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How Rose McGowan escaped rehab at 13

In a nail-biting story from her maybe-memoir, the actress and activist details her punk childhood as a homeless teen

Just when you thought actress, musician and director Rose McGowan couldn’t get any more badass, she opens up about her punk childhood, writing a story for Ruins about how taking acid at a school dance as a teenager led to a stint at Sacred Heart Hospital, a rehab facility, in Eugene, Oregon.

McGowan recalls how she escaped rehab in hospital sock booties and ran into a homeless girl and two punk rockers. “My first attempt at escape was disastrous. I made it out to the street and just ran wildly […] I quickly made friends with a homeless girl. Later that day she introduced me to two older punk rockers named Slam and Mayonnaise.”

Her time as a homeless teen was a story she told to Dazed back in August 2000, replying to a question about the worst place she ever lived. “When I was a runaway and had to sleep under a house in Oregon,” she said. “It was muddy as hell, cold and miserable. One night I was woken by a friend of mine being raped by a crazed freak that had found our hiding place. Poor sweet thing. Whenever it rained (all the time), my ears would fill up with muddy water. I came down with a severe ear infection that caused me to wander the streets delirious and hallucinating. The next place was an abandoned church that was crawling with rats. Being a teenager was great.”

The rest of the tale details how, at 13, she returned to her family home to pawn Christmas presents for rent money. The story is harrowing, but a rare glimpse into McGowan’s enigmatic past.

McGowan was born in Florence and raised in the polygamous Children of God cult, an experience she rarely speaks about. “Like in most cults, you were cut off from your [outside] family,” she once told People. “There were no newspapers, no television. You were kept in the dark so you would obey.”

Now that’s all in the past, but she is currently working on her debut feature film, Synesthesia, along with a book. “Maybe it’s part-memoir, part-beating the shit out of some people, part-showing what we can do differently,” she told us last year of the project.

“I think a lot of people could use that,” she agrees. “Because they want to be braver in their own lives, they just don’t know how, exactly. It starts with things that make you not feel good on the inside. You get that instinct – start listening to that instinct, start hearing when people, like, trash other girls or do things that are petty, and ask for more than you feel that you’re worth. Because you’re usually downplaying your own strengths as a girl. So up-play! Pretend you are the guy that’s got mediocre talent. Then you can do anything!”

Read the story in its entirety here