Zac Efron on His Alcohol and Drug Addiction: “It’s a Never-Ending Struggle”
Speaking candidly with The Hollywood Reporter in their May 9 issue, the Neighbors actor opens up about his struggles with alcohol and drug addiction — and that infamous fight between him and a homeless man that raised eyebrows.
“It’s impossible to lead an honest and fulfilling life as a man and not make mistakes and ‘fess up to them when you need to. But it’s especially humiliating when they happen to be so public and so scrutinized,” he says. “When you have success young, and you accept the good things, you have to accept all of it. You have to accept the moments of glory but also a great responsibility. And that responsibility, to some degree, involves being a role model. At the same time, I’m a human being, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve learned from each one.”
Efron, who admitted himself into rehab last year, confesses that he had turned to alcohol and drug as a mean to escape his overbearing workload.
“I had done films back-to-back-to-back. I was burnt out,” he recalls, referencing to somewhere around 2012 when he had appeared in five films including The Lucky One, The Paperboy and At Any Price. “There was something lacking, some sort of hole that I couldn’t really fill up.”
“[Work] started to become the reason to go anywhere, the reason to talk to anybody. The phone calls I received were regarding [work], the ones I wanted to make were regarding scripts or to producers. Slowly but surely, I was no longer living in my house. It was just hotel to hotel. So my hobbies went out the window,” he continues. “I was just so deep into my work, it was really the only thing I had. I clung to it in a way that became a little bit destructive.”
Alcoholics Anonymous and is seeing a therapist, the 26-year-old says things are looking up.
“I just started going,” he says of AA. “And I think it’s changed my life. I’m much more comfortable in my own skin. Things are so much easier now.”
Explaining that it’s still “a never-ending struggle” for him to stay clean, Efron also touches on that infamous night when he — intoxicated after a night of drinking and drugs — was attacked by a man in downtown Los Angeles in what he calls “the most terrifying moment in my life.”
“I was drinking a lot, way too much,” he says. “I had a friend come pick me up late at night — we were looking for a place downtown to get a bite and catch up. We were having trouble finding somewhere…and the car ran out of gas off the 110. It was ridiculous. We had to pull over, and I called Uber.”
“A homeless guy, or vagrant, tapped on the driver’s-side window. Before I knew it, [my friend] was out of the car, and they started fighting. I saw that [the homeless man] was carrying some sort of a knife, or shank, and I got out of the car to disarm him. At some point, he dropped the knife, and I got hit pretty hard in the face — and almost instantly the police were there to break up the fight.”
Regardless, Efron says he admittedly has a better outlook in life these days.
“It’s never one specific thing. I mean, you’re in your 20s, single, going through life in Hollywood, you know? Everything is thrown at you. I wouldn’t take anything back; I needed to learn everything I did. But it was an interesting journey, to say the least,” he explains of his actions. “Without those moments where you feel like your lowest, it’s impossible to appreciate the high ones. But I sit here in front of you today much happier and healthier than I’ve probably ever been.”