celebrity

Dax Shepard lives the life of a Hollywood star. His upbringing was anything but.

Warning: the following deals with domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Dax Shepard is known for many things. 

He's an actor, the host of the popular podcast The Armchair Expert (which most recently featured an interview with Prince Harry), the husband of actress Kristen Bell, and father of two daughters. 

But there's a lesser-known side of Dax Shepard, the one that got him to where he is today.

Watch Dax Shepard talk to Ellen DeGeneres about fatherhood. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

Dax Shepard was born in Detroit, Michigan, to parents Laura Labo and David Shepard. They divorced when he was three years old. 

When Shepard was a child, his family was on a tight budget. His single mum was employed as a janitor at General Motors, before working her way up to being an executive.

"As my mother climbed the ladder at General Motors and then ultimately created her own business, we had more means," Shepard told Forbes in 2018.

As a teenager, Shepard worked for his mum at General Motors, going from racetrack to racetrack. That's where he found his love for cars. (As well as acting and podcasting, he's one of the hosts of television series, Top Gear America.)

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Shepard's mother has been married four times. Her first husband, after Shepard's dad, was an abuser.

"My first stepdad was physically abusive and beat her up in front of us. And it was gnarly," Shepard said on the Tim Ferris Show in 2020.

In 2016, when appearing on The Jason Ellis Show, Shepard revealed that he was molested as a child by an 18-year-old neighbour. He was just seven at the time.

"It took me 12 years to tell anyone," he said. "And then all that time, I was like, a) 'It’s my fault,' as generic as that is, I’m like, 'It’s my fault, and I’m gay, I must have manifested this because I’m secretly gay.'

"I had all these insane thoughts for 11 years or 12 years," Shepard added.

He believes it was this incident that led to his addiction. 

In 2016, his mum, who these days works as a court-appointed advocate for foster children, called him and explained the link between abuse and addiction.

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"She called me not too long ago, and she said, 'You know, I was just at a seminar this weekend and I learned that if you’ve been molested, you only have a 20 per cent chance of not being an addict,'" Shepard recalled. 

"And I was like, 'Hm, interesting,' because in my mind I just like to... have a great time. But when you hear a statistic like that, I’m like, 'Oh no, I was going to be an addict, period.'"

Shepard was 18 when he started experimenting with drugs.

"I just loved to get f**ked up," he told Playboy in 2012. "Drinking, cocaine, opiates, marijuana, diet pills, pain pills, everything. Mostly, my love was Jack Daniel's and cocaine. I lived for going down the rabbit hole of meeting weird people. Of course, come Monday, I would be tallying up all the different situations, and each one was progressively more dangerous. I got lucky in that I didn’t go to jail."

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After finishing high school, Shepard attended UCLA, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology. He then moved to Los Angeles, California, and started taking improv acting classes.

In 2003, Shepard became well known for his work alongside Ashton Kutcher on the practical joke show, Punk'd

In the years following, Shepard starred in various comedies including Without a Paddle, Employee of the Month, and Baby Mama.

In 2004, Shepard appeared on the late-night talk show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien. He's since admitted it was during that "career wreckage" interview he was at the height of his addiction.

When appearing on The Pursuit of Healthiness with Blake Griffin podcast, in an episode dropping on Thursday, Shepard explained he was "blackout drunk" at the pre-taping interview (where they discuss talking points for the show) and only woke up 20 minutes before the actual taping.

"I show up on the show, I don’t know what [O’Brien is] talking about," Shepard told Griffin.

"I can tell he’s queuing me up for stories I’ve told, but I don’t know any of the stories. So, I’m just doing what I can to be funny out there and I am a mess."

Image: NBC.  

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Shepard explained that while the audience found it funny, Conan didn't.

"Now, the audience dug it. It was fine for the audience. But for him, what a disaster," he said. 

"I didn’t know any of the stories. I broke a coffee table. So I was banned from that show for some years, until I got sober and I got myself back on it and now I’ve been on it a bazillion times, but that was probably the only career wreckage-y thing I did."

The following year, in 2005, the actor achieved sobriety.

"There were no sparks whatsoever. None."

Two years later, while out at dinner with friends, Shepard met actress Kristen Bell. There were no sparks at first.

"I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship like two months prior [with ex-fiancé Kevin Mann] and in retrospect, I realised [Shepard] had just gotten out of a long relationship," Kristen Bell told Willie Geist on Sunday Today

"We were sitting at a table. The only thing I remember is that he talked so much. I was like, 'This guy can ta-alk!' And then I didn't know who he was... maybe one of the guys from Jackass or something."

"There were no sparks whatsoever," she added. "None."

Two weeks later, they met again at a Los Angeles Kings-Detroit Red Wings hockey game. (Bell and Shepard are both Red Wings fans.)

"We... started to flirt, left and then a day after that I get a text that says, 'Hi, this is Dax. I violated your privacy and got your number from Shawna. How do you feel about that?'" the Frozen star recalled on Sunday Today

"And I was like, 'Excuse me? You sound stimulating.'"

