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Women's Health

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Nurse Jackie's Edie Falco on Her New Roles

The Emmy-winning actress opens up about beating her alcohol addiction, her new play, and her favorite part of all: mother.

Edie Falco as Nurse Jackie continued...

"I think having gone through alcoholism really helps me understand how Nurse Jackie functions," says Falco, who's been sober since she was 29. "It's hard for people who aren't addicts to understand the nature of [addiction] -- how irrational it is and, at the same time, how deeply powerful. If you're an ex-addict, you understand it completely because you have to. You drink because your body tells you that is what you need."

Nurse Jackie clearly identifies with that power. She'll do just about anything to score a hit -- even if it means having an affair with the hospital pharmacist. In the last two seasons, she's tossed back Vicodin, snorted Adderall in the ladies room, and gulped down vials of morphine.

But while Jackie is certainly flawed, in Falco's capable hands she's also quick-
witted, smart, and lovable, an imperfect, big-hearted heroine who cares for her patients, will tell off any MD who gets in her way, and is raising two young girls. "She's a wise guy, you know?" says Falco. "She's not that careful about the way she's perceived, which is very freeing to someone like me, who spends a certain amount of time attending to those sorts of things."

Falco's Struggles with Addiction

Despite the dark laughs, the show also carries a serious message, one that is personal and important to Falco and the show's executive producers, Liz Brixius and Linda Wallem, both past addicts as well. "Playing Nurse Jackie makes me grateful every day that I'm no longer living a life ruled by addiction," says Falco. "It's heartbreaking to remember what that feels like: that every other thing pales in comparison to feeding your addiction. It's a great luxury to be freed from that."

Falco's victory over alcoholism came about like many other accomplishments in her life: It was hard won. "It was actually unimaginable in the beginning that I could succeed because my life so revolved around alcohol," says Falco, who credits a large part of her success to a group of pals who put down the bottle first. "Some of the closest friends in my life right now are people who got sober before me. I've got a very strong network of people who would simply not have it if I were to drop out of the club."

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