Inside Wendy Williams' Decades-Long Journey to Sobriety — and Work to Help Other Addicts
Wendy Williams has long been open about her struggles with cocaine addiction
“I have been living in a sober house … You know I’ve had a struggle with cocaine in the past,” she said on The Wendy Williams Show. “I never went to a place to get treatment … there are people in your family, it might be you … I want you to know more of the story.”
But just one week after her announcement, The Daily Mail reported Williams was hospitalized after she was found drunk and checking herself out of her sober living house. She has not addressed the report and hosted The Wendy Williams Show as usual.
The TV personality, 54, returned to her eponymous daytime talk program March 4 after taking a two-month hiatus to tend to a fractured shoulder and her Grave’s disease, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid.
Upon making her return earlier this month, Williams spoke to her past addictions, telling the audience that “once you’re a substance abuser, you have to battle that for the rest of your life.”
“Crack is wack — but it was very good to me at a particular stupid point in my life,” she told the audience. “I was a mess, functioning, killing myself. I realize that I am a walking addict. Do you know what I’m saying? You can’t just clean it up and stop it and think that it’s not going to affect you.”
Williams, who made a name for herself on New York and Philadelphia radio, went on to reveal that she quit her drug habit abruptly before her 29th birthday.
“I had wasted a lot of my life burning up my insides, which aren’t burnt, thank God, but you never know when it could pop up,” she said. “I constantly have to watch the inside of my body because of hard partying, plus the thyroid, just a mess.”
While attending Boston’s Northeastern University, Williams — who once told PEOPLE drugs were a “demon” she had to overcome — discovered drugs.
“I didn’t consider it a problem,” she told PEOPLE in 2014 of dabbling in cocaine as an undergrad, “mainly because I had no money to fuel the habit.” But after landing a dream gig as a disc jockey on New York City’s WRKS station in 1989, “I was making $60,000 a year, and at $35 a gram, cocaine was cheap,” said Williams.
“I was a young Jersey girl turning the city upside down,” she said. “I wanted to live on the edge.”
In July, Williams opened up about being “a functioning addict” and her cocaine habit during her days working in radio.
“I was a functioning addict though. I would report to work on time and I walked in and all of my coworkers, and including my bosses, would know but instead of firing me, you see, I would grab my headphones and arrogantly walk into the studio and dare them to fire me because I was making ratings,” she told Entertainment Tonight. “[A] functioning addict has several alarm clocks, you’re organized. It’s a miracle I was able to stop.”
Williams detailed life in the throes of addiction in a 2013 NPR interview, in which she described getting her fix in the Bronx late at night.
“This is before cell phones, waiting just like a real fiend, waiting on Jerome Ave. at 3 a.m. in the morning as a single woman, with a thriving career here in New York,” she said. “Thank God I never got stopped by the cops to shame my family and myself and lose my job. Thank God I never got raped, robbed or killed in an alley. Thank God my heart never palpitate to the point I was dead in my apartment.”
RELATED VIDEO: Wendy Williams Has Been ‘Living in a Sober House’ Due to ‘Struggle with Cocaine in the Past’
Despite heavy cocaine use throughout her 20s, during which time she was briefly married, Williams abruptly got her act together after she began dating husband Kevin Hunter.
“I decided to step back and take an assessment of my life,” she told PEOPLE in 2014. “Somehow I hadn’t gotten caught up in handcuffs or shamed my parents. I had just met this new guy. I said, ‘Count your blessings, Wen. It’s time to stop.’ ”
Williams launched The Wendy Williams Show in 2008, and the star has said that finding herself in the spotlight has inspired her to speak openly about her battle with addiction.
“I lost 10-plus years to cocaine, so I’ve got time to make up for. And I don’t talk about it because I was outed, I talk about it because I’m Wendy and this is my truth,” she told Cosmopolitan in July. “Besides, I got out of it. It’s not how far you fall, it’s how you get up.”
She also admitted in an emotional Wendy episode shortly after Whitney Houston’s death in 2012 that she has “no regrets” about her past.
“It’s been almost 15 years since I smoked last from a crack pipe. … Without being that girl, I wouldn’t be the woman that I am today. So if it makes any sense to you, I have no regrets,” she told her audience as she broke down in tears. “I’m one of the lucky ones.”
Williams launched the Hunter Foundation with Hunter in 2014 as non-profit that provides resources for drug education, prevention and rehabilitation programs. And earlier this month, she announced that the foundation has partnered with T.R.U.S.T., an organization dedicated to building a bridge from treatment to long-term recovery, to launch a national resource hotline: 1-888-5HUNTER (1-888-548-6837).
If you or someone you know is in need of help, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
The Wendy Williams Show airs weekdays (check local listings).