Meredith Baxter on sobriety and connecting with fans who reach out to her for guidance
An Emmy-winning actress best known for her work on Family Ties and as a regular in Lifetime Original Movies, Meredith Baxter has been an endearing force in Hollywood for more than four decades. But her path has not been an easy one, and the film and television star makes a stop in Denver this week to talk about it.
Sober for more than two decades, Baxter is an advocate for 12-Step Programs and will be sharing her story this Friday, September 20 at the fourth annual Arapahoe House luncheon, a fundraiser for the non-profit that works to help individuals dealing with alcoholism and drug addiction. In advance of her Denver appearance, Baxter spoke with Westword about staying sober and how she works to connect with fans who reach out to her in their own times of crisis.
Westword: You've been sober for two decades -- do you feel like this is something that you've conquered or do you still think about it?
Meredith Baxter: When I hear you say "conquered" or I hear some people say they are a "recovered alcoholic," I just think there is always a risk. But I'm not lured by the alcohol -- I was blessed in that I sort of lost the desire to drink. My slips are not in romanticizing the alcohol. My slips are in my thinking: when I slip back into old behavior, if I forget about what the principles are and I'm not practicing them. That's when I'm caught -- it's in my mind all the time, because I go to a meeting six days a week. Sundays are the only day I don't.
I was just writing a letter to someone who had written to me, who (told me) she had tried to get sober at one time and didn't have a good time of it. She sounded really reckless and out there, so I was just writing back to her. Then someone found me on Facebook -- which is strange to me, because I hardly look at Facebook -- and this woman wrote me about being an alcoholic and how she's gay and had come out to her family and how terrible it was. They threw religion at her and condemned her. She went back in the closet and got married and is in a ridiculous, horrible marriage.
I am writing back to both of these women and I can't fix their problems -- but all I can do is tell them what I know. Tell them what I've learned and what it was like for me and hope that there's some kind of connection.
Was there a moment or event in your life that initially pushed you to get sober?
I never really sought sobriety? Because hey, it was working for me. I don't know about you, but I didn't have any problem with it -- or so I thought. It had reached the point where I was drinking openly on movies I was doing and I thought I was real cool. I thought I was the epitome of hip, sleek and cool. Now it was my permission, because I was hurt and damaged and all that stuff that I felt so sorry for myself about all of my life.
I had just finished a movie in Canada and the producer called me and said, 'Let's have lunch together.' Just her tone -- she had been a friend. I had done like five movies with her, so we were good friends. During lunch she said, 'I think you have a problem with alcohol.' I thought, how could you say that? Really?
She said, 'We're trying to cut the movie together and your eyes aren't focused and we can't understand you.' I was appalled. She told me that they had been having meetings at the end of every day: What are we going to do about Meredith?
For them to see me as a problem -- the work was the only thing I had. I didn't have any friends, my family was all ripped apart by this horrible divorce I was going through -- and there was a problem with my work? I thought they were going to destroy the only thing I had. I didn't see my part in that, of course. I thought that they were the problem.
The producer suggested I call somebody -- she named a couple of people I actually knew who were sober. Who knew? I didn't know; I hadn't paid any attention to that. But then I started the journey.
I stopped drinking fairly quickly, I think because I was so lonely, I would do anything to stay somewhere. I had no place to be and no one to be with. The kids were with their dad part of the time and if I didn't have my kids, I didn't know who I was. I was a very slow learner, but I hung in there.