Marlee Matlin Celebrates 31 Years Sober

By Victoria Kim 01/12/18

The actress chronicled her journey to recovery in her 2010 memoir, I’ll Scream Later.

Marlee Matlin

Another year has passed, and actress Marlee Matlin is celebrating another sober anniversary.

Wednesday (Jan. 10) marked her 31st sober anniversary. The Academy Award-winning actress posted a photo of herself showing off her 31-year recovery medallion on Twitter, writing, “Ending my day, so grateful that today, I am celebrating exactly 31 years of sobriety.”

The 52-year-old actress—who also snagged a Golden Globe for her performance in the 1986 film Children of a Lesser God—has been open about her journey from sexual abuse at a young age, to her abusive relationship with Children of a Lesser God co-star William Hurt, to landing at the Betty Ford Center in 1987 where she finally received help for her drug use.

She was in rehab when she began receiving rave reviews for her performance in Children of a Lesser God, which was her first film. “It should have been the best time of my life. And in a surreal way it was,” she wrote in her memoir I’ll Scream Later (2010). “I had won a Golden Globe for my performance as the deaf, angry young woman in the film Children of a Lesser God. But that night I closed the door on Hollywood—at least for a time.” 

Her decision to enter a treatment program for cocaine and cannabis was kept under wraps. “Only a handful of people knew I was going to rehab at the Betty Ford Center the next day,” Matlin continued. “I had virtually no support for my decision.”

The actress went on Larry King Live with guest host Joy Behar in 2010 and discussed the sexual abuse she suffered at age 11 from a babysitter, and later a teacher when she was 14.

“It was a teacher who I looked up to and became friendly with,” she said. “At the time… I wanted good grades, you know, and I wanted his approval.” 

The drugs were a coping mechanism for the trauma of these experiences. “I masked it, and I covered it up. And I masked it with drugs,” she said. “And I masked it at a very early age with drugs. I never told anyone. I never told my parents. And yet, I never forgot it.”

Matlin said that competing on Dancing With the Stars in 2008 inspired her to write her memoir I’ll Scream Later. Her performance on the show garnered a lot of attention for the actress, who noticed that people seemed to be interested in her life story. “I’d always thought of writing something,” she said, according to ABC News.

The book revealed the actress’ “dark side” and was her chance to air her demons—her past traumas and the abusive relationship.

“I was very rebellious. I was fiercely independent,” said the actress, who lost her hearing at 18 months old.

Through it all, Matlin maintains a grateful attitude toward life. 

“I have been given an extraordinary life thus far, and I am no where close to done with it,” she wrote in her memoir. “The dark secrets that I kept locked away in my heart for all those many years are now out in the open. Today, I can face those old wounds.”

“I know they cannot defeat me—the drugs, the babysitter, the actor, the deafness and the rest. I am stronger than all of it.”

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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