The reality star admits she often did press while high, explains her battles with meth and cocaine and opens up about her possible prison time and plans to help other addicts.
When “Mama June: From Not to Hot” premiered in 2017, it was a show all about June Shannon trying to get a revenge body. But as the show continued on WeTV, a darker story began to emerge revolving around June’s drug abuse.
While her struggles with substance abuse didn’t really start to see air until the third season, June tells TooFab she was using almost the entire run of the show — and her habit not only drained her bank account, but led to her estrangement from the rest of her family. After hitting low after low — including a felony drug possession arrest — she and her boyfriend Geno Doak entered the Banyan Treatment Facility in Florida at the end of Season 4 and kicked off the show’s fifth season seven months sober.
Speaking with TooFab ahead of the show’s premiere, a now-14-month sober Shannon opened up about her complicated relationship with her family — who weren’t exactly rushing to reunite with her after rehab — misconceptions about Geno’s involvement in her drug abuse, and just how costly their addiction was before seeking treatment.
First off, congratulations on being 14 months sober. How easy or challenging has it been for you to maintain your sobriety this time and why?
It’s been kind of easy, if that makes sense. I know people are like, yeah, bullshit. But honestly, Banyan was very good. I’d already went to one in-patient and only spent 12 hours. Second one was out-patient, went for about 3 weeks. I still would leave every day getting high, people were there getting high that worked there and clients. That wasn’t a good fit for me. I went to Banyan, went there for 25 days, got a completion program, me and Geno both. Came out, honestly didn’t know what we was gonna do with our life.
We were going to go back to Georgia in the beginning, but two days before we got out we realized we were gonna stay in Southeast Florida. We came out right when Covid virus hit. We were back in a hotel, in that same situation that we were when we were using. For us, we wanted to get out of this hotel. You start to play the tape back, get up every morning and say no matter what’s going on, I’m gonna stay clean these next 24 hours. It’s been that way. I’ve also used my social media platform, people reach out to me, families that are struggling with addiction, they’re struggling with addiction about to jump off the ledge, because it’s so easy to go back on old habits. I know people that was in there in February, out of 50 of us, there’s only 4 of us that stayed clean.
A lot of people can’t get into recovery, can’t afford it. I wanna try and start something that people can, I can’t pay everybody to get in rehab, but I want to be able to come up with some kind of program for unfortunate people who don’t have insurance and want to get better, can have that and don’t have to go to these state-run shitty facilities some of them are.
You just revealed you and Geno spent almost $1 million on drugs in just one year. When you think about that number now, what goes through your head, knowing that’s just money down the drain?
I wish I had that million back! I went into rehab with $1.75 to my name. I knew I was gonna have a good payment coming in, we was looking for it any day right before we went to rehab. That night that Geno cried and we was a truck stop and we decided to go to rehab and call my production team and manager and Banyan, we walked in with $1.75. I feel like if [the money] would have came, we would have brushed off Banyan for a couple days to get that last one hoorah in. But it didn’t ever came. It came like 5 days after we went into Banyan. I think that was god’s plan of saying whatever.
Now I look back, god I wish I had all that money I spent on dope. Our habit was, depending on where we was at, anywhere from $3-4,000 a day and you can use it up fast, especially if you’re dependent on it. You gotta think about it, anywhere from $3-4,000 times seven, that $28,000 a week. The only difference between my addiction and someone else’s addiction is I just had more money and more abundance to spend it. Do I wish I had that back? Hell yeah. Hell yeah.
Do you think the show had an impact on your abuse, whether it’s because you had more money to spend on drugs or being in an industry where it is common?
Yes. In this industry it’s common. Weekend parties got cocaine, meth, weed, X, whatever. We used to be weekend partiers and then go home and not do anything during the week. It turned into something more and more and more. And in this industry, until you get busted and y’all in the media, like myself, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and several others, it’s not shunned upon, it’s okay, it’s known. You got thousands of dollars being delivered to your house by these dope people. I started looking at my CashApp the other day, to one dope dealer, because I had several in different states, the one dope dealer, I spent like $86,000 just on CashApp.
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Was that moment with Geno at the truck stop what you consider your rock bottom, or did did it happen off camera?
It’s kind of crazy. We was helping people with their addiction get off of drugs while we were still having a major addiction. But we knew how to get clean. We knew how to stop, we always had a plan to stop and we had the money to stop. But you get up the next morning, ‘I need some more.’ I think my rock bottom was a long time before then, but it became a maintenance. We wanted to get clean long before that, honestly, it just wasn’t in the cards I guess.
This is something you’ve been dealing with for a long time, even before it was evident on the show. Would you be doing press and going to events high?
I’ve been to TooFab and TMZ and Inside Edition and Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood and all these different ones and I was always high. I was always high when I was talking to somebody. Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, totally high. I was doing press, I was doing events, but nobody knew and everybody was shocked. And until, I would say, the end of Season 3, beginning of Season 4, me and Geno was going through some problems and I tell people, meth or cocaine, you don’t have the [physical signs], it’s more of a mental thing, it starts f—ing with you mentally, it starts messing with you really bad.
When you’re going through something emotional, it does make you more emotional. I stopped showing up for press, I stopped showing up for production, WE tv wouldn’t use me for press last season because they didn’t know if I was gonna show up high. Even Entertainment Tonight, there’s one where people are like, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s high.’ Yeah, I was totally high that day. I can admit that now. It just is what it is, it’s a life experience, I don’t down anybody for whatever they’ve done in the past, but you’ve gotta be able to come out of that.
