After years of substance abuse, ‘One Day at a Time’ star talks about recovery

Mackenzie Phillips is known by many for her role in “American Graffiti” and as the rebellious teenager Julie Mora Cooper Horvath in the long-running CBS sitcom, “One Day at a Time.”

On Feb. 22, actor and author Mackenzie Phillips will kick off the 11th annual Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series at Horry-Georgetown Technical College, following such Hollywood luminaries over the years as Danny Trejo, Louis Gossett, Jr., Meredith Baxter and more.

Phillips is known by many for her role in “American Graffiti” and as the rebellious teenager Julie Mora Cooper Horvath in the long-running CBS sitcom, “One Day at a Time,” which also starred Valerie Bertinelli, Bonnie Franklin and Pat Harrington, Jr.

For many years, Phillips struggled with substance abuse and a long history of family trauma, specifically a decade-long period of sexual abuse by her late father, songwriter and performer John Phillips. According to a press release, Phillips now utilizes her platform as a public figure to help educate people about addiction and to combat social stigmas.

She now works as a substance use disorder counselor in West Hollywood, California.

The Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series will take place on four subsequent Thursdays, beginning with Phillips, who will be speaking twice on Feb. 22. This is a new development for this year, according to organizer Casey King, also a physics and natural sciences professor at HGTC.

“What I asked Mackenzie Phillips to do was a duplicate event. It’s 40 minutes at night to tell her story, and another 40 minutes during the day – so she is contracted to tell her story at both events,” he said.

Subsequent Thursday events will include presentations from a panel of HGTC students, faculty and staff who are in recovery from various addictions [March 1], MUSC professor and clinical researcher Kathleen T. Brady, MD, PhD [March 8] and Cory Reich, PhD, of The Institute for Addiction Study in Salt Lake City [March 15/Presented by the Grand Strand chapter of Faces and Voices of Recovery, or FAVOR].

Last year’s kickoff event with Danny Trejo boasted attendance of more than 700 – a clear logistical challenge because the Burroughs & Chapin Auditorium seats only 350. Overflow rooms with video and audio feeds were set up to meet this challenge.

King said the two programs will be the same, but there will be no food at the morning presentation. A dinner is offered in the Café 1100 prior to the event on Thursday.

Folks will be on hand with free tickets on the morning and evening of the events.

“Because there is no advance ticketing, there is no way to know exactly how many people to expect,” he said. “Part of the theme of the event that I created was to keep it free and open. If you want to sit in the auditorium, you will need to pick up a free ticket.”

King, who got sober in 2005, said that the key to longevity in recovery is longevity itself.

“Maintaining a reasonable happiness in my life has led to everything else,” he said.

In an email Phillips said that the key focal point in her message is that people can and do recover.

“I focus on my own story of recovery and how much I wanted to change, but I didn’t know how,” she said. “I needed others to help me and show me the way out of a terrible situation. I talk about how inherited trauma has affected my recovery, and how I now work in a treatment center in Los Angeles.”

If people are still struggling with addiction and are considering getting the help they need, they need to know that they don’t have to live that way anymore, according to Phillips.

“There is a solution, and like I said before, we do recover. It’s time for us recovering people – those of us who are willing – to recover out loud and use our voices to break the stigma. Address addiction as a medical issue, a mental health crisis, not a moral failing,” she said.

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