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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...

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."

Finding a fellowship of people who no longer drink can have a huge influence on staying sober, says Harry Haroutunian, MD, physician director of the Betty Ford Center's Residential Treatment Programs in Rancho Mirage, Calif. "Alcoholism is a disease that loves to hide in the dark and to stay cloaked in denial, but having a fellowship holds you accountable to a power outside of yourself," he says. "For some people, that fellowship might be a recovery group like Alcoholics Anonymous, and for others, like Edie, it could be a group of sober friends." 

Watching a loved one struggle with addiction can make many family members feel helpless -- something Falco understands. "When I was little, I used to break my parents' cigarettes all the time to get them to stop smoking. They would get furious with me, and then just go out and buy more cigarettes," says Falco. "It's hard to talk to an addict who doesn't want to hear anything. But there is a way out. You get to the point where you think there isn't, and I can say from the other side that there is always a way out if you ask for help."

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