Josh Peck hid drug abuse, insecurities, and trauma behind his funny-guy image. Now, he’s coming clean.
Josh Peck might be best known for his work on the sitcom Drake & Josh, but the former Nickelodeon star shares much more than behind-the-scenes secrets in his new memoir.
The How I Met Your Father actor, 35, wrote about everything from performing stand-up around New York City as an 8-year-old to his lifelong struggles with food and substance addictions in his book, Happy People Are Annoying.
“I felt like my life was at this inflection point,” Peck told Forbes about the decision to write a memoir in March 2002. “I had spent over twenty years working at this profession that I thought defined me. I started when I was 10, so I literally thought it was my identity. I had never been anything other than a working actor.”
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He continued: “But over those twenty years, I also lost 100 pounds, got sober from drugs and alcohol, started a whole new career in social media when showbiz had stalled out on me. I got married, had a child, and faced the way I viewed happiness.”
Happy People Are Annoying is the first time the Wackness star has opened up about his addictions in a serious way.
Peck got sober in 2008 and has continued to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and work with his sponsors in the years since. “As I write this, I’m two weeks short of thirteen years sober, and hopefully by the time this book comes out, I still will be,” the Snow Day star wrote in his book. “I don’t speak in absolutes because I’ve known too many people whose life got too good too quickly and suddenly a drink didn’t sound that bad anymore. So, in sticking with the whole one day at a time of it all, I cannot guarantee that I will die sober, but I can guarantee that I will go to sleep tonight without a drink.”
“I’ll tell you that today I still go to meetings regularly, I have a sponsor whom I speak to regularly, and a group of sober people who are my best friends. Everything good in my life is because of sobriety,” he concluded.
Later in the book, he credited sobriety with helping him be the best husband and father he possibly can be. Once he was a year sober, Peck was encouraged to focus on helping others and building strong relationships with the people who matter most to him — namely, his wife Paige O’Brien and their 3-year-old son, Max. And most importantly, after doing the work to maintain his sobriety, he has become someone they can rely on.
Keep scrolling to read the biggest revelations in Peck’s book, Happy People Are Annoying, which was released on Tuesday, March 15:
Josh Never Knew His Father
According to the Amanda Show alum, his parents were coworkers who had a tryst while his father was allegedly separated from his wife. “They weren’t close enough to share a sandwich, let alone a baby, and I’m sure when my father found out my mom was pregnant, similar thoughts came crashing through his philandering head,” Peck wrote, explaining that his father hid the affair to protect the family. As a result, Peck was 24 before he even saw a photo of his father.
Peck explained that it wasn’t until after he learned that his father had died that he was able to let go of the resentment he held towards him. “From what I could tell, this man was loved and revered by his children, he was all the things I wish he could’ve been for me, for them,” he wrote about finding his half-sister’s Facebook page and seeing her posts about their father. By looking at them, the YouTube star was able to realize that his father was a “flawed man” who made the best choices he could in the situation. Ultimately, realizing that helped Peck find closure after years of wondering about his dad.
His Main Childhood Memory Is of ‘Being Fat’
“For me, when I think of childhood, the singular, powerful, and all-consuming memory that comes to mind is being fat,” Peck wrote about how his “first love,” food, helped him reach almost 300 pounds before he was a teenager. “I have good memories from childhood too, of course, I grew up with a deep awareness that I was loved, decent, cared for, and blah blah blah, but FAT, very very fat,” he said. Due to his weight, Peck recalled that it was “open season” for people — especially adults — to comment on his body and offer unsolicited advice.
His Addiction to Food Began When He Was Young
The Grandfathered alum revealed that he had an “obsession” with food from a young age, which was the result of observing his mother’s own disordered eating habits and a desire to self-medicate through junk food. “Growing up, I had an almost immediate abnormal relationship with food. I would observe friends who would freely pop open a bag of fruit snacks and not obsess over the other six in the cabinet. Kids who when their parents washed their clothes didn’t have melted chocolate bars in their pocket,” he wrote. “I obsessed over it, enough to lie, cheat, and steal just to get my fix. If that meant sneaking into your family’s snack drawer when I came over, like an addict rummaging through a stranger’s medicine cabinet? So be it.”
Josh Wore ‘Homemade Spanx’ Underneath His ‘Drake & Josh’ Costumes
When Peck was 15 and starring on Drake & Josh, he says he was “the biggest I’d ever been,” which made him consciously aware of his body at all times. Eventually, the costume designer realized how uncomfortable the actor was in his clothes and offered him a compression top to wear under his clothes. “This angel of a costume designer had built me homemade SPANX. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, a man girdle, a Lycra bodysuit that smoothed out every roll and every bulge,” Peck recalled. “Wearing this magical tunic, I no longer resembled a gigantic muffin and now looked more like an overstuffed bag of bread. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better and I felt better. So I wore it, every day, for five years.”
He Hasn’t Spoken to Drake Bell in Years
Despite having strong onscreen chemistry with Drake Bell, who he met on the set of The Amanda Show, the pair weren’t especially close off-screen. “The world wanted to believe that we still shared a bedroom even if we weren’t filming the TV show, but once that was over, so was our connection. It was like camp, eventually, everyone has to go home,” he wrote about the show’s ending in 2007. “Our names would become synonymous with each other forever. It’s a long life but there’s certainly a chance that Drake & Josh will be the most noteworthy thing either of us ever do.”
He continued: “This perhaps could explain why over a decade after the show ended, the world went insane when I got married and didn’t invite Drake to my wedding. … People couldn’t fathom that we’d only seen each other a handful of times since the show ended.” Peck also addressed Bell’s 2021 arrest for child endangerment and disseminating matter harmful to minors, explaining that he was just as shocked as Nickelodeon fans were. “When Drake got into legal trouble, people ran to get my opinion. They thought I must have a take on this person I had spent so much time with when in reality, it had been years since we’d talked and even longer since we’d seen each other. Which is why alongside everyone else who doesn’t know Drake, I was upset by the inexplicable events that unfolded in his life.”
A Film Role Inspired Him to Lose Weight
Peck felt that he had to play the “fat, funny kid” for the rest of his career until he was cast in the 2004 film Mean Creek as a terroristic bully who gets invited on a boat trip by his victims in order to receive a dose of his own medicine. “My character, George Tooney, was heartbreaking, and it was the first time I ever got to play someone so painfully flawed, someone who couldn’t get out of their own way, someone so human,” he wrote. After earning critical acclaim for his performance, Peck decided to make a change in order to pursue more difficult roles. Through diet and exercise and a healthier relationship with food, Peck was able to lose 120 pounds over the course of a year and a half.
He Hid a Years-Long Drug Addiction From the Public
In the middle of his weight-loss journey, Peck was introduced to drugs for the first time and after doing cocaine with some friends, he felt a sense of relaxation and contentment. “Drugs lifted the pain of existence so well that I mistook being high for being alive,” he recalled. “I’d finally found a kind of medicine that night. It was a medicine I’d been searching for my entire life, a cure that allowed me to be me. Not the me that was worried about what you thought, it was the me I had always wanted to project.”
Josh Peck Recalls Past Battle With Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Soon, Peck began using drugs and drinking every single day, replacing his food addiction with illegal substances. “For four years I didn’t take a sober breath except the time between waking up and locating whatever mindaltering substance was closest,” he wrote.
His drug habit soon began taking a toll on his life, isolating him from all of his friends and loved ones and almost resulting in an arrest for reckless driving in Beverly Hills. “Food had been sort of killing me softly,” he wrote. “It was a slow, patient force —happy to wait decades before it wiped me off the face of the earth, but drugs were different. Their efficacy was so much stronger, which also meant their consequences were that much stronger.”
Josh Was Reprimanded By Judd Apatow
Peck’s addiction took a massive toll on his professional reputation and caused problems on the set of a film that Judd Apatow was producing in the mid-2000s. “I showed up late, was less than professional when it came to my preparation, and inevitably was just a liability,” he wrote. Apatow sent him an email reprimanding him for holding up the production (which he partially reproduces in the book).
“I shanked the opportunity that could have changed my life,” he wrote. “Judd couldn’t have been cooler, he took a shot on me and I ruined it. I was a drug addict who couldn’t get it together long enough to show up for my responsibilities. I’ve told him this to his face but I’m still incredibly sorry fifteen years later.”