For most of my life people have expected me to be perfect. That's because I played the role of Marcia Brady—a pretty girl from a flawless family—from 1969 to 1974. She was perky, well-balanced and above all, always happy. It was an image I portrayed on screen from the age of 12 until I turned 17, but one I'd battle to overcome the rest of my life.
To start with, my family was not the Brady Bunch. In the early '70s, my older brother was battling a heroin addiction and my father was having an affair, both of which devastated my family. I also have a younger brother who is mentally impaired, so that proved another challenge. And, as strange as it sounds, the whole time I was working on "The Brady Bunch" I thought I had syphilis. You see, my mother was born with it, and I knew it could be passed from generation to generation. In fact, my grandmother died of it. So I thought I was going to go insane and die in an institution like my grandmother. When I was doing those crying scenes in the show, that's what I was thinking about. In retrospect, I see that my depression started way back in my teenage years.
Things only got worse when "The Brady Bunch" stopped filming in 1974. The following year I got involved with a boyfriend who took me up to the house of this cocaine dealer—one of the biggest dealers in L.A. At the house, there was this table with a mountain of cocaine on it. I was 18 and had no idea what it was or how to do it, but everyone there said, "Don't worry, just watch us. Now here, take a toot." I did, but didn't feel anything. Then I took another one, and that was it. I was addicted for the next five years and would do anything to get my hands on the drug. I got naked for a drug dealer so he could videotape me. And I also had sex with a dealer to get more cocaine. They loved the fact that I was hanging out with them because I was Marcia Brady, and apparently that was good for their image and business.
Everywhere I went, people still identified me by the role I played as a teen. The association made it impossible to just be me and made it really hard to get the kind of parts I wanted. For instance, I was up for a role in "Midnight Express," which I almost got, but then was turned away because of the "Marcia connection." Here I was, wanting to play heroin addicts and hookers—all characters I related to—yet I was doing "Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island." It may sound funny, but I was lucky, too: despite the fact that I was doing drugs at all the hottest clubs in L.A., there were no paparazzi at the time, so I was never publicly humiliated or busted (I can't even imagine how that would have played out now).
I guess I didn't really need to be outed in the gossip rags, though, because I did a fine job of hitting rock bottom on my own. When I was filming "The Brady Brides," a 1981 series Eve Plumb and I worked on, I was supposed to be at Paramount Studios film-testing one of my "husbands." But where was I? Locked up in my apartment, doing cocaine and playing solitaire in my closet. My agent, Sandy Bressler (who works with Jack Nicholson), had to break my apartment door down to get in. He tore off my clothes, threw me in the shower, then loaded me in the car and said, "Maureen, we're going to get you help." The first therapist I ended up with was the late Dr. Eugene Landy, the psychologist who eventually surrendered his license in California due to a controversial relationship with Beach Boy Brian Wilson. He was not a good man. He put me on so many drugs I didn't know if I was coming or going.
Jerry Houser, who played my husband on "The Brady Brides," took me to church one day. It was an amazing thing for me. I totally reconnected with God. This is where I met my husband, Michael—it was love at first sight. I started praying that if God was really there, he would come into my life, because I felt totally dead spiritually. It was the start of me getting clean.
Despite finding support and guidance through the church, I still felt disconnected and depressed. My husband and I were on the outs, and I would just cry every day. I didn't want to leave my house; I didn't want to get out of bed. I screamed and yelled and blamed everything on him. I was hating myself. I was angry and had this deep, deep sadness that I thought would never go away. Really, I thought I was insane.
Then one day when my daughter Natalie was around 10, I was sitting on the porch with my friend, pouring my heart out. I said I didn't want to participate in life because I was so sad. Basically, I didn't want to live. My friend, who's a doctor, suggested antidepressants. I was totally resistant and did not want to go on another drug because I have such an addictive personality. My husband was also against me going on Prozac. We went to every bookstore we could find and read every book on Prozac, depression and being bi-polar. I was crying while I was reading all this stuff and thinking, "Oh, my God, this is me!" I finally gave in and said I have to try it because I have tried everything else and nothing has worked.
I started taking antidepressants more than a decade ago, and that's when my whole world really changed. I started to feel like a normal person for the first time in my life. My husband will tell you that he thought the difference was night and day. At the risk of sounding like one of those TV ads, I can honestly say that antidepressants changed my life.
Now I've been sober for 27 years, and I'm going on 24 years of marriage with the most wonderful man in the entire world. For the first time in my life, I feel like it's OK to be imperfect and it's OK to tell my story.
I decided to write a book because I felt I had to talk about what I've been through and stop hiding. This is what life is all about: sharing our stories and mistakes, learning from each other and helping each other to get better. It's great to finally be just me.