On “Jersey Shore,” Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino was always happy to be hitting the club, fielding grenades and getting his GTL on. But off-camera, the star struggled with an issue millions of Americans quietly try to keep to themselves: prescription painkiller addiction.
Since going public with his battle last year, Sorrentino helped launch ResetReality.com, a resource for anyone struggling with addiction or anyone who has a loved one struggling. Sorrentino confided in us about his addiction, and how he overcame it.
The start of a problem
“Obviously it didn’t start as an addiction. I was initially just hurt — it was probably an existing injury from when I was younger. I injured myself on [“Dancing with the Stars”] — I threw my partner over my shoulder and I hurt my lower back and neck. And then I was prescribed by a doctor a medication which was an opioid prescription painkiller, and from that particular point I was like, ‘Ooh, I have permission to take this.’ I proceeded to take that medication for weeks, months, and as the months went by in my head I felt like it was OK because I had this injury. I got it from my doctor. I’m allowed to take it.”
“My turning point was on one of my appearance tours, abroad in Australia, [when] I couldn’t get my medication I was prescribed. They don’t even actually make it in Australia! At that time there was just no way for me to get it and I proceeded to go into probably the early stages of withdrawal. I had an event to go to, and my family’s with me, friends are with me, and we’re ready to go to the event and I’m in bed, and I said, ‘I’m not going.’ And they said, ‘Mike, we gotta go, there’s a car outside. We’ll help you get ready.’ The only thing on my mind that I can think of was, ‘I don’t care, I’m not going. I don’t feel well. Tell them I was sick.’
"And once I saw the looks on my family’s faces — disappointment, frustration, helplessness — I realized I put that there. I didn’t want to be the one to hurt my family in any way. I was always somebody that wanted to help. And I was like, ‘Wow, I’m causing this, and what’s really causing this is my addiction.’ I was like, ‘If I can’t even get dressed for this, how am I gonna do the next "Jersey Shore"? How am I gonna have a wife and kid? How am I gonna continue with my life and do the things I love to do and live the life I’m supposed to live?' I [felt] like I was squandering a blessing by the Lord above.”
Making a choice
“I eventually mustered enough strength and went to the appearance. … On the way to the airport in my head I was like, ‘I’m gonna go up to my family and say I need help.’ And they were, unbeknownst to me, approaching me at the same time. They were like, ‘Listen, we’ve seen signs for months now. You haven’t been going to the gym, you don’t have the same zest and personality, you’re just not that Michael that we know and we love and we want you to get back to that.’ So I had my hands up and they were coming to get me. It was my brothers Mark and Frank and my sister Melissa, and my mom was behind them nervous and a wreck, but I was ready to go and receive help. At that point I was like, ‘Something needs to be done.’ I was a fighter in life. I was a doer. I was a person that was willing to work and do whatever I needed to do to succeed. Getting help was my most important thing at that time.”
“I remember on the plane to rehab, it was Utah — I just thought it was gonna be like a country club, but it wasn’t. It was probably the most traumatic experience in my life, because once you start to detox and become yourself again all these feelings come back that maybe I was trying to hide or maybe I didn’t want them to be there, as well as the good feelings, and you’re overwhelmed. At first I was upset with myself — how I could have let this happen — but I kept going back to ‘Well, I was prescribed it.’ I started to put fitness back in my life, I started to listen and do whatever I could to grasp any information — from 12 steps, from anybody else’s recovery, from doctors, nurses, anybody — I was trying to get back to Michael. I received Suboxone Film immediately upon my detox, as well as therapy, and I also used fitness and meditation, and day by day it started to get better.”
Back to work
“I had about six to eight weeks before I had to report to ‘Jersey Shore’ and a lot of people had doubted if I was gonna be able to do it. But I was able to get in the best shape of my life in that time period [and] get to a somewhat stable point in my recovery. There were still questions that I was gonna be around liquor, I was gonna be around partying and if I can do that, if I was gonna be the same person, but I was able to be positive enough, have enough support from family and friends, and also I was also to get certain concessions — an hour a day of meditation, an hour a day of working out, as well Suboxone Film that helped me get through some of the cravings.
"I had a lot of questions in my head: Was I gonna be the same Mike? Were people gonna like me? Was I gonna be able to withstand the temptations of being around the club, and the liquor? I was. A big misconception about me was that I mixed a lot things — I never mixed. I really just stayed with one thing, and I really wasn’t the biggest drinker. I got closer to my roommates than I ever was and the show was a success.”
“You always have people doubting you your whole life. You’re the person that’s gotta be the positive one, to be like, ‘No, I can do this.’ A lot of things are not as impossible as they seem, and before you walk you crawl, so little steps at a time. For me, it was one day at a time.”