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How a Best Friend, the Internet and Podcasting Helped Actor Jason Mewes Recover From Heroin
(Novus writes inspirational stories of people in the news who have overcome addiction. This is not to infer that these people are connected to Novus Medical Detox Center but simply to provide hope and encouragement to those fighting addiction.)
After more than a decade of serious heroin addiction – serious enough to cost him his friends, his career and almost his life – comedic actor Jason Mewes has found salvation in the least likeliest of places: on the Internet with his best friend.
The whole kooky life-saving Internet rehab idea – which we’ll describe later – was the brainchild of Jason Mewes’ best friend, the popular Hollywood director, screen writer, actor and producer Kevin Smith.
As far as his relationship with Jason Mewes goes, maybe we should add “savior” to Smith’s list of attributes. If it weren’t for his years of help and tough love, his pal Mewes might not have been around to benefit from the “Internet intervention” which Smith came up with, and which marked such a turning point in Mewes’ prospects for a full recovery.
Actor-to-be Jason Mewes’ best friend back in working-class Highlands, New Jersey, was film-director-to-be Kevin Smith. After leaving high school, Mewes was working on a career in roofing while his pal Kevin was working in a convenience store and wondering what he was going to do with his life. Neither had considered a career in the entertainment industry, but each, in his own way, showed signs of such a possibility.
Kevin Smith videotaped school basketball games and produced comedy skits, a la Saturday Night Live. The overweight teen developed a keen sense of comedy and a wry observation of life, and he felt that his humorous take on life helped boost his relationships with other kids. There was a screen writer and film director inside Kevin Smith just waiting to come out.
On the other hand, Jason Mewes was entertaining just by nature. He was an impulsive wild man, given to sudden, unselfconscious antics that would crack everyone up, often the kind of edgy antics that others wouldn’t even think of doing themselves. And as the years have since proven, those antics have endeared Mewes to an entire generation of young movie-goers.
A few years ago, Kevin Smith told Entertainment Weekly that Mewes was so naturally entertaining that even back then he thought “someone should put this dude in a movie. I just wanted to see if anybody outside our group of friends finds him as funny as I do.” A prophetic idea – and Smith had no inkling at the time that he would become that someone.
Jason Edward Mewes was born on June 12, 1974. According to most accounts, he never knew his father, and his mother was a drug addict and an ex-con. “She used to check into hotels and take TVs and sell them,” Mewes told Entertainment Weekly. “I guess it really ain’t funny, but… she used to steal mail. I used to drive around with her and she’d pull up and make me reach into mailboxes. It really wasn’t pleasant.”
The crimes Jason was forced to participate in financed his mom’s drug habit and helped support the family. It turned him off drugs, but only for a while. After Mewes left high school, drugs began to take over his life.
In the early ’90s, while Mewes spent most of his time installing roofing, his pal Smith was working in a convenience store in New Jersey. One day Smith he saw Richard Linklater’s film Slacker, which had been filmed in the director’s own Austin, TX, neighborhood. Smith was blown away, it was an epiphany of sorts. He immediately was inspired to become a filmmaker by making movies right there in his own New Jersey neighborhood. He quit the convenience store and travelled to western Canada to attend the Vancouver Film School. But after only four months, he decided he simply had to leave and get started on his own movie.
Back in New Jersey, with the seeds of an idea for a movie, Smith maxed out a dozen credit cards, sold most of his treasured comic book collection, raided his college education fund and finally tossed in the insurance money he’d been awarded for a car that he and his pal Mewes had lost in a flood.
With the nearly $28,000 Smith raised, he wrote, directed, starred in (and co-starred his pal Mewes) in a movie he eventually titled Clerks. The 1994 movie is about guys that work in a convenience store and hang around the neighborhood, and it was shot in the very convenience store where Smith worked. And by casting Jason as Smith’s vision of an insanely funny character, his ideas about Jason Mewes’ insane comedy came true. Clerks was a Sundance Film Festival sensation, made Smith and Mewes famous, and created cult heroes for an entire generation of “slackers, stoners, college kids and other anti-strivers.”
In the 20-odd years since then, there has been a string of movies from the pair, usually playing the original two characters from Clerks, “Jay” (Mewes) and “Silent Bob” (Smith). The character Smith created for Jason – a foul-mouthed, drug-dealing sidekick for Silent Bob, wasn’t much of a stretch from the real-life Jason Mewes. Smith says Mewes is revered by a massive fan base who, according to Entertainment Weekly,are “pop-culture omnivores who worship the wisecracking counter jockeys in his movies.”
“The thing I hear most,” says Smith, “is ‘I know a guy just like Jay.’ Everybody has a Jay in their life.”
