Paula Abdul: 'I've Never Been Addicted to Drugs'

Exclusive: "Idol" judge says she's never been drunk or addicted to drugs.

April 16, 2009, 2:24 PM

April 22, 2009— -- "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul says that her biggest mistake was agreeing to star in a reality show that helped fuel false rumors of alcohol and prescription drug abuse.

"I've never been addicted to any prescription drugs. I've never been drunk. I've worked my whole life," Abdul told "Nightline" in an exclusive interview. Despite undergoing 15 surgeries since a neck injury in 1992, Abdul said she has never taken addictive painkillers.

"I will not take those drugs," Abdul said. "And you can check my medical records. There is nothing like that. I was never on Oxycontin or Vicodin or anything like that. I was on nerve medicine and anti-inflammatories."

Last week ABC News followed up on Abdul's offer to "check her medical records," asking for her permission to speak to one of her doctors. She declined.

Despite years of success in the music industry, Abdul has battled scandal, controversy and personal embarrassment during her eight seasons on "American Idol."

Four years ago, former "Idol" contestant Cory Clark emerged with a shocking allegation. He claimed that he and Paula had had an affair, a charge she denied and the show dismissed after an investigation. But it was the start of a difficult time for her. A few months later, rumors of Abdul drinking on "Idol" surfaced.

Abdul says she foolishly repeated a nonsense statement on the air that Cowell whispered to her. She claims afterward Cowell suggested to the press that she had been drinking.

"He goes, 'Now you know what's in her Coca Cola cup. It's not Coca Cola,'" she claims. "All of a sudden unbeknownst to me I am now part of a funny joke that's gone so far."

But rumors of drinking or prescription drug abuse persisted when a year and her half later Abdul's reality show, "Hey Paula," hit the airwaves. Abdul's behavior often seemed erratic and odd.

"I honestly think it was the biggest mistake," she said about appearing in her own reality show. "It was about celebrating all the many hats that I wore that you don't see on 'American Idol.' It all changed.

"When I looked at [the tapes] I couldn't believe what I'm seeing," she said. "I tell you I was angry, enraged. ... I've never been addicted to any prescription drugs. I've never been drunk. I've worked my whole life. I sacrificed being a normal girl and not having the ability to have proper relationships not being able to be a mom, a real mom. ... I am very fortunate and feel completely blessed, but I am not the girl that's in those tapes. That is plotting, scheming, editing and I understand the power of the media."

Paula Abdul: 'I've Never Been Drunk In My Life'

But there were some strange moments on "Idol" as well. At times Abdul would appear disoriented, slurring her remarks to contestants and the other judges. Abdul said that what may have come across as erratic behavior on the show was the result of the lingering effects of a neck injury she sustained when a plane she was on was forced to make an emergency landing in 1992. Abdul says she decided to hide the injury at the time.

"I didn't want anyone to feel bad for me," she said. "I didn't want anyone to count me out ... and the worse thing I could have done was go silent about it. I would never do that again."

Over the past 17 years, Abdul said she has had 15 surgeries on her neck, and she's got the scars to prove it. "They're here and there," she said. "They're kind of hidden."

Nevertheless, Simon's joke that she was drinking on the air seemed to stick.

"I've never been drunk in my life, ever. Never, ever," she said. "And all of a sudden now my credibility, my reputation, everything I've worked so hard for since birth is questionable...and people are adamant that what he said is true."

Abdul said that her doctors even met with "Idol" producers to explain that she suffers from a rare nervous system disorder called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, which is characterized by severe, chronic pain.

"Because of the pain, I lost hours and hours. I learned to survive on two hours [of sleep]. Sometimes on the road ... I would be up the entire night. I could not find a comfortable place to sleep. Everything was so painful," Abdul said. "And the doctors said to the producers when this is happening, be mindful of it and respectful that she may start chattering away with her teeth because ... she hasn't slept."

Abdul in part blames Cowell for the role he played in spreading rumors about her.

"I was beaten down when those rumors took off," she said. "I wish Simon would have come clean at that time and said, 'Come on everybody, I was joking.' Then I would have had a much easier time."

Abdul said she approached Cowell and asked him to dispel some of the rumors, but he didn't, at least not at the time.

"That's his choice," she said. "He finally did when it was well and done. He said, 'I didn't mean it, I was joking.' But that was like a year, slightly over a year after, when the damage had been done. For me the true test of strength is how you can come through the fire -- how you can overcome adversity."

Paula Abdul on 'a Magical Time'

At 5 feet 2 inches, Paula Abdul is still a powerhouse brand -- with plans for a new skin care and perfume line in the works, as well as a new record.

"This is totally reminiscent of when I started in the biz 20 years ago," she said. "I feel like it is a magical time. No one can get in my way, not even me believe me. I just feel like it's magical. I'm making a new record. ... What really matters is don't ever count me out. Don't bet against me because the most powerful kryptonite I possess is the connection with the people."

A connection that is in part responsible for "Idol's" enormous success. And that brings us to the big question: will she stay or will she go?

"This is my last season under contract," she said. "I love the show, I do. I love what I do on the show and I'm loving it more this season than ever. It's taken me a while to get comfortable in my own skin with the show."

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