"I could have killed myself," Abdul, 46, tells Ladies' Home Journal in its June issue. "Withdrawal – it's the worst thing."
Abdul says she checked herself into the La Costa Resort and Spa, in Carlsbad, Calif., last Thanksgiving to help beat her use of medication. "I was freezing cold, then sweating hot, then chattering and in so much pain, it was excruciating," she says. "But at my very core, I did not like existing the way I had been."
After taking medication to combat pain from injuries that happened during her grueling years as a dancer – beginning with a back injury when she was 17 and including a neck injury sustained in a plane crash in 1993 – the American Idol judge says, "I'd been working nonstop," and her desire to carry on with her work led her to take more pain pills.
"I'm an old school professional," Abdul says of her "Never let them see you sweat" credo.
By 2005, Abdul was diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, a chronic condition that resulted in debilitating pain. As a result, she wore a pain patch and took nerve medication and, occasionally, a muscle relaxant. The combo made her "get weird," she says.
Thanks to her 15th surgery, yoga and spiritual workshops, she says she feels 96 percent better. Now more comfortable in her role on Idol, Abdul says she still has some issues with Cowell. "He's like the brother I never had – or wanted," she says. "From day one, Simon and I have had a love-hate relationship"
As for her feelings toward new judge Kara DioGuardi? "It's a boys' club no more. Now, it's a sisterhood with Kara, and we're having a blast," says Abdul.
On Wednesday's show, Abdul is expected to perform her new single "I'm Just (Here for the Music)," which Ryan Seacrest premiered on his KIIS-FM radio show Tuesday.