Melissa Gilbert says she has none other than Dr. Drew Pinsky to thank for keeping her on the straight and narrow path when she was on the mend after surgery to fix her broken back last year. Melissa, who went public about her battles with alcoholism in her Prairie Tale: A Memoir autobiography two years ago, says that she was afraid of becoming addicted to pain pills, so she sought guidance from the “Celebrity Rehab” host.
“He knew the pain I was going through could be intense, but there was a limit to how many days I could take the pain pills, the opiates, and then I would just have to tough it out for a day or two so that I wouldn’t trigger anything,” explains the actress, who’s in her seventh year of sobriety. She’s feeling fine nowadays, she makes it clear.
Gilbert has been doing the promotional rounds for her Dec. 11 “The Christmas Pageant” movie on the Hallmark Channel. She says she had a blast with her departure role — as a demanding, edgy New York theater director, who winds up with the chore of running a small town Christmas pageant. The cast includes Edward Herrmann and hunky Robert Mailhouse, who plays Melissa’s love interest. After her long recovery and the breakup of her 16-year marriage to Bruce Boxleitner in March, taking on the movie was a welcome change of pace, she says.
Letting the public in on her alcohol addiction, especially fans who came to know her as loveable Half Pint in her child star days on “Little House on the Prairie,” was a big decision. Melissa says she has no regrets.
“It’s more important for people to know they’re not alone –because so many people are going through it — than it is for me to protect an image that has no reality,” she notes. “There’s always been this sort of assumption, because I’m lucky enough to do what I love and be paid as an actor, that my life is all about limousines and red carpets. Because of that, they don’t realize that there’s a human being in here, who hurt over things like the death of my father, the end of ‘Little House,’ and the death of Michael Landon. ‘She’s a star. How can that be?’ And I am flawed. God knows, I am flawed, as we all are.
“Thank goodness,” she adds with a laugh. “Who’d want to be perfect? Too much pressure.”