Jason Wahler found fame as Lauren Conrad’s boyfriend on the MTV hit, The Hills. Off-screen, his life wasn’t so pretty. But, after a string of DUIs and a stint on Celebrity Rehab, the once-rowdy rehab counselor has managed to stay sober for over a year.
Most people know 24-year-old Jason Wahler as Lauren Conrad’s attractive but troubled ex on Laguna Beach and The Hills: a gregarious guy who always seemed to be surrounded by perma-tanned blonds and was getting paid to party. It was a perfect Hollywood story—right down to the inevitable disgrace. When he popped up on Celebrity Rehab, in other words, it wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone who’d followed the news of his DUI’s and other flirtations with the law. While the show didn’t exactly give us a lot of Wahler (he’s the first to admit that “You just kind of saw me floating around—I wasn’t really doing anything”), behind the scenes he’s gone on to find true sobriety and in fact celebrated his one-year anniversary on July 23rd. “No more benders for me,” he says. “I just physically can’t take it anymore.”
What was the final straw?
It was realizing that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, and one of the big motivations for me was my parents. You know, they’ve been married 39 years, and we went to a therapy session to figure out what I was going to do—go into rehab or try something different—and they were like “Listen, you’re going to destroy our marriage.” Not in the sense that they were going to get divorced, but they never knew whether they were going to get that phone call: “Your son’s dead.” I was just damaging them emotionally and they couldn’t take it anymore. When I heard that, that was one of my key factors. I know they say you’ve got to do it for yourself—but that takes time. I had to do it for them, at first.
From having a couple of beers to drinking a bottle of vodka! It’s ridiculous; I had the alcoholism of a 50-year-old!
Did you go to rehab?
I did go to rehab. I checked myself in, came back, got it together—and then went on Celebrity Rehab sober. I was doing my AA step work, had gotten the sponsor, was working the steps, being of service. I was at that point where I was really willing to go to any lengths to stay sober.
And after rehab did you move into a sober living?
I don’t live in a sober house but I help with a very large rehab, National Therapeutic Services. They’re based in Newport, Costa Mesa. I’m more like a client advocate that kind of oversees when new clients come in and go to detox. I go visit them and make sure everything is all right. When they’re out of detox I go see them, make sure they know where everything is, and as time goes on, I’ll go surfing with them, go skating, take them golfing: basically show them how to live sober.
Do you think reality TV brought you to your bottom quicker?
I think Dr. Drew kind of nailed it on the head. It’s something I really respect him for. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, but I’ve been to a lot of rehabs and seen a lot of doctors, and he’s definitely up there with the best. He said that being young, and being on the TV and the limelight and stuff kind of ignited it. I mean, alcoholism’s there—there’s no controlling it. It’s going to come up at some point if you have it, but this lifestyle kind of set fire to it and made it come up a hundred times faster. I’m so thankful. I don’t want to be 30 or 40 and be in rehab. It was inevitable that it was going to happen. It happened and rose so much quicker because of how much I was drinking, and the wear and tear I was doing to my body. Before I was on TV I was able to casually have some beers and stuff. And after, it was like, “Oh, there’s my first blackout” and it went on a super big downward spiral from there. From having a couple of beers to drinking a bottle of vodka! It’s ridiculous; I had the alcoholism of a 50-year-old! That’s pretty gnarly.
Hollywood has a habit of celebrating and then chewing up its young stars, doesn’t it?
A lot of people have their doubts about people trying to get sober in the entertainment business, so a lot of people are watching, waiting for me to fall. Everyone loves a failure, and a success story. A lot of it has to be with being young. I’m 24. Look at Lindsay Lohan, and when they were younger, Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton—people in the spotlight. There’s really no one in Hollywood talking about being sober, or trying to stay sober, and I think its something they need to address. I mean, look at all the deaths in the past few years: Brittany Murphy, Heath Ledger—all these talented people who OD’d and abused prescription drugs. They obviously had some serious issues. It’s weird being sober. Do you know how many people die from this disease? I’ve known 12 people personally who have now died from overdoses—and that’s just from work. People don’t realize that it’s deadly. Even at the beginning—from DUI’s and crashing your car all the way to overdoses. Maybe because alcohol is our number one sponsor and branding’s everywhere, it’s easier to overlook alcohol. I don’t look down on people who drink. I wish I could have a normal drink or two, but I can’t, and hats off to those that can. It’s not for me.