Emboldened by the safe space she found on Dax Shepard’s podcast, Lena Dunham made a big reveal on Monday: She’s six months sober after a years-long addiction to benzodiazepines.
“There was a solid three years where I was, to put it lightly, misusing benzos,” Dunham said on Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast Monday, “even though it was all, quote-unquote, doctor prescribed and I had convinced someone to tell me that this is the way.”
Dunham, who’s been dealing with anxiety since childhood, called benzodiazepines the biggest epidemic nobody’s talking about. She quoted her mother, who said she didn’t need to be a hero about things. With medication, there was no reason to ever suffer, her mom said.
However, she said, “I really took that to heart, and when I was having crazy anxiety, and having to show up for things that I didn’t feel equipped to show up for, I was like, there’s no reason for me to ever suffer.”
Klonopin was Dunham’s drug of choice. Benzo use is something that’s normalised in her industry in the face of anxiety, she said. “It is a rough hang, Klonopin.”
And coming off it, when it’s no longer working to quell the anxiety, is even rougher.
“I was taking Klonopin, and at that point it wasn’t making it better,” she said, “but I just thought, if I don’t take this, how much worse will it get?”
Shepard, who’s been sober himself for years, empathised. “It quiets the monster upstairs enough that you can be your best self,” he said.
Every doctor Dunham saw believed she was suffering from anxiety and needed medication — and none of them told her how horrible it would be to detox when she stopped medicating.
“When you try to get off this, it’s going to be like the most hellacious acid trip you’ve ever had, where you’re ... clutching the walls and your hair is blowing off your head and you can’t believe you found yourself in this situation,” she explained.
“Now the literal smell of the inside of pill bottles makes me want to throw up.”
She said she’s realised that her work in life will be to “give a voice to that story” of what women experience at the intersection of trauma, mental health and addiction.
And on Dunham’s plate most recently? The Girls creator has been tapped by JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg to adapt the true story of a Syrian refugee mother of two who flees Egypt by boat, headed for Sweden, only to be shipwrecked along the way. Her tale, per Variety, is one of survival in open water for two days, holding her two children, with only a life ring for assistance.
“Very lucky to have this job, to tell this story, to support this truth with these people,” Dunham tweeted Monday.