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Slowly swiveling in a chair, Michael Shawn carefully sips his Sparkling Ice water as if in deep contemplation. The sun peeks faintly through the blinds and dances subtly on his skin. His energy is calm and he’s visibly in good spirits—a stark and noticeable difference to the man he was just months before. Weeks prior to this appearance, the comedian and popular K104FM morning co-host, publicly revealed that his 6o-day absence from radio was not due to a vacation, but because he was in rehab. This time—there were no jokes, no laughter, and no smiles—this was truly life or death for one of Dallas’ most recognizable voices in radio.
“This has been a 15 year battle,” Michael admits. “With this last relapse, it literally took 35 days for my whole life to get turned upside down—my personal life, my job life…I’ve never been able to [mess] everything up like that at one time—that fast.”
The admittedly shy jokester discussed his battle with alcohol and never once looked down or away. As in an act of acceptance, he has chosen to outwardly wear his truth in an effort to be transparent, and as a catalyst for healing. In direct contradiction to his radio persona as the “most irresponsible person who just loves his kids”, the veteran radio personality is eyes forward and focused now on his sobriety. But all is not sober in the world of comedy—a realm that Michael Shawn has known intimately for the last several decades. For Michael, this is where the darkness began.
“Comedy is funny because we all looked at the older comedians and we all thought that it was this glamorous thing. You get high—you live a dark life that’s depressing but you kill it on stage,” Michael reminisces. “It was fun for a little while. You get drunk [and] you get paid—as long as you’re funny. I got the term, ‘It’s about to get dark’, from this one comedian who I used to hang out with [in my earlier years]. I had no idea that I would wind up being in that same type of space, but it would just be with liquor.”
Year after year and drink after drink, the darkness consumed the comedian. From work to the liquor store to the bar, then back to the bar—the cyclical lifestyle seemed never-ending. It was only this recent time that he knew he couldn’t stop.
Sitting on his balcony, Michael pressed a Black and Mild between his lips. In between drags, he pleaded with God. “I was praying hard like ‘God…you’ve gotta do something,’” he remembered. “As I’m saying this and after I got done with this prayer, I knew I was going back to the bar.” It wasn’t long thereafter that the father of three checked himself into rehab. “I was so sick, I mapped out how to get drinks before going into rehab. I still managed to get to the bar before I went to rehab. I was lit.” He laughed at the thought before taking another sip of his water. Going into rehab, the breathalyzer read .33 for Michael. His legs were giving out, he had the shakes, and the doctor informed him that he was on the verge of having a seizure.
“A lot of people have died from seizures from trying to detox on their own,” he said. “It’s painful. It’s the worst. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”
From pizza parties to pool life to ice cream sundaes and impromptu comedy shows, life in rehab had its perks and Michael Shawn was a model student. It was there within that he learned to not count the days, but to make the days count. But as his brain started to clear–the harm, the pain and the faces of those he hurt began to surface. This time, there was no alcohol to numb or erase the images. It was time to face reality.
“The disease is selfish,” he said, his voice breaking. “When you start destroying your family, it sucks. It’s a bad feeling knowing that you have disappointed everybody.”
With God on his side and a fresh, new perspective on his purpose, Michael Shawn is committed and working harder than ever to maintain his sobriety. “I’m not sober for everybody else, and that’s the mistake I made a lot [before] – I was sober for everybody else. I tried not to get drunk because I wanted to keep my job. I tried not to get drunk because I wanted my family to be happy. I tried not to get drunk because I didn’t want people to be mad at me and I didn’t want to get the text messages at three o’clock in the morning like ‘You really screwed this up.’ This time—I just want to feel like a human being again. I just want a good feeling.”
Fast-forward to the current—feeling good and now donning a three-piece suit, Michael Shawn breathes deep and overlooks the city of Dallas from the 48th floor of The Tower Club. The view down is daunting, so he keeps his eyes focused straight ahead. Symbolically, this is reflective of his life—the beginning of his rise above it all. “I’m only here because of God. I tried my best to die,” he admits. “I put myself in so many situations that should have ended…but now it’s just about being very careful and trying to live this life, not simply for my satisfaction.”
The response has been overwhelming since his return to radio late July—as many listeners have reached out with similar stories, empathetic messages and cries out for help. Acknowledging his fragility, Michael Shawn redirects those in need to either American Addictions or Greenhouse. He’s now taking it one day at a time, and focused on the future—which includes producing his one-man stage show. He’s also passionate about speaking on his disease and recovery.
“I never thought that the worst part of me, would be the thing that God would use to get me to elevate to another level in happiness,” he said, smiling.
But when asked if this new level of spirituality included “cleaner” comedy in the future, the question was met firmly with “No.” Laughing heartily, Michael Shawn jokes, “No. I thank you God, for real for real—but I’ve got some s**t that I need to say, the way I need to say it.”
Photography Credit: Cameron Pate |Location: The Tower Club Dallas | Styled by: Keith Manoy | Creative Direction: Leah Frazier