Glee icon Jane Lynch says she was in ‘throes of alcohol addiction’: ‘I was in denial’

Jane Lynch, a white woman with blonde hair, wears a black shirt and red jacket while standing in front of orange leaves

Jane Lynch has opened up about her struggles with alcohol addiction and her relapse into drinking.

Lynch, ​​who played the iconic Sue Sylvester in hit show Glee, told The Guardian that she started drinking as a teenager.

She described her “first time” having a drink as a “feeling of bliss” that made her “feel happy in my body”. But she soon became dependent on it, and tried to ‘chase’ the feeling by drinking almost every day into her 30s.

“The first time you [have a drink], it’s like: ‘Ah, I found it. I feel happy in my body, this feeling of bliss. No one can say anything to me that would make me upset or feel badly about myself right now’,” Lynch said.

She continued: “And then maybe the next time you drink, you get it again. Before you know it, it’s not doing it for you.

“So for the most part, when I was in the throes of addiction, it wasn’t working. You end up chasing [that feeling].

“And then if you’re not chasing that, what are you doing? Who are you? You have to really face this emptiness.”

Lynch said she was a functioning alcoholic and would continue to work even after spending long nights in bars, drinking until seven in the morning.

Then, one day, she felt a “kind of magical lifting of my compulsion to drink” and decided to join Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

“I felt sorry for people who weren’t alcoholics: I just loved AA,” she said. “It was very much a gift; it was almost like I was struck sober.”

Jane Lynch, a white woman with blonde hair, wears a patterned shirt and a cream jacket

Jane Lynch poses backstage at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards, broadcast on 14 October 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. (Amy Sussman/BBMA2020/Getty for dcp)

Lynch said she remained sober until about five years ago when she tried a glass of wine with her dinner. She recalled quickly becoming a “connoisseur of wine in a way that only an alcoholic can”.

The actor said she was in “denial” about her problem. “I went back into denial, after all those years of sobriety and self-knowledge.”

She even made a rule for herself that she wasn’t allowed to drink until 5pm. But soon, the “only part of the day that really mattered was five o’clock”, she said.

Again, she found herself suddenly able to quit again, “like the sober fairy said: ‘OK, I’m giving you one more chance’.”

“And it was over,” Lynch said. “Five o’clock would come, and I didn’t notice it.”

Jane Lynch says Glee‘s LGBT+ representation has “helped a lot of kids”.

Elsewhere in her interview with The Guardian, JAne Lynch discussed the enduring legacy of Glee.

She said that the show’s portrayal of LGBT+ teens “would have been such a relief” to her growing up, and she believed the show had “helped a lot of kids” feel comfortable in their identities.

“If I had something like Glee, where it was stories that you could relate to on a deep level, that maybe as a person in high school you couldn’t express, yeah, I would have loved it,” Lynch said.

“I don’t mean to overstate it, but I do think it might really have helped a lot of kids.”

Readers in the UK who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to call Drinkline for free, confidential help on 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am–8pm, weekends 11am–4pm). You can also contact Drinkchat, a free online chat service, for advice on weekdays from 9am to 2pm.

Readers outside the UK can find support services globally through the Alcoholics Anonymous website, which has an expansive list of resources and groups worldwide.