Dax Shepard is bravely revealing his relapse — and his months of living a lie.
As you may know, a big part of the Hit & Run star’s story is his struggle with substance abuse — leading to an impressive 16 years of sobriety.
But on a very special episode of his Armchair Expert podcast on Thursday, the 45-year-old took a break from doing great celeb interviews to reveal his famous streak had come to an end as he relapsed by abusing Vicodin and Oxycontin pills. And shockingly the 16 years itself was a bit of a lie as well, as he was even high during his celebration of that milestone!
You may recall the actor has been recovering from a motorcycle accident and being taken care of by wife Kristen Bell back in August, but that was not the beginning of Dax’s latest struggle. It’s been going on a lot longer…
It really all started in 2012 during his late father’s battle with cancer. Dax detailed that he had been traveling back and forth to be with his dad during treatment, and suffered a motorcycle accident while en route to the set of Parenthood. He recalled:
“Eight years into sobriety, I had not done a single shady thing. I hadn’t done anything gray… I immediately called my sponsor, and I said, ‘I’m in a ton of pain and I gotta work all day. And we have friends that have Vicodin.’ He said, ‘OK, you can take a couple Vicodin to get through the day of work, but you have to go to the doctor, and you have to get a prescription, and then you have to have Kristen dole out the prescription.’”
He followed the guidance, but not for long. After traveling without the pills because his wife, who was pregnant at the time, would not be with him to visit his dying father, Dax went without.
But when his ailing father had to take a Percocet, Dax reasoned he could join him — after all, he had a prescription for painkillers, too:
“You know, we had so little in common and so much f**king friction. But the no. 1 thing we had in common was we were both f**king addicts and we had never used anything together. And we sat there stoned and looked at the lake. And in that moment, I felt elation and I was just happy.”
But it wasn’t his medication, it wasn’t under the direction he was supposed to take it. And he admitted to his co-host he took twice as much he needed — because he didn’t want to get rid of the pain, he wanted to get high.
After Kristen surprised Dax at his dad’s hospital, he confessed to taking the drugs, and she helped him get back on track:
“That was eight years ago. I’ve now had this experience where I did that, I felt bad, but there wasn’t any fallout from it. It was like, I felt bad, I said I felt bad, and then I did just move on and it was fine. That cycle happens maybe three or four more times. I feel shady, but I don’t feel like this is a problem. I didn’t desire more when the thing was over.”
That’s very important — the cycle recurring. Dax has undergone about seven surgeries in the last few years, and each time he has been allowed to take opiates to relieve the pain, but only under strict supervision. And each time he pushed it more and more. He stashed the ones Kristen gave him at night so he could take extra the next day — again, enough to get high. And this went on for a very long time.
He had been justifying his using to himself, as addicts do — and only really noticed a few months ago he was “getting shadier and shadier” with his opioid usage — until he was just buying and using Oxycontin with no prescription at all:
“And I’ve not ever yet bought them. And then I do… For the last eight weeks maybe, I don’t know… I’m on them all day. I’m allowed to be on them at some dosage because I have a prescription. And then I’m also augmenting that. And then all the prescriptions run out and I’m now just taking 30 mil Oxys that I’ve bought whenever I decide I can do .”
After he was eventually confronted by his podcast co-host, Monica Padman, he began lying to her. Typical addict behavior. The Bless This Mess star confessed (below) that he believed all of his day-to-day responsibilities were being managed, so he did not think anyone had noticed. But the truth is, as he later realized, he was gaslighting Monica AND Kristen.
“And I’m lying to other people and I know I have to quit. But my tolerance is going up so quickly that I’m now in a situation where I’m taking, you know, eight 30s a day, and I know that’s an amount that’s going to result in a pretty bad withdrawal. And I start getting really scared, and I’m starting to feel really lonely. And I just have this enormous secret.”
At this point Dax knew he had a problem. He tried to fix the situation himself, making a schedule to ween off of the pills — but he couldn’t bring himself to follow through:
“I now start getting pretty visibly detox-y and withdrawal-y. And I lie and start saying I’m having an arthritis flare up.”
