'Everybody Loves Raymond' Alum Patricia Heaton Recalls When She Decided to Stop Drinking: 'It Shook Me Up'

Patricia Heaton rose to fame playing Debra Barone on the CBS sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. Later moving on to head ABC’s The Middle for nine seasons, Heaton noted some changes she needed to make after her last series ended and her four sons were out on their own.

Patricia Heaton increased her cocktail limit as an empty nester

Recently speaking with Elizabeth Vargas on her podcast “Heart of the Matter”, Heaton explained how she always had a penchant for alcohol. Yet she kept her imbibing to a minimum when her four boys were little and she had early wake-up calls for the Everybody Loves Raymond set. That changed when she and husband David Hunt became empty nesters.

“My kids were out of the house [and] I just noticed that if it was 5 p.m. and I don’t have anything to do the next day, I would start drinking automatically,” Heaton remarked, according to Yahoo! Entertainment. “Then I would be waiting for it to be 5. Then I would go to lunch with friends [and] have a drink at lunch, which I never, ever did before.”

The Emmy winner soon found herself increasing her alcohol intake throughout the day.

“I really started looking forward to drinking and thinking about it in a way that I hadn’t before,” Heaton revealed. “If we went out to dinner, I would have two cocktails before the meal and then at least two glasses of wine and then maybe an aperitif. If I was with really good friends that I knew well, I would have three cocktails before dinner.”

A family dinner prompted Patricia Heaton to choose sobriety

The Middle alum had considered abstaining from alcohol in the past but had never stayed the course. Heaton recalled visiting her son’s home for a dinner party with her other two sons and indulging in several cocktails.

“We drank while we were making dinner,” she explained. “We drank while we were eating dinner – We drank while we cleaned up. And then we were drinking while we were all playing this board game. There were like 10 of us there: three of my sons, and then their friends. And I was just filling my glass with red wine throughout the five or six hours that we were together. I don’t know how many glasses it was, and I felt completely sober and fine.”

At one point, Heaton was unable to properly enunciate, which compelled her son to give her an admonishment.

“I was making a joke to the table, and I started saying, ‘You know, in our family it’s a tradition,’” Heaton remembered. “And I could not pronounce the word ‘tradition.’ I tried three times, and I couldn’t say the word… My son at the end of the table says, ‘Oh great, Mom. You can’t even talk.’ And I was so humiliated in front of my sons and their friends. God knows that that’s all it takes for me – for that kind of sense of their mom looking drunk in front of them.”

Patricia Heaton recently celebrated 3 years of sobriety

The dinner incident was a turning point for Heaton, prompting her to take stock of her health and well-being.

“I thought … ‘What is happening in my brain? What is the alcohol doing to my brain where the synapses are misfiring to the point where I can’t say this word?’” she commented. “It’s almost like having a stroke or something. And it shook me up. I thought, ‘That’s it. That’s it.’ … It had every element that I needed. It had a logical element and had this ‘oh my gosh, my sons have seen me drink too much.’ “

Resolving to abstain from alcohol going forward, Heaton recently marked three years of sobriety in July and feels empowered by the life change.

“I feel now that I can do anything if I can get rid of alcohol,” she said. “Alcohol’s the hardest thing in my life.”

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