The 60-year-old actress opens up in Variety's recovery issue about her struggle with drug addiction and how she was able to stay clean in Hollywood. In her interview, Curtis recalls how a desire for more plastic surgery only enabled her drug use.
"I had a routine plastic surgery because of a cameraman," she recalls. "I naturally had puffy eyes. If you see photographs of me as a child, I look like I haven’t slept. I’ve just always been that person, and we were shooting a scene in a courtroom with that kind of high, nasty fluorescent light, and it came around to my coverage in the scene, and [the cameraman] said, 'I'm not shooting her today. Her eyes are too puffy.'"
Curtis remembers being "so mortified and so embarrassed and had just so much shame" after that remark. "I went and had routine plastic surgery to remove the puffiness," she says. "They gave me Vicodin as a painkiller for something that wasn’t really painful."
The Halloween star has been very candid about her past struggle with opioids and other drug use, and tells Variety that she sees herself as a "junkie."
"I refer to myself as a junkie simply so I demystify it," she explains. "I call myself a dope-fiend because I’m a dope-fiend."
Curtis also says her late father, Tony Curtis, had issues with drugs and they did them together.
"I knew my dad had an issue because I had an issue and he and I shared drugs. There was a period of time where I was the only child that was talking to him. I had six siblings. I have five," she shares. "My brother, Nicholas, died of a heroin overdose when he was 21 years old. But I shared drugs with my dad. I did cocaine and freebased once with my dad. But that was the only time I did that, and I did that with him. He did end up getting sober for a short period of time and was very active in recovery for about three years. It didn’t last that long. But he found recovery for a minute."
Curtis has now been sober for 20 years and says being open about her recovery with her fans has helped her stay on the straight and narrow.
"There’s great power that comes from self-declaration: This is who I am, this is what I do, and I am going to try to stop. For me to say that the reason my life is so much better is because I am sober is me controlling it. I gave up that information, specifically as a public figure, to acknowledge the reality of my life," she explains. "There is recovery available for free anywhere you choose to find it. You have to want it. Once you want it, there are millions of people who will help you achieve it."
While filming the latest Halloween, Curtis broke her ribs and had to take painkillers despite her struggle with drugs. "[Addiction] is a pernicious, pernicious disease. I’ve broken ribs, twice last year, and I had to take the very drug that I loved. I was required to take it in order to be able to exist," she reveals. "But I did it in a very carefully, very prescribed, very monitored way with a lot of contact -- no secrecy. I wasn’t hiding it, it was out."
In an exclusive interview with ET in 2002, Curtis opened up even more about how she was ready to "stop running" and "face your demons."
"There's a point in all of our adult lives where we stop running from the past of our families, the past of mistakes that we've made, running from problems that we've had all our lives and are drowning them -- in alcohol, in drugs or overeating, or anything that has dogged us our whole life," she said. "And there's a point that we should all hopefully get to where we stop."