Dick Van Dyke Says Social Anxiety Led To Battle With Alcoholism

By May Wilkerson 01/22/16

The television icon talked about his hard-to-break addiction with, who else, Oprah Winfrey.

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TV icon Dick Van Dyke has opened up about his battle with alcoholism, which he says stemmed from social anxiety, in a recent interview for Oprah: Where Are They Now. Despite his dynamic stage persona, the 90-year-old actor struggled to connect with people behind the scenes.

"I was very shy—with strangers—I couldn't talk to people," he told Winfrey. "And I found if I had a drink, it would loosen me up. The barriers went down and I became very social. That's what got me started."

After that, Van Dyke struggled with drinking for many years before he was able to begin recovery. "It took me a long time to get over it," he said.

This isn’t the first time The Dick Van Dyke Show star has spoken honestly about his drinking problems. In 2000, at 20 years sober, he told CNN that he chose to “come out” about his alcoholism to disprove the notion that alcoholics “had weak wills or something.”

“[The public] had this image of, you know, a guy laying in on the street and skid row, whereas [alcoholism] can happen to normal, average middle-class guy,” he said. When asked if he’d gone to AA to help his recovery, Van Dyke said: “Oh yes, everything. Yes. And all—rehab centers and everything.”

In 2013, he told The Telegraph he had checked into rehab twice but it didn’t help. It was a battle with depression and a loss of interest in drinking that finally pushed him to get sober. “I was in deep trouble, you get suicidal and think you just can’t go on,” he said. “It was just terrible. But then suddenly, like a blessing, the drink started not to taste good. I would feel a little dizzy and a little nauseous and I wasn’t getting the click. Today, I wouldn’t want a drink for anything.”

Though beating alcoholism was a slow process, the iconic actor and comedian has found a silver lining by opening up about his experiences. "[I] was able to help people,” he told Oprah. "I get a lot of letters from people, who say that all of a sudden they weren't ashamed to admit they had a drinking problem and they got help," he said. "So I'm very proud of that."

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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