Soon after, they started dating. 

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But after three months together, the couple briefly called it quits.

"We were dating for about three months, and I already knew that I was in love with him and he was hesitant because he knew he was still dating other people," Bell told Popsugar years later. 

"He sat me down and said, 'I can’t have this right now. I think you’re wonderful, but I am still dating other people.' And then I, like, liquefied and fell to the ground, but I felt incredibly respected that he had the balls to tell me we weren’t in the same place."

Shepard quickly realised that he made a mistake.

"He called me and he was like, 'I don’t know what I was thinking. I was dating someone else, but they’re just not as interesting as you, and I don’t know what I’m doing,' and he came back. But I still always remind him of when he broke up with me."

During their first year of dating, Shepard struggled with their relationship. Despite coming from the same city, the actors came from very different backgrounds. 

"Kristen’s a good girl. She grew up very Christian, went straight to college, did great in school and started work immediately. She’s charitable and philanthropic and rescues dogs," he told People

"All the things I’d done were terrifying to her, and she had a hard time believing I would ever be able to stay married and monogamous and a father and all those things. For the first year-and-a-half, we were together, that was what we battled over almost weekly."

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In 2009, the couple appeared in the rom-com When In Rome together. 

Image: Touchstone Pictures. 

Later that year, in December, Shepard proposed.

In 2012, the couple starred in another film together, Hit and Run. Shepard directed, wrote and produced it.

In January 2013, Bell announced they were expecting their first child, by debuting her baby bump at the Golden Globes. On March 28, 2013, the couple welcomed their first daughter, Lincoln.

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In October 2013, a few months after same-sex marriage was legalised, the couple wed at the Beverly Hills Courthouse. They'd waited for the law to pass, in solidarity with the LGBTQI community.

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In December 2014, their second daughter Delta was born.

In 2016, Bell openly spoke about Shepard's sobriety.

"My husband is in recovery and is almost 13 years sober," she told E! News. "Seeing the world through his eyes has really opened mine to knowing that it is a disease and nobody is choosing to drink more than others."

Since 2018, Shepard has hosted his own podcast titled, The Armchair Expert. Each week, he and his co-host, actress Monica Padman, interview celebrities, journalists and academics. 

However, in their September 2020 episode, it was Shepard in the guest chair, where he opened up about his relapse with prescription opioids after 16 years of sobriety.

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The actor said that his first slip up came in 2012 after a motorcycle accident.

"I immediately called my sponsor, and I said, 'I’m in a tonne of pain and I [have] got to work all day, and we have friends that have Vicodin.' 

"And he said, 'Okay, you can take a couple Vicodin to get through the day at work, but you have to go to the doctor, and you have to get a prescription and you have to have Kristen dole out the prescription.'"

Shepard explained that, during this time, he went to visit his father who was undergoing cancer treatment, but as Bell was the only one who could give him painkillers, he left them at home. When he was there, he took some of his father's prescribed Percocet — another kind of opioid.

"You know, we had so little in common and so much f**king friction," Shepard recalled. "But the number one thing we had in common was we were both f**king addicts and we had never used anything together. And we sat there stoned and looked at the lake. And in that moment I felt elation, and I was just happy."

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Later, when Bell joined him to offer support with his dad, Shepard admitted relapsing. 

"That was eight years ago," Shepard continued. "I've now had this experience where I did that, I felt bad, but there wasn't any fallout from it. It was like, I felt bad, I said I felt bad, and then I did just move on, and it was fine."

Shepard then explained that since that incident, he's experienced more injuries and undergone several surgeries, and so he continued to take two Vicodin at the end of the day to help with the pain. For a while, that didn't seem like a problem.

Until he started buying extra to supplement his prescription, to the point that he was on the drugs all day and his behaviour became "shadier and shadier".

"I'm lying to other people and I know I have to quit. But my tolerance is going up so quickly that I'm now in a situation where I'm taking, you know, eight 30s a day, and I know that's an amount that's going to result in a pretty bad withdrawal. And I start getting really scared, and I'm starting to feel really lonely. And I just have this enormous secret," he explained.

Two weeks before the episode dropped, Shepard approached his co-host Monica Padman and his wife to come clean about everything. He apologised and asked for help.

"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," he said.

Shepard has been clean since September 2020.

In October 2020, he and Bell celebrated their wedding anniversary.

"Well, it's that time of year again. The anniversary of the day each year when we say to each other 'wasn't our anniversary last week at some point?' I love you, @daxshepard, and I always will," Bell wrote on Instagram.


If you are experiencing domestic violence or have in the past, support is available. Please call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 to speak to a trained counsellor.

If this article has raised issues for you regarding childhood abuse, help is available through Bravehearts.

For help overcoming addiction, you can contact Drug Aware, Australia's 24-hour alcohol and drug support line, on (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024.


Feature image: Instagram and Mamamia.