Last Updated 4 weeks Ago
Hayden Panettiere is speaking up for the first time about a hidden addiction to alcohol and opiates that almost cost her career and her life.
In the newest edition of PEOPLE, the 32-year-old former Nashville star confesses, “I was on top of the world and I ruined it.” She struggled for years with both her addiction and a severe case of postpartum depression. “I’d think I’d hit rock bottom, but then that trap door opens,” the speaker said.
Panettiere, who has a 7-year-old daughter named Kaya with her former, Wladimir Klitschko, eventually made up her mind to seek assistance. The actor, who recently underwent trauma counseling and inpatient treatment, says she put a lot of effort into herself and had to be willing to be brutally honest.
She has since returned to the set to reprise her beloved fan-favorite role of Kirby Reed in the upcoming Scream movie, and she is giving her all to Hoplon International, the organization she founded in March with the goal of raising money for Ukraine as that nation fights a war with Russia that is now in its fifth month.
Panettiere describes her journey to sobriety and happiness as “not easy and full of ups and downs.” “But I don’t regret even the ugliest things that have happened to me. I feel incredibly accomplished. And I feel like I have a second chance.”
Panettiere claims she was only 15 when a member of her team started giving her “happy pills” prior to red carpet appearances. She was already a star by the age of 11 owing to roles in soap operas and in Remember the Titans. According to Panettiere, “they were to get me energized throughout interviews.” “I had no idea that this was not an appropriate thing, or what door that would open for me when it came to my addiction.”
Even though Panettiere occasionally used opioids and consumed alcohol, her career was thriving. The actor, who was cast as the superpowered cheerleader Claire Bennet on Heroes when she was 16 years old, claims that her only saving grace is that she couldn’t be untidy while filming and working. “But [off set] things started spiraling out of control. And as I grew older, I almost couldn’t survive without drugs and booze.”
On Nashville in 2014, Panettiere played the troubled country singer Juliette Barnes. As soon as the actress’s actual pregnancy was included in the show, it became obvious that her character’s inner troubles mirrored those of the actress.
After giving birth to Kaya, Panettiere experienced severe postpartum depression, claiming, “Those were truly trying years.” “Many of those plotlines, such as the postpartum depression and drinking, were relatable to me. They had a direct impact.”
Although Panettiere sought treatment for her depression, she continued to struggle and became more and more reliant on alcohol to get through the day.
“I never felt like I wanted to hurt my child, but I didn’t want to spend any time with her,” Panettiere says. She didn’t drink while she was pregnant, but she started drinking again after Kaya was born. In my life, there was only this gray color.
The relationship between the actress and Klitschko, who she started dating in 2009, deteriorated as the actress would sneak away to drink. She remembers that “he didn’t want to be near me.” “I didn’t want to be in your presence. However, I was using alcohol and opiates to do whatever to temporarily make me happy. Then I would feel worse than before. I was stuck in a destructive loop.”
When she was at her worst, Panettiere recalls, “I would wake up with the tremors and could only function by sipping wine.” The actress made the heartbreaking choice to leave Kaya to live with Klitschko (with whom she had broken up) in Ukraine in 2018, the year Nashville came to a conclusion. The toughest thing she has ever had to do, she said, was that. But sometimes being a good mother to a child means letting them go, so I wanted to be that for her.
Panettiere’s drinking got worse, and eventually, she ended herself in the hospital with jaundice. She recounts that “doctors warned me my liver was going to give out.” I was no longer a young person of 20 who could easily recover.
Panettiere eventually checked into an eight-month treatment facility. The actress says it has only been more lately that she has at last achieved the calm for which she has long searched. She attributes her stay to giving her the means to “climb over the hump” of her addiction.
It’s a regular decision, and I constantly check in with myself, says Panettiere. I will never take being a part of this world for granted again, but I’m just so thankful to be a part of it once more.