His journey is an inspiring tale of just being real.
“It all came true, and I’m the least happy I’ve ever been in my life. I’m closest to not wanting to be alive as I’ve ever been, and I had every single thing on paper that I’d ever wanted. I feel grateful for this because I was able to say, ‘Something much more profound is broken.’” — Dax Shepard
Dax Shepard’s story truly surprised me because I had no idea of the roller coaster of a journey he was on that very few people knew about during his successful acting career.
The Parenthood and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia actor has had a storied career for some time, but he has also been open and honest about his addiction issues and his battle to stay sober and clean since 2004.
Learning more about Dax’s journey with sobriety was fascinating because it shared a number of lessons that you don’t hear that often that I think anyone who decides to go down the alcohol-conscious path can benefit from hearing to ensure they are prepared for the realities that may come.
Being able to abstain for short periods of time means nothing
Whenever I hear about an actor or musician who can perform their day-to-day job and still be highly addicted to some substance, I often wonder, “how is this possible?”
The demands to be a world-class actor and be chosen to act in movies that will be shown worldwide would take tremendous effort and focus.
Therefore, to think that Dax could be highly addicted to several different substances and alcohol while doing so seem highly unlikely. And while it is true there are some individuals who can continue to live a lifestyle of excess and perform some semblance of acting, Dax was not one of these people.
In fact, he had created a routine in which he would completely give up his addictive substances while shooting a movie to ensure he was not allowing it to interfere with his ability to perform.
He said that movies were the “only thing I was more addicted to,” so he would often be able to be clean for months on end before returning to his dangerous lifestyle.
The problem was that when he abstained, he was in no way thinking that he should consider quitting, and when he went back to using, “it was getting more and more dangerous.”
Being able to stop is one of those common misconceptions that people tell themselves to prove they are not addicted, but if the thought of not ever using again scares you, and your use becomes progressively worse, then being able to abstain for a certain amount of clearly means nothing.
Take Dax as an example. His second lesson is equally as powerful.
You may have multiple rock bottoms before you finally make the decision
Dax has been honest in sharing many of the details of his sobriety journey in the past and has been clear that the day he decided to stop drinking was not the worse day of his addicted life.
As someone battling alcohol and cocaine for some time, he admits he experienced “multiple, multiple bottoms.”
He talked about “multiple suicide ideation moments,” how he had previously tried to stop to no avail, and finally had a moment in an airport in Hawaii in which he recognized that something had to change.
“I have every single thing I’ve ever wanted, and I’m at my lowest point emotionally and something has got to be very broken about that. If I have everything I said was going to make me feel good and I feel terrible, I’ve got to look at some other thing.”
He said the fear of having achieved everything he ever wanted and still feeling sad, depressed, and miserable was very scary and opened his eyes to the fact that there was no way he could continue to live this life.
This realization got him to commit to his 16 years of sobriety and helped him get through and come out on the other side of lesson three.
A relapse is a speed bump, not a stop sign
On September 25th, 2020, Dax posted that he was seven days sober after a 16-year triumph of being so.
The long and short of it was that he had just recently gotten addicted to prescription pain meds that had him repeating all the behaviors he had lived as an addict and was slowly beginning to take him back to becoming his previous self.
He thought his pill use was somewhat “manageable” because it wasn’t interfering with his work or life, but when he started buying pain pills that were not prescribed to him and lying to others about his behaviors, the old addicted Dax started to show up.
He said the straw that broke the camel’s back was, ironically, when he sat at his 16-year sobriety party with all of his friends and was extremely high on prescription pills.
He knew at that moment he had to come clean to his wife, Kristen Bell, and began the humbling journey of being back at Day 1. He attended an AA meeting, shared his story with those there, cried a lot, and began returning to where he needed to be.
And while it was difficult for him to come out to so many people because of the embarrassment of having such a public relapse after being one of the poster children of sobriety, he said it was important for him to do so for his listeners who “love the show and are with us, because I think it’s such an emotional connection we all have.”
Lucky for us, he did, so we can all learn from his experience and know that the future is always bright as long as we don’t give up.