It was on Monday 29th December 1975 that Anthony Hopkins took his final alcoholic drink, you could say his New Year resolution came early or you could be surprised to learn it was 2 days prior to his 38th birthday on 31st December, also New Year’s eve, after which it would have been a more logical time to quit, but he didn’t pick the time, it chose him.
Sir Anthony Hopkins, who has been sober now for 36 years, said later of his moment of realization on that sunny day in Hollywood, where he lived then :
“For me, giving it (alcohol) up was finding the airlock, the escape hatch. It all happened one Monday morning in 1975.
“It was as if a voice said, ‘Ready! Go!’ It was that clear, the voice of gold. The best part of myself, my subconscious, came to rescue me.
“I don’t know how. I had no religious connection or a connection to what I thought was God.
“And then that Monday: Boom. And it was over. It was like a great pilot light was lit.
“No explanation except, I guess, I was open, willing and ready. When I look back I think I was so lucky to get out of that one.”
The drinking addiction started when he was in his early twenties, then the 1960’s, when the young actor was appearing in theatres up and down the UK, living out of bedsits and hating his job. Hopkins never felt at home on the stage, although having admired his mentor Sir Laurence Olivier immensely, on the whole he kept himself to himself during these what he later calls ‘tedious’ years. Anthony Hopkins claims the whole of the 1960’s decade is a blurr to him, even the Beatles and the whole swinging 60’s London scene of which he chose not to partake.
The drinking got worse and by his own admission he ‘drank himself into oblivion’, culminating in him walking out of ‘Macbeth’, half way through a run in 1973. He also walked out on his first wife Petronella Barker and their young daughter Abigail, a distance which was to last for decades. ‘War & Peace’, the epic BBC drama, adapted from Tolstoy’s novel was a big break for Hopkins at the time, starring as the soul-searching Pierre Bezukhov in this prestigious production which was televized weekly. Anthony Hopkins became a very popular household name in the UK for this role, yet he revealed many years later that he had been drunk throughout the entire filming of 20 episodes, which lasted months. You wouldn’t know though, if you hadn’t been told.
Anthony Hopkins confesses he does not like the limelight and found it difficult as a rising star to cope with the attention he was receiving as his acting career progressed.
That Christmas of 1975, Jenni his second wife walked out on Hopkins, returning to London, leaving him by himself. Hopkins spent several days on a roving booze up, which ended firstly with him waking up in a hotel room in Phoenix, calling Jenni, crying like a baby, saying he did not know how he had come to be there. Jenni’s retort was to reassure him but told him firmly he had to stop drinking and get help. Secondly, a few days later, Hopkins blacked out at a party, after hitting the bottle hard. A Hollywood movie agent called Bondi, expressed his concern about the actor’s talent going to waste and handed him a card for AA – Alcoholics Anonymous.
Anthony Hopkins, former alcoholic made that call to AA, after his last drink on the morning of 29th December 1975. He has been a lifetime member since that day when he declared war on his demons.
What made Hopkins suddenly wake-up, fear. Fear of losing his wife, his career, and himself.
Hopkins embarked on an arduous, testing 5 year recovery plan and constant battle against alcoholism, which he won hands down. During that time he said he had ‘found God’. Clancy Imislund is one person who he did find then to help him through his battle. Today Clancy is the MD of the LA charity Midnight Mission, who honoured Anthony Hopkins last year for his work with the charity. It was Clancy who pursuaded Hopkins to help others and give something back to society, as part of his own recovery from alcohol addiction all those years ago.
It is doubtful the success would have continued, if the drinking had not stopped.