Paula Abdul

Paula Abdul has opened up for the first time about her struggle with prescription painkillers, revealing her dependence on them during the past 12 years.

"I could have killed myself," she told Ladies' Home Journal.

The American Idol judge, whose sometimes erratic behavior on-air has stirred buzz over the years, said she checked herself into La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., last Thanksgiving to wean herself off them, for good.

"Withdrawal — it's the worst thing," she said. "I was freezing cold, then sweating hot, then chattering and in so much pain, it was excruciating. But at my very core, I did not like existing the way I had been."

The former pop star described how a series of debilitating injuries drove her to use painkillers. Her first mishap was a back injury at age 17, when she was a cheerleader. During the 1990s, Abdul went on to break her leg during dance rehearsal, sustain a neck injury in a car crash and suffer partial paralysis after a plane crash, which required 15 surgeries.

In 2005, she was diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, a chronic pain illness. To combat the pain, Abdul wore a patch that delivered medication 80 times more potent than morphine, and sometimes took a muscle relaxer — although she was often sleepless. The combination, she said, made her "get weird," and led to speculation.

Now, though, Abdul says she's turning the page.

"I want to start fresh," she said. And as for her work on Idol? "Nothing makes me happier than nurturing talent and seeing them rise and take flight. It's my true calling in life."