Dr. Tom Discusses Eddie Guerrero
By Dr. Tom Prichard
As I sit here on a Tuesday night, I still don’t know exactly how to write down what I’m feeling. Eddie Guerrero will be missed by many and there is a huge void in the wrestling business.
In May 2001, I went to drug rehab in Atlanta. It was the weekend of the King of the Ring and I passed out on the phone talking to my wife. I was in Connecticut. She was in Tennessee. She called the ambulance because she could hear me taking deep breaths and feared for my life. She knew I had been teetering on the edge for quite some time and I believe she really thought I was going to seal my fate that night. Once I awoke in the hospital and pulled the IVs out of my arm I called a cab and went home. Five minutes later I got a call and the person on the other end told me I had 15 minutes to pack a bag and a car would be there to take me to the airport. “But I’ve got to go to San Francisco for KOR!” “Forget KOR. You’re going to Atlanta and get help.”
I was pissed, scared, confused and still buzzed from all the crap I put in my body. When I landed in Atlanta I was greeted by my wife and two escorts from Talbott Recovery Campus (TRC). They took me to a place called “Anchor” which was their detox facility and I got to spend a week there while getting the poison out of my system.
All I could think of was the shame and embarrassment I had caused my family and myself all these years. I hated everyone I came in contact with but most of all I hated myself.
After Anchor I met my new roommates. TRC typically detoxes patients and then puts four people together in a small two bedroom apartment. TRC rented a block of these little places and called them domes. No one was allowed to go anywhere alone. You had to be in groups of three at all times.
Morning, noon and night. Counseling, therapy, AA meetings. I was supposed to bond with my dome mates. TRC catered to doctors, lawyers and professional athletes. As a rule, they usually didn’t take anyone under 18. This was a place where you had to talk about why you did what you did. You had to face yourself and do it without any medication or foreign substance. There was a lot of painful unearthing of feelings on a daily basis.
Two weeks after arriving at TRC my primary counselor Jim Weigel told me another wrestler would be joining our group. Eddie Guerrero. I felt a sense of relief because I would now have someone to commiserate with and understand what I was talking about!
I asked to go to the airport with the TRC escorts who usually pick up a new patient. (By the way that’s what we were called. Patients.) As Eddie got off the plane, I saw the same look I must have had when I first arrived and I immediately hugged him and told him it was going to be OK.
When you first get to TRC the counselors tell you a typical period lasts 13 weeks. That’s 13 weeks to do counseling, therapy and attend AA and NA meetings. Everyday. And you must learn how to function and come together as a group in your dome. You were supposed to get to know these people and bond so you would make friends for life. 13 weeks… SHIT!
When Eddie finally made it out of Anchor he joined my primary process group with Jim. Jim was a great counselor and easy to talk to. Eddie’s issues were the same as mine and we were both feeling a lot of shame. He missed Vicki and his daughters terribly. I was sure my wife hated me as we had been married less than a year at that time. Everyone at TRC recognized Eddie and it wasn’t easy talking about your weaknesses in front of these people.
But after a couple weeks it settled down and we started calling our new home “drug camp.” Hell it was summertime, so why not! We thought we were bad? Listening to the first steps and confessions of these doctors, lawyers and so called “pillars” of society made me feel not so bad after all. Yes, I’ve done some horrible and embarrassing things. But I never amputated the wrong limb or shot coke in my groin before going in the operating room. I saw that you don’t have to be a wrestler or entertainer in order to like drugs. Nope. Everybody in TRC had earned the right to be called a full fledged addict!
I learned that addicts are wired differently than other people. We’re not “normal.” We can’t just have one or two drinks. We can’t just take one pill for pain. Nope. If one is good, then ten or fifteen must be great! And we can’t stop drinking until they close the bar or run out of liquor!
I’ve known Eddie’s brothers Chavo and Mando for over 20 years. Eddie was running around the San Bernardino Arena as a kid when I wrestled in California in 1980. I had run into Eddie here and there through the years and talked with him when he came to WWE but here at TRC we had the chance to really bond. We were both in a place that we couldn’t wait to get out of and we shared the shame and embarrassment we both felt. We were also able to start laughing again, which was good.
Mando and Eddie’s sister Linda came to visit during family week. We went to eat and had a good time. I always enjoyed being around Mando if for no other reason than his brutal honesty and sense of humor. He cared about Eddie as well and wanted to see him get better.
13 weeks. My family week didn’t go quite so good so Jim and my other counselors felt I need two more weeks to process my feelings before they let me go! OH SHIT! I have already been in here all summer and now I’ve got to spend another two weeks with these people?!?
I went off in a group session when a lady counselor challenged me and said I “enjoyed the conflicts.” Eddie was there to talk me down because I very well could have got another 13 weeks after my sudden outburst. He understood my frustration and let me vent to him when I needed to.
Eddie was going through just as much emotional stress and we had long talks about doing the next right thing and getting our shit together.
Before you leave TRC, they send you home and you find an AA meeting, get a sponsor and then you come back and process out. Eddie was at home getting things set up when I had my last day at TRC. I made sure to tell everybody to let Eddie know I finally made it out and now he’ll have to do his last week by himself.
As a serious addict you aren’t looking at making it thru the day. You’re worried about making it at the moment. Getting thru the next five minutes is an accomplishment. I don’t look that far ahead. I can’t. When I got out, I fell. And I fell hard…
Eddie got out and sure enough, he fell too. He wrecked his car and got arrested. Then he got fired. I called him and we both talked about being complete F*** ups. Yeah, commiserate, bullshit, bullshit, BULLSHIT!
Jim Weigel told us we were going to fail if we didn’t follow the plan. I called Jim a few times my first year out. So did Eddie. I sent the ocasssional email. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my fifteen weeks at drug camp.
I kept up with Eddie too. He eventually got re hired by WWE and I was still working there as well so it was easy to stay in touch. I was so happy and proud when he was given the WWE championship. It validated his hard work and passion he had for wrestling. He deserved the honor. I was happy for him. Vicki and Eddie had some rough times and now it seemed everything had come together. Professionally and most importantly, personally.
Funny things happen in this business. There are stretches where you are talking to your friends on a regular basis and then you go thru the times where you don’t call anybody for a while. I haven’t talked to Eddie in months. Sometimes the schedule just doesn’t allow the time to call and just say hi or check in. There’s other stuff to take care of. The time on the road is spent with traveling partners, checking in the hotel, going to the gym, eating, working and sleeping. The moments to yourself can be far and few between. The calls go to your family or the people you’re doing business with. It’s the nature of the beast. I hadn’t checked on Eddie in a while but I watched him on TV and he was looking great to me. I understand how busy it can get but I regret not taking that step and not leaving a message.
Not keeping in touch with Eddie is my fault. I will have to deal with that. We did share the summer of 2001 in TRC and I saw him at his worst. I saw him become confident again. I was there when he was kicking the addiction.
Now he’s gone. I believe Eddie will live forever in anyone who ever had the chance to really know him. His generosity and willingness to help leaves an impression that’s hard to forget. It was obvious how many hearts Eddie touched.
I’m not proud of everything I’ve done in my past. I’m not going to run from it though. It is an every minute, every hour, every day struggle to stay the course. I know the struggles and pressures Eddie went thru and I wish I had the chance to tell him how proud I was of him for winning the fight for that minute, hour or day.
I love you Eddie. Rest in Peace.
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