Alcohol is alcohol. I’m an alcoholic. I would drink no matter what. That’s just part of being an alcoholic – you find any excuse. For some reason, I just denied what I was doing to myself. It’s a miracle anyone would hire me at all, looking at me. I looked like a walking heart attack.”
John Goodman has been well known to American audiences for decades. From his treasured role as Dan Conner in Roseanne, to the erratic and lovable Walter from The Big Lebowski, plus countless appearances both on and off-screen, including classic voice-over contributions to animated flicks like Monster’s Inc. and The Emperor’s New Groove.
Even if you don’t know his name, the man’s voice and face are unmistakable and instantly recognizable wherever he appears. What many American audiences don’t know however, is that for 30 years Goodman struggled with the disease of addiction, and nearly lost his life and career before getting sober in 2007.
Goodman was born in St. Louis in 1952 to a waitress mother and a postman father who died when John was only two years old. As a young boy, Goodman enjoyed playing football, which carried over into college but never came before acting. Acting, it seems, was always Goodman’s calling, even from a young age. At Missouri State University, Goodman studied drama and fell in love with the craft of acting, with one of his first heroes being Marlon Brando.
In 1975, at the age of 23, Goodman packed his bags from Missouri and headed to New York to cut it as an actor. Initially, the going was hard. There were periods where Goodman was penniless and on the point of eviction. After two years, Goodman finally got a talent agency’s attention and he began to gain some traction. In his mid 20’s, the actor picked up small off-Broadway appearances and his first television role in a Burger King commercial. Small character roles gradually got him a part in the Coen Brothers classic Raising Arizona, which would mark the start of a long and fruitful collaborative career with the duo.
“There were times when I’d run out of money. One night, I had some beans on the stove. I left them on the stove to simmer and I got locked out of the apartment so they were gone. And that was the last meal for a while.”
His big break came when he secured the role of Dan Conner in the hit TV Show Roseanne, eventually becoming a beloved staple of American TV audiences. The role, which propelled him to new levels of stardom, came with plenty of highs, but also lows. In reflecting on the time, Goodman admits to feeling a sense of entitlement and self-congratulation.
"It was strange. I saw the world differently. I guess there was a sense of entitlement. People treated me differently and I got used to it. It's not pleasant to look back on right now."
By the time the show took off, Goodman was living with his wife and daughter in L.A. The level of fame and showbusiness pressure eventually proved to be far more than what Goodman was comfortable with for his family, so they packed up and moved to New Orleans. The switch was a breath of fresh air for everyone, but throughout the transition Goodman was spiraling further into alcoholism.
“I mean, there’s many times I could have gone under. Not overdosed, but… well… misadventure.
While Goodman continued to act and drink, the combination was gradually taking a toll on his ability to perform. There were times when he drank on set and began to struggle with memorizing lines and controlling his emotions.
“I had a problem with it [Confidence] and… I drank for a while and towards the end of that, the lines would not come. And it was like a snowball. It just built up a lack of confidence that I could even learn lines. It’s my personality disorder that I want everything right now. I gotta have it now, now! Mr. Now! I mean, you can’t do that [on stage]. It’s a process.”
Goodman managed to turn his role as Dan Conner into the beginning of a rich and rewarding film and television career, becoming a fan favorite and perennial actor for the Coen Brothers. However, his golden years of acting were marred by a drinking problem that was growing increasingly out of hand.
"I got so lucky, because I was still getting hired for things. But the fact is I was drinking at work - my speech would be slurred. I thought I was fooling people. But my cheeks would turn bright red when I was liquored up. I just looked like a stop sign."
The actor reached his tipping point in 2007 after one weekend of excessive drinking. It was a long weekend filled with golf and drinking with friends that left Goodman shaking from withdrawals. He called his wife to admit that it was time to find help and she began making calls to get him in a treatment center. Goodman agreed to check in and found that sobriety was entirely preferable to the way he had been living his life.
“It was 30 years of a disease that was taking its toll on everyone around me and it had got to the point where, every time I did it, it was becoming more and more debilitating. It was life or death. It was time to stop."
It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows, as any addict in recovery will tell you. Goodman has admitted to occasional dreams of knocking back glasses of whiskey and still has to find outlets for his frustrations. Pouring himself into work has been one option, but even that has its drawbacks. Instead, Goodman works out frequently and focuses on his physical health. Although Goodman his known for his rotund figure and weight, he’s spent the last decade focused on shedding weight. Prior to 2007, Goodman had nearly reached 400 pounds, but these days he’s cut back to 250 pounds.
John Goodman is an example of how treatment centers can turn someone’s life around. At Landmark Recovery, our patients are provided with the tools, resources, and support they need to find clarity in the fight against addiction. We provide residential treatment, outpatient treatment, and medical detox services to individuals struggling with a substance use disorder. If your or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, don’t hesitate to call our admissions team to begin learning about drug rehab and alcohol rehab today.
"John is the funniest and deepest actor in the world. He has only gotten more open, more sweet, more expansive and giving, on-screen and off, if that were possible, since the Roseanne show." - Roseanne Barr