Dax Shepard on explaining his relapse to his daughters: ‘daddy was a bad boy’


Last year, Dax Shepard admitted on his podcast, Armchair Expert, that he’d relapsed after 16 years of sobriety. He’d been badly injured in an ATV accident, and needed painkillers during recovery. He augmented his pills and continued his prescription long after his pain needs had been met. CB did a great breakdown of his statement at the time and how it fit into the larger narrative of how Dax and his wife, Kristen Bell, sell themselves as a couple. Part of that image is them as parents. They fiercely protect their kids’ images yet they share so many details about them that you wonder if the child is really being spared. It turns out, full disclosure is practiced both inside the home and out. Dax recently told Chelsea Clinton on her podcast, In Fact, that he told his daughters, Lincoln, eight, and Delta, six, the whole truth about his relapse.

Speaking to Chelsea Clinton on the In Fact podcast this week, Dax revealed he and wife Kristen Bell had shared “the whole thing” with their daughters, 8-year-old Lincoln and 6-year-old Delta.

“They knew when I relapsed,” Dax said. “We explained, ‘Well, daddy was on these pills for his surgery and then daddy was a bad boy and he started getting his own pills.’ We tell them the whole thing.”

He explained that his daughters have always been aware of his addictions and sobriety, telling a story about a time Lincoln wanted to go with him to AA.

“One of the cuter moments was back when my daughters wanted to be with me 24 hours a day,” he recalled. “She said, ‘Where are you going?’ I said, ‘I’m going to AA.’ She said, ‘Why do you have to go?’ I said, ‘Because I’m an alcoholic and if I don’t go there, then I’ll drink and then I’ll be a terrible dad.'”

When Lincoln asked if she could go along to the meeting too, Dax told her no, because “you gotta be an alcoholic.”

“She goes, ‘I’m gonna be an alcoholic,'” he told Chelsea Clinton. “I said, ‘You might become one. The odds are not in your favor. But you’re not there yet.'”

[From Buzzfeed]

I tend to be an open book, so I relate to Dax’s approach. In some ways, it’s helped my hypocrisy. My main addiction is smoking, and I tell my kids all the time they shouldn’t smoke. But I smoke with their godfather when he visits from England. The last time, my son said, “Explain it.” I couldn’t, so I didn’t. I know I overshare, too. But, like Dax, my kids can know every mistake I’ve made. I don’t know how much I told them at Dax’s girls’ ages, but he knows his daughters and what they can handle so I’m sure he presented it in a way they were able to process. I’m not saying this is the right way or the wrong way, I honestly don’t know. But it is what I would’ve done.

I found it relatable when Dax said he delayed opening up about his relapse because he’d “built this whole identity in my head around having 16 years.” He said that the idea of losing that identity caused him to avoid seeking help for a few months. Again, I understand what Dax is talking about. It’s important he says these things so other people can maybe get the help they need. I’m glad to hear things are improving for Dax and he got support to find his way back to sobriety. I hope his openness with his daughters leads to them coming to him with concerns in the future. But I hope both he and Kristen learn to respect that only they get to share their lives with the world. Delta and Lincoln should be allowed to decide what they want the world to know about them when the time comes.



Photo credit: Instagram

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34 Responses to “Dax Shepard on explaining his relapse to his daughters: ‘daddy was a bad boy’”

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  1. Astrid says:

    I’m sympathetic to his story of addiction and relapse. But I’m critical when a few months ago, he and the wife found it cute that their daughter likes to drink near beer. And over share….

  2. Chaine says:

    Why does he refer to himself in the third person? Surely at six and eight his kids can handle it if he uses correct personal pronouns.

    • Ashley says:

      Right? It lacks intimacy. As does the fact that he’s performing this story in public.

      • ItReallyIsYouNotMe says:

        My kids are 8 and 5 and we still refer to ourselves as mommy and daddy probably half the time, even in the first person. It’s just a speech pattern that we got used to.

    • Summergirl says:

      @Chaine, I agree with you. His children are old enough to know their personal pronouns. I find it so icky and condescending when people call themselves “Mommy” or “Daddy” to their children. And I remember thinking the same when I was a kid when I would hear other people’s parents do that!

      • Hello Kitty says:

        In some cases referring to oneself in the third is cultural/lingual. My mom is Vietnamese and there is no word for “I” in Vietnamese. So my mom has always referred to herself as “Mom” and I find myself doing it with my daughter.

      • tealily says:

        That’s so interesting, @Hello Kitty! I learned something today! What’s typical, then? Do people usually call themselves by their name?

