June 5, 2008 — -- At a mere 26 years old, former "Full House" actress Jodie Sweetin has lived a roller coaster of a life. She has been a child star, a wife, a drug addict and a divorcee, recently adding the role of mother when she gave birth to 7-week old daughter Zoie.
The happiness she shares with her newborn baby and husband of 10 months, Cody Herpin -- her second marriage -- was a long time coming for a woman who struggled for years with a crystal meth addiction. But Sweetin has fought back to get the life she wants and avoid the cliche of troubled Hollywood child stars so often featured in the tabloids.
Sweetin shot to fame as one of "Full House's" oh-so-cute, pint-size co-stars, playing Stephanie Tanner while her contemporaries were running around a kindergarten classroom.
"It's funny because at the time — I didn't consider it work," she said. "I loved it, and when you're a little kid, it's like playing pretend, sort of, and you know, and getting paid for it."
From age 5 until the show was canceled when she was 13, Sweetin enjoyed playing the precocious little sister.
But when the show ended, the actress found herself without a job and without any self-esteem.
"I had this extra hurdle to overcome, of trying to prove who I wasn't — that I wasn't, the girl from 'Full House,'" she said. "But I didn't really know who Jodie was and looking for other things to, to fix that and kind of fill that void."
She did know she had high expectations for herself.
"I expected a lot out of myself and to kind of always be perfect," she said. "There is a sort of self-doubt that comes along with that high expectation of yourself."
Those feelings aren't uncommon, said psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall.
"When you're 5 years old, and you're on a set, it sets up a feeling — early in life — that you need to please the adults around you and that is enormous pressure for a child," Marshall said. "And, probably, for Jodie, that pressure trumped all of those later developmental stages and her whole sense of identity got fused with her role."
Sweetin dealt with her post-sitcom life by experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
Said Marshall: "There's no sense of self. You turn to drugs, because that's the only thing that makes you feel alive."
By the time she was 20, Sweetin was married and hiding a crystal meth addiction that had become a daily habit.
At one point, a friend gave Sweetin an ultimatum.
"I had a friend just say, 'If you're going to continue doing this, you know I can't be friends with you.' And I just looked right at her, and I kept doing it," Sweetin said.
Eventually, she checked into a rehabilitation center and got a divorce.
"It was hard," she said. "I mean, divorce is hard at any age. But I think I was really young when I got married the first time and grew up a lot in the past few years and really figured a lot of things out for myself and, and who I am," Sweetin said.
Sweetin said her addiction is now under control.
"I don't think it's something I battle with daily, but I also know that it's something that, you know, will always, will always be there and that I'll always have to be vigilant of," she said.
She now travels to schools talking to students about substance abuse and had an visceral response to former child star and Oscar winner Tatum O'Neal's recent drug arrest in New York City.
"You know, my heart went out to her because, you know, it's hard enough when something like that happens and you have to explain it to your family and your friends, and having to do it on such a public level," she said. "Something like that especially after she had spoken about her recovery and things like that, it's really very hard."
As for her own life, Sweetin, who has acted sparingly since "Full House" but still occasionally sees former co-stars such as Bob Saget, plans to focus on family and wants to get back into show business. She dreams of competing on "Dancing With the Stars."