April 11th, 2011
09:30 AM ET
"Soul Surfer" star Dennis Quaid has done a little soul searching - the actor admits that his biggest mistake was trying cocaine in the 1970s.
"I started after I left college and came to Los Angeles in 1974. It was very casual at first. That’s what people were doing when they were at parties," he tells Newsweek. "Cocaine was even in the budgets of movies, thinly disguised… It was supplied, basically, on movie sets because everyone was doing it. "
As his career began to skyrocket, Quaid used coke as a coping mechanism but realized it only made matters worse.
"Doing blow just contributed to me not being able to handle the fame, which, at the time, I guess I felt I didn’t deserve," he recalls. "By the time I was doing 'The Big Easy,' in the late 1980s, I was a mess. I was getting an hour of sleep a night. I had a reputation for being a 'bad boy,' which seemed like a good thing, but basically I just had my head stuck up my a—. I’d wake up, snort a line, and swear I wasn’t going to do it again that day. But then 4 o’clock rolled around, and I’d be right back down the same road like a little squirrel on one of those treadmills."
Quaid says the lack of sleep left him unfocused and affected his acting, and he became aware that his addiction was keeping him from living. After a disastrous gig with his band at L.A.'s China Club, he decided he needed help.
"I had one of those white-light experiences that night where I kind of realized I was going to be dead in five years if I didn’t change my ways," he says. "The next day I was in rehab."
Though Quaid got clean, his career floundered throughout much of the '90s. He now views that difficult time as a learning experience.
"It gave me the resolve and a resilience to persevere in life," he says. "If I hadn’t gone through that period, I don’t know if I’d still be acting. In the end, it taught me humility. I really learned to appreciate what I have in this life."
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