If you’ve ever wanted to see a six foot four man doing cartwheels (who doesn’t?), you should have been in our office when it was confirmed that actress, entertainer, author, trailblazer for alternative health, and entrepreneur Suzanne Somers was confirmed for an interview. GGN publisher Shaun Proulx spoke with Somers about growing up with alcoholic fathers, her trailblazing in Hollywood and integrative medicine, and how she became a survivor, despite having “the lowest self esteem of anyone”.
Shaun Proulx: I am so excited about today! Someone I’ve admired for such a long time, is here.
Suzanne Somers: Thank you so much! See, the reason you’re six-four is all that great food your mother gave you.
Shaun Proulx: I was explaining this to you that way back when my dad passed of esophageal cancer when I was seventeen I grew an appreciation for integrative medicine and alternative medicine. My mum dragged me to a chiropractor when chiropractor’s were considered freaks. She was always mixing herbs and stuff and trying to get my dad well, and so I grew up with the idea that there are other ways to enhance our health. I’ve been such a huge supporter of you having the nerve to say that, because I knew you’ve also taken a lot of hard knocks for doing so.
Suzanne Somers: If you don’t have to take a drug, why take it, if there’s a natural way to do it? I’ve reached the stage in my life where I don’t take any drugs, my husband doesn’t take any drugs, we are in such superb health, with such incredible energy, and I look around at our friends who are on the allopathic route only, and they’re not doing well. So it’s been a great choice that I made for myself, and I love that I’ve had such a global audience for this, a lot of us.
Shaun Proulx: How difficult was it to be seen in a light, other than what you were before, as “Chrissy Snow”, for example. You began entrepreneurship, leading your #ThoughtRevolution about health. What was the journey like when you stepped out into that new zone?
Suzanne Somers: It appeared to be a new zone, but actually the way my career started was with a little book of poetry called, Touch Me, in 1973, and then later on, I wrote a book called Keeping Secrets, about growing up with an alcoholic father, and then I wrote another book about abuse, and then I gained some weight, so I wrote nine books about how you lose weight, the real way, and then I lost my hormones, and so I wrote a book about how to put them back naturally, and then started realizing the effects of toxicity on everybody, and what damage has been done to the planet. The greatest way to write books is to not really plan them. It’s like right now I’m writing two books, simultaneously, because I couldn’t decide which one to do, so I decided to just work on both of them. It’s almost like I have to. I’m Irish! We write! We drink! I do both!
Shaun Proulx: You drink?
Suzanne Somers: I drink tequila, and the reason I drink tequila is a nutritionist asked me: “Do you want to look like a cactus or a potato?” and I said, “What do you mean?” and she said, “Well, people drink vodka, it’s all sugar, and you gain a lot of weight. Cactus is made from agave, which has little to no sugar, look at a cactus, look at a potato, which would you want to look like if you wanted to have a cocktail?” It has to be clear, the brown stuff has sugar in it.
Shaun Proulx: I forgot your dad was an alcoholic, and mine was as well, and I think there’s something about alcoholic children that they’re self-examiners, because this is what I do for a living now. I’m a “why” guy, and I found you to be such a “why” person, in a world where there weren’t very many.
Suzanne Somers: Right. You know, I did a Broadway musical, a one-woman show called, The Blonde and the Thunderbird, and I wrote a couple of books about my father’s alcoholism, but the big one was “Keeping Secrets”, and I wanted to explore, “What did that do to me?” I never drank alcohol, I never had the inclination, but my brother became an alcoholic, my younger brother became an alcoholic and died, my sister became an alcoholic. My older brother and sister are in recovery now for thirty years, but the monkey is off their back, although they don’t say that. I think with everything in life, like this “why” thing you’re mentioning, is instead of “what did it do to me?” it’s “how did it work for me?” Everything I am, the survivor in me, the ability to take criticism, the ability to develop a thick skin, the ability to have compassion and forgiveness, all came from having this. My father was very violent when he was drunk. I learned so much, I could have spent my whole life like so many mad at him. I’m not. I wish that he didn’t have to have that terrible monkey on his back for fifty years, can you imagine? Imagine what he missed, and imagine the guilt and shame, he had enough.
