Jason Wahler is opening up about how the success of Laguna Beach exacerbated his struggles with substance abuse.
The reality star, now 33, joined the cast of the hit show during his senior year of high school for the show's second season. The massive success of the MTV program, as well as its subsequent spinoff, The Hills, gave him "an overinflated ego," he said on Thursday's episode of David Yontef's podcast, Behind the Velvet Rope.
"People start to know who you are, and it obviously makes you get this inflated ego, and that goes into a lot of where my issues stem from — an overinflated ego and underestimated sense of self-worth," he said, adding, "I was validating and dictating who I was based on people's opinions, versus what I really thought of myself."
Laguna Beach — starring Wahler, Lauren Conrad, Kristin Cavallari, Stephen Colletti, Lo Bosworth and more — aired on MTV from 2004 to 2006. After the show wrapped, Wahler joined the spinoff, The Hills.
Though he was already struggling with addiction prior to his participation in the reality series, he said "it got much worse" while he was rising to fame.
"At 18 years old, we were literally being paid to go to clubs," Wahler said. "It added fuel to the fire — it made everything times 10, times 100."
Between the ages of 18 and 23, he said he was "in and out" of 12 different addiction treatment centers and was arrested at least a dozen times. It wasn't until he saw his father break down during a therapy session following Wahler's DUI that he had an "aha moment."
Jason Wahler Admits He Relapsed in His Addiction Battle — 'I Became Complacent and Was Blindsided'
"It was kind of like the straw that broke the camel's back," he said of the "turning point" that prompted him to finally get sober.
After he got sober, Wahler said "life started to get good." In 2013, he married wife Ashley in front of family and friends at the Calamigos Ranch in Malibu. The couple welcomed their first child, daughter Delilah Ray, in 2017.
In 2019, he made his return to TV for the reboot of The Hills — The Hills: New Beginnings — with Heidi Montag, Spencer Pratt, Whitney Port, Brody Jenner, Justin “Bobby” Brescia, Audrina Patridge and Stephanie Pratt, as well as newcomers Mischa Barton and Brandon Thomas Lee.
New Beginnings was renewed in July 2019, though a premiere date and the official cast for season 2 has not yet been announced.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
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