I got stoned on skunk before the school run, I was such an idiot and I’m amazed I survived, says Patsy Palmer

I got stoned on skunk before the school run, I was such an idiot and I’m amazed I survived, says Patsy Palmer

PATSY PALMER was once so addicted to drugs that she chain-smoked powerful skunk cannabis minutes before she was due to pick up her kids from school.

The mum-of-four, who played Bianca Jackson in EastEnders, also turned up for work on the BBC soap high on Ecstasy. She is “amazed” she survived.

Patsy Palmer was once so addicted to drugs that she chain-smoked cannabis minutes before the school run
Patsy Palmer was once so addicted to drugs that she chain-smoked cannabis minutes before the school runCredit: © ALAN STRUTT 2013
Patsy married her husband, former taxi driver Richard Merkell, in 2000
Patsy married her husband, former taxi driver Richard Merkell, in 2000Credit: Getty – Contributor

Patsy, who has now reinvented  herself as a wellness guru in California, told in her autobiography how she hit an all-time low after skipping an important meeting to stay at home watching This Morning on TV while smoking dope and eating doughnuts. 

It was on that day in September 2004 that she was unable to stop ­herself from taking drugs at home between school runs.

Patsy recalled in her book, All Of Me, Life, Love And Addiction: “My hands were shaking as I looked at the Rizla papers on the side.

“The night before, I’d put away the puff — my skunk weed, otherwise known as super-strong marijuana — on top of a cupboard, hoping that when I woke up in the morning I’d have forgotten about it.”

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Patsy, now 50, says she felt “edgy” and “paranoid” and desperately tried to distract herself.

She wrote: “I took the vacuum cleaner out of the cupboard.

“I loathe housework . . . it was the most normal thing I could think of.

“A minute later I was on the couch, watching This Morning and smoking a big, fat joint.

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“I’d promised myself never to smoke in the house because of the kids.

“Didn’t want any traces lingering for them. Wanted to be extra careful because my little girl had chest problems.

‘I was feeling physically ill, horrible and dirty’

“By midday I was stoned.

“But it was OK because I could eat something and be fine by 3.30pm, when I needed to leave for the school run.

“Three hours later I had finished my third joint and second jam doughnut.

“I stood in the middle of the room and thought, ‘Is this what my life has come to?’ 

“I was feeling physically ill, horrible and dirty.

“A voice was like, ‘You are a responsible parent, you are a grown woman.

“Sort this out, now. What are you doing, you idiot?”

She realised at that moment, age 32, she was an addict.

Patsy’s path to recovery started the next day, when she attended a Twelve Steps Fellowship convention.

Dancing On Ice fans will struggle to believe they are watching the same person as ITV1 hit Dancing On Ice returns to our screens for its opening show tonight — with Patsy in the line-up, partnered by pro Matt Evers.

Today, as our exclusive shot shows, Patsy is a picture of health having embraced a radically different lifestyle in Malibu, the celeb Mecca on the Californian coast.

Patsy and Richard set up life in California with their three kids, Fenton, Emelia and Bertie
Patsy and Richard set up life in California with their three kids, Fenton, Emelia and BertieCredit: INSTAGRAM/PATSY PALMER
The mum-of-three is in the line-up for the new series of Dancing on Ice with pro Matt Evers
The mum-of-three is in the line-up for the new series of Dancing on Ice with pro Matt EversCredit: PA

She moved there in 2014 with her husband, former taxi driver Richard Merkell, 58, who she married in 2000.

They set up home there with children Fenton, now 22, Emilia, 21 — both models — and 12-year-old  Bertie.  

Patsy — who also has actor son Charley, 30, by her boxer previous husband, Alfie Rothwell — worked as a DJ then became a wellness influencer, and CEO of a hair product brand.

Her 372,000 Instagram followers see her as something of a red-haired Gwyneth Paltrow — and like the movie star who turned wellness guru, Patsy does meditation and yoga.

In a 2021 interview she said: “As soon as I wake up I do 20 minutes’ gratitude meditation, then get out of bed, make a coffee — and convince myself it’s a healthy ­breakfast because it’s oat milk — then shower and drive Bertie to school.”

