Dennis Quaid Revisits "White Light" Moment That Spurred His Recovery

By Victoria Kim 07/25/18

“I was basically doing cocaine pretty much on a daily basis during the ‘80s."

Dennis Quaid

Since kicking off his acting career in the '70s, former Hollywood “bad boy” Dennis Quaid has come out on the other side of cocaine addiction—“my greatest mistake.” Quaid, now 64, revisited the height of his cocaine use and the turning point that made him want to quit, during a recent interview.

“I grew up in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and there was a completely different attitude about it then. Even in some movie budgets. I kept roaring on,” he told Megyn Kelly.

“I was basically doing cocaine pretty much on a daily basis during the ‘80s. I spent many, many a night screaming at God to please take this away from me, I’ll never do it again because I’ve only got an hour before I have to be at work.”

But by the afternoon, the young actor would change his mind, and the cycle would continue.

By the time he was filming The Big Easy (1986), he’d sleep for just one hour a night. “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,” he wrote in a 2011 Newsweek essay. “I was doing my best imitation of an asshole there for a little while, trying to pretend everything was okay.

"Meanwhile my life was falling apart, and I noticed myself, but I was hoping everyone else didn’t.”

Quaid struggled to quit until the late '80s, when he finally sought help. “I had a white light experience where I saw myself either dead or losing everything that meant anything to me,” he told Kelly.

He provided more detail about his moment of clarity in his Newsweek essay: “I had a band then, called The Eclectics. One night we played a show at the China Club in LA, and the band broke up… because it all got too crazy. I 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 next day I was in rehab.”

But even after rehab, Quaid recalled that things got worse before they got better.

“It was one of those times when you think, ‘Well, if I do the right thing and clean up my life, it’ll get better.’ No, it got worse! In 1990 I did Wilder Napalm, which came out and went down the tubes. But 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 wrote. “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 learn to appreciate what I have in this life.”

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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