The former child star thought losing weight would fix his problems, but he ended up using drugs and alcohol to cope instead
Josh Peck is getting candid about his spiral into addiction as a teenager.
While appearing on the Cancelled with Tana Mongeau podcast last month, the 36-year-old actor, who described having been a "morbidly obese" teen, revealed that he thought losing more than 125 pounds would fix all of his problems. However, to cope with the pressures of fame, family issues and other inner turmoil, he soon turned to drugs and alcohol instead.
"At 17, I lost all this weight but I was like the same head but in a different body. I thought, 'I'm at the finish line. I did it. Now I just don't have to worry about anything,'" recalled Peck, who is best known for his role in the popular Nickelodeon series Drake & Josh.
He continue, "But quickly, I was still plagued with the same thoughts and things that had plagued me my whole life. Dad issues, you name it."
The former child star also found himself wanting to make up for his lost teenage years while building his showbiz career and working on Drake & Josh from 2004 to 2007.
"I also was 17 and supremely stupid, and it's time for me to catch up. I have to party now because I spent my teenage years alphabetizing my DVDs and not going and making out with people. So now it's time," he explained.
"I just spent four years being a total cliché," he continued. "I think the most insidious or corrosive moment of my life was the first time I tried drugs and I was 17. I'm lying in bed that night and I realized what a great time I'd had that night. I felt charming, handsome, and I was having great conversations and talking to girls."
He continued, "I remember thinking, 'Why would anyone ever want to feel any other way but this?' And I took that deep breath I'd been seeking my whole life. Suddenly, I felt free."
As he reflects on that moment nearly 20 years later, he recognizes that he had simply traded one addiction (food) for another (drugs and alcohol).
"I can look back on that now and go, 'Oof.' That was the moment where I said, 'Oh, this is who I am,' and that sent me on a four-year vision quest that could have been really bad," he explained.
He succeeded in getting sober in 2008 at age 21, and now, he feels lucky to have gotten a handle on his addiction before things grew even worse. "To be able to have gotten out of it at 21, I feel grateful. There were a lot of close calls."
"I just felt like a cliché. And I was breaking my mom's heart," he added of his motivation to seek treatment.
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Peck wrote about his years-long struggle with addiction in his memoir Happy People Are Annoying, released in May 2022. In an interview with PEOPLE at the time, he said he was "always looking for something outside to fix my insides."
"But eventually I realized that whether my life was beyond my wildest dreams or a total mess, it didn't change the temperature of what was going on in my mind," he said. "I knew that nothing in the outside world would make me feel whole."
He said experimenting with drugs and alcohol gave him an outlet for his emotional pain. "It was really a buffet," Peck explained. "I had this illusion of becoming more confident and attractive when I was partaking. I was trying to quiet that voice that woke me up every morning and told me I wasn't enough."
Despite the mistakes he made, Peck said that when he looks back at his teenage self, he sees only strength and resilience.
"It took me a really long time to love the 15-year-old version of me," he told PEOPLE. "But now I understand how strong he was. And I feel like everything in my life set me up to find this chapter of health, peace and contentment."
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