Kathleen Turner Talks Alcoholism, Recovery

By David Konow 09/25/18

“I thought I could control the pain of my illness better with alcohol than I could with pain medication."

Kathleen Turner

Kathleen Turner first became a star with the erotic thriller Body Heat, and throughout the '80s the hits kept coming with Romancing the Stone, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The War of the Roses and more.

Now she has released her new book, Kathleen Turner on Acting, and she’s more outspoken than ever about her career and recovering from alcoholism.

As ABC News reports, Turner turned to alcohol when she developed rheumatoid arthritis.

“Oh, I abused alcohol,” she said. “Because it’s a great painkiller, let me tell you.”

Turner had previously written about her struggles with alcohol in a previous memoir, Send Yourself Roses. She wrote that when she suffered from arthritis, having sex was difficult because of the extreme pain she was in, which put a “multilayered” strain on her marriage.

“With my loss of confidence went a loss of sexuality,” she wrote. “When my pain from the illness was at its worst, I discovered that vodka killed it quite wonderfully. I didn’t want to take painkillers because I didn’t like the way they mucked up my mind, so I used alcohol instead. Stupidly, I didn’t consider that alcohol mucks up your mind, too.”

As Turner recently told Vulture, “I thought I could control the pain of my illness better with alcohol than I could with pain medication. I didn’t want to take OxyContin and Percocet. I thought that would be an immediate path to addiction; I never thought alcohol would. Then I did, of course, abuse it [alcohol]. It never got in the way of the work but, oh, on my time off, just to kill the fucking pain, drinking was great.”

Turner recalled hitting bottom at a rehearsal for a New York run of The Graduate. She drank heavily that day and passed out in a bathroom. The next day she apologized, telling the cast, “I’m having a drinking problem. I have these pills that will make me desperately ill if I drink. I’m going to give them to the stage manager and he’s going to give me one a day. I will not be a problem again.”

Once the production ended, Turner went to rehab, and went to AA meetings for six months afterwards. Yet Turner also confessed that a drink of wine “at the end of a show or something” is still an “occasional pleasure.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.