“This was not an easy decision,” Adrienne Banfield-Norris tearfully says at the open of the latest episode of daughter Jada Pinkett Smith’s series, Red Table Talk. “It’s difficult to talk about something that is gonna go out to the world.”
The 64-year-old Banfield-Norris is referring to her over 20-year addiction to heroin, which she managed to overcome 27 years ago.
“I couldn’t hide the unmanageability of my life and the emotional damage and the spiritual damage that I did to myself and to [Jada], you know, that was devastating,” Banfield-Norris confides to the Red Table Talk cameras.
Joining Banfield-Norris and Pinkett Smith at the red table are R&B singer August Alsina and Pinkett Smith’s sister-in-law, Ashley Marie, all of whom have struggled with addiction in different ways.
For Banfield-Norris, the turning point came during a time that she admits to not thinking she was worth “anything without a man.”
“It’s sad to say that I did it for a man, but at the end of the day, you get to wherever you get, and then hopefully, the light will go on and you’ll realize that it’s about you,” she tearfully reveals to the table.
It took Banfield six years of being in what she calls a “revolving door” of addiction to make it through one year clean. And as addictions are often hereditary (everyone at the table admits to witnessing alcohol and substance abuse growing up) Pinkett Smith struggled with her own versions as well.
“Alcoholism and drug addiction runs through my family and I’ve had my own addictions that I’ve had to get over,” Pinkett Smith admitted, explaining that she is a “binger” who must vigilantly watch her behavior:
My sort of addictions jump. They jump around. When I was younger, I definitely think I had a sex addiction of some kind—everything could be fixed by sex. Then I became a gym addict. ... And then, I remember reaching a rock bottom that time I was in the house by myself and I had those two bottles of wine and was going for the third bottle. And I was like, “Now hold up. You’re in this house by yourself going onto your third bottle of wine? You might have a problem. ...
I am a binger, and I always have to watch myself and I can get obsessed with things. It’s not what you’re doing but how you’re doing it; why you’re doing it. It’s the behavior that’s attached to it because if you want to have a lot of sex, that’s great. But why are you having all that sex? That’s what you’ve got to look at.
What is clear to everyone is that substance abuse and its very socially-acceptable cousin, alcohol abuse—which has recently seen striking increases among African Americans and women—are never more than temporary escapes from dealing with stress or other emotions, as Marie says of her marijuana habit, which she describes as constant.
“It was always a way to make it through the moment; make it through the tears,” she says, later adding, “I lean on it. Like, I say to myself, ‘The only way I can calm down from not being buck is to smoke.’ But is that true, though?”
More than anything, Pinkett Smith and her guests want those struggling with addiction to know that they’re not alone.
“There’s a stigma and a stereotype attached to addiction that makes it difficult for people to seek the help that they need,” Banfield-Norris says. “If I can in any way help with just a little bit of some of that then it will be worth it.”
Pinkett Smith agrees, saying, “It’s just made me realize that really great people just get caught up.”