Ex-'Idol' Nikki McKibbin blames Simon Cowell for depression, drugs
By Steve Rogers, 10/17/2008
Although she already had a lengthy substance abuse history before competing on American Idol's first season, Nikki McKibbin says she now believes Simon Cowell's frank judging feedback contributed to her subsequent drug and alcohol addictions.
"I came out of Idol with a lack of self-confidence," McKibbin -- one of the nine celebrities participating on the upcoming second season of VH1's Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew -- told Us Weekly in an interview published in the magazine's October 27 issue. "I think I had my first solo in school when I was 5, and I got more as I got older: That's the biggest compliment in choir. I had never been told I wasn't good enough."
However that all changed once McKibbin competed on American Idol's initial 2002 edition, where the then 24-year-old single mother was exposed to Cowell's criticisms on a weekly basis.
"Having to hear it for so many weeks from Simon Cowell killed me inside. I couldn't get the s--t he had said to me out of my head," McKibbin, who ended up finishing third on Idol's initial season, told Us. "It drove me deeper into my depression. I wouldn't say that this was Simon's fault. It just added to the addict that I already was."
According to McKibbin, who also says she was abused as a child, her troubles began she followed in her mother's addiction footsteps and became an alcoholic at age 16.
"I don't know when my mom picked up her habit. I was 16 when I had my first drink at a party," McKibbin told Us. "I don't remember a time when I didn't drink after that -- except when I was expecting [my son] Tristen [when I was 19]. In didn't even smoke when I was pregnant! By the time I was 21, I started stripping. It was fun for a while... [but] if I was working I was drinking."
From there, McKibbin says she also became addicted to Ecstasy.
"Back in high school, I had tried pot and acid, but soon I tried Ecstasy and quickly became addicted [and] was stripping to support my habit," McKibbin told Us. "Between myself and two others, we were spending almost a thousand dollars a day."
McKibbin's Ecstasy addiction ended after a cousin intervened, however her alcohol addiction continued.
"I stopped stripping and started working for a karaoke company [but that] was just as bad because I was still in bars," McKibbin told Us.
According to McKibbin, she managed to keep her alcoholism a secret from American Idol's producers while on the show.
"We were heavily chaperoned, but I would buy vodka and sneak it into the refrigerator on the bottom floor," McKibbin told Us. "If I wasn't too exhausted, I'd have one or two drinks."
However after Idol ended and her deals with 19 Management and RCA Records didn't work out -- they allegedly wanted to make her a country singer while she wanted to remain a rocker -- things got even worse for McKibbin.
"I was buying pot for somebody, and the dealer gave me a bag of cocaine. I wanted to try a little, so I went to my mom. She's my best friend... [and] always said 'If you want to try it, try it with me, just don't make it a habit,'" McKibbin told Us. "It went out of control from there... in less than a year and a half, I went through $250,000 -- my residuals from Idol and the tour and my settlement with RCA."
McKibbin subsequently reunited with Craig Sadler, an old childhood roller-skating coach that she ended up marrying in July 2007, however her addictions continued.
"He always said 'I wish you would stop,' but he was never angry," McKibbin told Us. "Sometimes I would drive Tristen to school drunk... now I'm like, what were you thinking?"
McKibbin's addiction continued even after her mother died hours after the pair had been doing cocaine and drinking together in August 2007.
"We did a couple of lines of coke in the [bar] bathroom and were drinking until all hours," McKibbin told Us. "She went home and took her medication for MS, Vicodin, muscle relaxers and her sleeping aid, went to sleep and didn't wake up."
McKibbin finally hit rock bottom in February, when she ended up in a psychiatric ward after she drank "half a gallon of vodka" and swallowed 18 painkiller pills in an incident she has denied was a suicide attempt.
"I broke my foot [and] I was home alone and I kept taking painkillers," McKibbin told Us. "At the time I didn't realize I was allergic to the medication."
Although she jumped at Celebrity Rehab's offer to participate, McKibbin said she struggled with the program initially.
"I wanted to come home, I didn't feel like it was working," McKibbin explained.
However once she accepted she was a addict, things began going better and she's now been sober for four months.
"I still have urges but I control them one second at a time," McKibbin told Us.
Pinsky says he likes her chances of avoiding a relapse.
"She has a good chance," Pinsky told Us. "But I think it will be rocky. She's a trauma survivor with bipolar disorder and severe addiction."