September 17, 2012
Doctor's Orders: September 17, 2012 - Overcoming Addiction (The "True" Story of Mike "The Miz" Mizanin)
By The Doc
Jun 20, 2012 - 10:12:01 AM
There’s always a justification.
For an addict, there’s always a next time; there’s always a once more. He thinks that decision is made with fully cognitive power, but he’s wrong. That compulsive energy is stronger than you can imagine. Once it gains control, it’s difficult to emerge victorious over the force with which it consumes you.
Mike Mizanin has learned a lot about addiction in the last 18 months. It’s not as black and white as he once thought; not as if you either are an addict or you’re not. There are many shades of grey. Contrary to increasingly popular belief, it is not caused by genetics. Patterns may exist within families and those patterns may be repeated by new members, but addiction is not a disease in the traditional sense of the word. An addict learns and grows into addiction. Mizanin, “The Miz” as he’s known on television, did not start with a clinical diagnosis. For the first time in his life, he suffered a concussion after a significant head and neck injury and his health began to spiral downward. His doctor prescribed him two medications to deal with the pain and dizziness that ensued. At first, Miz was just following doctor’s orders. His wanting to feel better, though, soon trumped his need to get well.
That was the beginning. April 2011.
Addictions don’t start out as life threatening; they proliferate to that point the longer that they go unaddressed. Some people can get a handle on the problem before it gets to that point. In fact, it would be safe to statistically state that most do. Unfortunately for Miz, his addiction nearly cost him everything that he holds dear.
As of May 2012, Miz was discovering the definition of a new term of which he’d previously been just vaguely familiar: rock bottom. What is the definition of rock bottom? It varies depending upon who you ask. Mizanin would probably tell you that it is the moment when you realize that you’ve lost control to such a degree that everything that you thought you had going for you and everything that you loved about your life was being taken away from you…or that you’d let be taken away. It is the point in which, whether you like it or not, you’re inability to control your addiction has finally caught up to you; where, after months of self-justification that as long as you keep it under control, it’s not going to detrimentally affect your life, something happened to make you quietly lose control.
To Miz, it was just a couple of prescription pills in the beginning, given to treat a few lingering symptoms. There was no addiction, then. When the prescription ran out, though, he realized that he’d grown to like the numb feeling. Mixed with the right number of vodka martinis, it was the perfect cocktail to quell what ailed him not just physically, anymore, but mentally, too. He was in the main-event of Wrestlemania 27 the night that he got concussed. He was just the 31st wrestler to have ever had the honor. There was no more ringing an endorsement for his career than to have been in that position. How ironic that the night he’d always dreamed of turned into this recurring nightmare? His drop down the card was supposed to be temporary – a precautionary measure to ensure that he didn’t wind up like hockey’s latest and greatest superstar, Sidney Crosby; his career broken by concussion. By Summerslam, he was to be back in the groove wrestling Rey Mysterio in a headlining match, but that’s not what happened. He blamed it on the WWE, but his performance was slipping, his attitude changing, and drive for success diminishing. It was his fault.
The painkiller-vodka combo was just what he needed to settle down and relieve the anxiety.
He was lonely – that didn’t help. His girlfriend was off the road now that she’d moved on to other endeavors. The weekend vodka-painkiller concoction started making appearances during the week. It went from weekly to nightly. It’s almost like having a relationship with a woman that makes you feel good to the point that you always want to be around her. At first, it’s small doses. Then, you want her around every night. It progresses to where you want her around all the time. Oh, the fun that Miz had everywhere that he traveled during the day, infused with his drink of choice. Some people drink energy drinks, he reasoned, while he prefers a shot and a tablet. No big deal. He made it back to the main-event, in large part – he figured - because he wasn’t hurting and wasn’t concerned. The feeling he got from the mixture allowed him to let go and just work. He did good work in his mind.
There was one night, though, where he woke up in a hotel room and didn’t know where he was. That was a scary moment for him that, he thought, was his day of reckoning that helped him realize that he needed to stop. It was an epiphytical moment that he thought put him back in control. For three weeks, he quit. He asked for no more pills and he went back to just having a few drinks with the boys after the shows. No more cocktails during the day. You know what, though? It couldn’t hurt, he figured, to have his old cocktail in the hours that followed his TLC match in December. He was really banged up and just one cocktail that one night surely should be alright.
It’s tragic how losing control doesn’t feel much different than thinking you’re in control. That’s’ the sad reality. Addiction has a way of consuming you to the point where you don’t realize that you’ve lost control until things are spiraling downward in a hurry.
