Kurt Angle is more than one of the greatest Professional Wrestlers of all time. He’s a living Legend. And for the past four years, he’s been in recovery from opioid abuse.
Recognized worldwide as a Professional Wrestler, actor, and spokesperson since winning the Gold Medal in the 1996 Olympics, Kurt is the first and only 13-time World Heavyweight Champion. But while he is considered one of the greatest wrestlers of all time and a fierce competitor in the ring, this top professional athlete admits the toughest thing he ever had to conquer was his addiction to opioids.
Kurt admits he was up to 65 Vicodin a day before entering rehab. But after rehab, he was faced with the fact there wasn’t any aftercare and to make matters worse, stigma. He was told to keep his rehab and recovery quiet. But as Kurt began to witness firsthand the escalating opioid epidemic nationwide – he knew keeping quiet was not an option.
Fueled by his desire to stay on the path of recovery, as well as the loss of his sister to a heroin overdose, Kurt decided to create a mobile app that could act as a monitoring and support service that would be available to anyone in recovery 24/7/365.
But the only thing technical Kurt was familiar with was his famous Angle Slam in the ring. So he teamed up with the leading addiction technology expert in the United States, Dr. Harold Jonas, the CEO and Founder of Sober Network Inc. in Delray Beach, Florida. Dr. Jonas brought a unique and highly specialized skill set to developing Kurt’s Anglestrong recovery monitoring service as a mobile app. He faced his own addiction to heroin and subsequent recovery – now approaching almost 30 years. Dr. Jonas and his team have spent almost two decades designing technology products to help those in recovery. As a Psychotherapist and Licensed Therapist in the State of Florida since 1996, Dr. Jonas has also developed an expertise with web development and award-winning app development. He’s responsible for the concept, design, and launch of multiple directories serving the addiction and recovery industry – most notably Sober.com.
In 2016, his FlexDek MAT Edition mobile app, designed to help combat the raging opioid epidemic, was awarded First Place in a nationwide Opioid Recovery App Challenge sponsored by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Dr. Jonas’ new “FlexDek”, is a simple yet comprehensive program with a full menu of features providing client and care management tools for remote patient monitoring, data collection, and reporting. It provides simple yet highly beneficial resources such as communication tools, reports, data collection, and more via specialized iOS and Android mobile apps. The ultimate goal is to provide support so FlexDek users can more effectively manage their health and change unwanted behaviors interfering with their overall wellness.
The collaboration between Kurt Angle and Dr. Harold Jonas proved to be a great match. Kurt Angle’s strong monitoring service delivered by the mobile app was built on Dr. Jonas’ award-winning FlexDek platform. As a result, it created a recovery management mobile app unlike any other. Anglestrong’s multiple features include a daily check-in, and if you don’t check in every day – the lifelines you have loaded into the app will be notified. This includes family members, loved ones or friends, and your sponsor. It also teaches accountability, but if you do relapse, Anglestrong is GPS enabled and you’ll get the help you need. As a high-tech recovery monitoring service, Anglestrong’s goal is to help people in recovery avoid relapse, rehospitalization, and overdose.
We invited Kurt Angle to share with our readers how addiction can deal a blow to anyone – including a wrestling legend who has faced some of the toughest men on earth in the ring. In our discussion, he is honest and candid about his recovery, with the hope that his unfiltered story will benefit someone reading it here.
Patricia: I always like to start my interviews with a little background on what your life was like growing up. Tell us what it was like?
Kurt: I’m a hometown, all-American guy who was born and raised in Pennsylvania. I was the youngest of five kids. Growing up, when my sibling were teens, they were already experimenting with marijuana. It was the 70s so it seemed to be more acceptable back then. It bit a couple of them in the ass later on in life, though. Anytime you start to experiment with any drug, it can snowball into a serious problem. But I never tried drugs. My addiction didn’t start until my first neck injury when I was prescribed opioids to help me get rid of my pain.
