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Mary Tyler Moore Alcoholism: Actress Opened Up About Her Addiction And Recovery

01/25/2017 04:51 EST | Updated 01/25/2017 04:51 EST

She was famous for her megawatt smile, but in real life Mary Tyler Moore’s life was marked by tragedy.

The actress, whose namesake show revolutionized the portrayal of women on television in the 1970s, died on Wednesday. She was 80-years-old.

mary tyler moore show

American commedienne Mary Tyler Moore smiles in a scene from 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' in Los Angeles in 1970. (Photo: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)


Moore and her mother both struggled with alcoholism, and her younger sister died from a combination of alcohol and painkillers at 21, the Associated Press reports. Her only son, Richie, also fought a battle with addiction, and accidentally shot himself when he was 24.

Moore wrote in her autobiography, excerpted in People magazine, that drinking became a problem during her unhappy marriage to Grant Tinker.

In case there’s any doubt about the acute state of my alcoholism, and the insanity it produced, I can recall with sickening clarity that on more than one occasion I played Russian roulette with my car. What’s more, some unwary, innocent people played with me.

After separating from Tinker in 1980 and moving to Manhattan on her own, Moore wrote that her alcoholism only got worse.

Not surprisingly, during that summer the distillation of my growing alcoholism took place. Even though I was accomplishing things by myself, it was all so uncomfortable that I anesthetized myself at the end of the day. Nothing was so tough I couldn’t get through it until 5:30 or 6. Then the effects of vodka on the rocks made it all go away.

Decades later, Moore opened up about her recovery in an interview on Larry King Live.

She told King that she visited the Betty Ford Center, an addiction treatment clinic in California, where she found “a lot of spirit and determination.”

mary tyler moore

Mary Tyler Moore arrives for the taping of 'Betty White's 90th Birthday: A Tribute to America's Golden Girl' in Los Angeles in 2012. (Photo: Sam Mircovich/Reuters

“Somebody said something ... if you want to get all the air out of a glass, what do you do? There's no way to do it but fill it with something else. And that something else is joy of living, reading, being creative, know you're doing the right thing,” she said.

“With alcoholism, you tend to drink because you're angry, or you drink because you're sad now, or you drink because you are just so happy you want to celebrate,” she continued.

“But unfortunately, it's debilitating.”

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