Amanda Bynes opens up about sobriety, leaving showbiz after public breakdown

Amanda Bynes at the 2011 MTV Movie Awards. [Jason Merritt/Getty Images (2011)]
Amanda Bynes at the 2011 MTV Movie Awards. [Jason Merritt/Getty Images (2011)]
Published Nov. 27, 2018

Amanda Bynes is four years sober and hinting at a return to showbiz, years after ducking out of the spotlight following a very public breakdown.

The She's the Man star, 32, opened up for the first time about her mental health struggles and drug abuse in an interview with Paper magazine, and expressed frustration with the relentless media attention that seemed to thrive on picking her apart at her lowest.

"I know that my behavior was so strange that people were just trying to grasp at straws for what was wrong," Bynes told the outlet. "It definitely isn't fun when people diagnose you with what they think you are… If you deny anything and tell them what it actually is, they don't believe you. Truly, for me, (my behavior) was drug-induced, and whenever I got off (drugs), I was always back to normal."

The actor and comedian was arrested for a DUI in 2012, and was hit with reckless endangerment and marijuana possession charges a year later after she was caught smoking in her Manhattan apartment lobby and tossing a bong out her window. The case was later dismissed.

Later that year, Bynes was hospitalized and placed on a mental health hold after she set a small fire in the driveway of a California home.

Looking back, Bynes admits that her attitude toward the business first soured with 2006's She's the Man, as the actor said seeing herself dressed as a boy on screen led to a "deep depression" that lasted four to six months.

Easy A in 2010 had a similar effect, and Bynes said she was so distraught by her performance that she convinced herself she needed to quit acting.

"I was high on marijuana when I saw that, but for some reason it really started to affect me," she said. "I don't know if it was a drug-induced psychosis or what, but it affected my brain in a different way than it affects other people. It absolutely changed my perception of things."

Bynes said she first started smoking weed at age 16, but didn't abuse harder drugs until years later, when she discovered Adderall around the time she was filming 2007's Hairspray.

The All Tha" alum said she became hooked, and once she left showbiz after Easy A, found refuge in drugs.

"I just had no purpose in life," she reflected. "I had a lot of time on my hands and I would 'wake and bake' and literally be stoned all day long. … I got really into my drug usage and it became a really dark, sad world for me."

The actor has now been sober for four years, and is grateful to have left behind the substances that she says "really messed up" her brain.

"Those days of experimenting are long over. I'm not sad about it and I don't miss it because I really feel ashamed of how those substances made me act," she said. "When I was off of them, I was completely back to normal and immediately realized what I had done — it was like an alien had literally invaded my body. That is such a strange feeling."

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Bynes is currently enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, where she'll get an associate's degree this month, and start working toward a bachelor's degree in January.

But a return to acting could still be in the cards.

The star says she hopes that she'll return to the silver screen the same way she entered it: with excitement and hope for what's to come.

"I have no fear of the future," she said. "I've been through the worst and came out the other end and survived it so I just feel like it's only up from here."