After a very rough year (and his character’s exit from ABC’s “Scandal”), Columbus Short came clean about his struggles with substance abuse on Access Hollywood Live on Wednesday, admitting that drug use was his “biggest problem” during his recent tumultuous times.
“I’ll be candid. I was struggling with drugs,” Columbus – who played Harrison Wright on the ABC drama – told Billy Bush and Kit Hoover. “I had a lot on my plate, and you know, I was using unhealthy ways to kind of self-medicate and deal with a lot of heavy duty stuff in my life.”
“What kind of drugs were you doing?” Billy asked.
“The real drugs – I did cocaine,” Columbus answered. “I was doing cocaine and drinking a lot, and trying to balance a 16-hour work schedule a day, and a family, and, I just lost myself back then.”
The 32-year-old star claimed series creator Shonda Rhimes and his “Scandal” co-stars knew about his drug problem and did what they could to help him.
“She did [know],” Columbus said, when asked if Shonda was aware of his drug issues. “And if we’re going to be fully transparent, they protected me and they held me down. And that was one of the real reasons – they just wanted me to get my stuff together.
“Sometimes the bottom has to be dropped out for you to really get it,” he continued. “So I moved to Atlanta. I’ve been living there for the last five months, five-and-a-half months, and it’s just been great. It’s been life changing.”
Columbus was tight-lipped when it came to divulging the motivations behind why he was using drugs.
“It was numbing stuff, it was just numbing – a lot of things I really don’t want to talk about,” he said. “I was going through a lot, going through a lot in my marriage, I had a lot of loss, tragic loss, so it’s tough.
“Last year, one of my best friends died, he killed himself, Lee Thompson Young, and that kind of started a spiral,” he continued. “I found out when I was on set, and it really just, it took my legs out from under me.”
For Columbus, getting away from LA was key in getting his health back.
“First of all, I think when anybody’s dealing with drugs or alcohol, you need to change your environment, period,” he said. “Persons, places, things, you need to get out of whatever the comfort – it was accessible to me. Come on – I’m on the number one show on television, anything I wanted I could get it, but that’s deadly, you know what I mean? So it was about, how do I change my life?”
Music has been instrumental in Columbus’ road to recovery.
“I had to move, and my therapy really was my album. Working on my album changed my life,” he said. “Music changes things, and that is a fact. And, you know, writing it out. And I have a lot of crappy songs that I wrote, that are just like me ranting, and then I have great [ones], and I put together a great EP with the team, [and] that’s how I got through this.”
Now that the truth of his struggles is out in the open, Columbus is ready to get his career back on track, and he’d be thrilled to be back on a Shonda show.
“I’m really ready to get back to work,” he said. “As far as Shonda’s shows, I would love nothing more to go back to ‘Scandal.’ It’s my family.”
ABC and “Scandal” had no comment regarding Columbus’ statements when contacted by Access Hollywood on Wednesday.
— Erin O’Sullivan
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