Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino has lived his life in the public eye since the hit MTV reality show Jersey Shore made him a star in 2009.
There's good and bad with that type of stardom, and now Sorrentino is emerging from a bad period. He's battling addiction to painkillers, and he's doing so publicly in the "Reset Reality" public health initiative from Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals.
He's the initiative's paid spokesman.
"My recovery has been in the public eye, my life is in the public eye, and I'm OK with that," said Sorrentino. "I try to be the best person I can be on a daily basis, make the best decisions."
The Reset Reality campaign seeks to increase knowledge and understanding of the prevalence, science and treatment of opioid prescription painkiller addiction, according to a news release. Sorrentino is taking Suboxone Film, a treatment made by Reckitt Benckiser for opioid dependence.
"From a personal standpoint, it takes away a craving you have as well as physical ills that you have also," said Sorrentino. "It also gets you away from the opioid prescription painkillers that you're enslaved by.
"I feel like myself again. I feel like I'm getting back to my fitness regimen, two-a-days, passion for life. My family says, 'You're Michael again.' "
Sorrentino's speaking out could have benefits to mainstreaming the issue of opioid abuse, said Dr. Jeffrey T. Junig of Fond du Lac Psychiatry in Wisconsin, the author of www.suboxforum.com and the www.suboxonetalkzone.com blog.
"Doctors have been ignoring this problem, and if you look around, you see so many young people have died, and no one is talking about it," Junig said. "I can see the value of getting that out in the open."
Seventeen thousand people die each year from pain-relief medication overdoses, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet, Sorrentino as a spokesman might reinforce negative stereotypes about the victims, Junig said.
"This kind of perpetuates the idea that people addicted to pain pills are out scoring a myriad of sexual partners," Junig said.
Sorrentino realized he was addicted to painkillers in early 2012.
"It's an epidemic," Sorrentino said. "You hear stories all the time about celebs and overdoses, and I want to say that while I was going through my, I would say, addiction, I didn't want my family at my funeral. I just didn't want to be the person who was very successful and burned out with drugs."
Much of the plotline of the final season of Jersey Shore, filmed in summer 2012, centered on Sorrentino's struggles to remain sober and the effects his sobriety had on his relationships with fellow cast members.
"The last season, I was in the process of recovery," he said. "You have to remember that Jersey Shore is cut down 300 hours to one, and it's hard to get an accurate picture of anything when it's cut down that much. What you see happened, but there's obviously so much more that happened."
Did starring on Jersey Shore, which often focused on excessive behavior fueled by alcohol, spark Sorrentino's dependency?
"I don't want to say yes, but I don't want to say no," Sorrentino said. "Because this opioid prescription painkiller disease doesn't discriminate. Mothers, daughters, lawyers and doctors even suffer from this disease. Just because there were cameras following me around in my life, it just means that I've fallen to the same disease."
And he got back up. The 32-year-old lives at the Jersey Shore - a house in Manchester near the MTV house of fellow castmates Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi and Jenny "JWoww" Farley, Sorrentino said. He's filming his own reality show for which details are forthcoming.
On movie screens, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Don Jon portrays a Jersey clubgoer who appears to have been inspired, in part, by Sorrentino's "Situation" persona.
"I do look like (Gordon-Levitt's Don Jon)," Sorrentino said. "At the end of the day, if I had an effect on another person in the entertainment industry, that's awesome. I'm a big fan, and I do watch his movies."
It comes with being a public figure.
"It's been an unbelievable roller coaster," Sorrentino said.