Carol Burnett Opens Up About Daughter Carrie & Her Addiction Struggles

By Victoria Kim 05/04/18

“We reasoned, cajoled and pleaded with Carrie, but you can’t reason with a chemical.”

Carole Burnett
Photo via YouTube

Back in the '70s, TV icon Carol Burnett famously detailed the turmoil that her daughter’s drug use put her family through, choosing to speak up about her struggles as a parent to help other families going through the same experience.

In a recent interview with People, Burnett, who is promoting her new Netflix series A Little Help with Carol Burnett, remembered her daughter Carrie Hamilton as a kind soul—a writer, actress, and a musician. “She was very interested in people. She never met a stranger,” said Burnett. “I think it’s in our genes…[knowing] you can make somebody’s day by being kind.”

Hamilton passed away in 2002 at the age of 38 from cancer. “I think of her every day. She never leaves me… I just feel her,” said Burnett, now 85. “You don’t get over it, but you cope. What else can you do?”

Hamilton, who starred in the TV series Fame, had a very public battle with drug use—Quaaludes, cocaine, and heavy use of cannabis—as a teenager. “She got sober when she was 17. I put her in a third rehab place, and oh my God, she hated me,” Burnett told People. “I came to the conclusion that I had to love her enough to let her hate me.”

Carrie’s famous mother and father, producer Joe Hamilton, eventually shared their experience with the world, in the October 1979 issue of People magazine. They detailed the arguments, ultimatums, and the erratic behavior that came with Carrie’s drug use.

“I started to stutter. I was nervous and exhausted,” Burnett said in the 1979 article. “We were helpless and totally incapable of dealing with it. I could talk or think of nothing else, and it was driving a wedge in our marriage.”

Some parents can no doubt relate. “We reasoned, cajoled and pleaded with Carrie, but you can’t reason with a chemical,” she continued. “I felt sorry and guilty. By then Carrie was a virtual prisoner in our house.”

Carrie, a teenager at the time, recalled to People how she got lost in the lifestyle. “After a while you can’t remember how many you’ve taken,” she said. “First you take the drug, then the drug takes you.”

Burnett remembered seeing her daughter for the first time since she entered treatment. Carrie had asked to see her after her first sober 30 days. “We held each other for 15 minutes and cried. She looked so wonderful,” said Burnett. “I hadn’t seen her in there for a long time.”

Burnett told People in her latest interview that life changed after Carrie committed to sobriety. The mother and daughter had a markedly different relationship, and began working together.

“She got sober and we started bonding. We wound up working together, writing a play together. We worked together in three shows,” she said.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr