Greg Remsburg, one of the miners from Discovery Channel's "Gold Rush" speaks to The Fix about his struggles with alcoholism. "Gold Rush" is one of the Discovery Channel's most successful shows, and it has one of the highest ratings among Friday night programs.
One of the most talked about episodes of season two involved Greg's decision to quit the show and return to his family in Oregon. He ultimately decided to remain to finish the mining season. In the behind-the-scenes special, Greg reveals that he has been in recovery for alcoholism for a decade.
Greg opens up to The Fix about his struggle with addiction. He also discusses how he has managed his sobriety and whether being on reality TV is conducive to a sober lifestyle.
Greg explains that a long-time coworker and friend, who is also on the show, contacted a television company about doing the show. At first, Greg thought he would never want to be on television, but as he began to think about it, he started to believe this is what God intended for him. He insists the show is not a fake, and there is no scripted premise. He said, "We're dead serious about gold mining to provide for our families in the short term since there's no work, but also in the long term because the market probably is not going to get any better."
In the behind-the-scenes special, it is revealed that Greg is the only person on "Gold Rush" who is actively in recovery. Greg said, "I was raised to believe certain things were right and certain things were wrong. Drinking was one of the things that was wrong. Neither of my parents drank and I wasn't exposed to it as a kid. But when I got to my senior year of high school, I realized drinking could be pretty fun. In my teens and early 20s, it was just for having a good time. By my mid-20s, alcohol became more of a way to deal with emotions that I just hadn't been taught to absorb properly, whether it was anger, or sadness, or loneliness. By the time I reached 30, I was using it almost entirely as an escape. Something like a morning golf excursion would turn into an all-day bender, and I'd be abandoning my wife and children."
Greg said his wife began expressing concern for his drinking a couple of years before things got out of hand. She would point out empty beer cans and liquor bottles, but her main complaint was that her husband's choices were robbing him from her and the children. Greg adds, "It was something that just didn't register with me at the time. I never wanted to be away from my children, but I thought I had reasons for wanting to be away from her and used that as a subconscious excuse."
As Greg headed into his 30s, he began to realize it was out of control. He had experienced legal problems. He would call in sick to work because of his drinking. He started to lie. He said, "The kicker was one particular night when I was about 31 or 32, where I blacked out and didn't come home, which was the first time that had ever happened. I woke up on someone's lawn in a strange place and knew this couldn't continue."
Greg went to a local hospital, walked into the emergency room and said he needed help. Greg remembers the bewildered look of the staff, but he was brought into a room where a man dressed in scrubs came in, leaned against the wall and asked him if everything was okay. Greg just opened up to him about everything,
After that, Greg went to a 90-day outpatient program, sponsored by the hospital. He remembers being in treatment with various drug users, many who had been court ordered there. At first he felt like he was in the wrong group, until his counselor asked him to think about the similarities he had with these people, rather than the differences. Greg said, "It really stuck. There wasn't much difference between us, only the drugs of choice. I faithfully went to AA meetings for the next year after that and started feeling comfortable in my own skin."
The Fix asked Greg about being on a conflict-oriented reality television show, curious if the pressure and conflict tempted him to drink. Greg claims he has had those moments, and he describes a few slips he has had over the years. Working so hard and living in a "man camp" for six months at a time can be difficult. He said, "When you're in the bush, there's no AA. I'm not surrounded by other people in recovery and that makes it tough."
Greg claims that talking to other people has helped him maintain his sobriety. He has consistently kept people in his life that he can be honest and open with. He said, "And what I've also learned is that if I'm lost, God is always there and waiting for mw to come back into the fold. I've learned that I don't have to live with shame or guilt. The more open I've been with others about the struggles, the more that others can identify with me-which has been a huge help."
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