Former child star Mackenzie Phillips has not had the easiest life. She had an incestuous relationship with her father for 10 years, dealt with public family fall-outs and battled addiction to both alcohol and drugs ― her struggle with the latter beginning before she’d even reached her teens.
Reflecting on her tumultuous past during an appearance on “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”, Mackenzie ― who is now sober and works as a drug rehab counselor in Pasadena, Calif. ― says there were several overwhelming factors that contributed to her ongoing drug use.
“I come from a long line of undiagnosed mental illness, rampant addiction and alcoholism,” she says. “So there’s the genetic component. And then there’s the introduction to these types of behaviors at a very young age.”
When Mackenzie was 10 years old, her father (John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas), taught her how to roll a joint. At 11, she had her first taste of cocaine. She was arrested for the first time while she was still a minor, just a week shy of her 18th birthday. None of it seemed unusual to her.
“You become desensitized to seeing all kinds of out-of-control behavior and inappropriate things,” she says.
I fed the beast, and the beast was shame, the beast was not understanding the neglect, not understanding the abuse.
Seeing the adults around her doing drugs and engaging in such risky behavior also gave Mackenzie a warped sense of what it meant to be a grown-up.
“You have this idea that in order to be an adult, that this is a rite of passage,” she says. “[In] that moment, that genetic monster inside wakes up and goes, ‘Oh, man, I’m hungry.’ I fed the beast, and the beast was shame, the beast was not understanding the neglect, not understanding the abuse.”
Mackenzie says she also questioned if she was somehow responsible for all of the traumas in her life.
“Was it something that was inherently wrong with me, that I was being punished for?” she says. “Because I remember thinking as a little child, ‘Something is severely wrong with me, but nobody’s telling me.’”
That underlying sense of confusion left Mackenzie feeling lost throughout her childhood.
“I didn’t really know where I belonged or who to trust,” she says. “You know, at 5, you’re just supposed to be filled with love and feeling welcomed. And I didn’t feel that way.”
Another reflection from Mackenzie: