Photo Credit: Courtesy Ballantine Books
Ashley Judd is opening up about her childhood as part of the famous country-music family the Judds, and she certainly isn't sugar-coating anything. In a shocking new memoir, in stores April 5 and titled All That Is Bitter & Sweet, the 42-year-old actress details a troubled childhood characterized by neglectful, drug-taking parents, lies and even sexual abuse.
"My mother, while she was transforming herself into the country legend Naomi Judd, created an origin myth for the Judds that did not match my reality," Ashley writes in the book (as excerpted by RadarOnline.com). "She and my sister (Wynonna) have been quoted as saying that our family put the 'fun' in dysfunction. I wondered: 'Who, exactly, was having all the fun? What was I missing?"
The dysfunction -- though certainly not the fun -- to which Judd refers includes the fact that there was "always marijuana in the house" and that Ashley's father, Michael Ciminella, was "prone to taking hallucinigetics." The book also reveals that Naomi lied to Ciminella, telling him that he was Wynona's father when, in reality, Charlie Jordan was the elder Judd sister's dad. Not so surprisingly, Naomi and Ciminella split up when Ashley was a toddler, and things only got worse when Naomi welcomed a new man into the Judd home, one who Ashley describes as "an abusive full-blown heroin addict with a criminal record."
Naomi's pursuit of fame and a singing career above all else didn't help matters. "I loved my mother," Judd writes. "But at the same time I dreaded the mayhem and uncertainty that followed her everywhere... I often felt like an outsider observing my mom's life as she followed her own dreams." This made for somewhat of a tumultuous upbringing. "I was taught to believe that our lifestyle was normal and never to question it or complain, even when I was left alone for hours, sometimes days at a time, or when I was passed without warning to yet another relative," Judd writes.
In perhaps the book's biggest bombshell of all, Judd reveals that she was sexually abused by a man that she knew. "An old man everyone knew beckoned me into a dark, empty corner of the business and offered me a quarter for the pinball machine at the pizza place if I'd sit on his lap," Ashley writes. "He opened his arms, I climbed up, and I was shocked when he suddenly cinched his arms around me, squeezing me and smothering my mouth with his, jabbing his tongue deep into my mouth." According to the book, the experience sent Ashley into a deep depression.
Still, when talking about all of this during a live appearance on Today Tuesday morning, Judd wasn't the least bit bitter. In fact, she emphasized that she has nothing but love for her parents, and they for her. "First of all, my mother loves and adores me, and my dad absolutely loves and adores me. They did then, and they do now," Ashley told Today co-host Meredith Vieira. "We came from a dysfunctional family system that didn't work very well. And so the kinds of things that happened to me are very typical and standard and indicative of a family system that doesn't work very well."
In the interview, Judd also explained that the reason she opened up about her childhood in the book was because she wanted to talk about her recovery from depression in 2006. "But it doesn't make any sense to share my recovery unless I'm also willing to share some of the uncomfortable things that set me up to need help in the first place," she said in the interview. "I looked really good on the outside, (but) I had a lot of anxiety and insomnia. And I realized eventually that I was really powerless over my childhood, and the coping strategies that I had developed made my adult life unmanageable," Judd continued. "And so I needed to find a power greater than myself to make peace with all of that, and have a very simple and effective design for living today. And it's too late to go back and have a happy childhood. But by the grace of God, and a pretty simple program of recovery and a fellowship, life is good today." Watch video of Ashley's Today interview below: