Whoopi Goldberg on How She's Been Able to Stay Sober and Her Emotional New Memoir (Exclusive)

The EGOT winner's new book, 'Bits and Pieces: My Mother, My Brother and Me,' is out now.

Whoopi Goldberg is opening up like never before in her new memoir, Bits & Pieces: My Mother, My Brother and Me.

Speaking to ET's Rachel Smith at her sold-out Barnes & Noble 5th Avenue live reading event in New York City on Tuesday, Goldberg was succinct in expressing how she's been able to remain sober all these years after a serious cocaine addiction, and it was truly a matter of life and death.

"Well, it was very simple -- do you want to die or do you want to live?" she said. "Very simple."

Goldberg is open in her book about being a "very high-functioning addict" when she began using cocaine in the 1980s. At that point, the 68-year-old's career was seeing monumental success on the heels of The Color Purple in 1985 and then landing Ghost just a few years later, followed by Sister Act in 1992.

"I was making a lot of money and I had a lot of access to things I didn't really need to and found myself in the position of making the decision, 'Do you want to live or do you want to do this for the rest of your life?'" Goldberg said. "And I was like, 'This is way too much to take on, so I decided to get straight. And I did. And we're good. I like the idea of living."

In her new memoir, Goldberg narrows the lens on her late mother, Emma Harris, who died after a stroke in August 2010, and her brother, Clyde, who died five years later from a brain aneurysm. For Goldberg, now seemed like the perfect time to give them the spotlight given she was running up against father time.

Whoopi Goldberg attends a discussion of her new memoir at 92NY on May 6, 2024 in New York City. - Getty

"I didn't know if now was the right time to tell the story. It was just what I decided I needed to do. It wasn't like a big revelation, and I think it's just because I was starting to forget some stuff, you know?" the actress said. "The book isn't really about me. It's about the trio of people, and so I wanted to hold on as long as I could and kept writing stuff and this came out." 

Goldberg didn't shy away from sharing some of the more deeply personal stories in her life, like when her mother suffered a nervous breakdown when she was only a child. The Emmy, GRAMMY, Oscar and Tony (EGOT) winner explains why her mother kept that away from her and her brother for so many decades.

"She decided she wasn't going to let anybody know that," Goldberg says. "She was not prepared for this, and my brother and I we found out 40 years later; devastated ... she just said, 'Even if I had told you, what could you have done about it?'"

With so many unforgettable roles throughout her storied career, it was only right to ask Goldberg which role was her favorite. Hands down, it's Disney's 1994 animated feature, The Lion King, in which she voiced one of the three spotted hyenas.

A stack of Whoopi Goldberg books. - Getty

So, why is that her favorite role? That's also a very simple answer.

"The Lion King is my absolute favorite. It's my favorite," she says. "Just because for kids, and my granddaughter was just a little baby," she says in reference to her granddaughter, Amara, from her daughter, Alex.

"We're sitting next to James Earl Jones and I say to her, 'Amara, that's James Earl Jones. That's Simba's dad,' and he said, 'Hello, Amara,' with that James Earl Jones voice," Goldberg continued, "and she went up and I said, 'What's the matter?' And she said, 'Darth Vader.'"

Bites & Pieces: My Mother, My Brother and Me is out now.