      • goofpuff says:

        Agree with Hello Kitty. It’s a cultural thing for many people. I do the same and my husband (who is not Vietnamese) finds himself doing that too. We even got my Mother in Law 😀

        Yes, they will refer to themselves by their name but usually its by their relationship to the person they are talking to like “older sister” etc.

  3. Bryn says:

    Perfectly fine to be honest with your kids, but thats heavy stuff to put on them at such a young age. Lots of time to teach them those things when they a bit older.

    • Esmom says:

      I agree. I think a simpler way to explain it would be as a sickness. The “being bad and finding pills” seems really confusing for little kids. And her wanting to be an alcoholic so she can go to AA with him? That’s not as cute as he seems to think it is.

  4. Who ARE These People? says:

    Why use a judgment like “bad boy” if he understands and wants to convey that it’s a medical problem? Is this where he himself is at with this emotionally?

    Doesn’t it set his kids up with one path for rebellion when the time comes?

    • Monica says:

      Yep, he wasn’t a “bad boy,” ffs. If he’s framing his addiction this way, he needs more information and less judgment.

    • Jules says:

      Exactly, giving kids the message about being good or bad only creates further division and confusion within them. Then if parents are religious, good and bad takes on a whole other meaning with heaven and hell and guilt. Not helpful at all. The messaging should be around the behavior, not the person being good or bad. Also parents oversharing is their own issue, they are putting their own unresolved issues onto their kids, creating more… issues.

    • Kate says:

      Yeah I hope that’s not the actual language they used. If they’re going to explain the situation to their kids they may as well help their kids understand how it feels instead of just villifying his behavior. ‘Daddy has an addiction, which means [simplified explanation], and it was very hard for him to stop taking the pain pills or to only take the number the doctor told him to take. He started taking too many and then felt ashamed and a little scared to tell people. But he did and he asked for help and that was the hardest thing of all to do, aren’t we so proud of him?’ You know, and then bring it around to the moral of the story which is we all are human and fail sometimes or have trouble and you can always ask for help, even if you’re afraid you’ll get in trouble. Hopefully they did that and he was just oversimplifying in the re-telling.

  5. Sunday says:

    I get that sharing his struggle with sobriety can help people in similar situations, but I’m really not sure telling an 8 yr old she might be an alcoholic and that the odds are against her is the way to go… idk, kids fixate on things, at 8 do they really have the capacity to understand that on an intellectual level and not just internalize it in a potentially unhealthy way? seems like a lot.

    • tealily says:

      I dunno, I know plenty of people who have avoided alcohol primarily because they knew that they might be predisposed to alcoholism. It’s probably not a bad thing to have on her radar.

    • K says:

      Yes, that would have scared me as a child to 1) be told that my Dad was sometimes a “bad boy” or an alcoholic (kids can’t understand that) who has to apologize or sort of repent for it… who knows what other upsetting things the child might think a “bad boy” does? They hear that mom is kind of a Disney princess and dad is a bad boy (villain)? Confusing! 2) be told that I might become a “bad girl” too someday, which may inspire anxiety early. It’s their family, but I guarantee their kids will blame them for some of this oversharing later.

      How about: “Daddy was sick before and he made a mistake that made him sicker for a while, but he’s starting to get better now. He cares about being healthy and making healthy choices is important for all of us. We’ll talk about it more in a few years.”

  6. Sigmund says:

    Idk. I personally get the vibe that both of them are a lot messier than they want to portray to the world, and I’m not referring to his relapse. I hope they’re in a healthy marriage and are able to set healthy boundaries with their kids.

  7. Murphy says:

    I don’t know how safe it is to tell them he’s being “bad” when he’s relapsing…that might manifest later if they do have their own addictions and will make it harder for them to get help if they associate it with being “bad” when its really being “addicted”.

    Although anything can manifest into anything, how far do we really want to look into this when it’s not our own situation.

  8. Lola says:

    Everything about this feels gross. Telling an 8 year old “the odds aren’t in her favor” to avoid becoming an alcoholic, what in the everloving fuck? And if you think your little girls are destined to be alcoholics why the fuck did they have them drinking O’Douls constantly? Even when the girls’ teacher called them out for drinking the O’Doul’s on camera in front of the other children they got butthurt and pushed back on that? They are so, so weird with their kids, not in a good way, but in a way that feels really gross. It seems like they are projecting a lot of this “being an alcoholic” business onto their young children, almost like they want it to be a “family problem,” why????

    • JEM says:

      YES to all of this, Lola.

    • Jules says:

      Agreed, this is what happens when parents have the emotional maturity of a kid.

