"I couldn't see it, I thought it was normal. I didn't like who I was. Drinking helped me get through the day"
Sam Worthington is opening up about his journey to sobriety and the push he received from his wife Lara.
After finding massive success with the first "Avatar" movie back in 2009, the 46-year-old actor said he hit the bottle to cope with the pressures of fame and feelings of self-loathing.
When his wife finally decided enough was enough, Worthington was given an ultimatum. "You can do what you want, but I don't need to be around this," he recalled her words while speaking with Variety. Sam considered it a wake up call, and said his wife delivered it with "love, not anger or disappointment."
The "Avatar: The Way of the Water" star said he would already have four or five glasses of champagne before taking off on a flight during the height of his alcoholism. He shared how Lara once told him she'd never seen anyone consume so much alcohol before the plane even took off.
"I couldn't see it," Worthington confessed. "I thought it was normal. I didn't like who I was. Drinking helped me get through the day."
Though he would start his drinking in the morning, "Nine out of 10 people couldn't tell" how bad it was, he claimed. "They could probably smell it on me, but when they looked at me, they couldn't tell. I was still doing my job — I just don't think I was doing it very well."
Worthington shared he became resentful of fame as he lost more and more privacy, saying he struggled with anxiety.
"I'd go haywire over someone asking me for a photograph or taking a photograph of me. If someone approached me, my anxiety would go through the roof," he said, explaining that he drank even more heavily in response.
Part of his drinking was based on cultural impulse, "In Australia it's ingrained in the society," Worthington continued. "We don't necessarily talk about AA and things like that. You don't recognize it’s an illness, and you don’t understand that some people are just wired differently."
Sam called himself an "emotional drunk" and while he didn't think was "mean" while under the influence, he said he "got more emotional and erratic the longer I drank."
"I don't think I was mean, exactly, but I could be belligerent, petulant," he claimed.
Since choosing to turn his life around, Worthington shared he's been sober for eight years. Now that he's given up alcohol, the actor's also given up on becoming the "generic leading man" and only considers projects he feels he could add to on an artistic level.
"If I can’t bring anything to it, I’m not going to go and be involved in it," he continued. "I don't want to do that again. I don't want to just be the action figure standing in the front. And that’s OK. It takes a lot to understand what you do want from this industry."
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, get help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline (1-800-662-4357) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress.