by Patricia Grandjean
Oct 15, 2010
10:39 AMBox Office
Q & A/Web Exclusive: Susan Saint James Ebersol
(page 2 of 4)
My little son, Teddy—who's now gone—had a learning disability. It was pretty mild, but it was enough to make him angry. We got that taken care of, and he was fine, but his teachers suggested he go into therapy because he was cranky. And I went, too. The doctor said, "Have you been through therapy at lot?" I mean, I here I was: actress, TV star, married. I said, "Oh, heck no." And he would say to me, "Well, how much wine do you drink?" I told him, "I drink a glass of red wine a night." It was more like a bowl. He said, "Well, why don't you cut that out, because it could be that you're depressed." I was like, "Depressed? Me?" I mean, I was so out of touch with anything that might have been going on with me. I didn't get it. The doctor kept pestering me and I kept thinking, "Why is he bugging me? So I have a shooter once in a while when I have my Mexican food!"
I told a friend what I was going through and they said, "Y'know, you might want to go to a 12-step meeting." I walked into a meeting and I never looked back. I haven't had a drink in 11 years. It was funny, because then I read in a magazine that Jamie Lee Curtis had done that, so I wrote her—she was an old friend of mine—and she wrote back, "Yeah, this is the greatest." She was like me: No big scene, nobody said, "You're a drunk." It was just a malaise that wouldn't go away, and it was being fueled by a steady stream of drinking to forget or drinking to be "happy." Of course, it doesn't work that way for addicts.
So I went to this meeting and Janina saw me there. She goes to meetings, studies meetings, knows about them. She asked me to speak at a picnic—you have to have a year's sobriety to speak anywhere really importantly, and I did, and we became fast friends ever since. She's a spectacular woman. And she runs a spectacular program, because there's a variety of intervention strategies and a full medical component there. They wanted support for that. And I said I'd be glad to do it and to speak about whatever, you know?
The idea that you had struggled with drinking is totally surprising.
Right. And I never became dysfunctional, but I was just miserable. I was the kind of person who—as Dick likes to say—would bend over backwards for strangers and then be cranky with my family. I'd never offend anyone in public, just save it for when I got home. And that for kids is like, "Eauggh." So all of that added up. So i found the answer and I always tell people, it's the best therapy in the world. You meet the greatest people, that have overcome so much, and maybe were alienated from their families and never got them back. So often, your family doesn't ever believe you again. They don't come around.
I saw Ann Richards speak once; she was the governor of Texas. She said, "I'm Ann Richards and I am an alcoholic. I come from a dysfunctional family—I've yet to meet a functional one!" I think more people should speak out about it. I've met women who say "Yeah, I used to carry around a bottle of vodka in my baby carriage," and no one had a clue. They don't know that there's all this sort of quiet desperation going on.
Do you ever feel any desire to work again?
Sometimes. But my mom is still alive and I take care of her; she's 95. I have a collection of junk that goes from floor to ceiling in about 18 rooms of a very, very big house. Every little tiny scrap of paper I'm devoted to; so it's almost a disease. I'm determined to go through it all and put it into some order or get rid of it. I'm going to do a big fashion show—I have all the clothes I ever wore in my life, and I'm going to do a big fashion show of my life as a fund raiser for Connecticut Special Olympics. I'll show video of me in the clothes from whatever shows I wore them in—I have videos of every show I ever did. So I'll have some purpose for saving some of this crap. It'll probably happen in the early spring of next year. I'll do a runway of tee-shirts that are hysterical: "Save the this," "Save the that." One for every rock band. Just a cavalcade of tee-shirts. After that, I'm gonna throw them away.
Maybe you could auction some of them. Are they in good shape?
They're all in perfect shape; are you kidding? I have all three of my wedding dresses; one of them's a maternity dress. I have clothes from "McMillan and Wife," "The Name of the Game," all of them.
Do you watch the old shows, ever?
Not too much. There's something about having been there that, y'know . . . the "Kate & Allie"'s are the hardest to watch because the hairdo's and the styles—I just haven't come to terms with the '80s yet. I'm just like, "What was I thinking with that mullet and those shoulders?" I mean, it's just awful. The "McMillans" are the most fun to watch, because they're so wonderful and it was so much fun to do. And they're from so long ago, it's almost like watching period movies.