Look at actress Demi Moore now, and you see a vision of perfection. At 56, she’s beautiful, successful, and confident. But, in her recent cover story interview with Lena Dunham for Harper’s Bazaar, Moore detailed a far-from-idyllic upbringing and an at-times-rocky adulthood riddled with addiction, loss, and pressure from a ravenous public that, ultimately, helped shape her into the woman and parent she is today.
Before Striptease, Bruce Willis, and Ashton Kutcher, Moore lived a modest life in Hailey, Idaho, under the supervision of her seemingly unstable parents. She told Dunham that as a child, she witnessed unhealthy power dynamics and her mother’s horrifying dependency on drugs. At one point, she recalled having to literally scrape drugs out of her mother’s throat to prevent a fatal overdose.
“The next thing I remember is using my fingers, the small fingers of a child, to dig the pills my mother had tried to swallow out of her mouth while my father held it open and told me what to do,” she said. “Something very deep inside me shifted then, and it never shifted back. My childhood was over.”
Moore grew up fast. By age 16, she’d met her first husband, Freddy Moore. Soon after, she discovered her passion for acting; she told Dunham the ability to live another’s life on camera was a “freedom” she craved. Later, she went on to star in some of the most iconic movies of the ’80s and ’90s. She divorced Freddy Moore and married action star Bruce Willis, with whom she now shares three daughters: Rumer, Scout, and Tallulah. Though Moore’s young adult life was free from the tumult of her upbringing in Idaho, she, too, grappled with addiction (drug use would resurface on and off into her ’40s), and it wasn’t until she became a parent that she realized she was perpetuating a dangerous cycle of abuse.
“My daughters offered me an opportunity to start to change the generational pattern,” Moore told Dunham. “To be able to break the cycles.”
Aside from alcohol and substance abuse, Moore also told Dunham that she didn’t want her children growing up with a tainted perception of love. “The kind of love I grew up with was scary to need and painful to feel,” she said.
So, Moore took time off from work and committed herself to live a sober lifestyle while raising her young children. Decades later, however, Moore once again struggled with alcohol and substance abuse, the height of which became public after she wound up in the hospital in 2012 after splitting with her third husband, Ashton Kutcher. It was then that Moore realized that she could no longer choose sobriety just for her kids; she had to also choose it for herself.
“In retrospect, what I realized is that when I opened the door [again], it was just giving my power away,” she told Dunham. “I guess I would think of it like this: It was really important to me to have natural childbirth because I didn’t want to miss a moment. And with that I experienced pain. So part of being sober is, I don’t want to miss a moment of life, of that texture, even if that means being in some pain.”
Today, Moore is setting a different example for her daughters; one in which happiness is derived from living, rather than from masking life. And that, we think, is a parenting lesson for the ages.
Moore’s full interview with Lena Dunham is available on Harper’s Bazaar, and her new memoir, Inside Out, will hit shelves later this month.