Shaun Proulx: Imagine the pain he must have been in to journey down that road.
Suzanne Somers: Every day.
Shaun Proulx: That’s what I think about my late father, is what pain and what sadness he must have been in, to want to be so happy he would do anything to get happy, including drinking himself into obliteration, alienate his oldest son, and I bet you can relate to that as well.
Suzanne Somers: Yes, we all look for ways to take the pain away, when you want to judge somebody for it. I have a friend who’s in serious pain all the time, and I said to him one day, “You know where this is leading,” and he said, “What am I supposed to do?” I realized of course, that we human beings, when we’re in pain, we do whatever, so if your means is alcohol or drugs, I guess that’s what you have to do, but when I started writing books about hormones, which has really been a very interesting journey, when a woman reaches an age, – and men too, that’s why they do movies called, Grumpy Old Men – but when a woman reaches and age where you have PMS all the time there are days when you can act so terrible, and the next day, you feel so awful that you acted so terrible! You’re so filled with guilt and shame. Magnify that a thousand times with an alcoholic. That’s where I was able to find total forgiveness. You’ve already beat yourself up enough, I don’t need to.
Shaun Proulx: I realized long after the journey my dad and I took together that the worst thing that can happen to you in life is nothing, and when you’ve got an alcoholic father, you’re dealt a lot of “something” to deal with. From that I grew a thicker skin, I became more of an achiever. The good things that have propelled my personal success came from a kid who was thrown in a situation where he had to learn to swim.
Suzanne Somers: And what you’re saying, and I’m saying is, you don’t let the disease win. You won, I won. You use it like Judo. I just heard the “come on” music for your show. You made it! I made it! So how can we be anything but grateful?
Shaun Proulx: A few years ago when I was looking into improving my health, I learned that “gut health”, the gut being our second brain, is key. Now we’re hearing all about it, but when I was doing my research, it was you who showed up online, and you had a web-series, or you were on a web-series talking about gut-health, and this was before anybody else was doing that. I wonder to what degree you took these kinds of knocks when you’re out on the leading edge, and you’re talking about things that are counter to what the medical profession, for example, want you to be saying, and counter to the image that some people have of you and counter to the fact that you’re a woman, and counter to the fact that you’re a blonde, and counter to…there’s so much, sort of, what you would have been up against. What was that like?
Suzanne Somers: Remember Edith Bunker? From All in the Family? After awhile, we realized that Edith Bunker and Jean Stapleton were two different people, and when people started questioning what’s a sit-com dumb blonde doing writing books like she’s some kind of doctor? I thought, “You’ll learn in time that Chrissy Snow and Suzanne Somers are two different people.
Shaun Proulx: You’ll catch up!
Suzanne Somers: Sorry, I’ve always been smart, and had to figure out everything on my own like you did, and I had to go into therapy early on, not to make this a heavy interview but I was in therapy when I was in my early twenties, because it had been hard, and then I got pregnant at seventeen, and then my son was run over by a car, it was one terrible thing after another, and I found this community mental health centre, where they charge you according to your ability to pay. She charged me a dollar a visit. She said, because in order to work with him, I need to work with you. I said, “Great! Of course!” and a year in, she said, “He’s fine, he’s not having nightmares anymore, you’ve been a good mother.” Which meant so much to me, and then she said, “You, I’d like to stay.” I said, “Me, why!” and she said, “You have the lowest self-esteem of anyone I’ve ever met.” I said, “Ever…met? How long have you been here?” She said, “Because you apologize for who you are, what you are, what you say, what you look like, you’re a walking apology.” She said, “When did you get the feeling that you were worth so little?” And that was when the work began, and three years later…three years later of intense… I took it seriously. She said to me one day, “I don’t want you to come anymore.” I said, “Why? I’ve paid I’ve shown up, I’ve been!” She said, “I know, so I want you to go live your life now. “ It was so…oh my God, the chord! She’d been a real parent to me in these sessions, and I accepted it, and I got to the door, and as I was opening, she said, “Suzanne.” I said, “Yeah,” I turned back, and I looked at her, and she said, “The worst is over.” And I left that day, and my life, changed. My life absolutely changed. You know, being discovered by Johnny Carson in the commissary. He came to say hello and I had the confidence to hand him my little, my “little” book of poetry, because I didn’t have an 8xIO, and that was Wednesday. Friday of that week, I’d made my first appearance on American television on “The Tonight Show”.