Last weekend she prepared for Dancing On Ice by going to a yoga retreat to release “negative energy” from her body.

She wrote on social media: “Be kind to yourself. Clear negative energy . . . we are goddesses.”

She turned 50 in May and, as the milestone loomed, vowed to challenge herself.

She starred in The Masked Singer UK in 2020, as Butterfly,  then signed up for Dancing On Ice for a rumoured £100,000 fee.

She had been training in LA with her US skate ace Matt and has now moved her family to Windsor, Berks, while on the show.

Patsy shot to fame in the Nineties as EastEnders’ Bianca — other half of Ricky Butcher, played by Sid Owen — and will always be remembered for calling him “Rick-aaay!” 

But while viewers followed Bianca and Ricky’s ups and downs, including their wedding in 1997, off-screen actress Patsy was bingeing on cocaine and Ecstasy.

She writes in her tell-all memoir, published in 2007, how she would be “out of my head” for up to three days in a row and took so many drugs she was “amazed” to survive.

She would be “violently sick” then take more drugs till she was sick again, and her finger always hovered over the “self-destruct button”.

Patsy writes that her partying got out of control, similarly to her EastEnders co-star Daniella Westbrook
Patsy writes that her partying got out of control, similarly to her EastEnders co-star Daniella WestbrookCredit: Sharjo
Patsy shot to fame in the Nineties as EastEnders’ Bianca — the other half of Ricky Butcher, played by Sid Owen
Patsy shot to fame in the Nineties as EastEnders’ Bianca — the other half of Ricky Butcher, played by Sid OwenCredit: Rex Features

She writes that her partying got out of control, similarly to her EastEnders co-star Danniella Westbrook whose cocaine habit destroyed part of her nose.

Patsy thought she could manage her drug use but later realised she had a “PhD in self-delusion”.

She writes how she would arrive on set at EastEnders after being “off my head on drugs all night”. But she thought people never knew, and put it down to her “exuberant moods”.

Patsy would binge on the drugs then  “shower and change” before work.

But she admitted in a 2010 interview: “You can get dressed up and look great but inside you might be dying. I felt like that. 

“In this business you can get away with ­murder. You try to make yourself look nice from the outside, but if you’re not feeling good inside, what’s the point?”

‘Kardashians are great –  I know a couple of them’

Patsy, who was raised in Bethnal Green, East London, has also told how she was bullied at primary school for being ginger. 

By the time she was eight, she had tried alcohol, and by age 11 she started smoking dope and sniffing glue. At 13, she had taken cocaine.

She says she turned to drugs to cope with the pain of her parents’ divorce.

But at 13, she won a part on popular school drama Grange Hill, then played Albert Square’s Bianca from 1993 to 1999 and from 2008 to 2014, before returning for a short stint again in 2019.

Today, Patsy is more likely to be spotted out and about with her family in clean-living California rather than stumbling out of a London nightclub.

In EastEnders she will always be remembered for shouting 'Rick-aaay!' at her husband
In EastEnders she will always be remembered for shouting ‘Rick-aaay!’ at her husbandCredit: Handout
Patsy says she turned to drugs to cope with the pain of her parents’ divorce
Patsy says she turned to drugs to cope with the pain of her parents’ divorceCredit: News Group Newspapers

She has made money from fitness DVDs but her business Frec Productions, which handled the revenue along with cash from her fake tan products, was wound up in 2016 with debts of  £200,000.

Last year she planned to do a Kardashians-style reality show like her friend Kim

At the time, she said: “Yes, it’s ­happening.

“We’re talking about it with an American production company. 

“The Kardashians are great — I know a couple of them — but we’re not them”.

As yet, the project has not got off the ground.

Her latest venture is the Good & Proper Hair Company, which sells hair oils filled with “scientifically proven ingredients” for £27.55 online.

As well as detailing her addiction problems in her book, she has spoken about her recovery to help others.

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After tragic singer Amy Winehouse died in 2011 following a battle with drugs, Patsy appeared at an event supporting her foundation. 

She  talked about meeting  “sweet and lovely” Amy, and added: “I am in recovery myself for a lot of years now so any foundation that wants to help disadvantaged children, and people to recover from drug and alcohol addiction, means the world to me.”

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Toby Donegan-Cross

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