How Mackenzie Phillips Set on the Road to Recovery From Decades-Long Abusive, Drug-Fuelled Relationship With Her Father

How Mackenzie Phillips Set on the Road to Recovery From Decades-Long Abusive, Drug-Fuelled Relationship With Her Father

The actress shared details about the abuse and the years-long struggle to forgive her father in her books.

Former child star Mackenzie Phillips has not just been known for her work on screen but for overcoming incredibly difficult hardships throughout her life. The now 61-year-old  starred as a rebellious teen on the sitcom One Day at a Time but was fired twice because of her struggles with addiction, reports Variety. From being the highest-paid actor on the original show, the star had encountered several overwhelming factors that affected her career and her life. Mackenzie and her father, The Mamas & the Papas singer John Phillips, had an abusive relationship for 10 years after he molested her at age 19.


In fact, her father taught her how to roll a joint at just 10 years old. At age 11, she had her first taste of cocaine. She was arrested for the first time while she was still a minor, reports HuffPost. On Oprah: Where Are They Now? Mackenzie reflected on her past, saying, “You become desensitized to seeing all kinds of out-of-control behavior and inappropriate things." She added, “I come from a long line of undiagnosed mental illness, rampant addiction and alcoholism. So there’s the genetic component. And then there’s the introduction to these types of behaviors at a very young age.”


Being exposed to such risky behavior at such a young age, Mackenzie never understood what it meant to be a grown-up and what was right and wrong. “You have this idea that in order to be an adult, that this is a rite of passage,” she said. “[In] that moment, that genetic monster inside wakes up and goes, ‘Oh, man, I’m hungry.’ I fed the beast, and the beast was shame, the beast was not understanding the neglect, not understanding the abuse.” The lines were blurry and she had to grow up with a warped sense of what it meant to be both a child and an adult. "I didn’t really know where I belonged or who to trust,” she said. “You know, at 5, you’re just supposed to be filled with love and feeling welcomed. And I didn’t feel that way.”


Mackenzie battled her demons in the public eye, and later opened up about her struggles in two tell-all books. In her first book, Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction, she wrote about the years-long struggle to forgive her father after all he had put her through. The rock singer died in 2001. “Do I think that my father held me in his arms when I was a baby and thought, ‘I’m going to abuse my daughter some day?’ No,” she wrote. “I think that a toxic combination of chance and circumstance and drugs and alcohol morphed into something dark and ugly.” Mackenzie shows immense maturity when she says she's learned to forgive someone who abused her. “I don’t hate him,” she said in a 2009 interview with Oprah Winfrey. “I understand that he was a very tortured man, and he sort of passed that torture down to me.”


The author is not letting her trauma from the past affect her present. “I don’t let my past define me,” she told PEOPLE. “Even though I experienced my share of trauma and a very public meltdown, I can hold my head high because my recovery is the best thing I’ve ever done, aside from being a mom.” Talking about the time she used cocaine while pregnant with her son, Shane Barakan, who is now 34 years old, she asked, “Should I apologize to Shane every day for shooting coke while I was pregnant? No. Is that appropriate? Absolutely not. Does he know about it? Yes,” she writes in the book. “So how do I deal with that? I just do better. That’s all anyone can do: just do better.” The American Graffiti actress is now a drug rehab counselor at Breathe Life Healing Center. “I’ve changed my life and think it’s important for people to see you can recover,” she said. “Shame is an illusion.”







Cover Images Source: Getty Images | Photo by Carlo Allegri

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