What Do You Do After You Fall? -- Suzanne Somers' Story

by Al Siebert, PhD

THRIVEnet Story of the Month - May 1998

Actress Suzanne Somers' early life was very difficult. Her father was a drunken, violent man. At age 18 she became pregnant. She married her boyfriend, but felt shamed by the gossip of having to get married because she was pregnant.

Her marriage was miserable. In 1967, two years later, she divorced her husband and became the target of gossip again. She'd been pregnant when married and was now a young divorced woman raising her son by herself.

Suzanne's ex-husband could not afford any child support. Her son was hit by a car and almost killed. He needed medical treatment. She was financially destitute. She did whatever she could to earn enough money as a model and hopeful actress without going on welfare. She scrounged for modeling jobs, appeared in a few commercials, and posed topless when there was no other work.

A brief appearance in the movie American Graffiti, as "the blonde in the Thunderbird," led eventually to her being cast in the role of Chrissy in the television show Three's Company. The instant success of the television show, first broadcast in March, 1977, made her a star. She fell in love and married a man with two children. She now had it all--money, fame, husband, home, and family.

Family life wasn't as happy as she had hoped it would be, however. Her husband would not be friendly to her son. His two children would not warm up to her. Still, her celebrity status from being in the most popular show on television filled her life with fabulous experiences.

After three years, when it came time to renew her contract for Three's Company, she asked for a raise. The studio heads had decided, however, to make an example of her. They refused to discuss a pay raise and squeezed her out of the show for even asking.

Suddenly, after three years at the very top of the glittering celebrity world, Suzanne was out of work. All doors were shut to her. People she thought had become friends for life would not return her phone calls. She says "That first year was devastating. I felt embarrassed to be seen in public. Without Chrissy to define me, I didn't know where I fit in."

There is always the temptation for the child of an alcoholic parent to turn to drink, but Suzanne didn't do that. "It would have been easy to sit back and give up," she says. "It would have been easy to become the poor little victim. But then who would be the loser! This is my life!"

Suzanne says "There is little to learn when all is going smoothly. It's nice, it's peaceful, and it's even necessary to have some periods of life that let up from the pain....But it's the pain of life's experiences that confuses us, depresses us, and tortures us so that we define ourselves and are forced to decide what to do about it. It is this frame of mind that helps us grow and evolve....I had to lose everything to learn what was truly important to me."

Suzanne gradually created a new, highly successful career. A family crisis created a situation that led them all to break free from old, unhappy feelings. Finally, after years of abrasiveness, they become a happy family.

In reflecting back on her struggles she says "I had faced the demons and, like bullies, they had backed off and faded away with confrontation. I was finally able to be grateful for all of life's experiences, good and bad." When she speaks to recovery and rehabilitation groups she tells them "I am the grateful child of an alcoholic."

"Today," she says, "I see all negatives as opportunities. Everything that has happened to me has been a lesson. A wasted life is one in which lessons go unheeded. People who live such lives are the people who give up, who choose to be victims. I didn't give up. I am not a victim, and that is my proudest accomplishment."

Read Suzanne Somers' inspiring story of how to be transformed by adversity in her new book After the Fall: How I Picked Myself Up, Dusted Myself Off, and Started All Over Again.

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