Here’s How Two Years In Prison On Drug Charges Changed Tim Allen

Actor and comedian Tim Allen explains how two years in prison on a 1978 cocaine charge helped him turn his life around and get sober.

Prior to becoming a television star, Tim Allen struggled with an addiction that helped land him in prison for two years after being caught with a pound of cocaine. Now, he’s opening up about his past and how it helped change him.

Tim was just 11 years old when his dad was killed by a drunk driver.

Despite the manner in which his dad died, Tim leaned on alcohol to help him cope. He actually had started drinking a year earlier at the tender age of 10.

He tried it after seeing cowboys have shots of whiskey in movies. 

“I went down to a friend’s house and just poured Jim Beam into a jigger, not a shot glass, [it was] two and half shots actually, and downed it — just like the TV,” he recalls. 

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Allen Was A Lost 23 Year Old

Tim Allen told Marc Maron on his podcast, “I was an eff up.”

“After my old man died, I really just played games with people and told adults what they wanted to hear and then stole their booze,” he said. “Really I was Eddie Haskell [from Leave it to Beaver]: Yes, Mrs. Cleaver. No, Mrs. Cleaver, I knew exactly what adults wanted — make your bed, be polite, use a napkin — and then I’d go steal everything in the house.”

Allen also said about his dad, “I loved my father more than anything. He was a tall, strong, funny, really engaging guy. I so enjoyed his company, his smell, sensibility, discipline, sense of humor — all the fun stuff we did together. I couldn’t wait for him to come home.”

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It continued for years. Then at age 23, the future actor overplayed his hand.

The year was 1978 and he was caught at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport with over a pound of cocaine in his suitcase. 

He pled guilty to drug trafficking, assuming he would get a slap on the wrist. Instead, he spent the next two years in a federal prison. 

Allen Sentenced To Prison

“We were a bunch of college kids — a bunch of the kids who overdid it,” then “two of us took [the punishment] for about 20 guys” Allen recalls. 

He spent the eight months before sentencing evaluating his life. The aspiring stand up comic knew he needed to change. 

“I just shut up and did what I was told,” he said. “It was the first time ever I did what I was told and played the game… I learned literally how to live day by day. And I learned how to shut up. You definitely want to learn how to shut up.”

Allen shared, “Prison grew me up. I was an adolescent that woke up too early when my father was killed, and I stayed at that angry adolescent level.”

He explored his talent when he was released from prison working at a Detroit ad agency in the daytime and doing stand-up at the Comedy Castle at night.

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Tim Allen Has Been Sober For 23 Years

The monotonous activity of prison life served Tim Allen well.

He knew what to expect every day, which was a big change from his downward spiraling life before his sentence. 

“I don’t say this lightly and anybody who has been incarcerated [knows], it’s surprising what the human being will get used to,” the “Home Improvement” star said. “Eventually after eight months, I got used to it. There were OK times. Saturday we got better food. Eventually, I went from a holding cell arrangement to my own cell.”

Allen has been sober for 23 years now. True to his comedic nature, he finds some humor in it all.  

He remembers that his mom was “proud I was I got my own cell. And you’re really proud of it. She goes: ‘Oh, that’s good. Steve graduated from Purdue. Jeff’s on his way to Michigan State. One of my oldest sons got his own cell.'”

His life is dramatically different today. He’s had incredible success with stand up and his tv shows, “Home Improvement,” “Last Man Standing,” and now with his new show “Assembly Required.”

Tim Allen says of his years of sobriety, “Grateful is the word. I love my life. I’m not any more mentally stable, I have the same issues I had. Now, I can’t hide from them.”

Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before understanding your true potential. 

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