Content Warning: This article contains mention of rape and sexual assault.
It was the late 1990’s and Mena Suvari was one of the hottest teen actors. She was central in two still-epic movies, American Pie and American Beauty, in which she gave equally riveting comedic and dramatic performances. But off-screen, Suvari was snorting meth off a “small gold lacquered butterfly embossed compact mirror,” per her new memoir, in the school bathroom at a Burbank, California, high school. While the public was falling in love with her, she felt like no one in her real life actually cared about her.
These are the stunning revelations in Suvari’s new book, The Great Peace: A Memoir, about her double life as a successful actress and secret drug addict and sexual assault survivor. In the chapter “Meth Month,” excerpted in Cosmopolitan, Suvari details an especially difficult time in her teenage life when the meth took over her life.
“A part of meth made me hyper-aware, but there was that other part that was like the dark side of the road, and it led directly to paranoia,” Suvari writes in the book. “I spent a lot of the night waiting to hear whether anyone was going to knock on my bedroom door. While I maintained my grades, my health suffered. My entire back broke out in acne. I’d always had perfect skin. I knew it was the meth.”
Suvari says she turned to drugs to escape the pain of sexual assault and the dissolution of her family.
“By this time my family had pretty much fallen apart,” Suvari told People in a recent interview. “My mother had moved out and wanted to find herself and my father [who was much older] was in decline mentally and physically. I didn’t feel like I had any other options or was worthy of a life that was any different.”
In “Meth Month,” Suvari explains how this abandonment fueled her drug addiction, and in turn the drug use amplified her feeling of being alone in the world.
“Years later, when I talked to my mother about this time when she left, she said that I had told her that I hated her,” she wrote. “Maybe I did. At the time, I felt like no one cared about me. The drugs certainly didn’t help.”
Between the ages of 12 and 20, Suvari was the victim of repeated sexual abuse and assault, first in sixth grade when she was raped by a friend of one of her older brothers. Later, a predatory manager took advantage of the teen and then a boyfriend abused her sexually and physically. Despite all this trauma, no one reached out to help Suvari.
“I still did everything asked of me. Schoolwork. Auditions. Sex,” she wrote in her memoir. “Only I had to know how fucked up I was getting every day. I thought I could, and should, suffer in silence. This was obviously my fate. I prayed someone would throw me a lifeline. I was ready every single day to be rescued. It never happened.”
Luckily, Suvari’s will to survive eventually led her to leave the drugs behind. Through therapy and supportive friends, she was able to process her trauma and realize she deserved more.
Now, the actress is married to Mike Hope, a set decorator and prop decorator she met on the set of a Hallmark movie in 2016, and they welcomed son Christopher in April 2021.
Suvari hopes her memoir and story will help others who have suffered through trauma and drug addiction. “This is my truth. This is my voice,” she told People. “I was so tired of fighting and hiding my whole life. I hope I can help someone else see their value. If I can lessen the pain for someone else, then I want to do it, because I didn’t have that person.”
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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Before you go, click here to see celebrities who have struggled with drug or alcohol addiction.