Lucy Hale is pulling back the curtain on her personal life during the pinnacle of her career, sharing that she was privately struggling with an eating disorder and addiction to alcohol for years.
"From my very first experience drinking, which was like age 14, up until a year ago, I’ve had a problem," Hale, now 33, said on The Diary of a CEO podcast. "I’ve never had a period of my life where I was a normal, moderate drinker. It was always, 'Let’s go!' I was willing to just go to this crazy dark place every time."
Hale categorized herself as a "textbook binge drinker," sharing that she would black out whenever she would drink. "I would pick up the first drink, I’d like the feeling, I’d have another drink, I’d really like the feeling and then it was past drink two, don’t remember," she said. "I wouldn’t remember the rest of the night."
The actress encountered "hard conversations" with friends, family and even her manager who she said "saved my life at times" during the height of the alcohol abuse. Admittedly, she didn't need intervention to acknowledge what was going on.
"There was never a moment where I thought I was normal. There had been moments where I didn’t want to change because I’m like, 'I’m not giving this up, are you kidding me? Who would I be if I can’t have fun and let loose and drink?'" she recalled.
She had a similar relationship to her eating disorder, which she said she developed in her early teens when she "had to start logging my exercise hours" for physical education while being homeschooled.
"I saw my body kind of change and then I started restricting eating and then it became, like I said, just it slowly just grew and grew to something I could not enjoy life, I could not have a conversation, I could not focus on anything," she explained. "I went to a therapist, only a handful of times, where that was the first time I had heard, ‘You’re anorexic.’ And that word just sounds so daunting and scary. I mean I’ve never been in denial though like I always knew it wasn’t normal behavior. Like I knew that my hair shouldn’t be falling out, and I knew that I shouldn’t be able to see every bone in my body. But you get addicted to this feeling of controlling your own body."
She first shared her experience with an eating disorder in 2012 and said that a previous boyfriend helped her to mend her relationship with food. Both the body image and substance abuse issues, she concluded, stemmed from a lack of self-worth that "manifested" in these ways. "I thought if I could just be this number or this goal weight, then I’ll be enough. Because it all rooted back to I don’t feel enough," she said of her eating disorder. Alcohol also became a way to numb that pain.
Ultimately, she had to address the source to make real change in her life.
"I had so many things happen where you would’ve thought I would change. I tried to change for boyfriends, I tried to change for my mom, I tried to change for my career, I tried to change for vain reasons. I’m like, 'Well I’ll look younger and be skinnier, I’ll stop drinking for that.' None of that s*** works. I had to and wanted to get sober January 2nd, 2022 because I said, 'I deserve more. I deserve more out of this life, I have to try it a different way and I have to be willing to just commit to it.'"
She acknowledged her sobriety publicly for the first time on Feb. 14, acknowledging that her one year of sobriety was an act of self-love. In the podcast, she shared that the journey has been far from easy.
"I’ve been working on getting sober since I was 22. I’m 33, it takes time. It took time and it took patience with myself," she said.
And with a year of sobriety under her belt, Hale feels more prepared to speak out about what she's previously dealt with so privately.
"I was a kid and I was struggling. ...I was like dealing with all these big things but I never wanted to talk about it because I was so ashamed. And now I’m not ashamed of it, which is why I can talk about it," she said. "You’re supposed to share your experiences because it will reach someone."
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.
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