Miz was back to daily cocktails as quickly as he’d made himself stop. The excuses – that’s what they were by that point – came closer and closer together. Rationalizing had become more and more difficult. Yet, still, the pills were popped and the vodka was shot. The only problem was that his colleagues, friends, family, girlfriend, and – even worse – his boss began to see that something was wrong. Vince McMahon had seen this before. He’d seen it numerous times and knew well enough to not dare enable it. Miz fell down the ladder of success in a hurry. He started passing out backstage. He stuttered through his live interviews.
The WWE felt they had to keep him near the top with Wrestlemania approaching. He was one of their stars; a guy who had main-evented Wrestlemania and four other PPVs in 2011, after all. They gave him 45-minutes in the Royal Rumble after they allowed him a chance to standout at TLC and they had him get the win to have Johnny Ace win both General Manager positions and Mania. He thanked them by getting so bombed at the post-Wrestlemania party that Vince had him kicked out by security in an awkward moment. It ruined Vince’s night to have to do it. He really liked Miz; he’d been so proud of him the year before. There was no desire to fire him, but they had to give him a wake-up call. He jobbed to everyone for two solid months. That’s about the most significant thing he did to him without firing him. He couldn’t just suspend him or send him to rehab for taking prescription pills – they were legally obtained and taken in prescribed dosages. Miz’s addiction didn’t fit the usual profile.
Miz disappeared altogether from television for a solid month from June to early July. People made assumptions, but none of the fans could ever have imagined that it was because of an overdose. Over Memorial Day weekend, he completely lost control. He was by himself in his Los Angeles area home and he could no longer keep track of his cocktails. One too many was all it took for an accidental OD. Thank God Maryse came by to check on him when she did. He spent three days in the hospital trying to detoxify while an investigation determined it was not a suicide attempt.
It was the moment where he realized that it couldn’t get any worse, only to further realize that it absolutely could get worse unless he found a way to change things. He had been living his dream, but he had also found something that threatened to throw it all away.
Many thoughts ran through his head after he’d completely gotten the drugs out of his system. While his body was going through hell, reacting predictably to its lack of cocktail-induced fixes, his mind thought of the brief moment a day or so into his hospital stay when Vince had shown up, looking far less like the CEO of the world’s most recognizable sports entertainment conglomerate and much more like a random guy going to a Dodgers game – completely inconspicuous. Clearly, Vince was trying to avoid drawing any more public attention to the matter, but it meant a lot to Miz that he stopped by. Their conversation didn’t happen. Miz was still too far gone to have one. Vince, though, did say something that kept playing back in his head repeatedly. “It’s going to be okay, kid.”
The WWE sponsored his rehab stay, during which time Miz learned a lot about himself and what led to the addiction. Frankly, he was afraid. It was fear that led him down that path. It mattered not what he was afraid of, but simply that fear had consumed him. On his 21st day of the 30 day program, he sat down at his laptop and typed an email to Vince that he kindly asked be forwarded to everyone in the company, WWE locker room included. When it got leaked to the internet a few days later, the WWE decided to post its contents on their website. It read:
To my friends and family in the WWE,
All that I ever wanted to do was be a WWE Superstar. Once I became a WWE Superstar, all I ever wanted to do was be a WWE Champion. Once I became a WWE Champion, all I ever wanted to do was to be remembered as one of the greatest. What I never, in my life, wanted to do was let anyone down. Everyone reading this is a member of my extended family and I let you down. I let myself down. I made a mistake and followed it with several more. From the bottom of my heart, I apologize to all of you. I know that there will be consequences for the actions I’ve taken in the last year and I’m prepared for them, but when the dust settles, one day, I promise that I will make amends. I will work harder than I ever worked, I will be better than I ever was, and I will not let you down again. I will not let myself down again. All of you are awesome. Thank you for reading. And, to the person that said stopped by the hospital and said, “It’s going to be okay”…you were right; it is.
See you soon,
The WWE took a calculated risk in sharing the email with the masses and another one by deciding to bring Miz back to TV so soon after rehab. It was the week after Summerslam that he got the call to be at Night of Champions in September. Miz was understandably nervous. The night after the summer’s biggest event, the WWE aired a video package detailing Miz’s previous few months; it re-aired several times in the weeks that followed. It was going to either go over well or be a horrible mistake.
Last night, the Miz returned in the unassuming second match of the evening, half past the eight o’clock eastern hour…and he got a hero’s welcome. He received a two-minute standing ovation that brought him to tears. The fact that he defeated Drew McIntyre meant something, but not nearly as much as the crowd embracing him. It was as if they forgave him in a symbol of tolerance. Considering how critical the fan base can be, it was a touching moment to see the audience praise a man for turning a negative into a positive. At its core, professional wrestling can be a beacon of hope that teaches people life lessons. Here’s hoping that the message of last night’s moment was not lost and the Miz can take advantage of his rarely offered second chance so that he may spread that message – Addiction can be beaten; there is hope; and there is a great life to be lived once the light takes over the darkness.