PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — As an Olympic gold medalist, professional wrestling champion, and movie star, Kurt Angle has had more career success than most people can dream of.
Along with the fame and the fortune, came addiction. The disease runs in his family. Alcoholism contributed to his father’s death, his sister died of a heroin overdose, and his brother killed his sister-in-law while they were both intoxicated.
Now, at almost four years sober, he’s talking about his struggle and his solution.
The 1996 Summer Olympic Games were the thrill of a lifetime for Pittsburgh’s Kurt Angle.
“When you win an Olympic gold medal, you have a responsibility to be a positive member of society. When I got into WWE, I felt I was still doing that. The issue was when I got hooked – all bets were off. I didn’t really care about being a role model anymore, I just wanted the drug,” said Angle.
The 27-year-old won the gold medal in men’s freestyle wrestling with a broken neck. Angle went on to professional wrestling, becoming a 13-time World Heavy Weight Champion.
Five more neck breaks, led to an addiction to prescription pain pills.
“First one I took, I was hooked. I liked it. I loved the feeling. When one didn’t work, I went to two, from two to four. I just kept doubling and doubling to where nothing was working. Before I knew it, I was up to 65 extra strength Vicodin a day,” said Angle.
He was chasing the highest high he ever felt — winning the Olympic gold. According to Angle, “There were incidences where I literally overdosed and didn’t wake up until 24 hours later. I was very lucky not to die.”
After his fourth DUI in five years, he decided to go to rehab. “The rehab for 30 days, that was the best thing I ever did. The problem was when I got out of it, what was the after care?”
Asking that question led to AngleStrong.
“When you’re an addict you’re always an addict and if you’re ashamed to talk about it, you’re not going to help other people. I felt like it was time for someone to step forward and do something about it,” said Angle. Now, he’s leading the AngleStrong initiative to help other addicts stay sober. “Every person out there that’s an addict, you have an amazing story. You have a story to tell other people,” said Angle.
Angle’s recovery story revolves around his family. His wife and kids were his biggest motivation.
“I didn’t care about myself. I didn’t care if I died. I was more concerned with if I continue this – my kids will do it.”
The #AngleStrong addiction recovery management app is made to help people break the addiction cycle.
Daily check-in, meeting reminders and a care manager help with reaching goals and tracking sobriety.
To guard against relapse, loved ones are notified if someone doesn’t check in.
“We’re going to be there with them the whole way through and that’s the thing is I want them to know they have security.”
The #AngleStrong app also has a monthly skype call with Angle. “I never had the urge to be rich and famous, but I had the urge to serve a higher purpose for God. Being a family man and helping people with their struggles with addiction. That makes me happier than winning a gold medal,” said Angle.
The #AngleStrong app is available in the App Store and on Google play. For more information, click here.
See more of the interview with Kurt Angle here: