Jada Pinkett Smith revealed that she has struggled with drugs and alcohol in a recent episode of Red Table Talk, the Daytime Emmy Award-winning Facebook Watch series she co-hosts with daughter Willow Smith and mother Adrienne “Gammy” Banfield-Norris.
Jada’s revelation and the focus of the “Are You Drinking Too Much? A Wake Up Call for Women” episode were spurred by the fact that women are now drinking as much as men for the first time in history. In addition to Jada discussing her personal struggles, Dr. Jessica Mellinger, a renowned liver specialist, cautioned that more young women are being admitted to hospital with alcohol-related liver disease. Also, a celebrated teacher, New York attorney, and global vice president detail their harrowing stories of binge drinking and hitting rock bottom. While it might be expected for successful career women to turn to alcohol for relief from work stress, it was quite surprising to learn Jada had an alcohol and drug problem because struggles like that in Hollywood are often reported in the press at the time of an incident, like blacking out on a set. Fortunately, she was able to maintain a level of professionalism and rallied to do her job, and eventually admitted she had a problem.
Jada has always been slim and fit, so it may also come as a surprise that she could outdrink husband Will Smith and preferred hard liquor.
“One of the reasons why this particular show was really important to me is because wine, for me, was like Kool-Aid,” said Jada. “’Cause, like, I was a – you know, a brown liquor drinker, vodka – like, I was a hard liquor drinker. Like, I could drink almost anybody under the table.”
She continued, “Will specifically. Now, Will's a lightweight.”
Jada also shared that she used to rationalize red wine being good for her when she stopped drinking liquor. “When I moved to red wine, I considered myself, like … this is better for me because they say that red wine is … Is good for you, you know. But drinking red wine, for me, was like drinking glasses of water. It wasn't even like – so I'm not drinking it like, ‘Doo doo doo doo.’ I'm like [guzzling] ‘All right, where's the next?’ 'cause I'm used to that hard hit.”
Heavy drinking had been a part of Jada’s life back in high school, she said, but when she moved to Los Angeles, she began doing a cocktail of ecstasy, weed, and alcohol, which shocked Willow, who calls herself a “regular old stoner.” Jada said she rationalized that her cocktail wasn’t addictive or harmful.
“Let me tell you, I was having me a little ball,” she told Gammy and Willow. “But it was like, ‘This is not cocaine. This is not heroin.’"
She continued, “I wasn't doing things that I thought was addictive. But I would do those three together. That was my cocktail.”
As her body became accustomed to her drinking and drug use, she said the combination of alcohol, ecstasy, and cannabis helped her get high quicker and maintain the effect.
“Your threshold becomes so high that what it takes for you to get to the place you need to get to, it'll take me two bottles to get to, OK,” Jada explained. “If I do ecstasy, weed, and alcohol at the same time, I'm gonna get there faster and I can keep the high going because, then, I can just keep drinking 'cause I know ecstasy's gonna last me about three, four, five hours, the weed, you know, that's just gonna keep me just smooth, and then the alcohol's gonna keep it going.”
Jada said she didn’t consume alcohol or her cocktail on a daily basis, but was a “weekend party girl” from “Thursday to Monday morning.” Gammy responded that her drinking never interfered with her work as an actor, but there was incident that Willow was aware of, Jada passing out on the set of The Nutty Professor.
“I had one incident,” Jada explained. “That was an eye-opening incident for me as well. I had one incident on Nutty Professor. I passed out. Makeup trailer.”
She continued, “I passed out. I went to work high, and it was a bad batch of ecstasy … And I told everybody that I had taken — I must've had old medication in a vitamin bottle. That's what I said … But I tell you what I did, though. Got my ass together and got on that set. That was the last time.”
Jada also revealed another shocking incident when the three of them discussed others trying to intervene when it was clear she had a problem.
“Don't think that people didn't try to tap me on my shoulder,” said Jada. “Don't think that when I was at Debbie Allen's throwing up all over her house … That she wasn't like, ‘Hey.’ … But I had to reach my rock bottoms.”
Fortunately, Jada realized and accepted that she had a problem, one that runs in their family. She said, “Like, once I was going for that third bottle of wine, I said, ‘You've got a problem.’ And it was cold turkey that day.”
Throughout their conversation, Gammy brought up her concerns regarding Willow consuming cannabis since addiction has been a family issue.
Gammy stressed, “Listen. Listen, everybody. You can see the stress that I've been under as a recovering [heroin] addict dealing with my family that is not accepting of the fact that addiction runs deep in our veins. Jesus.”
However, Willow, who was shocked by her mother’s cocktail, maintains that she knows what’s best for her and isn’t addicted to weed because she takes yearly breaks.
“I know my body, and it's taken me a long time to understand what works best for me, but it's imperative for me to stop smoking every year for at least two months,” Willow explained. “This is my fourth year doing that.”
If you’re struggling with addiction, please call the national helpline 1.800.662.HELP (4357) or visit www.SAMHSA.gov for 24-hour free and confidential information.
Watch the Red Table Talk episode here.