I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.
Admitting Addiction Is Uncomfortable, Painful, And Absolutely Necessary For Healing
Dax Shepard Might Be An Actor And An Addict, But He's Also Brave
Before I launch into any sort of discussion about Dax Shepard's recent admission that he'd relapsed after 16 years of sobriety, let me be clear: my understanding about life with an addict is strictly from a daughter's perspective, as I've mentioned previously.
My dad was by no means a happy drunk. One drink did not mean he was loose and chatty or the life of the party; one drink meant that you could probably smell the alcohol from the other side of the room and that he'd be having a couple more drinks on top of it. He wasn't an angry drunk either, but I do recall when I was a preteen and a teenager being desperately sad whenever my father was drunk to the point where he felt the need to sit my sister and I down and preface what he felt was an important conversation with "there's a purpose for everything in life." As an adult, I can look back and realize that my father meant well and did the best he could in spite of his addiction, but he could not stop and say he had an addiction or ask anyone for help with it.
It'd be easy for me to say that Dax Shepard is just another addict who fell off the wagon, but the thing of it is, addiction is not as cut and dried as those who have never dealt with addiction in their lives might believe. As non-addicts, it's easy for us to look at addictive behavior and try to use rational behavior to make sense of the addiction. However, you can't ascribe rational behavior to what is essentially a non-rational disease. That, in turn, makes it a whole lot harder to understand.
It would be, for instance, very easy for us to look at an addict and wonder why they can't just stop whatever substance he or she might be addicted to. However, with any addiction there does tend to be physical responses if the substance the person is addicted to is suddenly removed. That, in turn, can also lead to responses that impact how a person's mental health is affected.
With all that said, I can only imagine the mental wrestling that Dax Shepard put himself through while he came to the conclusion that he needed to own up to the fact that he had relapsed. Such an admission actually would, in many ways, be equivalent to telling himself or his family that he had failed. To admit failure, regardless of the task, can be an exceedingly difficult thing to do; when it comes to something as prized as sobriety, it can be even more challenging, particularly when his 16th sobriety birthday had recently come and gone and was celebrated with his wife and children.
I've heard in the past people question the use of the word "recovering" when it comes to describing an addict who'd recently attained sobriety. I still vividly recall my father sitting my sister and I down as New Years' Eve 1987 rolled into January 1, 1988. I was 15, and was stunned when he told my sister and I that because he knew we got upset when he drank, he was going to quit drinking. That admission had to have been hard, given his dependency at the time, and now, I understand as an adult looking back that maintaining that sobriety was incredibly challenging for him. I found out later that there was a stash in the house, tucked into a filing cabinet or something, and he tucked into that a little shortly after his much-loved dog had to be put down, but from the time I was 15 to roughly a year after my mother passed away some 16 or so years later, my dad stayed mostly sober, and I can now appreciate how hard that must have been for him.
That's why I feel that Dax Shepard has demonstrated an incredible amount of bravery to publicly admit he relapsed. Confronting your wife to acknowledge your sobriety had relapsed due to pain medication being taken following a motorcycle accident is difficult at best; admitting that same relapse publicly had to have been tough. I respect this man for having the guts to say, "hey, I relapsed, but I'm fighting through it." By making that admission, if his young daughters ever listen to that podcast or even if they heard his discussion with wife Kristen Bell about his relapse, his kids have learned that it's OK to have the tough conversations. He's shown them that even though he struggled, he's continuing to grow and overcome his demons.
I wish that in the end, my dad had been able to do the same thing, not for me, but for himself.