In a candid new interview, Hayden Panettiere opens up for the first time about her struggle with addiction — revealing that her experience with postpartum depression further compounded the “cycle of self-destruction.”
The former child actor, who rose to fame thanks to a star-making turn in 2000’s Remember the Titans, is refreshingly transparent about a years-long addiction to alcohol and opioids in People’s latest cover story, in which she details hitting “rock bottom” multiple times.
"I was on top of the world and I ruined it," the Nashville star, 32, said.
Panettiere explained she was introduced to drugs at the age of 15 by someone on her management team, and she’s been fighting to stay sober — in and out of rehab facilities — ever since. Her drinking and drug use became an even bigger problem after a bout of postpartum depression following the birth of her now 7-year-old daughter, Kaya, with former fiancé Wladimir Klitschko.
"I never had the feeling that I wanted to harm my child, but I didn't want to spend any time with her," said Panettiere, who didn't drink during her pregnancy. "There was just this gray color in my life."
Panettiere said she had no idea where her postpartum depression started and her addiction ended — she just kept on self-medicating.
“It was just me and the bottle. It was alcohol, and it became opioids,” she told People, adding of drug use, “It makes you feel good and you’re like grasping for anything to make you feel happy. And it’s usually just for a moment, and then all of the sudden you’re sad again — and you’re not just sad, you’re feeling worse than you even did before. And it just becomes this horrible cycle.”
Her “cycle of self-destruction” got so bad that Panettiere eventually sent her daughter to Ukraine to live with her ex Klitschko. (Panettiere confirmed Kaya was safe amid the Russian invasion.) "It was the hardest thing I ever had to do," she said. "But I wanted to be a good mom to her — and sometimes that means letting them go."
Panettiere also spoke about her time on Nashville, calling those six years in her life “tough.” She said a lot of the storylines her troubled country star character, Juliette Barnes, went through were reminiscent of her own experiences — including alcoholism and PPD. She added that spending 12 to 20 hours a day on set for 10 months out of the year prevented her from facing her addiction.
She left the show to seek treatment for postpartum depression, and later went from rehab to rehab before realizing she had to unravel the trauma of her past. She eventually found a facility within the last year that “literally ripped me open and put me back together again” and was finally able to heal.
"This hasn't been easy and there were a lot of ups and downs," Panettiere, who is set to reprise her role as Kirby Reed in Scream 6, said of her journey to sobriety and peace. "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."