From cracking heads to cracking jokes: wrestler Jake 'The Snake' Roberts turns to comedy

From punches for punchlines, one of the biggest names in WWE wrestling is taking to the comedy stage to share stories of his struggle with addiction.

In the ring, Jake "The Snake" Roberts strutted with a python around his neck, taunted opponents with menacing monologues and dominated challengers with moves like his trademark headlock.

But behind that wrestling character, he was in a death struggle with alcohol and drugs.

"You know, I wish I could remember it, but at the time I was so caught up in addiction, whether it be alcohol or drugs, or both, or sex, anything that would make me feel different than I actually was," Roberts told On the Coast host Stephen Quinn.

Growing up in Texas, the abuse his father inflicted on his family lead to and fuelled Roberts' addiction as he masked the pain, anger and shame with substances.

'Love conquers all'

Multiple attempts at rehabilitation and drug treatment failed because he wasn't dealing with the core problem of his childhood trauma, he said. But a chance to heal presented itself after fellow wrestler Diamond Dallas Page offered a crumbling Roberts a place to live.

"I tried to make him give up, I'd sneak off and mess up, but he let me back in the house and he'd say try again.

"Love conquers all, and we as people have to start helping people we don't know."

Now six years sober, he's committed to that mission and will be cracking jokes, not heads, at the Lafflines Comedy Club in New Westminster, B.C. Friday night, as an advocate for survivors of abuse and those recovering from addiction.

Raising awareness for survivors

"I'm out here kicking the doors in, stomping, loud yelling, trying to get into places to bring awareness to what's happened to a lot of children that's being missed," he said.

Roberts, 61, said he has numerous health issues stemming from a career that involved getting beaten in the ring. He's often in pain but doesn't use painkillers. Rather, he seeks alternative methods of pain management.

"So let's throw 30 or 40 oxycodone in me and put me in a chair somewhere, is that the way I want to live? No."

Through his recovery, he has reconnected with his children and is excited to be a part of his grandchildrens' lives.

"They want to be a part of me and I'm the coolest, baddest grandpa of all time."

The comedy event at Lafflines Comedy Club on Friday at 8 p.m. is sponsored by Survivors Supporting Survivors, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and resources for survivors of childhood victimization.

Roberts also performs at the Pinnacle Hotel in Vancouver on Sunday, April 23 at 8 p.m.

With files from the CBC's On The Coast

To hear the full interview listen to audio below