In Grace Notes: My Recollections, Sagal touches on her battle with addiction, her time as a backup singer and finding sobriety at 30.
Actress Katey Sagal has amassed more than her share of successes and memorable experiences over the course of her varied career—from her star-making turn on Married with Children and her Golden Globe win for Sons of Anarchy, to her early career as a vocalist with Bob Dylan, Bette Midler and Etta James.
During her rise to fame, Sagal also struggled with addictions to drugs and alcohol that began a decade earlier during her childhood in Los Angeles. Sagal, who currently stars in the CBS sitcom Superior Donuts, has detailed her journey in a new memoir, Grace Notes: My Recollections, released March 21.
In the book, Sagal discusses how a childhood steeped in the entertainment industry provided her with an introduction to addiction. The daughter of prolific film and television director Boris Sagal and actor/writer/director Sara Macon, Sagal was a neighbor and close childhood friend of future fellow performer Lorna Luft, whose mother, Judy Garland, had her own well-publicized issues with substance abuse.
“Lorna’s mom had a lot of pills on her bedside table and slept past noon just like my mom,” she wrote. “We hung tight. And, of course, I thought everyone’s mom took a lot of pills.” Macon passed away from heart disease when Sagal was 19 years old, leaving her daughter to help raise her four siblings—three of which, including twin sisters Jean and Liz, would also become actors.
Though Sagal began acting in the early 1970s, her true interest lay in singing—and for much of the decade, she provided backing vocals for numerous rock and pop acts including Olivia Newton-John and Tanya Tucker. She was less successful in bringing her own efforts, as both a solo artist and with the Band With No Name, to a wider audience.
Sagal places part of the blame on her addiction issues, as well as turmoil within her own family: less than a decade after losing her mother, Boris Sagal died as a result of an on-set accident while filming the 1981 TV miniseries World War III. “I was a mess,” she recalled. “I had a lot of shit that I just didn’t deal with. Or that I dealt with it by drinking myself into a stupor.”
Sagal found sobriety when she turned 30, and has expressed gratitude that her stardom allowed her to serve as a positive example to others struggling with their issues.
“When I was on Married with Children, I would have people come up to me a lot that were either in the stage of their recovery, because I was pretty vocal about getting sober, and it would help them to know that there was somebody sober that they could see on the TV,” she said. “So I knew early on in my recovery that it was a benefit. It’s just a blessing that I am able to do these things, to be an actor, to have a job, to be in these kinds of roles or any kind of role, really.”