When he first began taking prescription painkillers, "Jersey Shore" star Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino said the medication helped him deal with the crazy rush of fame he experienced as the show's stars turned from regular kids to international superstars.
But as he told MTV News' Sway Calloway in an exclusive interview, the crutch quickly turned into a dependence that proved hard to shake.
"At first, I thought that it might have gave me energy," Situation said. "I thought it helped me. Because it's a painkiller, you're not tired anymore. Then after a while, you're like, 'Oh, wow, maybe this is gonna help my schedule out.' I'm always on planes, I'm always flying, I'm flying there. I don't want anybody to feel bad for me at all. I'm just saying that being in this business is not easy, and it's definitely not for everybody.
Sorrentino said he now realizes he made a mistake in choosing pills over the thing that used to keep him pumped up: exercise. And he vehemently denied rumors that there were other substances — such as cocaine, alcohol or marijuana — that fed his addiction. "Strictly painkillers," he said. "And never even mixed them. ... Even on 'Jersey Shore,' which obviously people have seen me with a drink in my hand. But I was never drunk. I was the guy that was the ladies' man. You can't get girls if you can't speak to them. Drinking was definitely not an issue for me, for sure."
He described his first day in rehab and the difficulty of dealing with his new reality. "Your first day is detox," he said of the program he attended. "It's not a pleasurable experience at all. ... In the beginning, for sure, when I was [at the facility] in Utah, I'd wake up and just be extremely disappointed with myself. Like, 'I can't believe I got here. How did I get here? Like, I can't believe this.' "
Though he didn't do serious damage to his career, his pocketbook or his family, Sorrentino now realizes that all those things could have happened. "You hear stories all the time of celebrities and people just not even waking up ... that could be me, you know?"
His biggest fear, though, was that rehab might not stick and he would find himself right back in the same scenario. "That's exactly what I was thinking," he said. "The results, your health, your mind, your body, it's not coming back as quick as you want it to. I'll be honest, the only thing that comes back quick is your emotions."
After years of blocking out feelings of fear, pain and anxiety, once he began detoxing, Sorrentino all of a sudden began feeling anger, sadness, disappointment, pressure and dismay. "Everything just hits you all at once, and it feels like you're not going to recover," he said. "It feels like it's an impossible deed. Day by day, you're like, 'When is it going to get better? When is it going to get better?' But day by day, it does."
Instead of rolling the ball uphill these days, Mike said it finally feels hopeful that he can make it through this challenge.
One of the first things he did after leaving rehab was change his cell number and eliminate the people and places in his life that were familiar in a negative way. "If I don't do business with you or work with you, I probably don't talk to you," he said.
When Sway asked if Mike is worried about relapsing, Sorrentino laughed nervously and said, "You're not supposed to think like that. You're supposed to take it one day at a time. If all you have to concentrate on is that one day and today and being your best ... I think you should be good for that day and you're not gonna relapse."