His next step: Shepard went to an initial meeting and then to a second smaller one with friends. “I cop to a lot of it,” he said. “I basically cop to getting a couple of prescriptions that Kristen didn’t know about, which again is not the full story.”
He later called his best friend, who told him he needed to be humble and tell everyone. “That was terrifying,” he said. “That was so terrifying and yet I couldn’t deny that that was the real antidote.”
As he began withdrawing, he admitted the symptoms physically hit him hard. “I’m sweating bullets; I’m jerky; my back kills. It’s terrible,” he said. “I’ve never detoxed from opiates, and I have so much compassion for these junkies who have like f–king cycled through this 20-30 times.”
It was around this time that he also celebrated 16 years of sobriety. Bell marked the big day with a touching tribute on Sept. 1. Shepard recalled being high at a meeting where people were congratulating him on the major milestone. As he said on the podcast, “It was the worst hour of my life.”
In a follow-up meeting—then off of opiates for a full 24 hours—he laid everything out on the line. “It turned into the most incredible, like, 90 minutes I’ve ever experienced, where there was just so much love and so much understanding and kindness and unconditional love,” he said. “There’s probably been many others, but it’s the only experience I can remember having that was just grace, the definition of grace. And it was very emotional. It was a really, really surreal kind of experience.”
After the meeting was over, Shepard said he felt optimistic for the first time in a long time.
“For…a long time, I’ve known intellectually that things are going to get worse,” he said. “That each encounter with it had gotten more shady and more dangerous and I recognize that the next go-around would be, ‘Oh I can’t get pills. Let’s snort heroin.’ And you know, I’ve had a lot of friends that I’ve watched go through this whole cycle, and I finally have the humility to say I will not be any different. I won’t be special. I won’t be smarter. I will be exactly like everyone else.”
Near the end of the podcast, Shepard, who has been open about his journey in the past, apologized to Padman and also said it wasn’t fair that his wife would be asked about this in interviews. However, he looked forward to the future. As he put it in the episode, recorded Sept. 21, “Today, I have seven days.”