This week's guest, Mike King, talks with Eleanor Black about quitting booze and drugs
When did you know, "I have to stop abusing drink and drugs"?
It was after a suicide attempt on March 28, 2007, in Hong Kong. I was at the end of my tether, I had just had a bike crash and a massive stroke in Melbourne. I didn't know where I was going with my comedy career, I didn't like where life was taking me. I didn't like the comedy I was doing; it was outdated and I was lost and in that confusion, I thought the best thing to do would be to end it all. When I was unconscious on the floor of my hotel room, my then 8-year-old daughter was right there with me – she wasn't actually there, obviously – saying, "Dad what are you doing, we need you at home." I woke up and I immediately booked a flight back to Auckland. I got off the plane at about 7.30 in the morning, I think it was on April 1, 2007 and said, "This is it, I'm done."
How did you do it?
One thing I have in my favour is I am very pig-headed. Once I have decided to do something, I don't test the waters with one foot, I just jump in. I knew all I had to do was to get through the next day. And if the end of the day was too far away, the next hour, the next minute, the next 30 seconds. So I was just doggedly determined. I had all sorts of friends who were trying to convince me that Narcotics Anonymous and AA were the places to go, that you needed the fellowship and the people. In my mind, those things just take you from one addiction to another addiction: religion. I didn't want to do that, so I just took it one day at a time and I just kept grinding, kept grinding, kept grinding. There were some great days, there were some really bad days. The hardest part came at about four or five months, when you think you're through it. As soon as you think you're through it, man, that's when you have the little wee voice going, "Come on, we can have one, we can have one." It drove me crazy but then one day, I had a lightbulb moment. I have always had an addictive personality. I thought, "Why don't I use my addiction to become addicted to being clean and sober?"
You did it completely on your own?
Later on I went to counsellors to figure out how I got there but not to stop [abusing drugs and alcohol]. Counselling really helped me unravel what was driving my behaviour – why did I keep doing the same dumb s***?
You say you have always been addicted to something. Where did it start?
The first thing I was addicted to psychologically was this insatiable need to be liked by people. I always thought I was unworthy and I always got my validation from other people, so comedy was the perfect thing for me. The day I told my first joke when I was 8 years old was when I became a comedian. It was also my downfall. The first thing I was ever addicted to physically was chicken chips, Fanta and luncheon sausage. I had to get it, I would steal to get it – anything I could do to get my fix. It sounds terrible but when you take a bite of the luncheon, get in that texture of the chicken chips and then wash it down with that beautiful orange Fanta, it's heaven.
Do you ever have times when your sobriety is shaken?
I gave up drugs, alcohol and cigarettes on the same day and I still love the smell of cigarettes. Sometimes I will have a craving for a cigarette. The thing that has to change is the way I think about it. "Well, you thought you were doing well there, hotshot. Look at that." What has to change in this world is the way we think about stuff but we're surrounded by judgment. We are the most judgmental society. Look at social media. There are two types of people on social media: people who are talking s*** about everyone and everything and people who are talking about how amazing their life is. And both parties have lost perspective.
Why do you think we feel compelled to judge others?
So that we don't have to focus on the s*** things we're doing. We're all pretending we're perfect, everyone pretends they've got their s*** together. This is what I know: no one has got their s*** together. No one.
* The Gumboot Friday Tractor Trek begins on March 4. Mike King and friends are travelling from Bluff to Cape Rēinga to host free mental health seminars and raise money and awareness. iamhope.org.nz
If you or anyone you know needs support contact: Lifeline: 0800 543354 or 09 5222 999 or free text 4357 (HELP)