Former WWE Champion Shawn Michaels Talks About Overcoming Drug Addiction

By McCarton Ackerman 01/04/17

"The only difference between me and the guy on the street was that I was really good at it. I was one of those ‘good’ drug addicts."

Shawn Michaels
Photo via YouTube

Former pro wrestler Shawn Michaels had plenty of power in the ‘90s as a WWE champion adored by millions of fans, but it served as a mask for his private pain that he numbed with drugs and alcohol.

Speaking with the WWE to promote his involvement in the upcoming film The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, Michaels (aka Michael Shawn Hickenbottom) said his drug use first began in the company and escalated significantly in the late ‘90s as part of the wildly popular D-Generation X clique. The Heartbreak Kid instilled a rebellious streak both inside and outside of the ring, and he admitted that the lines quickly became blurred.

"We used to say things like, ‘Hey man, I only party when I’m on the road.’ OK, we’re on the road 250-plus days a year,” said Michaels. “I didn’t know where Shawn Hickenbottom ended and Shawn Michaels began, to be perfectly honest.”

Pro wrestling is no stranger to drug use, with the deaths of more than 20 wrestlers between 1985 and 2015 directly connected to drug use. That number doesn’t include dozens more cases of heart disease or suicides connected to drug use. Despite the very real probability that he could be part of the statistic, Michaels said he wasn’t concerned because he was still able to wrestle at an optimal level.

“I didn’t get the feeling I was abusing any of it, I guess because I was still able to do my job. I had always sort of looked back on people and said, ‘really the only difference between me and the guy on the street was that I was really good at it. You know, I was one of those ‘good’ drug addicts,” he previously told the Christian Broadcasting Network. “I suppose I hid it better than anyone else. You had to be able to do it all. You’ve got to be able to go 100 miles per hour in the ring, out of the ring, partying, and you’ve still got to make all your commitments. So that’s why I didn’t see anything wrong with it.”

But things became complicated when his new wife, Rebecca Curci, became pregnant with their first child in 1999. Michaels vowed to clean up his act before the baby was born, but still found himself heavily using substances afterwards. It wasn’t until his then-two-year-old son, Cameron, became cognizant of his drug use that he knew he had to change his ways.

"I’m getting myself into a little bit of a haze, and my son’s crawling on me, and I can hear him faintly say, 'Daddy’s tired,'" recalled Michaels to WWE. “And for the first time I realize … he can now see that there’s a difference in me. And it just hits me like a ton of bricks, like, ‘Oh my goodness, he sees it now.’”

Since retiring from wrestling in 2010, Michaels has remained an ambassador for the WWE and also works as a Bible teacher in his hometown of San Antonio. There are even rumors that he may step in the ring for one more match in the WWE. But whether or not that happens, Michaels said he’s grateful his life has moved in a very different direction from that of some of his peers.

“I don’t like to be an alarmist or over-dramatize too much, but certainly a number of the guys I used to run around with are dead, and I don’t think it’s a huge leap that I was very close to winding up the same way,” said Michaels to USA Today in February 2015. “I don’t think it’s overstating. My life was literally saved, as far as I’m concerned.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.