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Mena Suvari Reveals She Used Meth After Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse: 'A Very Dark Path'

·3-min read

Mena Suvari is opening up about her journey on the fast lane and struggling with drugs.

The American Beauty actress, 42, tells PEOPLE her drug addiction involved trying out methamphetamine, something she was "introduced to" on vacation as a teen.

"How it blew my mind," says Suvari, whose new memoir The Great Peace: A Memoir, is on sale now. "And then I believed that I would never encounter it again. But when I came back to L.A., I ended up meeting a group of friends that one of my girlfriends had been hanging out with, and there it was again."

For more on Mena Suvari's memoir and other top stories, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

The star was "just over managing" her addiction when she used the drug again and the experience "took me down a very dark path."

Suvari, who was a teenager at the time, says she was "just trying to survive" after having been raped by a friend of her older brother's when she was in the sixth grade.

"When my family split apart, I ended up hanging out more and more, just going out," she says of her teenage years. "And [the] rave scene, and we'd do all of those things. And so I tried anything. Mescaline. I mean whatever."

RELATED: Mena Suvari Reveals Sexual Abuse and Drug Addiction in New Book: 'I'm Lucky I Survived'

mena suvari
mena suvari

Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage Mena Suvari

Just before Suvari turned 17, she met "Tyler," who abused her sexually and emotionally during their three-year relationship.

"Tyler didn't like meth," says Suvari. "He had no problem with pot or any other drugs, but he just didn't like that one."

Suvari says despite their abusive relationship, his dislike for the drug was a "gift of at least getting that drug out of my life."

RELATED: ​Mena Suvari on 'Miraculous' Experience of Becoming a Mom to Baby Christopher: 'I'm a Badass'

"But then because of him and also the environment that I was in, you know, gave me the opportunity to try anything else," she recalls. "You know, acid, and ecstasy and things like this. And that time with him was so devastatingly dark that I needed those things. But then, you know, my work, that opportunity, that art that saved my life, that was the healthy addiction that I needed to replace it with."

Suvari found solace in her acting work. After her role in American Pie (1999) skyrocketed the young actress to fame, she got the part of Angela, the teenage cheerleader in American Beauty who is the object of a middle-aged man's obsession, played by Kevin Spacey.

The role brought her much acclaim and a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Mena suvari
Mena suvari

Phylicia J. L. Munn Mena Suvari

Looking back at making American Beauty, Suvari says, "It was a beautiful experience, being given the opportunity to work and express myself right when I needed I to save me."

Still, Suvari admits, she often felt she was living a double life, "functioning on the outside and on the inside, desperately trying to heal."

She eventually broke it off with Tyler and stopped using drugs — and began to see, through therapy and supportive friends, she deserved better.

Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday.

Suvari met her husband Mike Hope on the set of her Hallmark movie I'll Be Home For Christmas. They married in August 2018 and welcomed their first child, a son named Christopher, in April.

Now, the actress gives back by working with disadvantaged youth at Vista Del Mar in California. "I want to share my story in hopes to always shine light and inspire," she says.

"This is what I have learned about myself," she says. "And for the first time, I'm giving myself permission and finding the voice I wished I'd had."

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.

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