-- Note: This is Jake "The Snake" Roberts' story, as told to ABC News. In January, Roberts and close friend Diamond Dallas Page spoke about how the 59-year-old wrestling Hall of Famer was able to turn his life around, much of which is chronicled in a new documentary that recently debuted at the Slamdance Film Festival in Utah, "The Resurrection of Jake The Snake Roberts." This is their story, one that began almost three years ago when Page went to see Roberts at his home, to see if he could save his friend's life.
This story weaves back and forth between Roberts and Page from their point of view. Page is the founder of DDP Yoga, a fitness and diet program. His program has not only helped Roberts, but disabled vets and other former wrestlers get back on their feet -- literally.
Jake "The Snake" Roberts, 59 -- The Lowest Point
It was a long journey – it’s been almost three years now. It’s still hard for me to watch this documentary and some of the clips, because I have to see just how bad I was. I didn't see a way out. I had given up on life completely, I was just waiting to die. I was praying it would happen soon. I would get angry hearing someone else had I died. I would get pissed at God, "How dare you take that son of a b---- and I’m still here."
I was hurting everyone around me. I didn't have relationships with my eight children and my mother had to watch me suffer. Paula, my mother, she's still around, she’s not that much older than I am. She’s only 13 years older than me and was 12 when she was pregnant with me. There’s a lot of stuff people don’t know about me. My sister being kidnapped and murdered. That was horrible. There are things that happen in your life that are going to be tough. The worst thing you can do is drink or do drugs to self-medicate.
For every addict man, the hardest times are when you’re alone and there’s nobody around. You get up to piss in the middle of the night, you look in that mirror and go, ‘What a piece of s---.‘ Alcohol and drug addiction tells you that you are worthless. It’s pretty easy to believe because you are alone and no one wants to be around you. But they don’t hate you, they hate the addiction.
I’ve been to jail and rehab, I’ve never heard anybody say 'When I was younger, my dream was to become an addict or alcoholic.' It’s not something anyone wants for themselves.
Diamond "Dallas" Page, 58 -- We Hadn't Spoken in 5 Years
Jake Roberts and Scott Hall [another veteran wrestler, who went by the name Razor Ramon] were the number 1 and 2 in the dead pool. People would say, "It’s either Scott Hall or Jake Roberts who dies next."
In fact, before I went to see Jake three years ago, my father called me up and said, "They are doing a show on TV, called 'Deaths in Wrestling'" or something like that and the network was talking about all the guys from the sport who had died. Jake and Scott were two guys that could have been on the top of that list.
When you look back at past wrestlers who have died or committed suicide, guys like Chris Benoit [Benoit murdered his wife and son before hanging himself in 2007. He was 40 years old]. Benoit's father requested an autopsy after his death and they found out he had the brain of an 87-year-old Alzheimer's patient. When you look at football players, hockey players and wrestlers, we take the most beating out of any of them, because we do it 270 nights a year. It was brutal and you don’t realize it when you are living the dream.
As for people who say wrestling is fake, you can’t fake gravity. We are out there putting on a show. We are rock 'n' roll stuntmen gladiators. We are out there driving ourselves and it’s not like someone grabs our bags like in Major League Baseball or takes a jet. You think your job beats you up -- get in the ring and bounce around for 20 minutes, it’s like going through five car accidents.
[Page stresses that the WWE -- World Wrestling Entertainment -- is also one of the best organizations for former wrestlers like Jake and that they actually paid for many of his rehab stints.]
When the dream ends, you're retired and someone like Jake Roberts doesn't know anything but wrestling. Then, [for some guys] the wife’s left, there’s no money and depression’s already set in on a whole different level. When you have 20,000 people screaming your name, there’s no drug like it. And when it stops - it happened to Scott and Jake – they have no place to put their energy. That's when the booze and the pills come and you can easily get lost in it.
But with Jake, he's so talented and charismatic, he did have another life beyond wrestling, he just didn’t know it.
When I went down to see Jake for this documentary and to see what I could do to help, we hadn't talked in five years. I helped him with something, then the addict f----- me. The addict f---- me. The addict will lie and lie and lie, because that’s what the addict does. I just said f--- him, "I’m gonna stop talking to him" and we did.
I was as tentative as you can imagine. The only reason I wanted to work with Jake, is because without this guy, without Dusty Rhodes, there is no Diamond Dallas Page. I started wrestling at 35. My career didn’t take off till I was 40. The only reason I was a three-time champion, was because of what Jake Roberts taught me. I always wanted to repay him. Plus, I just missed this guy. This is not a just a friend, I love this guy. I didn't know how bad he was until I saw for myself. I knew he was beat up, but f--- I’m beat up. I didn’t know it was that bad.
My father was an alcoholic, who finally stopped drinking in his 70’s. My dad made a lot of bad decisions. Jake’s a great guy, he just made a lot of bad decisions. I saw so much of my dad in him. I couldn’t help my dad, because ... he’s my dad.
Diamond Dallas Page -- My First Visit to See Jake 3 Years Ago
When I went down to see him, I was assuming he’d been clean. When I’m down there and I’m with Steve Yu, the director of the film, you hear me say, "When’s the last time you’ve used drugs?" Now, I don't mean a few drinks, I meant coke and crack. He says, "About a month ago." What he means is he used yesterday. Damn, he used last night.