So instead of lowering his dosage, he just kept going — knowing he would only spiral more and more when he ran out of pills.
It was then, just two over weeks ago, that he realized he needed to be honest. He was in the car with Monica when he knew he couldn’t lie anymore, because as he put it:
“I’m gaslighting you and I know I am. And I’m making you feel crazy and I’m making Kristen feel crazy.”
This was one of the most important differences between Dax at the beginning of sobriety and Dax as a married, 45-year-old father-of-two who had experienced years of being sober. He could not accept the fact he was gaslighting his loved ones; it was eating him up inside.
So he called them both together and explained everything, while also asking for help.
But he still didn’t know what to do. His biggest fear was that by admitting he wasn’t 16 years sober — but rather just ONE DAY — his addict brain would convince himself he didn’t have anything to lose anymore and might as well go on a bender:
“My fear was that if I have one day, I’m going to drink and I’m going to do coke. I haven’t drank a beer in 16 years and I haven’t snorted a line in 16 years. And if I have one day, then I might as well f**king have what I really want and then start over. And my fear of that is if I do that, it may take me three years to get that back in the cage. And I may die.”
Dax explained his original problem was not opioid pills but rather alcohol and cocaine — two things which would mean really going over the edge:
“I just know what I’m like on those two things. And again, it’s very hard for me to know what part of this is, like, my addiction and what great stories I tell myself of reasons why I can’t just be f**king humble and say I failed. I think I have a very legitimate fear that I would drink. And also I think my addiction is smart enough to say you can’t do that or you’ll drink.”
But he went and did the thing he dreaded. He confessed. He went to an AA meeting where he told his entire story. And he was met with open arms:
“It turned into the most incredible, like, 90 minutes I’ve ever experienced, where there was just so much love and so much understanding and kindness and unconditional love. There’s probably been many others, but it’s the only experience I can remember having that was just grace, the definition of grace. And it was very emotional. It was a really, really surreal kind of experience.”
After this meet up, he finally started feeling optimistic:
“For…a long time, I’ve known intellectually that things are going to get worse. That each encounter with it had gotten more shady and more dangerous and I recognize that the next go-around would be, ‘Oh I can’t get pills. Let’s snort heroin.’ And you know, I’ve had a lot of friends that I’ve watched go through this whole cycle, and I finally have the humility to say I will not be any different. I won’t be special. I won’t be smarter. I will be exactly like everyone else.”
This big AA confession was also AFTER he recently celebrated 16 years of sobriety on September 1. In contrast to the meeting he was dreading, Dax recalled that particular meeting as being “the worst hour of my life” because he was high and being congratulated, fully knowing he was a fraud.
The TV mainstay also detailed the physical symptoms of withdrawal, which he’s still experiencing:
“I’m sweating bullets; I’m jerky; my back kills. It’s terrible. I’ve never detoxed from opiates, and I have so much compassion for these junkies who have like f**king cycled through this 20-30 times.”
Dax apologized once again toward the end of the podcast, recorded on September 21, to Padman, and also admitted that he felt bad for his wife, knowing she would be asked about this down the line in interviews:
“The other reservation I had about coming clean publicly is like ugh, Kristen doesn’t deserve for the next 6 months for every f**king interview she does to be, ‘OH Dax relapsed!’ It doesn’t feel fair to anyone. It’s not fair to anyone. I’m sorry and embarrassed I put other people in this situation.”
He was also afraid to come forward with his story publicly due to his position as a beacon of hope for other addicts, a place he does not feel he has deserved to be in lately. He worried his confession would lead listeners to lose some of that hope. Thankfully a wise friend told him honesty is what everyone needs more than anything.
Thanks to his bravery — and his fantastically supportive family and friends — Dax once again has a bright future ahead. Things are only going to get better from here on out, as he proudly stated:
“Today, I have seven days.”
We are so, so in awe of Dax for this public confession. Sending love and strength and positivity your way!
You can listen to the entire podcast — and we honestly encourage you to do so — HERE.
If you are struggling with addiction, call the Substance Abuse and Medical Health Services Administration hotline at 1-800-662-4357 for confidential help 24/7.
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