Mackenzie Phillips Talks Addiction, Incest and Why She's Not a Victim

Filed under: Celeb News & Interviews

Mackenzie Phillips says she has no regrets in life. Credit: Michael Tullberg, Getty Images

Mackenzie Phillips was born into rock and roll royalty.

The daughter of "Papa" John Phillips, the legendary Mamas and the Papas founder, she became a child star, appearing in "American Graffiti," and achieved even more fame when she co-starred as Julie Cooper on "One Day at a Time." But a spiraling drug addiction got her fired from the TV series -- twice.

Last year, Phillips released her memoir, "High on Arrival," in which she writes of her decades-long drug addiction and makes the shocking revelation that, as an adult, she had sexual relations with her father. The book, now out in paperback, includes a new chapter with updates since its original release.

Phillips also writes honestly about her struggles to stay clean. A 10-year stretch of sobriety was shattered when she was prescribed pain killers, and slowly spiraled into a heroin addiction that had her shooting up every 20 minutes.

It was only when she was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on the way to a "One Day at a Time" reunion on the "Rachael Ray Show" that she finally got clean again and says she has remained so ever since.

ParentDish recently caught up with Phillips, who lives in Los Angeles with her son, Shane, 24, a musician. An edited version of the interview follows.

ParentDish: In the new chapter of your book, you write that none of your siblings are talking to you now.
Mackenzie Phillips:
I don't have any contact with any of my siblings, including Chynna (Phillips).

PD: Even though she publicly supported you when the book first came out?
Yeah. Chynna's a wonderful girl. When my book was coming out she had a Christian album coming out, and then we stayed in contact. And then she went into rehab for anxiety and I haven't spoken to her since. She recently went on a press tour for Wilson Phillips and said some pretty interesting things, including she and I had discussed things and we were taking a break. That was news to me. And she went on "Howard Stern" and said that I wrote the book for money.

PD: That must be really hard.
It's so hard. I have a 24-year-old son, and these are his aunts and uncles and he hasn't spoken to them either. He said to me the other day, "Mom, don't you realize how less dramatic our lives are without them, that we're better off?" And I thought, he's right. Look, I love them and miss them and I wish they were in my life and I wish they would be in contact with me, but they're not. And that's the reality and you have to face it.

PD: Do you have any regrets about writing the memoir?
None, none whatsoever. I'm very sorry it's caused this rift in my family, but I feel beholden to a much bigger community of survivors and addicts who have been given a voice where they felt they had none as a result of someone finally coming forward and saying, look, here's what happened.

PD: Before writing the book, you say you never considered yourself a victim of incest, that you saw yourself as a willing partner.
MP: I write in the added chapter about how I had never gone into the inner workings of the mind of the survivor and using the word "consensual." And I realized, with help from people like Dr. Drew, that I had been led to believe by my father that it was consensual since I wasn't fighting him off. So, therefore I was complicit and I took that on as my reality and beat myself up.

A good friend of mine texted me and sent me a picture of my father and I on the cover of People 30 years ago and I was like, "Wow. I carried this secret around for so many years." And I look at my eyes in that picture and I think, what was I thinking? How was I possibly getting up every day and functioning, as far as I was functioning, with what I'd been going through?

PD: You say you don't want to be called a victim.
... My dad is a reprehensible, horrible human being. ... Yes, he was a predator. Yes, he abused me sexually. All that is true. Yet, I held the man's hand as he died and mourned his passing. I think that was, in part, due to my inability to confront the reality of what had happened to me.

People say, "Oh, well she waited to write this book until he was dead." If I had written it while he was alive, people would have said, "Why didn't she wait until he was dead?" It's one of those things where you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. I was so sick of people going, "Oh, that Mackenzie Phillips, she is such a fuck-up. What is wrong with that woman?"

And I kept putting out sanitized versions of my healthy psyche in "E True Hollywood Story." And, so, finally, when I was arrested and I felt like my life was over and everything seemed so dark and bleak, the interesting thing is that being arrested was the best thing that ever happened to me. It saved my life.

PD: Do you worry about relapsing again?
I don't worry because I've never walked free in my own life -- having everything on the table -- the incest, the crazy events of my life that are chronicled in "High on Arrival." I've never lived a life with those things on the table. Also, if I spent my time worrying about relapse, I'd probably relapse.

PD: You write that you used drugs until you were six months pregnant.
I never try to make any excuses for it. ... It's difficult to reconcile with who I was to who I am.

(My son) remembers before (he was) 5, when I was using, and after, when I got clean, very clearly. We talk about it. I remember a lot about it. I remember playing peek-a-boo when he was in the bath and I would close the shower curtain and I'd say, "No peeking," and I'd be sitting on the john shooting up with my 2-year-old in the bathtub two feet away from me.

PD: Are you working now?
No, I'm not. I would love to work -- are you kidding me? It's very difficult. I knew my book was not going to be a resume builder or a five-episode arc on "House." But I felt compelled to tell my story as it happened, not as I wish it had happened. So, no, I'm not a working actor at this point. I wish I was. I know I'm good at what I do.

PD: Are you set, as far as money?
I'm OK. I've been blessed. The craziest thing is I share in my father's estate with my siblings and his last wife and that's a nice thing and I'm grateful for it. And the book has done very well, thank God.

PD: You've had a very tumultuous life.
I've had people come up to me and say, "You poor thing. What you've been through." And I say, "Thank you, that's so kind." But I think to myself, don't feel sorry for me. Regardless of the life I've lived, I've also lived a life of ridiculous abundance and a lot of incredible relationships and deep love and friendships and a love for animals that encompasses my daily life. My life is very simple now and my needs are few. We have a great life.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.