Whether it's Olympic Gold Medals, Professional Wrestling Championships or succeeding in recovery, Kurt Angle has done it all.
During his amateur wrestling career, Kurt was a two-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Heavyweight Wrestling Champion. After graduating college, Angle won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the 1995 World Wrestling Championships. He then won a freestyle wrestling gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Kurt’s in-ring professional wrestling debut was in 1998 for the WWF, which is now known as the WWE. During his tenure with WWE. Angle won most every championship WWE had during his tenure there. Kurt also wrestled for another wrestling promotion, TNA, after leaving WWE. He enjoyed similar success there as he had in WWE. During his time at WWE and TNA, many rumors swirled as to Angle’s personal life and why he left WWE to join TNA.
Angle has revealed that he has battled addiction for years during his professional wrestling career. Kurt has opened up about his addiction in many interviews and hasn’t hesitated to be open about his personal recovery.
Kurt has revealed that each night after putting his body on the line to entertain his wrestling fans, he would medicate his aches and pains with his daily prescribed doses of xanax and morphine. He would also drink whatever he could each night as well.
“What an addict does is always find a way to get their high,” Angle has stated many times when asked about this ritual.
When asked about his life in WWE by the ‘Moose & Maggie Show’, Kurt has stated ,“Well yeah I was doing some heavy stuff and it wasn’t just pain killers. The early 2000’s we didn’t have a drug policy like they do now. They have an incredible policy and I commend them on that cause people don’t do that kind of stuff now. There were a couple of days where I didn’t wake up until the evening, I slept 24 hours a day, I took too many pills. I knew I was at a point in my life where I needed to make a choice, and it wasn’t so much the WWE that made it worst but it didn’t help that I was gonna be traveling that much so I did what I had to do.”
Kurt also shared, “When you’re an addict taking 65 extra strength vicodin a day you’re in denial. I went another eight years before I went to rehab, I did get my pain killer issue contained but I started getting anxiety because I broke my neck four times in two and a half years so I started taking Xanax, along with morphine when I got off the vicodin. I was taking those two and the new company I worked for, Impact Wrestling, everyone there drank after the shows and it was a normal routine. So I started drinking alcohol, mixing all three, led me to a really bad place in my life. I had four DUIs in five years. Four DUIs when my wife basically gave the the choice, and said she’d either leave me or I go to rehab.”
It has recently been revealed that Angle was arrested for a fifth DUI yet he admits to paying off a judge to make that disappear.
“I paid the judge off – $800 and he threw the case out,” Angle says.
In his darkest days, Angle took nearly 2,000 Vicodin pills per month. He received 1500 of them in prescriptions from “12 doctors that didn’t know each other subscribing me 12 different prescriptions every month.” Armed with a map of pharmacies from around the country, Angle would only visit each pharmacy once. The other 500 pills were bought from drug dealers on the street. “As long as it kept me in the game, that’s all that mattered,” he says.
This wasn’t the first time Angle’s life was negatively affected by addiction. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Angle remembers his father stopping whatever he was doing every two hours to drink three glasses of rum. Angle, only 16 when his father died in a construction accident, still imagines “he was most likely legally drunk” at the time of his death. His father was a “functioning alcoholic,” Angle says, and “needed it in his system.”
Angle at one point in 2004 tried to conquer his addiction and had cut his 65 pill a day habit down to 15. This accomplishment came screeching to a halt when his sister, who was heroin addict, committed suicide.
“That night, I tripled my dosage,” Angle says
Angle tried to rehab himself again in 2005 by isolating and simply not taking any pills. He went through all the typical withdrawal symptoms.
When his body broke down, he finally went to a doctor for help. If he had tried to kick his habit without doctor assistance for much longer he would’ve died, he remembers his doctor telling him. He was prescribed a small dose of morphine to help taper the addiction. Because of the number of pills he was taking, Angle’s body wouldn’t be able to handle quitting cold turkey.
Finally off Vicodin, Angle had trouble sleeping at night and so Soma, a muscle relaxer, became his new fix. “The Soma seemed to make me pass out,” he said. “That’s all I wanted to do at that point. I wasn’t happy with my life. I wasn’t happy with my relationship. I wasn’t happy with getting injured all the time. I wasn’t happy with family passing away.”
In 2006, Angle asked for a part-time deal with WWE. He broke down in a meeting with CEO Vince McMahon, telling the billionaire: “I can’t do this anymore.” When McMahon refused, Angle asked for and was granted a release from his contract. Weeks later, he got that part-time deal when he signed with TNA Wrestling. The move wouldn’t pan out like he’d hoped.
Still struggling with his own demons, Angle spent what should’ve been the prime years of his career with a company that wasn’t adamant about drug testing. It didn’t help that the locker room was filling up with wrestlers who hit their primes in the early 1990s when drug testing was a myth and drug use – steroids and otherwise – was rampant. The TNA locker room loved its alcohol. So too did Angle, who resorted to trying to find his high by sucking it out of the bottom of a bottle.
Once Angle’s addiction turned to alcohol, that’s when the DUI’s mentioned earlier began to pile up. Once these problems with the law arose, it became harder for Angle to hide his addiction issues.
Rehab only became an option because his lawyer suggested it could strengthen his court case to have his last DUI charge thrown out. Ten years after he was first hooked on pills, Angle checked in, becoming the ninth member of his family to go to rehab.
Would he have gone had his court case not hinged upon that detail? “Probably not,” he admits.
Kurt has continued to lead a life of recovery since he checked into rehab. He is dedicated to his family and has been open with the world about his struggles and success with fighting addiction.
He’s hoping to help others beat their own demons. In February, Angle released AngleStrong, an app that allows recovering addicts to check in with other users every day, receive encouraging messages and get to chat with the Olympic gold medalist once a month for advice.