After struggling with substance abuse for years, Jeff Conaway planned his own funeral and wished to die at home. However, destiny had a different plan prepared for the "Grease" star.
Kicking a drug habit is no easy feat, and late actor and singer Jeff Conaway knew it firsthand. Even though he got professional help — and even with the help from John Travolta — it wasn't enough.
RISE AND DOWNFALL
Born in October 1950, Conaway started acting when he was just a child and made his debut on Broadway at 10. As time went by, he made ends meet by modeling, working in commercials, and playing in a rock band.
His acting career skyrocketed in the late '70s and early '80s, especially after portraying Kenickie, John Travolta's on-screen sidekick, in "Grease." Shortly after the film hit theaters in June 1978, Conaway appeared in "Taxi" opposite Andy Kaufman, Christopher Lloyd, and other Hollywood stars.
Unfortunately, his career and life started to fall apart after he became addicted to cocaine, alcohol, and painkillers. He once attributed his substance issues to being molested as a child and dealing with chronic pain following a back injury.
Conaway's problems were so severe that addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky referred him for treatment when he tried to participate in "Celebrity Fit Club" in 2005.
At the time, he told Dr. Pinsky that he knew he would die in six months. He didn't, fortunately, but he couldn't get better either. Three years later, Conaway and Dr. Pinsky met again in "Celebrity Rehab."
Travolta, a well-known Scientologist, couldn't watch him waste his life anymore and introduced him to [Scientology].
The specialist pointed out that one of the reasons Conaway had such a hard time fighting his addiction was his girlfriend, Victoria Spinoza (also known as Vikki Lizzi).
Dr. Pinsky believed that Spinoza did drugs with Conaway and also brought them to the treatment center the first time he was in rehab. To avoid that, he limited the times Spinoza could visit her boyfriend.
Also in 2008, Conaway appeared on Howard Stern's show and confessed he had tried to take his own life over 20 times using pills. A few months after leaving "Celebrity Rehab," he claimed Scientology saved him from addiction.
Conaway explained that Travolta, a well-known Scientologist, couldn't watch him waste his life anymore and introduced him to the belief system invented by L. Ron Hubbard.
RELAPSE AND ACCIDENT
His addiction stayed out of the spotlight for almost two years, but in January 2010, he relapsed. Spinoza revealed that Conaway suffered a drug-fueled fall at his home that left him severely injured and hospitalized.
The late actor broke his hip, arm, and neck and had a brain hemorrhage, so he needed surgery. Spinoza admitted that her boyfriend's situation was "devastating." She added:
"I tried to save him from himself by trying to get him help... He wants to die at home. He knows the meds are killing him. He can't get off them."
Conaway's girlfriend also said his addiction got so bad that he had already planned his funeral. He wanted a Viking funeral: be laid on a boat, set on fire, sent out to sea.
Luckily, the "Taxi" actor made it out of the hospital after the accident but needed physical therapy to get his mobility back. He blamed his substance issues for the accident and also considered suicide.
On May 11, 2011, Conaway was found at his home unconscious and immediately rushed to the Encino Tarzana Medical Center. According to his manager Phil Brock, the actor passed out for almost ten hours before being found.
Once in the hospital, doctors put him in a medically induced coma to keep him from "thrashing around" and help him fight pneumonia and a blood infection.
Although reports of him suffering a drug overdose were incorrect, it is essential to point out that his severe use of drugs prevented him from noticing how sick he was and getting medical help earlier.
On May 27, 2011, Conaway was taken off life support and passed away due to complications from pneumonia. He was 60 years old.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, don't hesitate to get in touch with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "help" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741, or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
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