At the end of last September, regular subscribers of Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert received an unscheduled bonus episode titled simply, “Day 7.” Based on the title and the language that fans of Shepard’s podcast have become accustomed to over the years, it wasn’t difficult to discern what the episode would be about that morning. Shepard had relapsed.
Except for who it was and the way it played out publicly on a very popular podcast, Shepard’s story was not particularly unusual. He got in a motorcycle accident earlier in 2020, and he was prescribed pills for the pain. He started saving them in order to take two at a time so that he could get high. Eventually, he began buying pills to augment his prescription. Early on during the pandemic, Shepard lied about his prescription drug use to his wife, Kristen Bell; he also lied to his podcast producer, Monica Padman; and he even lied to his AA group. He accepted the cake for his 16th year of sobriety while high.
In the end, Shepard came clean on “Day 7” because of the themes of transparency and honesty that have made his podcast so popular. However, as he told Ellen Degeneres on her Tuesday episode, he really “did not want” to go public with his relapse “at all.” He worried about the embarrassment of the revelation, but he also had “bizarre fears” about losing his podcast.
“I have sponsors on my show — is that something that could cost me money financially?” he wondered.
In the end, however, the fear of losing his audience by not being honest is what drove him to come clean. “I get so much esteem out of being someone who’s vocally sober,” he told DeGeneres. “And I have people who write me — ‘I’m month one’ or ‘I’m week two’ — and I love that. That’s my favorite thing about being in public, and so I was just terrified I would lose that. I really cherish that.”
A friend, however, showed Shepard how to see the confession in a new light. “If your real goal is to help people,” his friend told him, “it’s not very helpful that you’re 16 years sober and married to Kristen Bell. In fact, that probably makes their life worse. So the fact that you just fell, that’s the actual value.” Once Shepard was able to gain that perspective, “it got a lot easier.”
The Armchair Expert, meanwhile, continues on. Yesterday, Justin Timberlake was the guest on Shepard’s 286th episode.