How different does it feel to be doing is sober now?
I’m drinking in my cup my root beer. Doing it sober, I’ve done it in the past even with the prior show, but doing Season 2, 3 and 4 high and now doing Season 5 un-high, I can think straight. But I always tell people, October will be 10 years that we first started filming ‘Toddlers and Tiaras,’ October 2011, so it’s almost been 10 years. I can do these interviews [blindfolded].
Now that you are sober, looking back at last season, have you rewatched it?
I didn’t watch last season at all. I think I watched the season finale, us going to Banyan, what we looked like, whatever. I didn’t wanna watch last season because I always tell people, I’ve never been suicidal, never, never never and I wasn’t suicidal in my addiction. But the person that you become on the inside is that person that you just want to go away, that you want to throw up or kill the person you become. Not the physical person, no, no, never want to harm myself, so let’s get that straight.
Do you think it would be beneficial for you to see what Pumpkin was going through while you were away?
I kind of look back and I kinda think about what was going on at the time and I don’t want to relive that. I’ve always been one of those type of people that shuts s— out. right now, Alana still is with Pumpkin, don’t know what the future holds because we still are in active production, so there isn’t really any big spoilers we can give today.
When the new season starts, you and your family haven’t spoken in a year. What do you think you can do to prove you’ve changed, because that is the biggest question for them?
It’s not just my children, but Geno has children, but you only see my kids on TV. Both me and Geno are trying to mend that relationship. I think he’s more the voice of reason, me I just get damn impatient. Mending the relationship with the girls has been a work in progress for all of us. Still today, it’s a work in progress. I tell people you’re gonna have to stay tuned and see what our crazy ass life throws at y’all this season. I don’t even know. This Covid virus has really had production [delayed] because by now, we would have already filmed everything, but we haven’t.
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Have you started to come around to understanding why they they have a hesitation, why it wasn’t so immediate that they wanted to jump back into a relationship with you?
I’ve learned that a little bit by going to the meetings. The lady that you all see, Alicia, she’s now become an alumni director with Banyan, so I talk to her quite a bit. She has taught me that, hey look, remember, they were on your timeline and you have to be patient and work on their timeline. Even the counselors with Banyan, we do Zoom meetings together, and trying to listen to that counselor, I don’t want to hear that sometimes. I’m a very impatient person. Everybody who knows me, WE tv knows that, people in my life know that, production knows, I’m a diva diva.
We hear from Pumpkin that she is obviously not a fan of Geno and that’s part if the reason she’s so reluctant to see you, is because he’s still very much a part of your life. Do you think there is a possibility he could be welcomed into the family and what do you have to say to people who wonder why you’re still with him?
I tell him this all the time, whenever we was having issues and he was entertaining the ‘Instagram hoes,’ you know what I’m saying, social media, they get enthused. I should have walked away, I know that. But in my addiction, I was codependent, if that makes sense.
People think he’s got me on drugs, no, I was the one that had those drug dealers, I was the one that got him to be able to get the drugs. But two, Geno has changed a lot too. The girls and him used to get along great. A lot of people do think he’s the reason why I did that, but it’s not. If he would have left in the middle of my addiction, I would have still used drugs. There was days … I would want to use and he didn’t.
Your family tried to do an intervention and after that you didn’t really see each other for at least a year. Are you glad that your family didn’t see you one on one when you were at that low point?
Over the years, a lot of people don’t realize this, I started using drugs back in 2000 and I was off and on meth, my very first drug, off an on through 2015. When I met Geno, I went cold turkey because he was like, ‘You want to get to know me, you gotta quit that.’ So I did, I quit that no rehab. Then a couple years later, I started on the cocaine addiction. My kids always knew I’ve had a drug addiction, but didn’t know how bad it was and as a parent, do I feel bad for putting them in that situation? Yes, I do. But I know when they go out and party, they go out and do stuff. Even when they wasn’t talking to me, I was letting them know I was okay, I was alive. Even though they didn’t want to talk to me, I always wanted to let them know. I feel like I’m on a repeat hamster wheel, going around in circles.
You’ve been through some legal issues that have been delayed both to Covid and your legal team, how does it feel to still have that hanging over you? [In 2019, she was arrested for felony possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia. Doak was also arrested for felony possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia, in addition to domestic violence/harassment.]
Our first attorney was shitty, second attorney didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground. Now we have a third attorney and he seems like he’s really good. We still have that legal issue going on, it’s been over 2 years now. Covid virus now I think has got everything on hold, but I’m hoping soon enough I go to court and we figure out what we get so this dark cloud will [go away]. I’m not asking for special treatment. I did something wrong, I know that. Geno did something wrong, we are very aware of that, but we also know we didn’t burn at the stakes, we didn’t kill anybody.
Are you concerned at all, if you had to do time, what that would mean for you or what it would be like?
I would hope all our relationships are mended and things are okay before we have to go do anything, if that’s our outcome.
Last question. Where do you see yourself in five years right now?
In five years, I hope to be working at a rehab center or even having my own sober living house. Being able to set up a fund for people who don’t have the ability or resources to get into rehab, but want to desperately. Who the hell knows what’s going to happen. I may still be on TV and it’ll be my 15th year anniversary. We may still be showing y’all some love and showing your our crazy, dysfunctional side of America.
“Mama June: Road to Redemption” airs Fridays on WE tv.
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