Mike The Situation SorrentinoSince the debut of Jersey Shore on MTV in December 2009, people have derisively been counting down the days until one of its stars succumbed to substance abuse problems and attended rehab. Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, perhaps the most notable character on the show, recently became the first cast member to attend rehab. While his stint in rehab makes for good tabloid and gossip fodder, it shouldn’t detract from the seriousness of his issues, nor should it diminish the courage he has shown in his recovery.

Jersey Shore is an image-conscious show, requiring its characters to remain “on” at all times. The non-stop party lifestyle perpetuated by Jersey Shore did its cast no favors, as excessive partying was enjoyed by all who worked on Jersey Shore. However, it wasn’t alcohol or party drugs that did in Sorrentino. Instead, he fell victim to prescription painkillers, which are far more dangerous than most people realize.

Perhaps prescription painkillers aren’t as sexy to the tabloids as alcohol or other drugs, but they may be even more dangerous. As of 2007, prescription painkillers lead to more overdoses than any other drug, including cocaine and heroin. Sorrentino was heading down a very dangerous path and was fortunate to get help before it was too late.

The Situation’s descent into painkiller addiction echoes a common tale. MTV News reports that Sorrentino turned to painkillers as a source of energy to get him through the hectic promotional schedule of Jersey Shore, which includes many appearances at nightclubs and has seen Sorrentino write an autobiography and appear on Dancing with the Stars. Sorrentino, who claims he chose painkillers over fitness, deepened his addiction as his schedule continued at a fast pace.

In February, Sorrentino hit rock-bottom on a promotional tour of Australia. “I had a simple appearance for an hour, but I was so tired I had trouble getting dressed,” recalls Sorrentino of his darkest moment. Soon after, he checked into Utah’s Cirque Lodge, where he stayed for three weeks. Like many recovering addicts, Sorrentino felt very disappointed in himself while detoxing. “How did I get here?”, he wondered. However, Sorrentino persevered, got through rehab and has maintained sobriety for three months.

While Sorrentino initially blamed himself for his problems, he later realized that he was smarter than he thought. Regarding the constant boozing done on Jersey Shore, Sorrentino proudly told MTV News that he never mixed painkillers with alcohol, a combination with potentially fatal effects. Whether or not you’re a Jersey Shore fan, you have to admire Sorrentino for recognizing his problem and the hazards of adding alcohol to the mix. That he’s still around to talk about his problems is a testament to his ability to adapt to his situation rather than lamenting and digging a deeper hole.

Today, Sorrentino is painkiller-free, but he must work hard to remain clean. When Jersey Shore shoots its next season, he will be surrounded by the same temptations that caused him to become addicted to painkillers. With the proper support from family and friends, as well as help from the Cirque Lodge, Sorrentino should be able to conquer his addictions for good.