    • FYI says:

      The whole O’Doul’s thing — that’s a predictor. You don’t drink O’Doul’s, esp by the case, if you have accepted that you’re an alcoholic. It indicates that you’re still fixated on drinking. Also agree with the whole “bad” thing. He’s not getting it.

    • Lizzie Bathory says:

      Agreed. It feels like they’re doing some sort of trauma bonding with their kids around addiction & sobriety.

      • Lola says:

        YES, Lizzie Bathory. That’s what it feels like to me. Like they are deliberately pushing trauma bonding around addiction onto their children. Like they WANT their children to identify as alcoholics. Why would they have their children drinking O’Doul’s all day in front of their classmates when they know it’s seen as bizarre and will definitely “other” their children, unless they WANTED their children to be othered?

        I grew up with a mother who had mental health issues related to a trauma – not alcoholism – but she absolutely wanted us to trauma bond around it and for me to be “othered” compared to the other children. She forced some very bizarre things on me at school and around my classmates which she absolutely wanted to be noticed and for me to be seen as different than the other kids. It was awful. It’s awful to grow up with a parent fixated on projecting their issues onto you and for you to join them in it.

        There’s also the self-hate they have and how they project that onto you as well. Dax told his daughter that he was an addict and because of that, he “was bad.” Then he told her that “the odds aren’t in her favor” to avoid being an addict. What else is she supposed to take from that besides, she is obviously “bad” too, inherently defective or flawed, won’t be able to avoid being “bad.” And that being good or bad isn’t within her power, it’s just up to “the odds.” It’s absolutely sick.

        If he wants to call himself “bad” for being addicted, I guess that’s up to him, but if he then projects being an addict onto his 8 year old daughter, which implies she’s also “bad,” that is crossing into emotional abuse.

      • Lizzie Bathory says:

        Ugh. I’m so sorry you experienced that, Lola. I think that’s why I have a sort of visceral reaction to this behavior. My mother also projected issues onto me when I was a child. She talked a lot about how her mother “gave” her an eating disorder. I was almost certainly predisposed to having eating disorders, but her discussing it constantly in the way she did absolutely was not healthy. And then when I was suffering for years with EDs, I felt like I couldn’t ask her for help because I had failed her somehow. It is abusive, absolutely.

        And the children drinking O’Doul’s on camera (or at all, honestly) is just bizarre.

  9. Case says:

    I think it’s good to be open with kids about addiction since they could easily inherit that as well, but their kids seem a bit young still to understand the complexities of the issue (namely, no, he wasn’t a “bad boy” — he has a medical condition that needs constant maintenance). Also, all this means very little in terms of teaching them about addiction when they let their kids drink O’Douls and think it’s funny.

    I feel like Dax and Kristen are bound to end up like Jana Kramer and her now-ex eventually. They’re another couple that thinks constant hard work and fighting makes a good relationship.

  10. Carol says:

    He is so annoying, along with his wife. Trying to be A listers; just stay in your C lane.v

  11. Chloe says:

    This is so cringe… your young children don’t need to know every time you mess up. Definitely going to regret telling them these things when they’re older and have one of many complexes associated with addiction. 🙄. I’m over hearing about it, so I can’t imagine how the kids feel.

  12. Stan says:

    This guy has serious issues, and not just his many addictions. He has to be the smartest guy in the room. He has to be the most honest father in the world. He is a massive narcissist with huge insecurity issues. He surrounds himself with people who are financially attached to him so he can feel like he is the top of the friend and family group. He buys loads of vehicles and an enormous RV hoping they will fill his emptiness, but they don’t. He and is wife have each had years and years of therapy both individually and together and they still have major issues. Never forget that this is the man who told Casey Affleck that women lie about sexual assault. He is desperate to maintain his place in the Hollywood social structure, so he will be as “honest” as he thinks it will work for him.

    • Elizabeth says:

      He told Casey Affleck, of all people, that women lie about sexual assault? Ughhhhh. I studied this in graduate school and all the research indicated the opposite was true. Women almost never lie about rape or sexual assault. It’s vanishingly rare to be falsely accused. But I’m SURE Dax Shepherd has such a deeper insight on the literature.

      So sick of privileged white men thinking they get to control reality.

    • sunhitsthesky says:

      Not a huge fan of his, but it was actually his co-host Monica that said women lie. She is a consistent “pick me”. I do still side eye him for having Casey Affleck and T.I. (after the hymen story) on his show.

  13. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I’m extremely honest with my kids, but if it’s a serious issue, I don’t frame it such as, “Mommy was a bad girl.” If you subconsciously do that, they’re too young. Serious things deserve serious conversations with first pronouns.