It’s been over seven years since Mackenzie Phillips revealed her long-term incestuous relationship with her father, musician John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, but the former child star still has regrets over how she relayed the startling story.
Sitting down with Oprah Winfrey for Oprah: Where Are They Now?, Phillips, 56, recalled opening up about the inappropriate sexual relationship in her 2009 book High on Arrival, and during her interview at the time on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
“I felt like I was sort of in abject terror,” Phillips said of discussing her father on Winfrey’s old show. “I felt like I was trying to climb up a cliff. I felt like I was trying to make you believe me … I was so frightened … I just felt like I was at such a deficit.”
Phillips wrote in her book that her rock star father raped her when she was 19 years old and they were both under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The encounters continued on-and-off for 10 years, eventually becoming consensual.
“I felt like here I was with this huge piece of information that maybe wasn’t even fit for public consumption,” Phillips told Winfrey. “I hadn’t done my due diligence. When I wrote the book I just thought, ‘I’m not gonna Google this, I’m not gonna Google that. I’m just going to tell my story as it happened to me.’ But then, in retrospect, there was some due diligence that I missed doing. Like preparing myself for losing my family.”
The star – who battled drug abuse for years and was divorced twice – said she had been “altruistic” about her family’s reaction to her sharing their “dirty laundry,” as Winfrey put it.
“That has been something that I’ve had to come to terms with,” she explained, before noting that her mother, Susan Adams, has remained supportive, as well as her son Shane and “beautiful ex-husband” Shane Fontayne.
Yet, Phillips said she’s not sure how she would have shared her story differently: “It was sort of like a runaway train that I had no power of stopping.”
She continued, “Maybe I would have gotten them all together and prepared them better. They already knew, you see the thing is when they all say ‘We didn’t know,’ they all already knew and so that is something that one just had to deal with.”
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Phillips, who started working as a drug rehab counselor a few years ago and now works at Breathe Life Healing Center, also addressed her own struggles with substance abuse, noting the “genetic component” to her addiction.
“I come from a long line of undiagnosed mental illness, rampant addiction and alcoholism. So there’s the genetic component, right? And there’s the introduction to these types of behaviors at a very young age,” she said. “You become desensitized to seeing all kinds of out of control behavior and inappropriate things at a very young age. And then you have this idea that in order to be an adult that this is a rite of passage.”