Tallulah Willis Reveals Why She Decided to Get Sober

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By Donna Freydkin

Original Source: allure.com

On July 8, Tallulah Willis announced on Instagram that she’s been sober for three years. “Self annihilation fueled with medicating left me a shell, and the world on mute,” she wrote. “I don’t push any agenda, I can only speak for my path and staying sober has been far and beyond the most important thing I’ve done in my wee 23 years.”

Her refreshing openness isn’t a grab for attention. It’s the byproduct of her upbringing as the daughter of two very, very famous people, in this case superstars Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. She had an inkling, she tells Allure, that the time she spent in rehab in 2014 would eventually make news despite her deep-seated desire for privacy — and it did. Instead of fighting it, she’s been open about her journey in hopes of helping others.

Willis says she wasn’t shocked when sources began to cover her rehab stint. “My understanding was that someone who worked there sold the story,” she says. “So fuck it. If anything that I went through could help somebody, I have an obligation to speak out. I was just very driven by that.”

“I would get emails from people expressing their gratitude for my honesty and saying that it inspired them,” she continues. “That was very encouraging. This was bigger than me. It wasn’t about drugs or drinking. That was the first step of clearing the top layer to get to the real things you work on. I just had to stop all of that and the real work began.”

For Willis, that work meant dealing with messy emotions she’d ignored for years, instead of self-medicating: She hated her adult self and body. She felt deeply insecure and uneasy in her own skin. Her self-esteem was non-existent. But she says she didn’t have an “a-ha” moment of clarity when she decided to become sober, nor did she “bottom out.” She likens her low point more to floating, never seeing clearly or feeling much of anything, and coming to the realization that existing wasn’t the same as living.

“I felt like everything was bland. The color on everything was drained. Food tasted bad. I knew life had to be better. I know this is not it. There had to be a way,” she says. “I didn’t know what it would look like. It was less the actual taking away of these chemicals — it’s that there was so much discomfort with self. I didn’t have anything to ground me. I didn’t feel safe in my own body. I felt detached.”

And in 2014, when Willis left an in-patient treatment facility where she dealt with drug and alcohol use issues, she adjusted to a new reality, one without stimulants. She’s says she’s learned to be gentle with herself, to accept her flaws, and to not look at herself quite so harshly — but it took a minute.

Make that many, many minutes, in fact. She recalls going to a restaurant with one of her sisters soon after leaving rehab and heading home because she couldn’t handle having so many people clustered around her.

“I became a hermit and watched Netflix for seven months,” she says. “It was about trying to see what feels good. To me, it was spending one-on-one time with people and connecting. It’s having real conversations.”

She found herself unable to handle crowds, so she retreated, becoming a homebody. “I spent a lot of time with my mom. I didn’t go out much. I started to put together what things looked like. That was hard. It was isolating. But it wasn’t horrible. That’s when the drawing was birthed,” she says.

Now, Willis is making a name for herself as a visual artist, drawing what she calls iconoclastic creatures with “exaggerated proportions and humanoid features.” Her art is a direct byproduct of her sobriety. She’d just left rehab and her world, says Willis, had “gotten so small.” She didn’t leave the house much.

“Finding that as a tool, an outlet, a passion, was one of the coolest things to ever happen to me. They’re kind of interwoven. I’d just gotten sober. Everything was leveled down to nothing,” she says. “I started doing the drawings because I didn’t have that much to do. Becoming sober, I had an intense claustrophobia and anxiety of crowds. All my senses had been dulled for so long. I had a pen and a notebook sitting there. I used to have a fear of trying because I was convinced that it would be bad. I paused that narrative and just did it for fun. It’s definitely almost taken on a life of its own.”

Despite opening her first art show earlier this year, Willis still struggles to find confidence in her work thanks to the “mean little gremlin” — that scathing, shrill voice inside your head that tells you you suck and nothing you do will be worthwhile.

“I often speak to my sisters about that [voice],” she says. “We’ve come to the idea that it’s not about ignoring it or shutting it up. It’s about acknowledging that the voice is there but it’s not serving me. This horrible voice is there and I know it’s there and I can prepare myself.”

Continue Reading: allure/tallulahwillis

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