R.I.P.ped

Even former Mr. America Mike Scarcella wasn't strong enough to beat the horrors of GHB addiction

With his win at the Lone Star, Scarcella was booked solid, seeing clients at The Gym in Carrollton or in their homes, from 6:30 in the morning until 8:30 at night. That's when the "GHB began to creep into his days," Gleisner says. "He would take a cap of G for a morning pick-me-up, and before he knew it, he was taking it every few hours."

Gleisner found herself craving the drug as well. Whether she was having a good day or bad, a cap of G seemed to make it better. She didn't realize she had a drug problem until she couldn't get any drugs. "One night we ran out, and I began sweating and shaking. I told Mike, 'I think I am addicted to this stuff.' He said, 'I think we both are.'" Anti-depressants would stem their longing for a while, but when a friend would score some G, "we would be back on it again."

The GHB brought even more drama to their relationship, which a friend describes as "kind of Jerry Springer." While Scarcella could somehow function on GHB, at least for a time, Gleisner had a harder time coping--passing out, wrecking her car and eventually getting arrested for DWI. Scarcella had his own legal problems. In May 1999, he was busted for felony possession of steroids and possession with the intent to deliver GHB. Although prosecutors sought to put him in prison for 15 years, numerous character witnesses, three of whom were police officers, convinced a Denton County judge to probate his sentence for 10 years.

For Mike Scarcella, winning the Mr. America championship in 1992 was the fulfillment of a boyhood dream. But aside from a few magazine covers (pictured upper right with ex-wife Judy), some guest appearances and status that enabled him to make a decent living as a personal trainer, the recognition and revenue he had hoped to receive never materialized.
For Mike Scarcella, winning the Mr. America championship in 1992 was the fulfillment of a boyhood dream. But aside from a few magazine covers (pictured upper right with ex-wife Judy), some guest appearances and status that enabled him to make a decent living as a personal trainer, the recognition and revenue he had hoped to receive never materialized.
Brock Scarcella was his father in miniature. He was also the reason Mike gave up competitive bodybuilding and the reason he tried to kick GHB.
Brock Scarcella was his father in miniature. He was also the reason Mike gave up competitive bodybuilding and the reason he tried to kick GHB.

Even though they had a son in common, it wasn't enough to salvage Gleisner and Scarcella's relationship. They lived in different worlds and wanted different things. "I wanted to settle down, and he didn't know how to be content with one person," Gleisner says. Their breakup would enable her to confront her addiction, and she managed to recover with the help of Narcotics Anonymous. She and Scarcella continued to be close friends; he was so easy to forgive, and Brock loved him so much. But nothing--not his trouble with the law, not his feelings for his son, not his inner sense of discipline--could curb his GHB habit.

Sometimes he would show up late for sessions, sometimes not at all, and he ran off much of his clientele. "No one wants to train with a fucked-up trainer," says Randy Edwards, a close friend who owns The Gym. Scarcella filed for bankruptcy and had a federal tax lien placed against his house, which he eventually was forced to sell. He slept on the couch of whichever friend was kind enough to have him. With his resources limited, he resorted to selling GHB, again.

"Kitchen GHB" can be made on the cheap, synthesizing it in great batches by adding its analogue, gamma butyrolactone (GBL), commonly found in industrial solvents, to sodium hydroxide. The GHB that Scarcella dealt, however, was pure. "After you took it, you had to drive straight home," says Edwards, who is himself a recovering GHB addict. "It would knock you out for at least four hours."

Scarcella knew he had to get clean, and he tried to self-detox several times, but the withdrawal brought on panic attacks so crippling, he was certain he was going to die. In spring 2002, he broke down crying in front of training partner Chad Marr. "His depression and anxiety were getting out of hand," Marr recalls. "He loved his son and didn't want to die just like his mother had." Marr brought him to Green Oaks Hospital in Dallas, but he was moved to Medical City's intensive care unit after his blood pressure soared. "He went through some badass hallucinations," Marr recalls. "He was standing on a bed, buck naked, swinging at everyone. They sedated the hell out of him, but it still took five security guards to hold him down." He ripped the bed sheets apart and was restrained to his bed, and there was some concern he had suffered a stroke. But after three weeks, he checked himself out of the hospital, convinced he had kicked the habit. A week later, Marr says, it was obvious he hadn't. "He showed up at the gym, and his speech was slurred. He was using again and blamed the hospital for not fixing him."

His downward spiral continued unabated as his drug use grew worse. His few remaining clients were mostly friends trying to help him stave off ruin. He knew GHB had beaten him but was afraid the withdrawal was going to kill him. If he was going to be there for his son, he knew he would have to face rehab again. What was stopping him was his vanity. "He told me that he wanted to keep taking steroids and keep working out," Marr says. "He had lost everything, and the only part of his identity that he had left was the way he looked."

By the late summer of 2003, Scarcella convinced himself that if the rehab didn't kill him, the drug would. So he allowed Shelly Martin and Crystal Gleisner to intervene on his behalf, researching Web sites to find an affordable facility capable of treating his GHB addiction. Martin received several local referrals from Project GHB's president, Trinka Porrata, who believed that once in recovery, a former Mr. America would be the perfect national spokesman for her nascent organization. "Mike was so excited," Martin recalls. "Finally, he had found a venue where he could be celebrated again, where he could be in the limelight again. He wanted to do something that would make his son proud."

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