Drew Barrymore is opening up about her tough time following her 2016 divorce from ex-husband Will Kopelman.
The actress-turned-talk show host spoke with PEOPLE for a new cover story about turning to alcohol after the split, overcoming that period in her life and finding a harmonious new balance with her ex and his new wife.
The pair, who are parents to daughters Frankie and Olive — now 8 and 10, respectively — called it quits after nearly four years of marriage and, looking back, Barrymore said it was almost “more confusing” for her to navigate because there wasn’t one big thing that caused the separation.
“There was no scandal. Nothing went wrong, which is cleaner, but makes it harder and more confusing because there isn’t The Thing to point to,” she told the outlet. “We tried so hard to make it work. [A friend] said to me, ‘Divorce is the death of a dream.’ That’s exactly what it feels like, something so final you can’t get it back.”
Calling the years after her divorce “cripplingly difficult,” Barrymore said she coped with it all by turning to alcohol.
“It was just trying to numb the pain and feel good — and alcohol totally did that for me,” she said, before comparing the situation to battling addiction as a child.
“After the life I planned for my kids didn’t work out — I almost think that was harder than the stuff as a kid. It felt a lot more real because it wasn’t just me. It was about these kids that I cared so much about,” she continued. “And then I probably cared so much that I was only giving to them and not taking care of myself. It was a messy, painful, excruciating walk through the fire and come back to life kind of trajectory.”
She quit drinking and got into therapy, telling PEOPLE that “it was my kids that made me feel like it’s game time.” Her new gig as talk show host also gave her “something to focus on” and “gave us something to believe in.”
While Barrymore herself is back on the dating scene … and often talks about her dating app experience and dating disasters on her show — Kopelman married Vogue fashion director Alexandra Michler in 2021. Drew says they are now a pretty solid blended family.
“Will has his side of the street so beautifully buttoned up with our gorgeous stepmother,” Drew said of his wife. “We’ve got an awesome family dynamic that proves that life goes on. Allie is my favorite person. I love her. I love us all being together. These kids have an example of one of the parents moving on and rebuilding another life for themselves. I’m like, ‘Oh, I don’t have to do that now? Perfect.'”