The drugs started not too long after high school for Mewes, mostly weed and alcohol, but grew more serious as his income and opportunities began to pick up. He says he first got into heroin after making the movie Mallrats in 1995, the second movie he made with Kevin Smith. He says he was seriously addicted almost immediately, and the heroin addiction continued for a couple more years, during the making of Chasing Amy and the beginning of the Dogma shoot in 1997. Smith became concerned and convinced Mewes to enter a drug rehabilitation clinic. After leaving rehab, Mewes sobered up for a while but then discovered he could pass his urine tests by abstaining from drugs for three days beforehand and then shooting up the rest of the week. This was only the first of several rehabs and relapses.
During the filming of Dogma, Mewes learned that his mom had AIDS. He moved in with her to care for her, thinking it would also help him stay clean. But she gave him the narcotic pain reliever OxyContin to ease his withdrawal symptoms. In no time at all, Mewes was also addicted to OxyContin. His mom died the following year, and Mewes was arrested in New Jersey for heroin possession and sentenced to community service, drug counseling and regular court appearances. He missed a court appearance, and a state-wide warrant was issued for his arrest.
During all this, Smith had let Mewes live with him and his wife to help him kick drugs. But after catching him using again, Smith asked Mewes to leave. Mewes stole Smith’s ATM card, racked up over a thousand dollars in charges and had heroin delivered to the hotel where a press junket for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was being held.
Over and over, always finding the capacity to continue helping, Smith would come to the rescue and get his pal to check into rehab. One such sting was at the posh “Promises” clinic in Malibu where Ben Affleck was being treated for alcoholism at the time. In spite of the help, all the attempts were unsuccessful for Mewes. Relapse was a constant.
On Christmas morning 2003 in Los Angeles, Mewes woke up on a couch that was engulfed in flames. He got the fire out, but knew he’d reached bottom and that his life had to change. He was living in an apartment with no lights or electricity, he’d fallen asleep on Christmas Eve with an empty stomach and a vein full of dope and a candle burning, and had basically lit himself on fire. His friends would no longer speak to him and he’d probably lost his greatest source of love and support, his best friend Kevin Smith.
Mewes was faced with the most important decision of his life. Either stay in L.A. and probably die a junkie’s death. Or return to New Jersey and the warrant for his arrest for probation violation and do six months of court-mandated rehab or a year in jail.
As he told Entertainment Weekly, He thought, “This ain’t no way to live,” got in the car, and drove east from Los Angeles back to New Jersey to begin the process of untangling his life. This time, things really began to turn around. He got sober and remained that way for over 5 years, repaired the relationship with Smith, and continued to make movies and build a new life.
But wait…in 2009 he had to have minor surgery, it triggered a relapse, and before you knew it, Mewes was back on drugs. “I was six years sober and I’d had surgery and then wound up messing up for about 14-15 months and doing drugs again,” Mewes told the Phoenix New Times. And this is when Kevin Smith showed his true brilliance with an idea that has since proved life-saving for his pal Jason Mewes.
“When I was sober again for a few months,” Mewes said, “I was telling Kevin that I wasn’t really accountable to anybody during that time. He was like, ‘This is perfect. Why don’t we do a podcast and talk about everything that’s going on. You get to share with me every week, but not only that, whoever listens, you’re accountable to them.’ Every week we sit there and tell stories, but for me it’s a little more than that.”
A podcast began – an online weekly radio-style broadcast with two of the most popular movie characters of the past two decades, Jay and Silent Bob. Smith named the show Jay and Silent Bob Grow Old, and the audience has continued to grow. For Jason Mewes, the “weekly intervention” lets Mewes talk about his years of substance abuse and other facets of life. He’s been clean and sober since June 28, 2010, shortly before the podcast began. iTunes rates it as one of the most popular podcasts on the Internet.
Is podcasting actual therapy for Mewes?
“Definitely,” Mewes told LAist.com. “It’s therapy in the sense that I get to talk about everything going on with me weekly or to remind of stuff that’s happened. I can laugh about that sorta stuff now, like when my couch got set on fire. Then, it wasn’t funny…but I get to talk about it now. It’s therapy in the sense that I have to be accountable to people. I don’t want to disappoint people, I don’t want to disappoint myself, I don’t want to disappoint Kevin.
“Everything I’m talking about helps me stay on track of what’s going on with me and how I’m feeling about being sober and the feedback I get from people. There’s a few people out there who’ve said they’ve listened to the pod cast and it’s really helped them stay sober. They’ve come to the live show and it’s helped them and inspired them to get through a time. It’s really flattering, it’s helped me, and it’s amazing.”
Mewes told LAist.com, “I’ll go to Starbucks and someone will be like, ‘How many days have you been clean?’ One out of every ten shows, someone will come up and tell me something like, ‘I have a brother who struggled with drugs and got out of rehab and struggled and the podcast has helped him stay sober.’ It’s just surreal and amazing. If it’s me just talking about all these stories and talking about how much I struggled…and to keep even one person sober, like, I don’t know, I didn’t expect that and that’s just amazing.”
Here at Novus Medical Detox Center, we’re always thrilled when a patient wins their way clear of their dependency and is ready to get on with creating a life free from drugs or alcohol. And we’re excited to learn new and innovative ways for people to stay drug-free.
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