,” she said. “I had a small experience at the very beginning and hated it. I hated it! It was only, like, a month. I really didn’t like the way it felt. It didn’t make me feel good and I couldn’t sleep.”

The use of cocaine among models at the time was so common, and sober individuals so rare, that MacDowell almost ended her career at age 21, telling her agency that she wanted to go home. Instead, they introduced her to champagne heir Olivier Chandon de Brailles, who also didn’t care for drugs and alcohol, and the two started dating.

“I don’t know if they prearranged the whole thing, but it sure did work out well for me. I started working non-stop and my whole life opened up.”

As A Young Child, She Took Care Of Her Mom 

MacDowell’s distaste for drugs and alcohol began at a young age, as she watched her mother, Paula Johnston, struggle with alcohol addiction. According to the actress, she would often wake up late at night to check to make sure her mom’s last cigarette was out all the way. 

“There was this old-fashioned can opener attached to the wall and she’d be in the kitchen drinking and I’d clean the oil off the can opener and talk to her and ask: ‘Why do you drink?’” she remembered.

“There were burn marks all over the floor and on the couch; it’s amazing we didn’t burn down,” she recalled. "That’s a lot of responsibility for a child, I say. I think I’ve felt responsible all my life. But I’m good at it. I’ve been in training for a long time.”

However, she says she “always felt loved” and that she and her mother had a good relationship.

At age 17, MacDowell appealed to doctors for help with addiction treatment, but options were limited. One doctor’s decision to prescribe Valium only made the problem worse.

“That was a bad decision because then I couldn’t communicate with her,” she said. “And I communicated really well with her.”

Her mother did finally get to a better place just one year before she died of a heart attack at age 53. 

“She said she had quit drinking and that she was so proud of me. That was the last year of her life and I didn’t really get to be around it, which was super sad.”

As a mother of three herself, MacDowell was fine with her daughters getting into the acting business in spite of the not-so-hidden drug culture within, trusting that they are as disinterested in that kind of lifestyle as she is.

“We’re really kind of boring people. We barely want to go out... I’m a home body and I do yoga and I hike, that’s kind of it. No drugs and rock and roll!”

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Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at Twitter: