Shaun Weiss is opening up about his addiction battle.
The former child star, known for his role as goalie Greg Goldberg in the Mighty Ducks film franchise, struggled publicly in recent years. His methamphetamine and heroin addictions led to homelessness and multiple arrests. He's been making strides in his recovery, which he detailed in conversation with Addiction Talk. Now two years sober, he said he feels "reborn."
Weiss admitted that it's "hard to see" the photos of himself looking unrecognizable from the three-year period in which he battled addiction.
"I looked horrible and deathly," he said. At the time, he didn't know what he looked like, explaining he avoided looking at mirrors or his reflection for months. When he finally did, it was "jolting."
He wasted away to 96 pounds and "was infested with bugs in my hair," he said. He would steal $1,000 worth of electronics a day to support his habit. "That's not normal. That's not like you're taking a few extra pills. This is a very serious problem... I was in horrible shape. I was probably gonna die if those nice sheriff deputies didn't step in and save me," referring to his 2020 arrest for breaking into a car while high on meth. (He had previously been arrested twice in 2017 for petty theft and possession of methamphetamine and twice in 2018 for public intoxication and shoplifting.)
Weiss said he drank alcohol and smoked pot in his younger years but his world didn't spiral until a perfect storm — his father died, he broke up with his fiancée, a job he had been working on fell through and he couldn't afford a new place to live.
"It was like the perfect convergence of a lot of things," he said. "And it was just too much for me really." He said he was heartbroken and felt like someone was sitting on his chest. The first time he tried meth, "it was instant relief" to those suffocating feelings.
He said "it was a very short time after the first time I'd ever seen a hard drug ... to where it had me completely wrapped up. Within less than six months, I was a full-blown drug addict."
Living on the streets, he lost his phone — and his contacts. Besides, he admitted, he burned many bridges by then. Alone with just drugs, he had "nobody to hold him accountable." Quickly, it got to a point "where I had so much shame at what I had become, what my lifestyle was like, that I didn't wanna reach out to those people [anyway]. I didn't want them to see me the way I was."
During those years, "Literally what was going through my mind was: I'm gonna get this next bag of dope ... get high ... [and then] I'm never gonna use again... I'm going to climb out of this. I'm gonna recover. And I had that mindset every single day. Every bag I did for three years, [I'd tell myself] was the last bag I was ever gonna do. It just went on and on and on."
He said it got to the point where he was "hopeless" and "didn't think I would be alive much longer." He'd think about writing goodbye notes to his loved ones.
Weiss went to rehab in 2018 and then relapsed. He credits his 2020 arrest for being a wakeup call. He spent around 40 days in jail for the car break-in and couldn't imagine doing it for three years, which was the sentence he faced. The judge placed him into a drug diversion program and he started getting the treatment he needed.
He admitted that his initial plan was to placate people by getting sober for "as long as I needed to and then ... go and get high again." However, in treatment, things started to shift. He recalled watching the 2018 Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges film called Ben Is Back in the group room at treatment.
"There's a scene where a heroin dealer throws a big bag of heroin on the table — and normally I would see this bag and I start fantasizing and wishing I could have that," Weiss. "This time I saw the bag and I was physically repulsed... I was like, 'Oh my God.' I started crying and weeping." He realized in that moment that "recovery is possible."
He said part of his recovery has been around nurturing himself. He focuses on religion and meditation and has developed a yoga practice. He has a hip injury but enjoys riding a bike and getting out in nature. He journals and reads books that inspire him. What he learned in treatment was that he had to try to "create a life that you don't have to escape from."
Weiss said child stardom — and being given so much at a young age — played a role in his addiction.
"It made me an adrenaline junkie," said Weiss, who lived in a sober home after rehab. "Things were a lot more exciting for me than the average 13-year-old — taking trips and flying to places and being in movies. So I was very addicted to the excitement of things. And when that went away, I didn't really know how to get that feeling. And I found that in drugs — not necessarily the drug itself, but I'm one of these guys that enjoys the feeling of doing something naughty that I shouldn't be doing. That was a major part of the high for me."
Also, "I never used to really appreciate things. I had a BMW, I wanted a Ferrari." Whereas today, after surviving all he has, "I appreciate every breath. So that's a shift also when you start living in gratitude."
He said the period during which he was in the throes of addiction is "a blur" now. "I can't even look back and imagine that was me. It's like a different person. So I can't imagine what would have to happen to put me back in a mindset where I no longer care about life and no longer care to see my loved ones anymore. I can't imagine getting there again."
Besides, he's looking ahead. Weiss, who had a smile makeover to replace his teeth that had been decayed by drugs, is getting back into acting. In April, he landed his first movie role — Lionsgate's Jesus Revolution — in 14 years. He hopes more roles follow, but is also thinking about doing his own project telling the story of his addiction.
He remains thankful to Mighty Ducks fans for supporting him at his rock bottom, which kept him going during his sober journey.
"I was in a jail cell and the deputy came up and he's like, 'Hey man, your fans are really rooting for you,'" he said. "I'm like: 'What are you talking about?' I didn't know what was going on... I was dope sick, sitting in a cell and that was the little flicker of light for me, knowing that there's people out there that care. That started to grow. I eventually felt an obligation ... to get better for them. I didn't wanna disappoint these people cause they were invested in my recovery."
He added, "I'm really sorry Ducks fans had a to see me like that, but I'm hoping my story can be useful. So it's not just a sad thing that happened. I'm trying to do something with it."
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, contact Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Referral Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357)