Picks and Pans Main: Mia Tyler Livin' on the Edge
updated 09/08/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 09/08/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Not that a little stage fright has kept her from living like a rock star. In her new memoir, Creating Myself, the former model reveals a life extreme by even frontman standards: heavy drinking, hard drugs and self-mutilation, all before she was old enough to vote. "I was a high school dropout, my relationship with my mom was bad—every cliché you could think of," she says of her time as the "black sheep" of her family. Now drug-free, Tyler—who split from Papa Roach drummer Dave Buckner in 2005 and recently parted ways with rock guitarist Brian Harrah, her fiancé of almost a year—leads a decidedly calmer life in Los Angeles with her cat Duders and two Chihuahuas Teddy and Diva. "She's in such a good place now," says her cousin and close friend Julia Hasz, 29. "She's strong, she's got goals, and she knows she can achieve them." Adds dad Steven, 60: "I couldn't be more proud."
How did she turn her life around? It wasn't an easy journey. Tyler's parents divorced when she was 8 and her now-deceased mother, actress and ex-Andy Warhol model Cyrinda Foxe, left vials of cocaine around their house in Sunapee, N.H., and spent long nights partying with friends. "I was left to my own devices," Tyler says, "so I just ran free." Her hard-rocker dad was her one stabilizing force; he visited regularly to make angels in the snow and take her for walks in the woods. "I wanted to soak up every second," she says. "When he was around, I would just light up."
When he wasn't, there were fits of darkness. Tyler turned to drugs: first marijuana, then ecstasy. By 16, she'd tried acid and cocaine, which she carried with her in juice boxes, taking hits through the straw. A year later, she began cutting herself until she bled with the edge of her makeup compact, before moving on to small knives and razors. "It's about finding a friend. I could always rely on cocaine and the same thing goes for cutting," says Tyler. "You want to find that first initial high. You're in love with your addictions, and they can't say no to you. So you have to find out how to say no to them."
After bingeing on cocaine, prescription diet pills and tequila in 1998, Tyler called her father in a daze, rocking back and forth on the floor of her Manhattan apartment. "I remember telling him 'I'm going crazy,'" she says. "He knew instantly what he had to do." Steven—who battled his own addictions to cocaine and heroin in the '70s and as recently as this past May briefly entered rehab for a developing dependence on pain and sleep medication—arranged for her to go to the Promises rehab center in Malibu. "Had it not been for him, I would never have dealt with it," says Mia.
Tyler began to rebuild her life, working as a plus-size model and reconciling with her mom, who was later diagnosed with brain cancer. When Foxe died in 2002, Tyler let go of her childhood pain. "I used to say 'When I grow up, I'm gonna sit my dad down and say all these things that I always questioned,'" she says. "But I put that stuff to rest when we put her to rest. You get older and realize those things don't matter anymore."
What does? Taking care of herself (after reaching 224 lbs. earlier this year, the 5'7" Tyler has lost 30 lbs. by going vegan and working with a trainer three times a week), spending time with family (she says she and half-sister Liv "are very silly" together), and connecting with the more than 45,000 MySpace friends who e-mail about everything from body image to depression. Since splitting with Harrah, 32, last month—"he's an amazing guy, but I'm just not in any position right now to be a wife"—Tyler is enjoying the single life. And, at last, a sense of peace. "I still think about cutting," she admits. "I was in a dark place, but I'm on the other side of the looking glass now. I feel like a kid again."