In one of the longest episodes of his State of Mind YouTube series to date, Maurice Benard (Sonny, GENERAL HOSPITAL) sat down with his friend and former co-star — and fellow bipolar sufferer — Tyler Christopher (ex-Nikolas) for a raw and honest conversation. While their chat ran a gamut of emotions and topics, a large part of what Benard and Christopher (who also originated the role of DAYS OF OUR LIVES’ Stefan) discussed was the latter’s addiction to alcohol and how it has impacted his personal life and professional career — even leading to a traumatic brain injury and the breakup of his marriage to wife Brienne.
Christopher’s battle with alcohol is no secret and something that the actor has publicly spoken about in the past. But what was shocking, however, was the Emmy winner’s confession to Benard that he had his first drink when he was just in third grade — and had flatlined three times as a result of his addiction. “I had my first drink at nine years old,” he revealed, adding that he was prompted to raid his mother’s collection of vanilla extract after a discussion at school one day. “Some idiot said, ‘There’s alcohol in there. If you drink it, you’ll get funny, silly. So what’s the first thing I do when I go home? I go in the cabinet and my mom had vanilla extract from left to right. And I took every one. And exactly what my friends told me would happen, happened. That’s how it started, and it never stopped.”
Eventually, Christopher traded vanilla extract for vodka and was a functioning alcoholic for years. “From what I remember, you drank like a gallon and a half and you could go to MMA,” recalled Benard of Christopher’s time at GH. “At some point, you cannot survive it. It will kill you,” the GH and DAYS alum replied. “And it has. Three times I have flatlined. I’m saying it here for the first time. Three times I have flatlined and they brought me back. Twice from [alcohol] poisoning, once from withdrawal.”
It was because of Christopher’s struggles with alcohol that he was let go from DAYS in March of 2019, just a month after Brienne filed for divorce. (Brandon Barash, GH’s former Johnny, took over as Stefan.) “It crushed me because I took for granted the one thing I loved the most,” he humbly confessed. “I threw it away. Nobody took it away from me. I haven’t been back since. That ship has sailed. For now. My pride and ego were very quick to intervene. Who can I blame for this? And when I looked in the mirror, there’s only one person to point the finger at: Right here.”
That November, Christopher was arrested for public intoxication in Chicago. The next month, his life changed forever when he had delirium tremens, the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal, and nearly died after falling and hitting the back of his head on the bathtub. The fall cracked Christopher’s skull, leading to a brain bleed which required a craniotomy to relieve the pressure. Initially, the neurosurgeon didn’t think the actor would survive the procedure. Thankfully, Christopher did indeed survive, but it was a four-month-long road of neurological rehab before he was able to walk, talk, and eat again, and regain his memories.
Christopher also got stopped drinking. “The doctor told me, ‘You are never 100 percent going to be healed from this,’” he confessed. “I still have side effects. I still get headaches; I’ve got the scars. The doctor told me, ‘Compound the effect that you are also a recovering addict, if you decided to go back to that part of your life again, your brain can’t handle it.’”
Today, Christopher is in a much better place, working on a book about his experiences hoping to help others who suffer from addiction and bipolar disorder. “It’s been an interesting two years,” he admitted. “The main goal of this book is to not get the story out so that people can feel sorry for me. [It’s] one reason: For another addict, another guy or gal with bipolar, to read that and say to themselves, ‘I’m like that too and there’s nothing wrong with it.’ And they can get help. That’s my number one goal.”