Patricia: How old were you when that happened?
Kurt: My addiction didn’t start until a doctor prescribed me opioids for my broken neck – I was just 34. The minute I took them – I knew I was hooked.
Patricia: That is unfortunately the problem with many people. They don’t realize how easy it is to become addicted. Did you like sports at a young age?
Kurt: I excelled in athletics. In high school, I was all about football and wrestling. I was an All-State linebacker in football. But when it came to wrestling – that’s where I was at. I was undefeated in my freshman year, made it to the state tournament sophomore year, placed third in the state tournament junior year and become the 1987 Pennsylvania State heavyweight champion in my senior year. I decided to pursue amateur wrestling over football in college. I went to the Clarion University of Pennsylvania where I set school records and became a local celebrity.
Patricia: Your family must have been very proud of you. I understand that your father struggled with addiction. What was that like and how did that affect your family?
Kurt: My dad struggled with alcohol and tragically he died when I was just 16 years old. He was a hard-working man – he did construction. He was killed in a crane accident at work. It was a pivotal moment in my life – I just remember vowing to myself to become a champion for him, because I knew there was nothing else in this world that would have made my Dad happier.
Patricia: You certainly were true to your word. Was alcohol a problem for you as well? I understand you were arrested for four DUIs in five years.
Kurt: My wrestling schedule at the time was nonstop and I was constantly in the spotlight, in the ring, wrestling with 300+ pound guys. I had some injuries, so I’d take my doctor-prescribed opioids and wash them down with whatever my drink of choice was for that particular night. When you mix pills and alcohol you do some really crazy things. When I traveled, I was drinking and driving, and I got nailed a bunch of times. After my last DUI, I realized I had a serious problem and I decided to clean myself up. I approached my recovery with the same dedication I approach my wrestling with – failure was not an option.
Patricia: So you knew you needed help. What were your feelings when you first went into treatment?
Kurt: I went to rehab because I knew I was losing control of myself, my life, my career and my family. I knew I had to change. So, I get to treatment and go through withdrawal – and that’s like going over a mountain. You’re sick as though you’re dying, sweating, going to the bathroom all the time and throwing up with cold sweats. Its complete hell and the worst feeling in the world. I’m one of the toughest guys – a professional athlete – and it took me a week of this hell to get through withdrawal and detox. And once you get through that – then you start the learning period about addiction and recovery, and begin to start taking your life back.
Patricia: What was it like for you in treatment?
Kurt: When I was in rehab, I was blessed to have the best people doing a tremendous job taking care of me. The entire staff made sure I was getting healthy, eating right, exercising, going to classes all the time, and learning about addiction and my own recovery. The thing that seems to be missing for most people is aftercare. So you power through committing to go to rehab, withdrawal and detox and all the other phases of rehab. And then the typical person gets out and says “Now what?” I’m fortunate to have the financial resources and a kind of OCD commitment to my recovery. I did it for myself, my family and my career. But for the typical person coming out of rehab – it can be really, really tough.
Patricia: So what was that ’Aha!’ moment when you said “the Anglestrong app is what people need!”?
Kurt: Like I said, getting out of rehab leaves you feeling unsure of what comes next. I’m one of the lucky ones, but if you’re the typical person working every day for 8 to 12 hours and you have a wife or husband, a couple of kids – the stress can add up quickly. Plus it’s expensive if you want to pay for a psychiatrist, psychologist, recovery coach or counselor. So, for quite a while now, I had wanted to provide people in recovery with my own recovery app that could be an affordable monitoring service that would be there for them 24/7/365. I knew what I wanted – because I had been through active addiction. I had in my mind what would work best. I knew people needed a recovery monitoring service, delivered on their smartphone as a mobile app – because let’s face it – no one is without a mobile phone nowadays.My personal hope is that my Anglestrong mobile app will help put an end to people relapsing, being rehospitalized and overdosing. It’s that simple. I want to combat the raging opioid epidemic and help save tens of thousands of people who are dying each year. I just can’t keep quiet and standby – I’m going to do something about it.
