Amber Portwood Discusses How Bad Her Drug Use Was During the Early Days of ‘Teen Mom’: “I Wasn’t A Good Mom”

“I finally admit it– I was a crappy mom!”

Amber Portwood has come a long way since her Gary-punchin’, pill-poppin’ first seasons on Teen Mom!

The ‘Teen Mom OG’ star opened up about her past drug addiction (and how it played out on ‘Teen Mom’), as well as the current state of her sobriety during an interview on the Dopey podcast, which discusses drug addiction. Amber admitted that, in the early days of ‘Teen Mom,’ she was not a good person–or a good mother.

“You can blame the drugs for the most part, with being impulsive but it wasn’t just that,”  Amber added. “It was just me as a person. I was just an angry person [who was] kind of an a**hole back in the day. I was very immature and I just needed to find out what I needed to do to be healthy.”

These days, Amber– who gave birth to her son James in May— says she is sober from drugs, but does drink alcohol on occasion. She says that with her son, she’s doing parenting differently because she’s not on drugs like she was when Leah was little.

“I wasn’t a good mom,” Amber said. “I was very selfish and I was very immature and I wasn’t really taking care of her the way I should have been.”

Amber said she tries to raise Leah differently than she was raised so she will have better opportunities in life.

“I want her to know that she needs to work hard,” Amber said. “I tell her, ‘This right here [being on a reality show] is not reality,” Amber said. “You don’t make money like this when you don’t have a talent. I try to tell her that there’s no real raw talent in this and that [she] needs to go to college.”

She stated that she and Leah’s dad Gary Shirley already have enough money set aside to pay for Leah to go to college.

“We have the money in two different accounts set aside for her, waiting, because we have dreams for her,” Amber said. “We both, we didn’t have college funds and things like that. We just want her to be better.”

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My beautiful babies! Happy momma?

A post shared by Amber Leann Portwood (@realamberlportwood1__) on

Amber told the podcast host, Dave, that starring on 16 and Pregnant and ‘Teen Mom’ were not the cause of her addiction.

“I had been partying since I was 11,” Amber said. “That’s the first time I ever did pills. In [my hometown of] Anderson, [Indiana], there’s not much to do. A lot of kids at school always brought s**t from their house. We didn’t even know what half of it was and we were taking it…that’s kind of where it started.”

By 15, Amber said she was hanging out with “really bad people” and her pill use escalated.

“[I was using] a lot of opiates, things like that,” she said. “I think I was trying to self-medicate at the time. I was probably very depressed, and it just kind of spiraled out of control. It wasn’t until I got pregnant with my daughter Leah that I stopped doing drugs all together because I was so scared of something happening to her.”

Amber said that, about six months after she gave birth to Leah, she was back on the opiates. (This was, of course, about the time she was filming the first season of ‘Teen Mom.’)

“I started taking medication for my back, because I have scoliosis,” Amber said. “I got addicted, started partying and it was crazy.”

During ‘Teen Mom’ Season 1, Amber was abusing drugs (and Wet ‘n’ Wild black eyeliner)…

While Amber doesn’t blame her gig as an MTV reality TV star for her addiction, she did admit that the money she received for being a trainwreck on TV surely helped fund her drug use.

“Here’s the thing: I was doing this stuff before MTV came along, and I don’t think I was stopping [my drug use],” she said. “MTV could have came and went, and I think it would have still went the same direction with being an addict and getting in trouble.

“When you’re making a lot of money, there’s more drugs,” she added. “When I do an interview [now], people want me to blame MTV for everything. I always try to tell people that the money didn’t help, because obviously I had more means to get drugs. Every time a drug dealer had a new stash of whatever, they’d call me first because they knew I’d buy the whole script! I had the money to do it.”

Amber said her drug of choice was hydrocodone.

“I was a horrible opiate addict,” she said. “I would probably do 10 to 20 hydros. If they didn’t have hydros, it would be Oxycotin or Oxycodone, or Roxys…any kind of opiate that they had.”

She admitted for the first time ever that she had used heroin, but stated, “I never shot up or anything like that, but I was snorting it. I never sought it out or bought it personally.”

When she wasn’t poppin’ pills, Amber says she was out kickin’ ass and getting in fights.

“I’d go party. It would be a Wednesday and I’d be at the f**king bar, whippin’ ass and s**t,” Amber said. “Getting kicked out of bars.”

Amber said that, at one point, she even got booted from her favorite place.

“I got kicked out of our Walmart!” she said. “There’s like pictures of me beatin’ up a girl in IHOP!” (As.You.Do.)

“It wasn’t just [drugs]; I had really horrible anger problems. I’m bipolar and I’m borderline, which is not an excuse, but at the time I didn’t know it, so I wasn’t really taking care of myself or understanding why I was feeling certain emotions.”

