Saturday, January 17, 2009

When Oprah Was On Crack

Remember when.....circa 1995.

Calling it "one of the hardest things I've ever said," talk show queen Oprah Winfrey revealed during a show that she had smoked crack cocaine while in her 20s.
Back in 1995 Oprah Winfrey Show was interviewing four mothers who had experienced problems with drugs along with Patrice Gaines, a Washington Post reporter, who has written a book chronicling her own experience with drug abuse.

During the taping, Winfrey turned to her guests and the studio audience and said, "Let me say this, and this is probably one of the hardest things I've ever said," her voice beginning to crack. "Hold on just a second," she said as she tried to regain her composure.

Turning to one of the guests who had admitted smoking crack, Winfrey said, "I relate to your story so much because of what Patrice just said about being introduced to drugs by men in your life."

She continued, "In my 20's, I'd done this drug and I know exactly what you are talking about." She said the drug use occurred while she was an anchorwoman on a television news show.
"It's my life's great big secret. It was such a secret because--I realize (with) the public person I have become--if the story ever were revealed, the tabloids would exploit it and what a big issue it would be."

She went on to explain, "But I was involved with a man in my 20s who introduced me to the same drug that you've been talking about and, like Patrice, I always felt that the drug itself is not the problem but that I was addicted to the man." She admitted: "I can't think of anything I wouldn't have done for that man."

Reflecting on this difficult period in her life, she added, "And I've often said over the my attempts to come out and say it, I've said many times I did things in my 20s that I was ashamed of, I did things I felt guilty about, but that is my life's great big secret that's always been held over my head.

"I had a perfect round little Afro, I went to church every Sunday and I went to Wednesday prayer meeting when I could... and I did drugs."
She said dealing with the topic on the show gave her the strength to face her own demons. "But you having the courage to come out...has made me feel free enough to say it today."

Winfrey, her audience spellbound, clinging to her every word, pointed out, "I understand the shame. I understand the guilt. I understand the secrecy. I understand all that."
However, she affirmed, "But what I know is that the spirit of God inside of all of us--but what we tend to believe, I think a lot of people believe, is that the drug is stronger than the power of God. They believe that disease is stronger than the power of God.

"There is nothing greater than the spirit within you to overcome. You and God can conquer this. You can conquer it," she affirmed as the audience broke into applause.
After sharing her "great shame" with her mentor, poet-author-actress Maya Angelou, Winfrey said she was bolstered by her comforting response. "I shared this with Maya Angelou...and you know what she said to me? It really turned my life around and I say this to you, 'You did then what you knew how to do and when you knew better you did better.' And I'll never forget that."

While Winfrey had not released an official statement regarding the show at JET press time, in Gaines' first-person account about the show's taping there was a comment from Deborah Johns, a spokes-woman for the show.

Johns was quoted in the Post as saying, "Oprah made a spontaneous admission to mothers battling drug addiction that she also had used drugs...Oprah's words on the show are the best expression of how she feels."

In the article, Gaines, the author of Laughing in the Dark: From Colored Girl to Woman of Color - A Journey From Prison to Power, said Winfrey began to cry before making the admission to her guests.

Gaines said Winfrey told her later that the drug use had been at the behest of a man that she was involved with and that when the two parted, she stopped using drugs.
Winfrey, whose show is number one, did not indicate what form of cocaine she had used, but Johns said she understood the drug had been smoked. Johns also said that Winfrey would not be available for interviews on the subject.


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