On the surface, Mary Tyler Moore's infectious smile and on-screen persona appeared to be without flaw, but sadly, Moore's life was impacted by years of alcoholism and tragedy. The actor, who died on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at the age of 80, was deemed by some to be "America's sweetheart" for her critically acclaimed portrayal of Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. However, life would prove to be much different for the star behind the scenes, as she attempted to conquer a tough battle with alcoholism. Her honesty about her struggles, as well as her recovery efforts, show just how courageous she truly was.
Moore opened up about her struggles with alcoholism in 1995, recalling the account of her downward spiral in her tell-all autobiography, After All. In candid excerpts from the memoir, shared by People magazine, Moore revealed that her troubles with alcohol ran deep through her bloodline. Both her mother and sister, who died from a toxic combination of alcohol and prescription drugs at the age of 21, had been afflicted by the disease of addiction, as well as her only child, Richard Meeker Jr., who reportedly faced his own battles with substance abuse, before accidentally shooting himself at age 24.
In the book, Moore detailed her issues with drinking and revealed that they began as an attempt to save her marriage to Grant Tinker, while she shared the shocking danger that accompanied her intoxication — including playing "Russian roulette" with her car. As per People's excerpts, Moore wrote,
Her separation from Tinker, however, did not prove to resolve the alcoholism that she explained became increasingly worse when she was single and trying to numb the pain on her own. She also wrote,
In a 2005 interview with Larry King Live, the actor and diabetes activist revealed that she chose to quit drinking on her own and decided to admit herself into the Betty Ford Center to treat the "debilitating" ailment. She told King,
It would appear that Moore managed to stay sober following her rehab stint and was able to turn her life around for the better. Her openness on the subject was eye-opening and brave. In sharing her story, hopefully she can help others face and deal with their own struggles.
Rest in peace, Moore. Thank you for your undeniable strength and brave honesty. You will surely be missed.