Patricia: I understand you lost your sister to a heroin overdose. I am so sorry. As you know, I lost my son to an overdose and it just makes you want to try and save everyone, doesn’t it?
Kurt: Thanks, Patricia. And I’m deeply sorry for the loss of your son. It’s just a part of your heart you can’t get ever get back. It does make you want to do something to save everyone. When I first came out of rehab, because of my celebrity status – everyone told me not to talk about my addiction and recovery to anyone. I was like – “No way, that isn’t going to happen!” The first step in combating the raging opioid epidemic nationwide is to crush the stigma. That has to stop. Last year the media reported that there were more than 53,000 opioid overdoses – you think I’m going to be quiet? Yeah, that’s not happening.
Patricia: No, we can’t or we will never eliminate the stigma! Please tell my readers how Anglestrong works and why this is so important to the future of aftercare?
Kurt: I knew what I wanted in the Anglestrong mobile app – but I needed the right tech team to help me create it. So I teamed up with Dr. Harold Jonas, the CEO, and Founder of Sober Network Inc. His company is located in Delray Beach, Florida and it’s the top addiction technology firm in the country. Dr. Jonas is also one of the leading addiction treatment specialists in the United States. So, I knew there was no one better than Dr. Jonas to launch Anglestrong – he is the real deal. He and his team at Sober Network Inc. created the award-winning FlexDek platform Anglestrong is built on – and there’s really nothing else like it. It has a lot of different features which are really beneficial to a person who is in recovery and it acts as a recovery monitoring service on your iOS or Android phone – for $1 a day. It’s easy to get started – anyone can download Anglestrong from the App Store or Google Play. You create your account, complete a profile, set up your lifeline supports and follow the directions for check-ins; then your well-being is monitored and your supports are notified if you’re at risk. That’s the simple overview. But it’s a very cool concept because the features are easy to use, even though the technology behind it is pretty advanced. Anglestrong powered by the FlexDek platform teaches you accountability, and if you do relapse – it’s GPS enabled to get you the help you need quickly.
Patricia: It sounds easy enough and with all the overdoses, a built-in GPS sounds like a really good idea.
Kurt: Some people in recovery have asked me why they need Anglestrong if they can just go for free to NA or AA meetings. Yes, you can do that. However, Anglestrong is there for you 24/7/365 as your own personal recovery monitoring service. At midnight or 4 am – around the clock – it’s there. No waiting for a meeting or for someone to open an office in the morning. If you need help – it’s right there on your phone. You have your check-ins, lifeline supports, and daily reminders to keep you on track, a goals section to further accountability, a Soberometer that clearly shows your progress visually, reports displaying your progress, positive support messages from me, and even a monthly video conference call with me that’s interactive. Anglestrong has been a passion project of mine fueled by my own loss, grief, and struggle with addiction, so to see it come to life has been an incredible experience. It just goes to show – you don’t have to stay quiet – you can do something to help – and if we all come together we can enact change.
Patricia: It definitely takes more than one person to enact change. In your life, there have been so many medals and awards, not to mention film, TV appearances, and radio. What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?
Kurt: The Olympic Gold Medal was my biggest accomplishment by far – that’s the big one. No doubt my recent induction into the WWE Hall of Fame is a close second. Lately, it has been a whirlwind. When I left the WWE in 2006, there was always that feeling of hope I had that I would return someday. It took me 11 years and with the recent WWE Hall of Fame ceremony in Orlando – it’s official – I got my ring. It’s a totally incredible feeling. I am now in every wrestling hall of fame. I never thought I’d be called one of the greatest ever in wrestling – it’s truly a sport I love. But being clean the last four years has really been the key – it’s shown me what’s possible when you stay on the path of recovery. And on this path – I’ll definitely stay.
Patricia: I am so happy for you. Thank you so much for the interview and congratulations on all you do!