Amber was always in denial that she had a drug problem, even though she says she never did a season of ‘Teen Mom’ clean before she went to prison.

“I don’t think I started to identify as an addict until after I went to prison [in 2012],” she said.

Amber implied that she got her entitled butt handed to her while she was in prison.

“I realized I wasn’t the baddest [person in there] and I couldn’t just fight anyone I wanted to,” she said. “It was a humbling experience.”

“Prison ain’t fun!”

She says she’s thankful she has been able to watch herself on ‘Teen Mom’ for almost 10 years.

“Being on ‘Teen Mom’ has showed me who I really am, as a person,” she said.

“It was a absolutely horrible to watch [those early episodes], because they were some of the worst moments of my life, and they are on television,” Amber said. “It’s sad, and you want to use again because of it. But then you think, ‘If I do use again, I’m gonna f**king act like that again!'”

When asked what was the hardest thing she had to watch herself do on TV, Amber gave a surprising answer.

“I think people want me to say when I hit Gary but that’s not it,” she said. “I think it was realizing last season that I thought I was doing the right thing by keeping my daughter out of my life while I was depressed and drinking, but that wasn’t the right move. It really hurt to see that wasn’t the right decision, and it was hurting Leah. I got all this feedback from people who said I was a horrible mom, but people don’t understand that, in my head, I thought I was doing the right thing.”

Earlier this year, Amber admitted that she had slipped in her sobriety while she was appearing on Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars Family Edition with her ex-fiance Matt Baier and her mother Tonya.

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Me and Mommy Dearest? She calls me Daughter Dearest lol?

A post shared by Amber Leann Portwood (@realamberlportwood1__) on

“I was heavily drinking on top of my bipolar and borderline medication,” Amber tweeted in March. “Obviously something you shouldn’t do with medications like that. However it happened and I went through hard times in order to be truly happy finally.”

These days, Amber says she is in a much better place, but she still drinks on occasion.

“Now I can have a glass of wine now and again. It’s definitely not everyday, it’s not every month….I stopped getting drunk,” she said. “Here was my thought process that made no sense whatsoever. I thought I wouldn’t do pills, so I would just drink a little because I had never had a problem with drinking. I was drinking to the point where I was drunk and that was my life…I’ve been through too much to even get back to that point.”

Amber hinted that ‘Teen Mom OG’ fans may see a new-and-improved Amber on the upcoming season of the show, which premieres October 1.

“I finally got a grip on who I want to be, who I really am, and how to deal with all this drama without going absolutely insane,” she said. “I can say that today. I couldn’t say that about a year and a half ago [when I was] on ‘Marriage Boot Camp’ trying to whoop everybody’s ass!

“Today I’m a completely different person,” she added. “I’m really happy.

“My dream now is to grow and move forward,” she said. “I think I helped as many as I could [by being] on ‘Teen Mom.’ I would love to keep helping people on ‘Teen Mom’ but I just feel like the show might be moving a different direction than where I thought it was going.”

She hinted her next project is “impactful and personal” but wouldn’t go into specific details.

“Whatever I do, I want to do it on a large scale so it can really impact a lot of lives,” Amber said. “I feel like with ‘Teen Mom’ I was able to do that, but I want to do more.”

(Photos: MTV, Instagram)


  1. She reminds me of every criminal client I ever had in prison, who had learned the right things to say to “prove” he or she was a changed person, well, other than not insisting she has now found Jesus. Her addiction is not the reason she’s s shit mother to Leah, it was her self-absorption and her being far more interested in having some man in her life than in having her daughter in it. If I’m wrong, that’s a good thing, but I’m reminded of a judge who once responded to a mother like her by saying ‘Your daughter has not been able to put her life on hold while you ‘found yourself,’ she had no choice but keep growing, have her first day of school, her first recital, her first everything without the presence of the one person who should have seen her as the center of her life, not an occasional afterthought between boyfriends.” One of those “ouc!” moments in an open court….but deserved. Fine, Amber is now admitting maybe she was not the Mother Of the Year she always thought she was, but the little girl who should have been the most important person in her life had to grow up without her, and at this point, I think she may see her a “drops in now and then and we do some fun things!” older sister, but her mother is Kristina. I’ll never forget early on, Leah telling Kristina “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me!” A moment of truth for sure.

  2. She actually sound a lot more mature. I hope she can remain sober-ish, quit alcohol entirely, and be a good mother to her children

  3. The teen mom 2 reunion is so boring and so dragged out and long. I’ve realized that its the children and side characters like Babs that make the show because those mothers are not interesting

  4. And that’s how you take accountability! I just hope that it’t not all talk and she practices what shes preaching….I also feel like Matt was a pretty bad influence on her…like he tried to keep her drunk so that he could mooch off her that much more. Glad he’s gone.

