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Sting opens up about addiction: ‘I knew that I was probably going to die’

All Elite Wrestling

Sting will turn 63 years old later this month. The iconic wrestler is still making the pro wrestling highlight reel today, with the most recent example occurring last weekend when he dove off a balcony through three tables at Revolution.

His prime years on top of the industry took place in WCW circa 1996 through 1998 during his unforgettable superhero role in the nWo invasion storyline. However, those were also the years where addiction took over his life, leaving him in a constant state of emptiness and despair.

Sting describes his dark experience and struggle with addiction at The Players’ Tribune. Here is an excerpt in Sting’s own words on what he was faced with every day:

I tried so hard to be home as much as humanly possible. I’d leave the house for the road at the last possible minute, but, obviously, the strain on my family was very real. I was juggling a lot – trying to be a father and trying to be Sting at the same time – and for some reason, around ’96, I really wasn’t sleeping well. Maybe four hours a night. It was starting to take a toll on me, and I had to go overseas for something, and I remember I had this fleeting thought, and that one little thought ended up taking me down the darkest path you could ever imagine…. I thought, Hey, maybe a painkiller would help me pass out.

And the pills were everywhere, back then. Somas, Vicodin, Lortab, muscle relaxers, whatever. They were floating around like candy. You could take them for pain, or to pass out on planes, or just to have a good time. For some reason, they were never my thing. But I just couldn’t sleep, and I had a million things going on, and so I thought…. Hey, what’s the big deal?

So when I got to my hotel room, I took a painkiller and drank two beers, and I slept like a baby for the first time in months.

The thing about painkillers is that they sneak up on you. The feeling you get addicted to is that moment when your head hits the pillow and you don’t have a care in the world. It’s not so much euphoria that you’re chasing. It’s more like peace. At least you think it’s peace. But it’s so, so, so deceptive.

Taking a little pill and a beer or three becomes automatic. You don’t even think about it. And then before you know it, you can’t remember the last night you didn’t take one. So you’re in the hotel bar after the show, and you say to your buddies, “No, no, I’m good tonight. I’m taking a break.”

And they look at you like you’re crazy, and they all laugh, and they say, “O.K., Stinger, whatever you say, bro. They’re here when you need ’em.”

Then you try to fall asleep, and it feels like your brain has an itch that you can’t scratch. You can’t settle yourself down. You’re restless. Your brain is going a thousand miles an hour. You want one of those pills. Tomorrow, you won’t need it. Tonight though, you’d kill somebody for that little pill. And so you go and get one — just to get you through the night. You drink a glass of wine. You turn on the TV. You nod off watching a movie, and you sleep like a baby.

Now you’re trapped.

And, believe me, I knew how dark it could get. I saw it all around me. I saw guys drop to the floor and start having seizures. I saw guys get paddles to the chest — “CLEAR!!!!” — and get brought back to life. I went to friends’ funerals. But, by 1998, it was inconceivable to me to stop taking painkillers. The mental and physical addiction was so intense and so deep that I knew that I was probably going to die, but there was nothing I could do about it. I was just … blank.

Sting knew that addiction was going to kill him, but there was nothing he could do about it:

I had money. I had fame. I had power. I had an amazing family waiting for me at home. I had every earthly thing you could ever want. And you know what? I was completely and utterly miserable. I was spiritually empty. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I was an addict. The only time I was sober was when I was doing my job. The other 20-some hours of the day, it was a steady diet of painkillers, muscle relaxers and booze. A never-ending cycle. It was only a matter of time before I was dead. I knew it. But the physical and mental addiction to the opioids was so intense at that point that stopping was unthinkable.

He later describes the moment with his wife in August 1998 where he broke down and admitted to betraying her, and how he was able to quit cold turkey from there. And he’s now been sober for 24 years, while getting to end his pro wrestling career on his terms:

“AEW gave me the ability to write a proper final chapter, not just for me but for my family. And so I want to be a little bit of a beacon for the young men and the women in this dressing room, if I can be. If they want me to be. I don’t go around preaching. But I’ve seen my share of darkness, so anything I can do to be a light for the next generation of wrestlers, I’m happy to do it.”

Make sure to check out the full article if you want to read more about Sting’s battle with addiction. He also tells some stories about how he broke into the wrestling business, what it was like living out of his car with the Ultimate Warrior and making no money, the rush of jumping out of a helicopter on Monday Nitro, why CM Punk is constantly bugging him, and more.

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