Courteney Cox and David Arquette were one of the most famous couples in Hollywood—she's the smart, stunning sitcom star, and he's the fun-loving, offbeat actor with an eccentric family. Courteney and David first met in 1996 on the set of the campy horror movie Scream, and their onscreen flirtation turned into a real-life romance. When they tied the knot in 1999, it was a classic case of opposites attract. David once said he was the "live wire," and Courteney was his "grounding force."
The unlikely couple seemed rock solid until a tabloid scandal triggered what many thought was David's public breakdown. Tabloids reported Courteney and David had separated and a series of uncomfortable radio interviews between David and disc jockey Howard Stern set the gossip mills on fire. During these interviews, David discussed accusations of infidelity and alcohol and drug abuse. He also disclosed intimate details of his and Courteney's sex life.
David admits that his partying was out of control at that time, and his behavior had become erratic. After his friends and family begged him to get help and staged an intervention, David checked himself into rehab for alcohol addiction. He completed a 28-day program, and today, he's here for his first television interview since his release.
Now, David says he's ready to tell his side of the story. "I had to come public with what was going on," he says.
Before the show began, Oprah says she asked David what he hoped to accomplish by the end of the hour. "You said you want people to know that you can come back and that there is hope," she says. "After 30 years of being in search of yourself, you feel that there is more hope now than ever before."
First, David wants to clear up a few tabloid rumors. Photographers captured him leaving a wild party at the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles on New Years Eve, but contrary to reports, David says he didn't drink any alcohol that night. "I had a commitment to do it," he says. "I went with a sober companion, this great guy named Harry. He took me, and he's there just checking on me the whole time. It's something I had to face. Although I'm sober, I still want to enjoy my life. I want to find the joy in it, and I want to express myself."
David says he's just begun the recovery process and is still learning how to be true to himself. "I have a critic in my mind that's very mean and vicious and sometimes it leads me down the wrong path,” he says. “Being able to identify that voice in my head and start being more true to myself helps me to go in the right direction."
David says he grew up in a show business family where dysfunction was the norm. He is the youngest of five children, all of whom are actors. His grandfather, Cliff Arquette, was an actor and comedian know for his role as "Charlie Weaver" on The Jack Paar Show and Hollywood Squares. David's father, Lewis Arquette, was also a character actor, and his mother, Brenda Nowak, was a poet.
Although they were in the entertainment industry, the Arquette children did not have a glamorous, Hollywood upbringing. David's sisters Rosanna Arquette (Pulp Fiction, The Big Blue, The Whole Nine Yards) and Patricia Arquette (Medium, True Romance, Stigmata) speak frankly about what it was like growing up in their famous family.
When she was a child, Rosanna says her parents moved the entire family to rural Virginia to live on a religious commune, where David was born. "[There was] no electricity, no bathroom," Patricia says. "I don't think there was running water, even."
Growing up, the Arquette sisters say there was a lot of drama in the Arquette household, and they say their mother was physically abusive towards them.
"She was abusive to us when we were little," Patricia says. "She choked me to the point once where I started blacking out."
"She stabbed me in the arm with a knife," Rosanna says. "Concussions. Just terrible, terrible physical abuse."
Adding fuel to the family's dysfunctional fire, Patricia says their father was an addict. "When he was using substance, which was usually marijuana, he would also drink whiskey," she says.
"When you grow up in that kind of family, it is a family disease," Rosanna says. "It affects everybody."
David says his trouble with alcohol and drugs began very early in life. "I stole pot from my father when I was 8 years old," he says. "I seriously started drinking when I was about 12."
David's parents have passed away, but before they died, he says they mended their relationship with their children. "The beautiful story about that sad background is that my parents healed themselves throughout their life," he says. "My father got sober. My mother became a marriage family counselor."
During the final days of his mother's life, David says he was devastated and deeply depressed. To numb the pain, he began abusing drugs. "I got really into drugs before I got serious with Courteney," he says. "It was something that scared her early on in our relationship. My mother was dying, and it was the first time that I really used that to numb the feelings I was having and not face any of the reality I was going through."
Courteney stood by David's side, later saying that couples' counseling got them through this difficult time. A few years later, the couple got engaged and married, exchanging wedding rings inscribed with the phrase, "A deal is a deal." Five years later, after a long struggle to conceive, Courteney gave birth to their daughter Coco.
David says the first sign of major trouble in his marriage surfaced last year when he and Courteney were celebrating their 11th wedding anniversary. "It was on the 12th of June, and she said, 'I don't want to be your mother anymore,'" David says. "I didn't understand it at the time."
Shortly after, David says Courteney began talking about separation. "On the inside of our rings it says, 'A deal's a deal,'" he says. "I felt really abandoned at that point, like she'd broken the deal."
At the time, David says he also thought Courteney might be having an affair with someone on the cast of her sitcom, Cougar Town. "There were tabloid stories coming out about her and someone on her show having an affair, which is not true at all," he says.
David says he didn't take responsibility for his unraveling relationship. "I wasn't connected to what was really going on at all. I was making really poor decisions," he says. "I didn't deal with it in a mature or honorable way at all."
Before their separation, David says he'd always been faithful to his wife, and from the moment they got engaged, he'd been fully committed. "Monogamous to my core," he says.
After he and Courteney separated, David says he began seeing another woman—and the tabloids found out. "I get this call a couple weeks later from my publicist that says, 'All of the magazines are going to print tomorrow and [they] say, 'He's a cheater.' And you're on the cover. It's on every magazine,'" he says. "My blood just boiled because that is one thing I'm not."
What the tabloids didn't know is that Courteney and David had privately separated —and David was not happy to be falsely labeled as a cheater.
The next morning, David says he made a call to The Howard Stern Show and spoke candidly about his marriage. "I was drinking that night until like, 2 or 3 a.m., and I went to sleep and I set my clock for 5:30," he says. "That's when I called into Howard Stern and spilled the beans—because I didn't want to be labeled as a cheater."
David says he regrets what he said about Courteney. "I am so embarrassed about what I shared," he says.
For the first time in 11 years, David is living alone in the Los Angeles home he and Courteney own together.
To help with his recovery, David says he's been practicing yoga and meditation. "Through yoga, your feelings are right on the surface and sadness and pain and all of that have a new depth," he says. "I also do meditation two or three times a week. While I was going through all of this and losing my mind, meditation gives me peace."
One of the things David says he learned in rehab was how to deal with his anger, and his yoga instructor phrased it beautifully using a Buddhist quote: "Anger's like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."
David says he tries to think of that quote when he gets angry now. "You're only killing yourself," he says. "That was huge for me, and it really hit home."
David says this is the first time in 30 years that he's been completely sober. "The best thing for me in sobriety is being authentic," he says. "Starting to see things as they are and being able to then distance myself and try to go deeper within who I am."
The hardest part about his separation from Courteney, David says, is that he misses his family. "It gets lonely here," he says. "I get Coco a few days a week, and it always lights the place up."
David says he still has a dream for his family. "To stay sober," he says. "To just be loving and kind to them. To not have to go to the suffering place when it's not necessary. Whenever difficulty comes our way, that we deal with it in the most honorable, connected, supportive way. To raise our daughter with the right support and freedom, that she gets a real understanding of what's right and wrong."
Right now, David says he and Courteney are working on themselves. "I love Courteney," he says. "We're really great parents together, and we're really supportive and we don't argue over that.
David says he doesn't know what the future holds for their Hollywood love story. "But I'd love for it to work out," he says.