A Look At Drew Barrymore's Estranged Relationship With Her Dad

Drew Barrymore had one of the most atypical childhoods imaginable — even by Hollywood standards. Drew's drug use early in life landed her in rehab by the time she was 12. Her parents, Jaid and John Drew Barrymore, seemed to have been a big part of the problem. "They were pretty out there!" she told The Guardian in 2015, recalling how she used to party with her mother at Studio 54 every night when she was as young as 8. With time, what she perceived as a fun lifestyle gave way to rancor. 

At 13, Drew found herself in a psychiatric ward. "If you search deep down in me, it's like, 'Why am I so angry, man? And it's like, 'OK, cos my parents weren't there,'" she said. But seeing the problem liberated her from her anger. "Who gives a s**t? Lots of people don't have parents. They were gone, they couldn't handle any of it, and I get it," she concluded. When she left rehab at 14, Drew became emancipated from her mother. "I had to part ways from my mother because we had driven our relationship into the ground," Drew wrote in her 2015 memoir, "Wildflower."

Drew's relationship with her father was a bit simpler because there scarcely was one. "Everything in his life was temporary," Drew wrote. "For as long as I knew him, or barely knew him, he was always coming from somewhere and going somewhere else." But absence is powerful, and it left its mark on her. 

John Drew Barrymore struggled with addiction

Like his daughter, John Drew Barrymore also suffered from addiction. The condition made him prone to violent outbursts, something that was present since Drew Barrymore's first memory of him. Drew, age 3 at the time, was doing laundry with her mother when John walked in and attacked Jaid Barrymore. "Then he turned on me ... he picked me up and threw me into the wall," she wrote in her 1991 autobiography "Little Girl Lost." John's reaction wasn't to turn around and check on her.

John just left the room after breaking a bottle of tequila. "That was the first time I remember seeing my dad," Drew wrote. From early on, Jaid kept John away. Because she never saw him, Drew longed for a relationship with him. "I had this fantasy in my mind, that I was going to have 'Father Knows Best' walk through the door. I wanted that so bad, and I wasn't going to face reality that it wasn't going to happen," she told The Associated Press in 1990 (via Irish Examiner)

But as Drew shot to fame and began grappling with her own issues, she began to understand where he was coming from. "Somehow I have zero baggage or dad issues," she wrote in a June 2020 Instagram post. Barrymore also learned a thing or two about parenting from her own experience. "Both my parents have played a major role in who [I] am as a parent. And none of it looks perfect," she wrote.

Drew Barrymore reconciled with her father

Despite hoping to have a relationship with her father as a child, Drew Barrymore eventually learned it wasn't going to happen. And she let it go. But she made her peace with John Drew Barrymore after he received a multiple myeloma diagnosis. She even paid for his hospice until he died in 2004. "I just understood what an incapable human being he was," she told Vulture in June. Even though it took her decades to properly see it, she had subconsciously known for a long time. 

On the surface, Drew saw her father as this stylish hippie dude she wished had come around more often. But deep down, she knew what was hiding underneath it. "He was just so cool and fascinating, and I could tell at a young age, 'Oh, this guy is not capable of s**t," she said on "The Shop: Uninterrupted" in September 2022. Following his death, Drew scattered his ashes around Joshua Tree. "It was his favorite place," she said on "The Drew Barrymore Show" in 2021. "And the two of us would tool around there together." 

With time and hindsight on her side, Drew learned to see how her father — as imperfect as he was — shaped her into what she became. "His wildness runs through me. His gifts are here. His demons to overcome are mine to break!" she explained on Instagram. "I love him not for who I wanted him to be, but for who he was."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).