That knocked me over a bit. I knew I had to get clean, organic food in him. When you are dealing with someone at this level, who is an alcoholic, pill head, coke head and crack addict, you need to get real food in that mother----, so he at least starts to feel alive. Not feeling better, but alive. The only reason he hadn’t killed himself was his kids, he’d already done enough damage to them.
We get done talking and I’m thinking let’s try a few moves. He does two moves and he’s breathing heavy and needs to sit down. He can't even stand up by himself. He’s sitting there, I walked into the kitchen and Steve walks up to me, "What do you think?" What I wanted to say was "We’re f----." I was ready to do what I could for Jake, even move him into my home, but he needed to show me I wasn’t going to do all the work. I need a sign.
I’m getting ready to leave, then he does something I never saw coming. He stands up, no he pushes himself, he looks at me and he goes, "OK, let’s go!" I said, "Go where?" He says, "Work out mother-----, what did you come here for?"
I thought in this black hole, I just saw a little glimmer of light.
Jake Roberts -- The First Step: Accepting, Then Kicking Butt
I saw the people Dallas helped. You see the pics of people who have made that journey, then you want that for yourself. I can remember when I lost the first 10 pounds, because it was so long since I had a victory under my name.
As for the bulls--- holding me down, my past that was holding me back -- I didn’t have a choice with my stepmother or father, but that’s what I was given. How you deal with it is up to you. [In the documentary, Jake opens up about the abuse he dealt with at home, growing up.] There’s no forgetting that s---. It’s still there. Now I hold it up like a trophy, I beat this s---.
If you want to stomp the hell out of a problem, there's only one way, you have to accept it, then bring it to light and show others. We are so hung up about, "I'm not worthy of love, I’m no good." I see others and because I’m exposing myself now, they feel comfortable exposing their problems. That right there is justification for doing it, for opening up on a stage like this in front of the whole world.
[Fast Forward -- During the documentary, Roberts has his ups and downs, but comes out better than ever. He said the hardest parts were the fights he had with Page, but that all the work over the long process was worth it. The ending of the movie is an inspiring one that could make even the toughest guy break down in tears.]
Jake Roberts -- Sober Three Years
I’m sober almost three years now. I’ve lost about 80 pounds. When I started I couldn’t get out of a chair by myself, someone had to help me to my feet. Now I can get back in the ring and have fun. I’m feeling better than I’ve felt in 25 years. Not just mentally but physically.
It’s something I’m very proud of. Obviously, it’s probably one of the most important things I’ve ever done in my life -- getting sober. The things that I’ve regained are endless – friends, family and work relationships.
Now, I can be with my grandchildren and hold them and realize what I’ve got. I just had an emotional Christmas with all 10 of my grandchildren, five of my children, including one daughter no one knew about, not even myself. She’s 28 and has her own children. It was just so awesome.
Even though my mom’s in a bad spot -- she’s ill and has breathing issues, heart issues -- I see an overall peace about her. Recently, I asked her what changed, why she seemed so different. She said, "It’s all you." I said, "What do you mean, it’s all me?" She said, "It was so painful watching you go through that." She knew I was a much better person than the way I was behaving and acting like. She saw me quit living and it was hard to watch for her. So, I even put her through it. Brought her into my pain.
To see her at peace and happy is a gift beyond all expectations.
The biggest is just being able to dream again, now I have dreams again. They are good dreams, not some crack dream, where you wake up in a horrible fit. Now I wake up and I’m excited to live.
Diamond Dallas Page -- Helping Others Like Jake is My Mission
DDP Yoga is not like your usual yoga. It's for guys who usually wouldn't do yoga -- Jake, Scott Hall, Chris Jericho, Dustin Rhodes.
One of the stories that really affects me is this disabled vet Arthur, who went through the program and actually inspired Jake to do the same. He had my DVDs, I gave him my eating plan. I used to email all my clients, he wrote back and said he was relegated to thinking of himself as a piece of furniture. He was obese, disabled, his wife dresses him in his braces every morning, he was 5’6, 297 pounds. That was nine years ago and he was the first person I ever called.
Arthur's story was the video I showed to Jake when we first started and he goes, "Wow." I said, "That could be you."
Happy. That’s what I feel for Jake now. I was just sitting with Scott Hall and to see his eyes light up. Seeing Jake, someone I've known Jake for 25 years, but I've never met or talked to this Jake Roberts. This guy is so sharp and has so much more clarity now.
Jake Roberts -- My Future
The most important projects now are the ones where I help other people. If I can help others with my journey, it makes me feel positive and propels me to help others even more. When you’re an addict you don’t help anybody man. The only person you’re helping is yourself, because you gotta get your dope. That’s not a life, that’s a slow death.
The real treasure is when a guy walks up to you with his daughter, wife and son, and begins thanking me "for giving them all back to me." He was living in the back seat of his car on heroin and saw what I was going through, then just hopped on board with my journey. I want people to reach out to others who are sick, just like Dallas did for me.