  5. I think this is healthiest she’s ever looked and I truly hopes she continues to change for the better. Leah deserves her mother and so does James.

  6. Borderline what? Borderline by itself means nothing but she acts like that is an actual diagnosis. She is bipolar I get that but borderline isn’t anything

  7. Amber may not be where she needs to be, but she’s still come a long, long way, and she deserves credit for that. It isn’t just sobriety that is a journey- so is becoming a better person. I always say that THANK GOD the years between 16-26 of my life weren’t recorded anywhere (besides a couple times at the county jail. as a minor, thank god). So, Amber, I will give you credit for your self-awareness. Coming from a former addict, though, I will say this: you really shouldn’t drink. We all like to think we are the exception, but we aren’t. We are addicts. We are other things, too, and we aren’t all the same- but we are not the kind of people that understands the word moderation. If you continue drinking, your life will spiral again. It may not be today, tomorrow, next month or even next year, but eventually, it will become a crutch. Save yourself the misery. And this isn’t me preaching, this is me telling you what I went through so you don’t have to. Because i thought i could drink, too, and a few hours later i was railing lines. and that a few hours after that i was popping roxis and xannies for the comedown, and then i woke up with someone who wasn’t my boyfriend. So…. yeah. I had to learn the hard way. Don’t do that.

    1. So glad you said that Megs, I’m an alcoholic myself and I *KNOW* I cannot count on myself to not abuse alcohol and/or drugs because I’m an addict. Amber drinking alarms me because I know how easy it is to slip myself – all while I’m assure my addict riddled brain that I’m still “in control”.

      1. Exactly. When we get better, we think we can be “normal.” Which, we can… if we don’t drink or do drugs! I wish the best for her and I do think her self awareness will help her avoid a massive relapse but she needs to realize she’s a full blown addict and act accordingly

  8. Amber has always known the right words to say, she parrots back what she has learned from professionals. Bottom line, she is a selfish person, which does not make a good mother. I am so tired of her “tough girl” act, she’s so big and bad, and she put herself in prison FOR Leah! Please. I hope she HAS changed, for her children’s sake, but I guess only time will tell. Time to get OUT of bed and OFF the couch, and step up and participate in her children’s lives and not leave all the hard work (24/7) to others!

  9. It’s nice that she’s admitting her issues, including effectively abandoning Leah until the end of summer last year (and then acting like it was Gary’s fault). I hope she’s really changed. Leah and James deserve for her to be sober and present.

  10. Oh how I’d love to believe all of this!! She certainly knows the right things to say… But here’s the thing… She always has. And then, down the line, the truth comes out & she changes her tune again. So time will tell if she’s actually this self aware, all round good person & mother now… But I don’t personally believe that a person changes this much over the course of a year & all of a sudden, realises all their faults & changes everything about themselves. It just doesn’t happen. I think Amber will always be the Amber we’ve “known” for the last decade, because ultimately, that’s who she is at her core. We’ll see what the new season brings. But I’d love to be proven wrong by Amber, for once. Or by almost any of them, for that matter. ??‍♀️

  11. How refreshing it is for someone to see the light. However, actions speak louder than words so we will have to wait and see what happens in the future…

    1. I think her staying off of social media and not getting in fights like she did before she had James, is a big step forward (I mean, I hope so). But I think we’ll know for sure when the new season of TMOG airs.

  12. I’m rooting for her. I think deep down she has a good heart. She can be really nice and seems to enjoy connecting with others. And it took a lot of guts for her to admit all she did in this article. I hope she stays clean and makes herself and her family a nice life with her MTV money.

  13. I don’t particularly like Amber, and I don’t think she’s a good mom (although hopefully she’s getting better now), but I still root for her in a way I never have with Farrah, Jenelle, even Kailyn. For someone who came from a f-cked up childhood (pills at 11?!) and probably had little guidance in life, she’s honest and self-aware in a way the other moms aren’t. When she did her prison interview with Dr. Drew, I thought it was the most honest and mature thing I’d ever seen on teen mom. She’s disappointed me since then, multiple times, but the fact that she can be so honest about her own shortcomings and where she needs to improve gives me hope that, one day, she’ll get it together. There are times when every single girl on teen mom was a bad mother, but so far Amber is the only one brave enough to admit it.

  14. Hey, I have to hand it to her-there’s nothing this crowd likes more than when someone freely admits they’ve been a huge asshole.

  15. Anyone who’s seen Amber’s crazy and violent outbursts (on Marriage Boot Camp about a year ago) can attest to her still being angry and on something. Her ex-housemates actually accused her of still taking Adderall. I don’t believe she’s sober. She’s also still an absent mom to Leah much of the time. You can’t pick and choose when you want to be a parent.

  16. Wow. I am pleasantly surprised how mature this is. Especially the part about not seeing Leah this past season. Kudos to Amber.

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