In 2014, American actress Hayden Panettiere (33) welcomed her daughter, Kaya, with her then partner, Ukrainian boxer Wladimir Klitschko. However, the joy of motherhood was short-lived as she soon experienced postpartum depression, leading her down a dangerous path of alcohol abuse.
"I was being told how to be and how to live by so many people in my life. I wanted certain decisions to be my own, and no one could stop me," she shared, adding, "What I put in my body was like an act of defiance."
The Spiral of Substance Abuse
"Some people work out.
I wish that was my coping mechanism. Alcohol might make you feel better in that moment, but it makes you feel so much worse the next day, and then you do it all over again," Panettiere candidly spoke about her struggles with alcohol.
The actress's journey to self-discovery was further complicated when she began taking opioid painkillers to cope with a flare-up of a neck injury. "I was in a lot of pain. My tolerance got so high so fast that it became a problem.
I should have gone on antidepressants [to cope with the postnatal depression], but you have to find the right one that works for you. They don’t mix well with alcohol, and I wasn’t ready to stop drinking," she admitted.
Embracing Abstinence and Forgiveness
When she turned 30, Hayden entered a 12-step program, where she embraced a life of total abstinence from substances that affect the brain, including alcohol. Her first stint in rehab came in 2015, during the filming of Nashville's fourth series.
"I was the one who put myself in the first treatment center. I was drowning," she recalls. "They wrote my character as having postpartum depression…that she abandoned her child and went to a different country. And it was very difficult to go on set and act out these feelings about these things that I was truly going through in my real life." After eight months of intensive therapy, Hayden was ready to return to acting after a four-year break.
"I did a lot of work on myself. After eight months of intensive therapy, I felt like I had this blank canvas to work with," she stated. "My body still didn’t feel like it belonged to me [explaining why she decided to get a breast reduction in November 2022].
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with someone who wants to tweak something if it makes them feel more confident. That’s all I have to say about it. My confidence is back," she shared.
Finding Forgiveness and Moving Forward
The timing of her recovery also made Hayden reflect on her life.
"I hit 30. My face was swollen. I had jaundice. My eyes were yellow. I had to go to a liver specialist. I was holding on to weight that wasn’t normally there. My hair was thin and coming out in clumps," she said. "A big part of my therapy has been living in forgiveness," she added.
"A step in the 12-step program is making amends. If someone wants to be a good person and to be the best version of themselves, they can choose to do that." However, just as Hayden was about to return to the screen, she faced a devastating loss.
Her brother, Jansen, passed away on February 19, 2023, at the age of 28. Despite the sadness, the actress remained committed to her recovery and journey of self-discovery. "I struggled with sleep deprivation. Sleep is massive.
It affects your motor skills, your ability to think and your overall health...my body was like, ‘enough’," she shared, highlighting the importance of self-care and rest.
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