Rise from the Rock Bottom – Recovery from addiction in Pro Wrestling

My inquisitive mind exploded when watching the documentary The Resurrection of Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, A story of decline due to drug use and alcoholism and the ultimately uplifting path towards sobriety. The road to recovery is dark, isolated and at times no light can be seen at the end of the tunnel. So, when a person in the limelight manages to achieve sobriety it needs to be applauded to show how recovery begins and continues. This got me thinking about wrestlers over the years who died due to addictions, and the ones who embraced sobriety in the business of professional wrestling.

Wrestlers live a rock n’ roll lifestyle, travelling in rental cars from city to city, country to country with their brethren who understand this life choice, understanding the time away from family to make a living by putting themselves on the line for a crowd who want to see blood. Small and huge crowds witnessing guys and gals putting their body in harm’s way, with chair shots, barbed wire matches, leaps from high above, all for a few dollars more and a cheer of the crowd.

Professional wrestling’s lost many performers before their time. Legends, prospects and ones already at their best. A long list includes Hawk of Legion of Doom, Eddie Guerrero, Brian Pillman, Shelly Martel, Bam Bam Bigelow, Davey Boy Smith, Luna Vachon, Test, Axel Rotten, Louie Spicolli (Rad Radford), Chyna, Mr Perfect, the names sadly are ad infinitum.

The usage of pain pills become overused when injuries persist, the pills work for a while and for some, the reliance on alcohol and other substances misused supports their mental selves and the issue becomes uncontrollable. What next? Stop wrestling? Stop performing? Get a normal job which many have to do? Live on past glories? Nope, what happens is a decline, physically and mentally into the realms of addiction, some get through the gates of hell and some don’t, some never see the light at the end of the tunnel and some always feel the old roar of the crowd while walking out to thirty people in a warehouse.

The word ‘help’ has many connotations, it changes lives in a way we might not expect. A Mind can isolate the owner and enable them to continue a downward spiral of self-deceit and a slow and painful death. The word Help changes that, if they’re ready. Recently in wrestling, I’ve noticed many openly sober wrestlers performing at their best. In WWE, their Wellness program has aided former wrestlers by sending them to rehab for their battle, but, the truth is to help an addict/alcoholic that person has to want to help themselves and that is no gimmick.

Recently former ECW stalwart and member of the Impact Players, Justin Credible needed help after appearing at an indy show. The wellness program of WWE sent him to rehab. He now follows the path of Jake Roberts and Scott Hall and started a health regime put together by former wrestler Diamond Dallas Page with his DDP Yoga plus the help of a recovery program.

In early 2000, the original Villain, William Regal, received help with substance abuse and entered rehab. Regal’s been clean ever since and in his capacity as a member of any roster is well known to put his hand out to help a wrestler seeking advice on life, or how to improve their persona in and out of the ring. Regal is known as one of the greatest wrestlers, talkers and minds of the past and present generation and has battled his demons a day at a time.

But many cannot get into the routine of a change of life, the powerful thing is with many legends turning their life around some with DDP, or help of a 12-step program of sobriety or addiction centres it starts a recovery ripple catapulted by icons Jake Roberts, Scott Hall, Shawn Micheals, Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, Goldust, Perry Saturn, Raven, Brian James (Road Dogg), Billy Gunn, and Mike Kanellis to name a few. A different story to many years ago when wrestlers travel the road to earn a dollar to feed their family who they barely see to entertain other people’s kids in small halls around the world. When it ends the sense of loneliness creeps in, Injuries escalate because of performing nightly and damaging their body. Pain killers become essential to ease their burnout. But, it doesn’t stop, alcohol and other drugs knock on the door, and the thing with alcohol it’s socially acceptable. Once the control of one drink has gone, it’ll lead to more and the damage begins. They said one is too many and a thousand isn’t enough. The mind may tell the person “oh it’ll be different next time” and it will be different, as it slowly strips away dignity, family, money, livelihood and finally oxygen. Truth is, if alcohol/drugs costs you more than money, then help may be needed.

Wrestlers past and present have grown to a level of acceptance to ask and receive help, leading to the rise from the rock bottom and walk a path of recovery. A new lease of life showing how lives change if the heart is in it and the roar of the crowd becomes clear, allowing he troubled wrestler to feel hope, and show they’re no alone.