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4 Takeaways From Dax Shepard Opening Up About His Recent Relapse

Editor's Note

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction, the following post could be triggering. You can contact SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

On Friday, September 25, 2020, actor Dax Shepard released a unique and uncharacteristic episode of his podcast “Armchair Expert” titled “Day 7.” In this honest and vulnerable episode, Shepard, who has been open about his experience with addiction, details his recent relapse with painkillers after 16 years of sobriety. On the day this episode was recorded (September 21), Shepard was newly sober for seven days. Shepard speaks candidly about the disease of addiction, lying to loved ones and denying anything was wrong at all. He also speaks about the importance of asking for help, moving forward and having hope. Regardless of whether or not you or a loved one struggles with addiction, Shepard’s depiction of his experience is full of lessons and takeaways for everyone.

1. Addiction is a disease; we need to treat it as such.

Through his account of his experience, Dax Shepard and his co-host, actress Monica Padman, emphasize that addiction is a disease and an illness, just like any other mental health or physical health diagnosis. Treatment for addiction can involve therapy, lifestyle changes, social support and sometimes even medication — just like any other illness you can imagine. It is not the person’s fault or a character flaw. The stigma surrounding addiction unfortunately still exists, and this stigma can be a major barrier to people receiving the necessary help and treatment that they need.

2. Recovery is not linear; a relapse does not mean all progress is lost.

As human beings, we naturally fall into a pattern of thinking that recovery or progress is a linear journey. In reality, recovery from a mental/physical health disorder or even just pure self-improvement more closely resembles a less-visually-appealing squiggly line. It’s easy to think that any small lapse or step backward means all progress is lost and our efforts were fruitless. Shepard makes sure to emphasize that he is still proud of himself for his 16 years, even if he had to start again at Day 1. He reflects on the progress he did make; he did not feel the urge to drink during this recent relapse like he had in the past and he also was able to recognize that he was gaslighting other people and acknowledge that he did not want to deceive the people around him who loved him. We can all take this message to heart in regard to our individual journeys; it might not be a perfect linear journey, but every up and down is there to teach us something and help us move forward.

3. We all need help sometimes. It’s OK to surrender, admit we don’t have control, and ask for help.

Shepard speaks candidly throughout this episode about how his ego was his own worst enemy at times. During his relapse he felt like he could control things he could not control, and he was not able to admit his powerlessness at first. He explains that surrendering and admitting he was powerless over his addiction is an instrumental part of his recovery and a huge part of his overall story. Human beings don’t like to feel out of control; we aren’t comfortable feeling powerless and vulnerable. But life gets messy and we all need to ask for help sometimes. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.

4. Every single person is going through something.

Shepard and Padman touch upon this universal truth during this episode, and it is one that is worth discussing again and again. That “something” might not be addiction specifically; it might not even be something that is visible. But at the end of the day, we are all human and nobody is immune to the ups and downs of life. Especially in the midst of a global pandemic and a laundry list of other difficult current events, it is important to remind ourselves that we all have our demons and our battles. We must practice empathy and understanding toward our neighbors, strangers, and ourselves.

Dax Shepard’s relapse is a story of honestly, vulnerability, support and hope. Even if your life has not been touched by addiction, this episode has a message for everyone. In our own individual journeys, we’ve all been at Day 1.

Lead image via Dax Shepard’s Instagram

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