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Jeff Daniels Talks About Relapsing After 14 Years of Sobriety

By May Wilkerson 05/27/16

As The Newsroom star began to land bigger roles in the early 2000s, he turned to alcohol to take the stress away, which led to a relapse.

Jeff Daniels Talks About Relapsing After 14 Years of Sobriety

Jeff Daniels’ career is soaring these days, with a Tony-nominated role in a hit Broadway play, and his recent starring role in Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom. But it’s been a rocky road for the 61-year-old actor. This week, he talked on WNYC’s podcast “Death, Sex & Money” about his long-term sobriety and his relapse in the early 2000s when his career began to take off, for the second time.

Daniels dropped out of college and moved to New York City to become an actor. But a few years later, he returned to his hometown of Chelsea, Michigan, where he got married, had three kids and tried to keep his acting career afloat. "'I will sustain the career from the Midwest for as long as I can,'" he told WNYC. "That became the business plan for us. And it worked for quite a while." Eventually, his career dropped off and he turned to other jobs to pay the bills. "There was a time when I couldn't even watch the Oscars,” he said. “I had to leave the room.”

But after his kids got older, he returned to acting and began landing bigger roles. In the early 2000s, as his career began to flourish, it took a toll on his mental health. Daniels had been sober and in recovery for fourteen years when he turned to alcohol "just to take some of the stress away," he said. He convinced himself he could have a beer "just to relax." 

But as anyone who has struggled with alcoholism knows, this relaxation strategy can quickly backfire. For Daniels, it only took a few months before he sought out professional help and got sober again. He has been sober ever since, and his career has continued to blossom. Daniels received a Tony nomination for his role in Blackbird on Broadway, and won an Emmy for his leading role in Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom (Sorkin has had his own widely-publicized struggle with addiction and has been sober for over a decade).

Though in his sixties, Daniels said he has no desire to retire anytime soon, saying: "I always have to have something in the air, to feel alive."

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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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