Inside Out

Inside Out by Demi Moore


The same question kept going through my head: How did I get here?

In the empty house where I’d been married, where we’d added on because I had more kids than bedrooms, I was now completely alone. I was almost fifty. The husband who I’d thought was the love of my life had cheated on me and then decided he didn’t want to work on our marriage. My children weren’t speaking to me: no happy birthday calls, no Merry Christmas texts. Nothing. Their father—a friend I’d counted on for years—was gone from my life. The career I’d scrambled to create since I moved out of my mother’s apartment when I was sixteen years old was stalled, or maybe it was over for good. Everything I was attached to—even my health—had abandoned me. I was getting blinding headaches and losing weight scarily fast. I looked like I felt: destroyed.

Is this life? I wondered. Because if this is it, I’m done. I don’t know what I’m doing here.

I was going through the motions, doing whatever seemed like it needed doing—feeding the dogs, answering the phone. A friend had a birthday and some people came over. I did what other people were doing: sucked in a hit of nitrous oxide, and, when the joint reached me on the sunken couch in my living room, I took a puff of synthetic pot (it was called Diablo, fittingly).

The next thing I remember, everything went blurry and I could see myself from above. I was floating out of my body into swirling colors, and it seemed like maybe this was my chance: I could leave the pain and shame of my life behind. The headaches and the heartbreak and the sense of failure—as a mother, a wife, and a woman—would just evaporate.

But there was still that question: How did I get here? After all the luck and success I’d had as an adult. After all the running I had to do to survive my childhood. After a marriage that started out feeling like magic, to the first person I ever really tried to show my whole self to. After I’d finally made peace with my body and stopped starving and torturing it—waging war on myself with food as the weapon. And, most importantly, after I’d raised three daughters and done everything I could think of to make myself the mother I never had. Did all of that struggle really add up to nothing?

Suddenly I was back in my body, convulsing on the floor, and I heard someone scream, “Call 911!”

I yelled “No!” because I knew what would come next: the ambulance, then the paparazzi, then TMZ announcing, “Demi Moore, rushed to the hospital on drugs!” And all of that happened, just like I knew it would. But something else happened that I didn’t expect. I decided to sit still—after a life of running—and face myself. I’d done a lot in fifty years, but I don’t know that I’d really experienced a lot, because I spent most of that time not quite there, afraid to be in myself, convinced I didn’t deserve the good and frantically trying to fix the bad.

How did I get here? This is my story.

Part I


Chapter 1

It may sound strange, but I remember the time I spent in the hospital in Merced, California, when I was five years old as almost magical. Sitting up in bed in my soft pink fleecy nightgown waiting for my daily round of visitors—doctors, nurses, my parents—I felt completely comfortable. I’d already been there for two weeks and was determined to be the best patient they’d ever seen. There in the clean, bright room, everything felt like it was under control: there were dependable routines at the hospital enforced by real grown-ups. (In those days, there was a sense of awe around the doctors and nurses: everyone revered them, and to be in their midst felt like a privilege.) Everything made sense: I liked that there was a way I could behave that would yield predictable responses.

I had been diagnosed with kidney nephrosis, a life-threatening condition about which very little was known—it had really been studied only in boys, to the extent that it was studied at all. Basically, it’s a retentive disease in which your filtering system isn’t doing its job. I remember being terrified when my genitals swelled up and I showed my mom and saw her reaction: pure panic. She got me in the car and rushed me to the hospital, where I ended up staying for three months.

My aunt taught fourth grade, and she’d had her entire class make get-well cards, on construction paper with crayons and markers, which my parents delivered that afternoon. I was excited by the attention—from older kids, kids I didn’t know. But when I looked up from the brightly colored cards, I saw my parents’ faces. For the first time, I could feel their fear that I might not make it.

I reached over and touched my mother’s hand and said, “Everything will be okay, Mommy.”

She was just a kid, too. She was only twenty-three years old.

My mother, Virginia King, was a teenager who weighed a hundred pounds when she got pregnant with me just out of high school in Roswell, New Mexico. Really, she was a little girl. She labored in pain for nine hours, only to be knocked unconscious at the last minute, right before I came into this world. Not the ideal first attachment experience for either of us.

There was a part of her that did not really ground in reality, which meant that she was able to think outside the box. She came from poverty, but she didn’t have a poverty mind-set—she didn’t think poor. She wanted us to have the best: she would never have allowed a generic brand anything in our house—not cereal, not peanut butter, not laundry detergent. She was generous, expansive, welcoming. There was always room for one more person at the table. And she was confident in an easygoing kind of way—not a stickler for rules.

Growing up, I was aware that Ginny was different—she didn’t seem like other moms. I can picture her in the car driving us to school, smoking a cigarette with one hand and putting her makeup on—perfectly—with the other, without even looking in the mirror. She had a great figure; she was athletic and had worked as a lifeguard at Bottomless Lakes State Park near Roswell. She was also strikingly attractive, with bright blue eyes, pale skin, and dark hair. She was meticulous about her appearance no matter what the circumstances: on our yearly trip to my grandmother’s, she would make my dad stop three quarters of the way there so she could put in her curlers and have her hair just right by the time we got into town. (My mom went to beauty school, though she never turned it into a career.) She wasn’t a fashion queen, but she knew how to put a look together with natural flair. She was always reaching for whatever was glamorous—she got my name from a beauty product.

She and my father made a magnetic pair, and they knew how to have fun; other couples flocked to them. My dad, Danny Guynes, who was less than a year older than my mom, always had a mischievous twinkle in his eye that made it seem like he had a secret you wanted in on. He had a beautiful mouth with bright white teeth offset by olive skin: he looked like a Latin Tiger Woods. He was a charming gambler with a great sense of humor. Not boring. The kind of guy who is always riding the edge—always getting away with something. He was very macho, locked in competition with his twin brother, who was bigger and stronger and had joined the Marines, whereas my dad was rejected because he had a lazy eye, as I did. To me it was our special thing: I felt like it meant that we looked at the world the same way.

He and his twin were the oldest of nine children. His mother, who was from Puerto Rico, took care of me for a while when I was a baby. She died when I was two. His dad was Irish and Welsh, a cook for the Air Force, and a terrible alcoholic. He stayed with us when I was a toddler, and I have memories of my mother not wanting to leave me alone in the bathroom with him. Later, there was talk of sexual abuse. Like me, my dad was raised in a home full of secrets.

Danny graduated from Roswell High a year before Ginny, and when he left to go to college in Pennsylvania, she felt insecure—even more so when she found out he had a female “roommate.” So she did what she would continue to do throughout their relationship whenever she felt a threat: she started seeing another guy to make him jealous. She took up with Charlie Harmon, a strapping young fireman whose family had moved to New Mexico from Texas. She even married him, though the union was short-lived, because the romance had the desired effect: Dad came running back. She divorced Charlie, and my parents got married in February 1962. I was born nine months later. Or so I thought.
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