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Why Drew Barrymore emancipated at 14 years old

Drew Barrymore and mother, Jaid Barrymore | Yvonne Hemsey/Getty Images

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Why Drew Barrymore emancipated at 14 years old

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When Drew Barrymore’s acting career took off as the endearing Gertie in ET at just seven years old, it also signaled the beginning of a challenging childhood characterized by family troubles, addiction, and depression.

Jaid Barrymore and John Drew Barrymore, her parents, were also actors.

Jaid was born Ildikó Jaid Makó to Hungarian World War II refugees in a displaced person’s camp in West Germany. In 1971, she wed John, although he battled addiction for several years.

Prior to Drew’s parents’ 1967 wedding, her father was incarcerated for drug possession after a collision. He was detained once again for the same offense two years later.

Drew’s father quit acting in the middle of the 1970s, and his wife kicked him out of their house because of his drug usage.

At the nine years, Barrymore was partying at Studio 54 with her mother and manager Jaid almost five nights a week and dealing with her violent alcoholic father actor John Drew Barrymore at home.

Jaid and John’s marriage eventually concluded in divorce when their daughter was nine in 1984. Drew’s father was also a violent alcoholic who was barely present in her life, and according to the actress, her mother “wasn’t prepared” to be a parent.

As Barrymore tells it, she was beyond her mother’s control. “I think she created a monster, and she didn’t know what to do with the monster,” Barrymore explained on The Howard Stern Show. So, when she turned 13, she said her mom put her in a California psychiatric ward.

“This was her last gasp, and I really was out of control, and I forgive her for making this choice,” Barrymore told Stern. “She probably felt she had nowhere to turn.”

While promoting her memoir-like book Wildflower, the 40 year old has spoken candidly about being institutionalised and divorcing her parents as a teenager.

“When I was 13, that was probably my lowest. Just knowing that I really was alone. And it felt… terrible. It was a really rebellious time. I would run off. I was very, very angry,” she told The Guardian.

Angry at her “pretty out there” absent parents and deep into alcohol and drugs, it was around this time that Barrymore was sent to an institution for the mentally ill for a year and a half by her mother.

“Yeah my mom locked me in in an institution. Boo hoo! But it did give an amazing discipline. It was like serious recruitment training and boot camp, and it was horrible and dark and very long-lived, a year and a half, but I needed it. I needed that whole insane discipline,” she says.

“My life was not normal. I was not a kid in school with normal circumstances. There was something very abnormal, and I needed some severe shift.”

According to the actress, they attempted to drug her but she refused “I was like, no, thank you. I wanted to clean out. I didn’t want to be a cliche. No [I never thought I was mentally ill]. I just knew I was off course.” she says.

Although Barrymore says she would have run away rather than “let that [going to the institution] happen to myself”, she says she has no regrets today.

“It was a very important thing to experience for me. It was very humbling, very quieting. Maybe it was necessary, because I came out of there a more respecting person. And my parents didn’t teach me that, and life wasn’t teaching me that. I came out in a very different way… but I still was me,” she says. (Post continues after gallery.)

She legally emancipated from her parents at 14 — though her father wasn’t present throughout much of her life. She said she felt Jaid Barrymore never mothered her in a nurturing sense, despite being active in her childhood.

“But you know what’s exciting?” Barrymore asked while vising Macdonald. “I got my s*** over with at, like, 14. Like, midlife crisis, institutionalized, blacklisted, no family, like, got it done, and then got into the cycle of being my own parent, figuring it out.”

It’s an experience the actress details in her new book Wildflower.

“It’s no secret that I had to part ways from my mother because we had driven our relationship into the ground. She had lost credibility as a mother by taking me to Studio 54 (so wrong, but so fun) instead of school. And I was out of control due to working since I was 11 months old and what that had done to my childhood, which made me grow up too fast,” she writes.

After the judge ruled, Jaid hugged her daughter, knowing things would be different as they’d always been.

Since she was now legally an adult, she left school because she’d hated how other children treated her. However, she didn’t want to be uneducated but didn’t want to study acting because she already knew how to do it and wasn’t sure the industry would welcome her back.

The star decided to self-educate by buying a dictionary and learning every word. Drew also surrounded herself with the things she loved and was determined not to be defeated even though people thought she was crazy.

While Barrymore acknowledges she will never have the most traditional mother/daughter bond with her mom, she said the two have reconnected. “I’m really glad there is healing there. I feel goodness toward my mom,” she told Stern.

And she added that she has cautiously allowed Jaid Barrymore to meet her daughters, saying, “I feel empathy and understanding.” But although she may empathize, she still seems openly determined to be the kind of mother she never had herself.

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