John Mulaney’s pandemic relapse made a lot of news, but before that he’d been sober since 2005. He first quit drinking and using drugs at age 23.
Mulaney started drinking at 13; at that age he felt awkward, and thought alcohol made him funny and gregarious. He also started using cocaine and prescription drugs. “I wasn’t a good athlete,” he said, “so maybe it was some young male thing of, ‘This is the physical feat I can do. Three Vicodin and a tequila and I’m still standing. Who’s the athlete now?’”
In his 2012 comedy special New in Town, he talked about drinking a bottle of perfume after someone at a party asked if it was whiskey or perfume. He also told a story of accidentally getting a prostate exam in an attempt to obtain Xanax from his doctor.
“I quit drinking because I used to drink too much, and then I would black out and I would ‘ruin’ parties, or so I’m told,” he said. “When you do that enough—when you black out drinking and you do crazy things—you kind of become like Michael Jackson, like any story anyone says about you might be true, and even you don’t know by the end.”
Mulaney says he got sober the first time in 2005 after a weekend bender that was “like fading in and out of a movie.” He felt out of control and thought, “‘I don’t like this guy anymore. I’m not rooting for him.’”
In his 15 years sober, Mulaney built coping skills and was committed to his recovery. However, the pandemic was hard on him. He says he thrives with external structure, which was lacking during COVID. He had trouble keeping himself busy and living so much in his head. In his comedy special this May—his first since attending addiction treatment in December 2020—he said, “When I’m alone, I realize I’m with the person who tried to kill me.”
Reporters and TV critics who were at the May performance say it was mostly about his relapse. His honesty is important, as relapse too often gets treated like a character flaw or a sign of weakness. Famous people who publicly struggle to stay sober often get scrutinized or made fun of. Relapse is normal; it doesn’t mean a person can’t go on to live a life in recovery, as Mulaney himself is showing.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for mental health disorders and addiction in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you build the tools to thrive in long-term recovery. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.