In a shocking and startling new interview, the 32-year-old Nashville actress opened up for the first time about her secret years-long struggle with substance dependency before the battle came to a head in 2018.
"I was on top of the world and I ruined it,” Panettiere told People. "I'd think I hit rock bottom, but then there's that trap door that opens."
According to Panettiere, she first started taking drugs when she was only 15-years-old after someone on her team offered her “happy pills.”
But almost 10 years later, the Remember the Titans actress began drinking regularly and taking opioids.
"They were to make me peppy during interviews," Panettiere said regarding the “happy pills” she was given at 15. "I had no idea that this was not an appropriate thing, or what door that would open for me when it came to my addiction."
"My saving grace is that I couldn't be messy while on set and working," she continued. "But things kept getting out of control. And as I got older, the drugs and alcohol became something I almost couldn't live without."
Come 2014, Panettiere began starring in the hit series Nashville as Juliette Barnes – a country singer whose own troubles mirrored almost directly the troubles Panettiere was facing at the time.
Panettiere also became pregnant soon after Nashville first premiered, and gave birth shortly after to her daughter Kaya – who she shares with ex-boyfriend Wladimir Klitschko.
"Those were really tough years," Panettiere admitted after revealing that she suffered severe postpartum depression following the birth of her daughter in 2014. "I could relate to a lot of those storylines like the alcoholism and postpartum depression. They hit close to home."
"I never had the feeling that I wanted to harm my child, but I didn't want to spend any time with her," the actress added. "There was just this gray color in my life."
Although Panettiere didn’t drink or abuse drugs while pregnant with her daughter, she admitted that she “fell off the wagon” shortly after her daughter’s birth in an effort to combat the postpartum depression and “gray color” she was experiencing.
The Heroes actress’s drug and alcohol addiction continued, and she revealed that it became so bad that she ultimately decided to send her daughter to live with Klitschko in Ukraine in 2018.
"It was the hardest thing I ever had to do," she said. "But I wanted to be a good mom to her — and sometimes that means letting them go."
Panettiere’s addiction finally came to a head when she was hospitalized and diagnosed with jaundice – something that would have taken her life if she did not learn to stop drinking.
"Doctors told me my liver was going to give out," she recalled during the shocking new interview. "I was no longer a 20-year-old who could just bounce right back."
She ended up entering a rehab facility for nearly eight months, but although she admitted that her time in rehab helped her overcome her addictions, it was not until more recently that she finally found peace.
"It's an everyday choice, and I'm checking in with myself all the time," Panettiere concluded. "But I'm just so grateful to be part of this world again, and I will never take it for granted again."