Previously Known For: As Ben Seaver on Growing Pains
|Currently Known For: Recent Sobriety, No Small Affair catering company and his work as a patient advocate at Start Fresh Recovery in Santa Ana, California|
“I began drinking at four years old. The first time I ever got hammered was 12 years old.” Long before he was recognized for what’s been dubbed the “Ben Seaver Scream,” Jeremy James Miller was born on October 21, 1976 in Covina, California. As a child, Miller had an undeniable talent for entertaining and got his first big break in the early 1980s when he was cast in a McDonald’s commercial. Spending the next few years making uncredited guest appearances on primetime series like Charles in Charge and Different Strokes, Miller was eight years old when made his official television debut as Jimmy in an episode of Punky Brewster in 1984.
Landing a part in the 1985 television film Deceptions, even bigger things were on the horizon for Miller who was cast as Ben Seaver on a new series starring Alan Thicke, Joanna Kerns, Kirk Cameron and Tracey Gold called Growing Pains. The series garnered millions of viewers each week throughout its seven-season run and earned countless award nominations including wins at the Primetime Emmy Awards. While the show did wonders for Cameron’s growing fame, it also put Miller on the map as he developed his signature “Ben Seaver Scream,” which is featured on dozens of Growing Pains episodes as well as in the closing credits of Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. Of course, Miller didn’t walk away from his 158-episode run empty-handed and earned four Young Artist Award nominations with wins for Best Supporting Actor in a New Television Series and for Exceptional Performance by a Young Actor in a Television Comedy Series.
Although Miller was often overshadowed by his on-screen older brother played by Kirk Cameron, he faced another wave of competition when producers brought in Leonardo DiCaprio to play a young homeless boy taken in by the Seavers during the show’s seventh season. “There was a little bit of competition there,” Miller said of working with the young DiCaprio who has since become a Hollywood star. “I have to admit that it bothered me a little bit that the network felt it necessary to bring him in rather than focusing on my character who had now grown up and could kind of take over for Mike as, you know, the rapscallion, whatever you wanted… I mean, we were close in age; he’s only about a year older than me. So, we would mess around on the set, hang out together. We ran lines together. So, we were good friends on the set.”
Amid his seven-season run on Growing Pains, Miller stayed busy and voiced Linus Van Pelt in The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, This is America Charlie Brown, and Happy New Year, Charlie Brown. However, after Growing Pains wrapped in 1992, his popularity waned just as his alcohol addiction worsened, a disease he later admitted that he’d been fighting since he was four years old. In 1990, he snagged a role in The Willies and appeared in the first season of Ghostwriter in 1992, but nothing offered him staying power and he spent the next eight years off the Hollywood radar as his life spiraled out of control shortly after he dropped out of film school at the University of Southern California.
“I began drinking at four years old,” he said. “My grandparents used to throw a lot of parties, and I would run around after the parties and finish all the empty beers. So, that was my first experience… The first time I ever got hammered was when I was 12 years old. So, there was always something there. Whether it was a genetic component, mental, whatever you want to call it, there was something there; I never had that off switch. There were times when I was so filled with self-loathing and self-hatred, and then combine that with the alcohol and the lack of judgment that provides… It’s a very good thing that I never owned a gun, because I don’t know what would have happened and that’s scary.”
Not yet realizing just how bad his addiction had become, Miller attempted to rekindle his early fame and reprised his role as Ben Seaver in The Growing Pains Movie in 2000 and again in Growing Pains: Return of the Seavers in 2004. That same year, his life completely changed when he met his future fiancée, Joanie Miller, in an elevator in New Orleans. Together ever since and helping raise her three sons, Miller spent the next few years doing McDonald’s commercials and making minor appearances on shows like Shalom Sesame, Boys and Girls Guide to Getting Down and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? before he truly hit rock bottom.
Still fighting his growing self-hatred and a floundering Hollywood career, Miller hit a new low when Joanie’s sons grew more and more afraid of him. “My boys were afraid of me,” he admitted during an interview on Oprah: Where Are They Now? “I think rock bottom for me was waking up, after having been completely blacked out, not having a clue what I did. And my fiancée sitting on the bed, yet again pissed and now knowing what she could say… She could have told me I got in the car and killed four people last night, I would have had no clue. That was my rock bottom.”
Desperate to change his life, Miller went to the first of many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and tried everything from hydrotherapy to hypnosis without much success as he struggled to pursue his other passion for cooking and opened his own catering company called No Small Affair after attending the Le Cordon Bleu culinary arts program. Then, his mother’s endless research and Miller’s ongoing search for treatment landed him at the Fresh Start Private Management rehabilitation center where Miller’s life quickly changed. “I was ready to have them fry my brain to get rid of this,” Miller said of his addiction. “That’s how desperate I was.”
Although Miller was ready to do anything to overcome his addiction, Fresh Start had a much simpler solution and implanted a device filled with the age-old drug Naltrexone into his stomach in a 15-minute outpatient procedure. With the implant releasing a steady dose of Naltrexone over a few months, Miller’s cravings soon subsided as he started rebuilding his life beginning with proposing to Joanie and then accepting a position as a patient advocate at a rehab clinic in Santa Ana, California. Admitting that the program saved his life and his marriage, the 41-year-old Miller also works as a spokesperson for the program and is now thrilled with a second chance at life, a time where he can give back to those fighting a similar battle to what he faced during the height of his Hollywood career.