'Facts of Life' star says 'Alcohol became my drug of choice'

Charlotte Rae is best known for playing beloved housemother Edna Garrett on the 1980s hit sitcom “The Facts of Life,” but the now 90-year-old actress recently unveiled a memoir, “The Facts of My Life,” and she got candid about her battle with alcoholism.

She said that alcohol became her drug of choice so she could go to sleep at night. 

She said her drinking started long before that though. She used to drink in college when she was a student at Northwestern in Illinois. She said she would do whiskey shots and chase them with beer. 

After Rae graduated, she met her husband, composer John Strauss. He was an industry musician and she an entertainer at a summer resort.

“He would say, ‘Why don’t we get a bottle instead of sitting by the bar? It’s cheaper! We’ll go up to your room and drink,’” she recalled. “And then I became very, very used to drinking. We were real drinking buddies.”

When Rae gave birth to her eldest son, Andy, doctors informed her that he was autistic and mentally disabled. That further led her to a downward spiral. It wasn’t until a friend advised her to attend Alcoholics Anonymous that she ultimately decided to seek help in her 40s.

“After the wrap party for ‘Sesame Street,' I went over to a meeting,” she said. “I was expecting to see a bunch of bums with red noses and burlap flying around. No — I saw a lot of well dressed, beautiful people. At the end of the meeting, we all held hands and said the Lord’s prayer. And I wept. That was the beginning of my sobriety. I’m now 42 years sober.”

These days, Rae stays busy. Not only is she still acting, but she also stays in touch with her “Facts of Life” family. 

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