Currently in recovery from lung-cancer surgery, comedian Kathy Griffin said on ABC's "Nightline" Monday that a pill addiction plus backlash from her satiric photo of a decapitated-head effigy of President Donald Trump in 2017 had led her to suicidal thoughts.
That photo shoot, Griffin told ABC News' Juju Chang in an interview recorded last week, had resulted in "legit death threats" from Trump supporters, including online postings of "Google pictures of [my] house, the address. I mean, folks showed up to my husband's parents' house," she said. "They tracked my sister down when she was dying of cancer in the hospital and called her … I picked up the call and heard it myself because I happened to be visiting her."
The threats against Griffin and her family, combined with the pressures of her "Laugh Your Head Off" tour following the controversy, contributed to an existing overreliance on doctor-prescribed Provigil, an amphetamine; Ambien, a sleeping aid; and painkillers for various injuries.
"I lost a ton of weight," the Grammy and Emmy Award winner, 60, said, adding, "I wasn't even aware of … not being able to keep food down because I was dealing with so many things." Driven to be "back onstage and show that I couldn't be taken down" following a slew of canceled dates in the United States, she found receptive audiences overseas for her "very, very gratifying but very difficult tour." She returned to American success the following year, including a sold-out date at Carnegie Hall.
"To be told by people in my own industry, 'It's over. Leave the country for five years. You've shamed our industry,' on and on and on. It definitely got to me," Griffin said. "And so, I got to the point where I kind of agreed. Like, maybe it is time for me to go, and I've had a great life … . I just thought, 'I'll just take a bunch of pills, and I'll just go to sleep.' "
Suicide "became almost an obsessive thought. I started really convincing myself it was a good decision," she told the news magazine. "I got my living revocable trust in order. I had all my ducks in a row. I wrote the note — the whole thing."
She rallied, and with the help of her husband, Randy Bick, began treatment at a hospital. Though a nondrinker, Griffin found a path to recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous. "The detox was nasty," she recalled. "I mean, the tremors … and the flop sweat, and I was so unsteady. Like, when I would brush my teeth, my husband had to hold my hips so I wouldn't fall over."
After now having faced cancer, "The irony is not lost on me that, a little over a year ago, all I wanted to do was die. And now," Griffin said, "all I wanna do is live."
Griffin announced on social media Monday that she was about to undergo surgery to remove half of her left lung, and that her prognosis was positive since the cancer was caught at stage 1. "Hopefully no chemo or radiation after this and I should have normal function with my breathing," she wrote.