In her new memoir Mean Baby, Selma Blair is opening up about her decades-long alcohol addiction which began when she was just seven years old.
In an interview for this week’s PEOPLE cover story, the actress, 49, opened up about about the personal traumas that have shaped her, including suicide attempts and sexual assault.
“I don’t know if I would’ve survived childhood without alcoholism,” Blair told PEOPLE. “That’s why it’s such a problem for a lot of people. It really is a huge comfort, a huge relief in the beginning. Maybe even the first few years for me because I did start really young with that as a comfort, as my coping mechanism.”
The Cruel Intentions star also shared an exclusive excerpt from the memoir, in which she describes her first experience of intoxication as a “revelation.”
“I always liked Passover,” she writes. “As I took small sips of the Manischewitz I was allowed throughout the seder a light flooded through me, filling me up with the warmth of God. But the year I was seven, when we basically had Manischewitz on tap and no one was paying attention to my consumption level, I put it together: the feeling was not God but fermentation. I thought ‘Well this is a huge disappointment, but since it turns out I can get the warmth of the Lord from a bottle, thank God there’s one right here.’ I got drunk that night. Very drunk. Eventually, I was put in my sister Katie’s bed with her. In the morning, I didn’t remember how I’d gotten there.”
Slowly, Blair writes, she began to use alcohol to numb her pain, saying that in the early years of her alcoholism, she “just quick sips whenever my anxiety would alight. I usually barely even got tipsy. I became an expert alcoholic, adept at hiding my secret.”
As she reached her teen years and early 20s, Blair’s alcohol abuse began to escalate. In Mean Baby, she describes an incident that occurred during a spring break trip during college, when she was raped after a day of binge-drinking.
“I don’t know if both of them raped me. One of them definitely did,” she writes. “I made myself small and quiet and waited for it to be over. I wish I could say what happened to me that night was an anomaly, but it wasn’t. I have been raped, multiple times, because I was too drunk to say the words ‘Please. Stop.’ Only that one time was violent. I came out of each event quiet and ashamed.”
Blair explains how being open about her experience has helped her heal from her trauma, which ran deeper than she knew.
“Writing that stopped me dead in my tracks,” she writes. “My sense of trauma was bigger than I knew. I did not realize that assault was so central in my life. I had so much shame and blame. I’m grateful I felt safe enough to put it on the page. And then can work on it with a therapist and with other writing, and really relieve that burden of shame on myself.”
Blair has been sober since 2016, and says that her purpose for writing is to give others hope that their own darkness can pass.
“It’s a lot,” she says. “I wrote the book for my son . . . and for people trying to find the deepest hole to crawl into until the pain passes.”
She adds: “I’m in a good place. I cannot believe all this happened in my life, and I’m still here and I’m okay.”
Mean Baby is available May 17th.