Dax Shepard didn't want to talk about relapsing after 16 years of sobriety, but he broke the news anyway in a September episode of his podcast, Armchair Expert. The words of a close friend are what made all the difference.
"The tipping point that got me to be public about it was a really good friend of mine who happened to have the same sobriety date as myself, and we’re the exact same age. … We’re very, very similar, and I told him, of course, immediately," Shepard said on Tuesday's episode of In Fact With Chelsea Clinton. "And I said, 'I don't really wanna do it on the podcast [Armchair Expert] and here's why.' And he goes, 'Look, if you're getting self-esteem from the number, that's silly. If you're getting self-esteem because you think that it's helpful to people, that's great, but if your goal then is actually to help people, it's so much more helpful that you relapsed than it is you being 16 years sober and married to Kristen Bell. That's not incredibly relatable to some dude who's struggling. But lying to the people you love just last month, that's pretty relatable."
The story was an extended version of what he told Ellen DeGeneres on her show in January.
At that time, Shepard explained that he'd even feared losing sponsors talking about how he'd started using opiates following two consecutive surgeries for injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident and an off-roading accident during quarantine. Eventually, he was sneaking Vicodin and Oxycontin "all day" and taking them whenever he wanted.
"The opiate thing was very misleading because I still was doing everything I'm supposed to do," Shepard said. "I was still interviewing people, and it was going well. I was still playing with my kids outside, putting them to bed and waking them up, and doing all the dad stuff."
But, as he told Clinton, he was starting to lie to people he loved, saying that he was taking pills for his arthritis. Lying was something he'd been able to do "like crazy" in the early days of his addiction, but he found that he couldn't do it anymore.
"Weirdly, it was terrible leading up to it, because I had built this whole identity in my head around having 16 years," Shepard said. "I loved having 16 years. I loved talking about it on the podcast. I loved that people who had messaged me ... [would] say, 'I'm on three.’ I loved being inspirational to people for sobriety. And I was holding onto that so much, I was deriving so much of my self-esteem from that, that I was really scared of not having that, and so I avoided losing that for a while, for a couple months, and then eventually I just … yeah, I couldn’t do it."
Shepard said he first told his wife, Kristen Bell, but he eventually had to deal with explaining himself to their daughters, 6-year-old Delta and Lincoln, 8.
"And they knew, they knew, like when I relapsed, we explained, 'Well, Daddy was on these pills for his surgery and then Daddy was a bad boy and he started getting his own pills," he said. "And, yeah, we tell them the whole thing."
Shepard told Clinton that he talks to his girls about addiction "just like I’m talking to you."
He said they're aware of where he's going when he leaves for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting every Tuesday and Thursday.
"One of the cuter moments was, I wanna say my oldest daughter was 3 — back when my daughters really wanted to be with me 24 hours a day — and she said, 'Where are you going?' And I said, 'Well, I'm going to AA," Shepard recalled. "She said, 'Why do you have to go?' I go, 'Because I'm an alcoholic. If I don't go there then I'll drink and I'll be a terrible dad.' And she said, 'Can I go?' And I said, 'Well, no, you gotta be an alcoholic.' And she goes, 'I'm gonna be an alcoholic.' And I said, 'You know, you might become one. The odds are not in your favor. But you're not there yet.'
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