Magazine article Addiction Professional

'Second' Chances: Actor's Renaissance Inspires Others

Magazine article Addiction Professional

'Second' Chances: Actor's Renaissance Inspires Others

Article excerpt

On the precipice of the opportunity of a lifetime in 1993, actor Tim O'Malley admits now he had a myopic view of the world and wasn't prepared for any outcome other than seeing his dreams come true. Reality had other plans, however, and the results sent him spiraling.


A college dropout who had struggled to find a career path years earlier, O'Malley discovered a niche for himself when he began taking acting classes at The Second City in Chicago. He spent the next five years training at the venerable comedy institution and other theaters around town before joining the Second City Resident Company. He performed with the likes of Chris Farley, Steve Carell, Bob Odenkirk and Tim Meadows.

Writers and producers from Saturday Night Live came calling in 1993, in search of new cast members. O'Malley was one of three performers under consideration and thought his big break had arrived.

"I had gotten my hopes up because I was told, 'You're scoring really high,'" O'Malley says, "but they ended up hiring two other people."

O'Malley was crushed. Worse, he was unprepared. As others around him had trained to give themselves other career options--learning how to direct, write sitcoms, sing or dance--he remained focused on one goal: acting under the bright lights of television.

Bottoming out

With his dreams of SNL dashed,, O'Malley says he began to double down on cocaine and alcohol abuse. He parted ways with Second City and left the entertainment business entirely for three years.

"I prayed all the time. I would say, 'God, make this stop. Please make this stop.'" the 59-year-old O'Malley says now. "I thought I was praying for my own end, that I wouldn't wake up, like a passive suicide."

O'Malley's turning point came in January 1996. Despite numerous attempts to help offered by family members, including his 10 siblings, O'Malley says he was living in his father's basement when he received a phone call from his younger sister, Jean. When she visited for the holidays a month before, O'Malley says he stole money from her to pay for crack.

"She said she knew I had stolen money and she saw the crack pipe (in my room)," O'Malley says. "She had dated someone who gotten into that and fallen apart. She cried and said, 'I don't care about the money. I just don't want you to die.'"

His sister's plea was a moment of awakening for him, O'Malley says. …

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