Marcia Brady's Tragic Real-Life Story

Maureen McCormick is best known for playing Marcia Brady on the television show The Brady Bunch. Portraying the eldest daughter of the blended family, McCormick starred as the popular and insanely beautiful Marcia from the time she was 12 until she was 17 — living out her formative years in front of millions of television viewers. When the show came to an end in 1974, spin-off series and made-for-TV movies followed, including The Brady Girls Get Married, The Brady Brides, and A Very Brady Christmas. McCormick reprised her role as the bubbly, fresh-faced character each time, but throughout it all, no one knew that her real life was snowballing out of control behind the scenes. 

Drug abuse, an eating disorder, and depression are just a few of the battles she faced, proving that her upbringing and her adult life were far more harrowing than any The Brady Bunch episode ever was. Keep reading to learn all about the tragic real-life story of Maureen McCormick.  

Alleged abuse in the home

Growing up as the youngest of four kids, McCormick suffered from anxiety due to her tumultuous family life. "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," she told Newsweek, but her father's philandering ways weren't the only issues in the McCormick household. According to the actress' memoir, Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice (via CBS News), her father had also been abusive.

Her real life — with all of the abuse, drug use, and dysfunction — was obviously in direct contrast from her TV life, and that caused McCormick to feel like she was hiding a deep, dark secret. "As a teenager, I had no idea that few people are everything they present to the outside world," she wrote. "Yet there I was, hiding the reality of my life behind the unreal perfection of Marcia Brady ... No one suspected the fear that gnawed at me even as I lent my voice to the chorus of Bradys singing, 'It's a Sunshine Day."'

She was afraid of contracting an STD

Speaking with Today in 2010, McCormick offered a little more insight into her family life, revealing that her grandmother had reportedly gone insane and died in a mental hospital from syphilis. Her mother, Irene, had also contracted the STD while in utero. "I thought that I had syphilis growing up my whole life. I thought that I would also go insane and end up in a mental institution. It was awful," she said. 

While detailing her life story to Newsweek, the actress said the mere thought of contracting the highly contagious infection helped her in an usual way while filming The Brady Bunch. "When I was doing those crying scenes in the show, that's what I was thinking about," she said.

McCormick's mom eventually passed away from kidney cancer in 2004. The actress told TV Guide, "My mom had been sick for a couple of years, and I had never lost anyone really close to me until she died." Her mother's passing became one of the many catalysts that caused McCormick to venture down a self-destructive path. 

Her strained relationship with Jan Brady

On The Brady Bunch, Jan Brady (played by Eve Plumb) was very jealous of her older sister Marcia, but in real life, the actresses behind the characters were "best friends" until Maureen McCormick supposedly put her foot in her mouth. 

According to E! News, Maureen McCormick caused a big stir when she "admitted to having a crush on her TV sibling, adding that the two were 'close.'" When the host asked if they'd ever kissed, McCormick answered "Yeah, we've kissed," while reportedly gesturing to her cheek.  were close chatted about Plumb on a late-night talk show called Vibe in 1997. 

"I was having fun, something I was joking with, and [Plumb] didn't take it that way," McCormick told Today in 2010. Years later, she claimed they were still on the outs. "I've reached out to her," McCormick said. "I called her for years and would never get a phone call back. Finally, after doing that for so long, I thought, she'll call me when she wants to, and hopefully she will." According to Radar Online, the tension was apparently so strong that it's the reason a televised The Brady Bunch reunion was canned.  

Trading sex for drugs

In her autobiography, Maureen McCormick details how she went from playing the innocent and wholesome character of Marcia Brady to being a real-life drug addict who would freebase cocaine (via The Telegraph). "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.," she told Newsweek. "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.'" McCormick got addicted. "All I cared about was having sex and doing the drugs," she told Today. I had sex to get the drugs."

When she met her husband, actor Michael Cummings, she admitted to Entertainment Tonight that she was "still dabbling" with drugs. "And [Cummings] said, 'You know, it's either me or that, take it or I'm out of here,'" she said. "And I realized that I didn't want to lose one of the greatest things I had ever found."

A 10-year battle with bulimia

McCormick's 10-year battle with bulimia reportedly began after she enrolled into a public high school at the age of 17. "I was with some girls, we had a gallon of ice cream, and someone mentioned how we could eat it all and not gain weight," she told People. "It seemed ideal. Once I started [purging], it was hard to stop."

It didn't help that she was cast for guest roles on The Love Boat and Fantasy Island after The Brady Bunch came to an end, and both gigs required her to show some skin. "I had to be in a bathing suit. That made me so self-conscious," she said. 

After the 2004 death of her mother, McCormick was faced with the decision to place her mentally disabled brother, Denny, in a group home. During that time, she packed on 30 pounds because she "wasn't exercising, just eating and sleeping a lot." She took comfort in her favorite foods and later realized she was "eating to cope" with the pain. She finally decided it was time to face her eating disorder by competing on Celebrity Fit Club – winning the competition and losing 38 pounds the healthy way, reported People

She contemplated suicide

McCormick kicked her cocaine habit after marrying Cummings in 1985, but the side effects of her drug use threatened her life. In her autobiography (via she revealed that lingering anxiety and paranoia wreaked havoc on her life. She also had very vivid dreams, and at one point, she was convinced that she had committed a murder and would be locked up in jail. Her paranoia even caused her to threaten to commit suicide in front of her husband. "I walked out on the balcony and screamed that I was going to jump," she wrote. "I desperately wanted relief and I saw it down below on the pavement."

It took a depression diagnosis and a prescription for antidepressants to help her life do a complete 180. "It took most of my life, countless mistakes and decades of pain and suffering to reach this point of equanimity and acceptance," she said.

Overcoming addiction

Maureen McCormick said her "very addictive personality" deeply pained others. "I remember my father saying that he was going to turn me into the police," she told Entertainment Tonight. "... I wish I could take back all the pain that I caused them."

Even after overcoming her years-long battle with cocaine is behind her, McCormick's husband, Michael Cummings, told the Daily Mail that his wife later developed a dependency on the antidepressant prescription medication Prozac, but was able to kick that dependency before appearing on the reality show I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here in 2015.

In the end, the actress told People that therapy and faith guided her down a path toward sobriety.

She lost a lot of gigs

Following her success playing Marcia Brady on The Brady Bunch, Maureen McCormick reportedly stayed awake for several days while on a drug binge and blew her audition for Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark. "If there was coke, I had to stay up and do every last flake even if it meant going without sleep for days," she wrote in her memoir (via The Telegraph). "I destroyed certain jobs, there were some where I was really high and it was bad. It was really bad," she told Entertainment TonightEven while filming the 1981 TV movie The Brady Brides, drug use was dominating her life. "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," she told Newsweek.

Today, McCormick is committed to inspiring those who face the same battles she dealt with. "If you're an addictive personality, it's a disease and it's nothing to be ashamed of," she said. "So many people today are still just incredibly embarrassed about talking about it as if it's a weakness ... That's what we're all here for on this Earth, right? To help each other and to talk about our experiences because that's how we all heal and get better." Amen, sister.