Shaun Proulx: Because you were a match to that kind of success. When you’ve got no self-esteem, you can’t attract that kind of success.
Suzanne Somers: This part of my life, I laugh a lot, I really do. I’m enjoying everything, and maybe coming from where you and I came from when you get on the other side of it you just realize it every day. I have a little exercise I do. I know it sounds corny, I know, but the human body is comprised of approximately ninety trillion cells, I don’t know who counted, so I’m a really anal-retentive person, and as you know every cell communicates with every other cell. That’s what we’re about. So every morning, I take this one cell, leave all other ninety trillion, and I tell that one cell, and I know it sounds corny, “I am so grateful for the life I have, the love I have in my life, this incredible husband, these incredible children and grandchildren, and I grow my own food, and I love my work, and I just do a mantra of what I love, and I’m happy about, then I send that little cell off to go blab it all to all the other ninety trillion cells, and I swear, it takes a nano-second, and I just feel like I’m going to burst with happiness.
Shaun Proulx: How have you made the association with “Chrissy Snow” a blessing? So many actors play an iconic role, but can never make peace with it after. You’ve made peace with it you’ve made peace with everything.
Suzanne Somers: My God, yes! I’m so grateful to her. I got fired from Three’s Company because I had the audacity to ask to be paid what the men were paid.
Shaun Proulx: That was when I first fell in love with you. Of all the times I fell in love with you, that’s the first time! You’ve been a trailblazer.
Suzanne Somers: Thank you! It just seemed at the time: I’m on a number one show, and my demographics were the highest of any woman in television, and I said, “How come the men are making a minimum of ten times more?” So they fired me to make an example that no woman on television would have the audacity, until Roseanne Barr came along.
Shaun Proulx: When you look back at the girl who left the psychiatrist’s office, you turned back, and she told you that the worst was over, and you think about the remarkable trajectory of you career and your life, and who you are now, what comes to mind?
Suzanne Somers: That angels are put before us , and sometimes the worst things that happen to you in life are your opportunities. The worst thing was having my son run over by that car, and almost dying, and then the subsequent nightmares and the terror he felt. That’s what got me to this angel, who was able to fix him really fast, it was me. I think without her, I wouldn’t be this. She taught me that you’ve got to demand to be treated the way that you want to be treated in life, and you have to see the part that you play in every drama in your life, and take responsibility for it, you’re not a victim. Those two things, armed me to go out and become Suzanne Somers.
Shaun Proulx: And then pay it forward, I will dare add, because you’ve had such a positive effect on so many other lives. Mine as well. This has been a career highlight for me. I’ve always wanted to just say thank you, and how much I appreciate you, and what a wonderful person you are. It was a real treat to talk to you today, thank you so much.
Suzanne Somers: Thank you, what a wonderful time together.
– Shaun Proulx is the publisher of GGN. Join his #ThoughtRevolution on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and hear him every weekend on SiriusXMCanadaTalks 167 or online here. If you’re in the Greater Toronto Area, read his weekly column, Spirit & The City in 24 Hours each Thursday.
– This interview was condensed and edited.