Appropriately, the 32-year-old actress has chosen to do so in PAPER‘s annual “Break the Internet” issue. No topic is off limits as Bynes reflects on her drug-fueled past—sometimes, in embarrassing detail. Now “almost four years sober,” thanks to her parents’ loving support, Bynes plans to continue her education at L.A.’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.
A former child star on Nickelodeon, Bynes hit went mainstream when she transitioned into movies, starring in hits like Big Fat Liar and What a Girl Wants. But it was her role in 2006’s She’s the Man, in which she dressed in drag, that led to an “interesting experience” after the shoot ended. “When the movie came out and I saw it, I went into a deep depression for 4-6 months because I didn’t like how I looked when I was a boy. I’ve never told anyone that,” she says, pausing for a moment. Bynes explains that seeing herself with short hair and sideburns was “a super strange and out-of-body experience,” candidly adding, “It just really put me into a funk.”
“They were talking about how women were taking it to stay thin. I was like, ‘Well, I have to get my hands on that.'” So, Bynes says she visited a psychiatrist and faked the symptoms of ADD in order to get a prescription. In hindsight, Bynes regrets taking the pills—especially considering how it began to affect her work in the spring of 2010. “When I was doing Hall Pass, I remember being in the trailer and I used to chew the Adderall tablets because I thought they made me [higher that way]. I remember chewing on a bunch of them and literally being scatterbrained and not being able to focus on my lines,” she confesses. “Or memorize them, for that matter.”
A few months after she quit Hall Pass (and was replaced by Alexandra Daddario), Bynes went to an Easy A screening and says she had “a different reaction than everyone else to the movie.”
Bynes, who says she “never liked the taste of alcohol,” eventually began experimenting with drugs like cocaine and ecstasy. “[I tried] cocaine three times but I never got high from cocaine. I never liked it. It was never my drug of choice,” reveals Bynes, who openly admits she “definitely abused Adderall.” After she retired from acting, Bynes felt she had “no purpose in life” and lost her way. “I had a lot of time on my hands and I would ‘wake and bake’ and literally be stoned all day long.” Bynes began “hanging out with a seedier crowd” and isolated herself from loved ones. “I got really into my drug usage,” she says, “and it became a really dark, sad world for me.”
For a while, she would get high and tweet outlandish things—which, in turn, would generate hundreds of headlines. “I’m really ashamed and embarrassed with the things I said. I can’t turn back time but if I could, I would. And I’m so sorry to whoever I hurt and whoever I lied about because it truly eats away at me. It makes me feel so horrible and sick to my stomach and sad,” she says. “Everything I worked my whole life to achieve, I kind of ruined it all through Twitter…”
Whenever she would get high, she says, “It was like an alien had literally invaded my body.”
With her “experimenting” days “long over,” she hopes others can learn from her mistakes. “My advice to anyone who is struggling with substance abuse would be to be really careful because drugs can really take a hold of your life. Everybody is different, obviously, but for me, the mixture of marijuana and whatever other drugs and sometimes drinking really messed up my brain. It really made me a completely different person. I actually am a nice person. I would never feel, say or do any of the things that I did and said to the people I hurt on Twitter. There are gateway drugs—and thankfully I never did heroin or meth or anything like that—but certain things that you think are harmless, they may actually affect you in a more harmful way,” Bynes warns. “Be really, really careful because you could lose it all and ruin your entire life like I did.”