Being in the public eye is not an easy job and former pop star Jessica Simpson is living proof that such a career can really take a toll on you.
Born to a Baptist minister, Jessica started her career using an “anti sex-appeal” image and wearing a purity ring, which put her in contrast to contemporary singers like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.
Since her debut album wasn’t as successful as expected, Columbia Records decided to drastically change her image. For her new album, Jessica left her innocent songs and looks behind and adopted a more provocative image. However, none of the changes brought her the success she was after, but the singer was ready to try a different path – this time as a TV personality.
It’s okay to stick your foot in your mouth. Just laugh at yourself with everybody else.
Jessica Simpson for Entertainment Weekly
Success was eventually achieved, but at what cost? Below, we’ll cover the major life events and struggles that Jessica faced while reaching stardom and falling into the hands of addiction.
The singer buried the trauma and anxiety she experienced in her early years. Only her family and friends knew exactly what she went through. However, in her memoir Open Book (released in February 2020), she opened up about her childhood sexual abuse.
Jessica wrote that she was only six years old and the abuse began at a family friend’s house. She was sharing a bed with the family’s daughter who (apparently) was also abused by an “older guy”. The girl would do to Jessica the things her abuser did to her.
She told her parents everything when she was 12, they never went back to that home and chose to never talk about it again. But not talking about it didn’t miraculously erase the trauma. Jessica admitted that, coupled with stress over her career, this too contributed to her alcohol abuse.
Her struggle with body image
Jessica Simpson became a sex symbol at a very young age, but in order to cultivate that image she had to make a lot of compromises.
For many years she was the hot topic of tabloids who were fat-shaming her. As her weight fluctuated over the years, she was constantly criticized and told that she is not skinny enough.
The criticism eventually got to her and made her feel insecure about everything. For nearly 20 years Jessica took diet pills that she later combined with alcohol.
Jessica’s failed relationships did not help
Jessica didn’t really make it as a professional singer, but achieved stardom as a television personality. Long before the Real Housewives and the Kardashians took over, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey have dominated the nation’s airwaves with the reality TV show called Newlyweds. The show chronicled the young couple’s everyday adventures, but while everything looked glamorous on the small screen, things weren’t that peachy in real life.
In her memoir, Jessica talks about how her husband used to spend nights on end with his friends while she remained home alone. The former pop star says that they were both too young and immature and doesn’t blame it all on Nick. On the other hand, she also admits that the failed marriage has seriously affected her at the time and contributed to her drinking problem.
Yet, the end of her marriage did not mean that she was out of the woods. Her relationship with John Mayer would turn out to be another overbearing challenge that would push her to another edge. Mayer has had a tumultuous history with his romantic love interests, and Jessica was no exception. The on-off relationship escalated her alcohol abuse.
She never felt good enough for him and she would agonize over the most insignificant stuff just to make sure she wouldn’t upset him again. Jessica said that she felt somehow terrorized by Mayer and drank to fight the anxiety.
It was the start of me relying on alcohol to mask my nerves.
Hitting rock bottom and battling addiction
In her 2020 memoir, Jessica reveals that she got to a point where she needed a drink every morning to combat shaking and anxiety. The former TV personality believes her addiction stems in part from trying to numb the pain caused by her childhood sexual abuse. But the pills and alcohol were masking her issues only temporarily. That’s when she decided that in order to really heal, she needed to quit drinking.
Personally, to do this I needed to stop drinking alcohol because it kept my mind and heart circling in the same direction and quite honestly I was exhausted. I wanted to feel the pain so I could carry it like a badge of honor. I wanted to live as a leader does and break cycles to advance forward- never looking back with regret and remorse over any choice I have made and would make for the rest of my time here within this beautiful world.
In 2017, after hosting a Halloween party at her house, Jessica realized she has hit rock bottom. She’s spent the whole night drinking and listening to her children’s trick-or-treat until she nearly passed out. The next day, she was so mad at herself that she hasn’t had a drink since.
Giving up the alcohol was easy. I was mad at that bottle. At how it allowed me to stay complacent and numb.
Working with her feelings however, was the hardest part. She had to feel the trauma that was anesthetized with vodka for so many years. It was painful, but she made it through.
The vulnerable photo that marks 4 years of sobriety
To celebrate her victory, on November 1st, 2021. Jessica posted a photo on social media taken four years prior – on the day she decided to get sober. She looks nothing like the star we got used seeing on TV or in glamorous magazines, but that was the whole point. She wanted everyone to see what mixing pills with alcohol can do to a person. A single photo was enough to capture the damage. Alongside the image of herself in a pink tracksuit, Jessica wrote:
This person in the early morning of Nov 1, 2017 is an unrecognizable version of myself. I had so much self-discovery to unlock and explore. I knew in this very moment I would allow myself to take back my light, show victory over my internal battle of self-respect, and brave this world with piercing clarity.
After four years that have quickly flown by, Jessica had the courage to expose herself exactly as she was at that point in her life. No glam, no fancy clothes and no makeup to hide her struggle – just a “before moment” that marks the beginning of an amazing transformation.
There is so much stigma around the word alcoholism or the label of an alcoholic. The real work that needed to be done in my life was to actually accept failure, pain, brokenness, and self-sabotage. The drinking wasn’t the issue. I was. I didn’t love myself. I didn’t respect my own power. Today I do. I have made nice with the fears and I have accepted the parts of my life that are just sad. I own my personal power with soulful courage. I am wildly honest and comfortably open. I am free.
Showing vulnerability is a sign of strength and courage
Although many celebrities have fought addiction (or still do), not many had the courage to be so open about it. Jessica posted a vulnerable picture of what she used to be, but is not anymore. She has come a long way, she is happier, healthier and definitely an inspiration for anyone struggling with any type of addiction.
Admitting your truth, no matter how ugly it is, is not a sign of weakness, but the only way to understand what pain you are running away from.
Speak Your truth
Daring to be vulnerable is tough, but it’s always worth it.
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