“Full House” star Jodie Sweetin talks about dark past and road to recovery

Published by adviser, Author: Nina Bracci - Asst. Campus Life Editor, Date: November 16, 2016
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The Slippery Rock University Program Board brought 80s sitcom star Jodie Sweetin of “Full House” fame to the Robert Smith Student Center ballroom Tuesday, where she discussed the show and her life as a recovering substance addict.

Jodie Sweetin played the role of Stephanie Tanner on “Full House” from age five to 13.  The star said her “Full House” castmates are now her family and have had a huge impact on her life and still do to this day.

“Performing absolutely made my light shine,” Sweetin said.

The actress said she felt a huge sense of loss when the show ended and began telling her story of how she got involved with drugs and alcohol.

Sweetin said she was adopted as an infant after both of her parents were sent to jail, where her father died in a prison riot.  Thoughts of her adoption resurfaced once she finished the show. 

She said she felt alone, scared, and uncomfortable in her own skin which turned her to alcohol at age 13.

“I found alcohol and it allowed me to breathe in a way that I couldn’t before,” Sweetin said.

Sweetin said she tried to be a normal kid by going to a performing arts high school and then attending college, but was still heavily drinking.

Sweetin’s parents were terrified of her as she was a physical danger to herself and the people surrounding her due to her addiction, she said.

Sweetin said she made an agreement with her parents to come home from college every weekend.  She drank Monday through Friday while at school and used the weekend to recover before the next week began.

Sweetin received a 0.9 GPA her first semester and went home for three weeks to recover.  She said she thought going back would be a new start.

She married a police officer after she graduated college, but relapsed and started drinking again.  She divorced him after she couldn’t hide her addiction anymore and got married briefly two more times, she said. 

Sweetin said her decisions while under the influence aren’t like most people.

“I don’t get tattoos, I get husbands,” Sweetin laughed.

Sweetin had two daughters from different relationships and said that she continued to relapse several times, acting on the outside like she was fine.

“It’s like a train is coming and you just sit down on the tracks and wait for it to plow you over,” Sweetin said.

Sweetin’s final relapse occurred after she moved home with her two daughters.  She said she got in a car accident and was prescribed drugs, causing the cycle to began again.  This was when she made a change.

“I completely threw myself wholeheartedly into my recovery,” Sweetin said.

Sweetin went back to school and completed her degree as a drug and alcohol counselor.  She said she was able to find something that she was really passionate about that was a rewarding and fulfilling job.  She then started speaking to schools and organizations to tell her story.

Stephanie Garaja, senior hospitality event management and tourism major, was named after Stephanie Tanner and said that she was unaware of Jodie’s past and listening to her story was inspiring.

“It really puts into perspective that you really don’t know anybody,” Garaja said.

Sweetin said she enjoys speaking to college students because they are an incredibly intelligent, interesting group of people that come from so many walks of life.

Director of University Program Board and junior marketing major, Ryan Ferguson, said he thinks the whole topic of drug and alcohol abuse is huge on a college campus.

“Being in college can be a very pivotal moment like that in someone’s life, and one of the biggest things we focused on with Jodie is how big the topic she’s talking about is,” Ferguson said.

Garaja said the comments in the audience showed that many people were inspired to get their story out there.

“I’ve had ups and downs in my acting career and my personal life, but it’s been a life where there’s good moments and bad moments and everything in between,” Sweetin said.

Sweetin said she walks away from her talks with college students and feels that she’s had an impact on people by sharing her story.

“Even a child star that we looked up to fell into some pretty bad decisions, and she was pretty low at one point in her life and she turned that around by just asking for help,” Ferguson said.

The lesson in Sweetin’s lectures is people being able to share their humanity.  She said it is important to be able to get up in front of a large group of people and talk about things that one might have been ashamed of at one point in their life or embarrassed about.

“To be able to stand up there and be able to share all the triumphs and pitfalls of your life is a really humanizing moment,” Sweetin said.

Sweetin is five and a half years sober and filming her spin-off for the series “Fuller House” where she reprises her “Full House,”role, Stephanie Tanner, as she navigates adulthood. She said that the timing was right to start the show, and after all of the pain and struggle, she is okay inside.

“I hope that in sharing my story, you can go out and share your story,” Sweetin said.

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