Words: Will Stroude
Six months after leaving a treatment facility following years of drug and alcohol abuse, Colton Haynes is finally ready to start and a new chapter - and share the painful lessons he learned during the darkest depths of addiction.
The Arrow star is on the road to recovery after a turbulent 12 months which saw the breakdown of his marriage and the death of his mother Dana, who passed away from liver and kidney failure in March 2018 following her own long battle with alcoholism.
Opening up about his struggles for the first time in Attitude's 25th anniversary issue - available to download and to order globally now - the 30-year-old actor discusses about the tragic cycle of addiction that was laid bare as he visited mother as she lay dying in hospital.
"The hardest thing I ever had to do in my life was look at my mom telling the doctors, 'Oh, I haven’t had a drink in two months, I can wait another four months to get a new liver'," Colton recalls.
Colton Haynes, shot by Leigh Keily exclusively for Attitude's 25th anniversary issue
"They replied: 'You can’t. That’s not going to be your outcome, you’re going to die'.
"I had so much respect for her at that time because she wanted to give it another fight, but she didn’t have any more time.
"That should have been when I started cleaning up my act, but it just led me into a whole darker other time."
Painting a harrowing picture of the self-destructive behaviour that eventually led him to seek treatement, Colton recalls how he was drinking in front of his mother while visiting her in hosptial during her final days.
"I was drinking tequila out of a water bottle. My mom knew and she was dying from alcoholism. I wasn’t hiding it from her, I was breathing alcohol all over her face", he says.
Photography: Leigh Keily
"Looking back at those decisions, and not being completely present with my mom when she was dying, that’s something I deeply regret. I was there with her every day, every second, until she passed away.
"But it was a slap in her face, she could see I was going down this dark path."
Colton, who grew up on a farm in rural Kasas, was estranged from his mother for four years during his twenties after struggling to deal with her alcohol abuse, but the pair reconciled three years before Dana's death.
"My parents had a difficult time with dependency issues," Colton explains. "[My mother] said, 'You do not want to end up like me, you do not want to end up like this'.
"She left me a note when she died that said, 'Colton, if you don’t clean your act up and pursue your dreams, I’m going to come back and haunt you'.
"I used to make my mom feel as if she was a virus. The way I used to talk to her only aided her demise. I was mad all the time because she was drunk, I was like, 'She’s being dramatic'.
"But it’s a disease, and I ended up the exact same way."
He adds: "I still feel her all the time. I know people think that’s crazy. I got to be with her the time she needed me most."
Read Colton's full cover interview in Attitude's 25th anniversary issue, out now and featuring two other special covers with the BBC's Ben Hunte and Mashrou' Leila frontman Hamed Sinno.