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Video: Hulk Hogan: Why I almost killed myself

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    >> is "today" on nbc.

    >>> back now at 8:35 with terry bollea , better known as legendary wrestler hulk hogan . he rose to the top with a unique blend of showmanship and athleticism in hulkomania, but recently, the frenzy is around hulk's personal life , all documented in his new book "my life outside the ring." hulk hogan , good morning to you.

    >> good morning.

    >> as i said earlier, you don't pull any punches in this book. you lay it all out there, your troubles in your marriage, with your kids, the extramarital affair you had, use of steroids. why did you want to expose yourself like this? why write this book?

    >> well, you know, it's been a tough couple years, and you know, the way things are and the things people are going through, you know, i just felt if i could survive and get through this and change my thinking and switch gears, i just wanted people to know that life is good, you know? you don't have to, you know, run around with your head down, you know? stay positive, stay happy. and for me to pull the nose up on this thing, you know, change my thinking and be happier than i've ever been, i just wanted people to know my story.

    >> especially the way the book starts. it begins in december of 2007 .

    >> yeah.

    >> you are alone in your house in florida. you're nursing a combination of xanax and rum.

    >> right, rum.

    >> and you're holding a gun, and you write "i remember thinking three pounds of pressure is all it takes to pull this thing."

    >> yeah.

    >> "it would be just so easy."

    >> yeah.

    >> how did you get to that place, hulk?

    >> just a bunch of things, you know? my son had this horrible accident, you know, with his best friend --

    >> and that was in august of 2007 .

    >> right. my wife and i had a marriage that had been unraveling for a long time. it was a bad situation, you know? and it was just a combination of everything. it was the house my kids grew up in. my wife built the home. and you know, when i came back, it was just, i had been on the set of " american gladiators ," and my kids didn't come to visit me and linda wouldn't come to the set, so i just got into this downward spiral and kept thinking real negatively. and when i went to the house, every room was empty. all my dogs and all of the animals were gone. there were pictures of my family all over the house, and every closet i went in, all the clothes were gone. and it just came over me. it just happened. i just sat there in this chair that i had to sit in because my back was so bad i couldn't even brush my teeth without sitting down. or if i didn't have the chair, i'd shave half my face and have to lay on the floor and get up and shave the other half. and i just started sitting there and i was overwhelmed with depression. and i just got to this point that i never understood before. and the more i looked in the mirror and the more i realized it was over and my life as i knew it was done, i just went down this path, and i started to hypnotize myself. and it can happen.

    >> yeah, but it was a phone call from your friend, laila ali , actually, that pulled you out of it. she called, certainly didn't know what you were about to do.

    >> mm-hmm. yeah, it was a tough one, because people had been checking on me. my very good friend steve chapman had called me and another friend had called me and my partner. they were all worried about me. i didn't know they were calling each other behind my back, almost trying to figure out what to do with me. and i kept kind of faking it on the phone. i couldn't fake my voice, but i kept saying, "i'm okay, i'm okay," and they knew something was wrong. to that point, i had sat there a couple days and it was almost like i was in a trance and i really didn't think about the gun or where i was at, but the more i looked in the mirror and i started playing with this thing, i got hypnotized, and all of a sudden, the phone rang, and it was laila and she's like, what's going on? you're on the set, you're on the press, are you okay?

    >> you were doing " american gladiators " together, right?

    >> yeah, and she called with no agenda. she called just to say hi and check on me.

    >> do you think if she hadn't, you would have pulled that trigger?

    >> um, i don't know. you know, in a way, it snapped me out of it, just to hear her voice. and at that moment, i switched gears. i got sick and tired of being sick and tired . and you know, she kind of -- her voice saved my life. it really did.

    >> you know, as you mentioned before, 2007 was a very hard year for you. as you said, your son nick and that accident that left his friend, john, with severe brain injuries. john's family is suing you and your family for more money than you say you've ever made.

    >> right, right.

    >> in your career. and you spend a lot of the book defending your son. he was accused at the time of having been under the influence of alcohol. you claim to this day he wasn't. you go after john's father, actually, and john's father's behavior, the passenger in the car.

    >> yeah.

    >> the wound obviously still very raw for you.

    >> well, you know, we're right in the middle of this civil suit right now, but john was a family member to us, you know. he was living with us. he was part of our family. he was there every morning yelling at me, "hogan, come downstairs, let's work out!" it was just so strange to be so close with someone, you know, and trying to help him, trying to get by his personal situation with his family. then all of a sudden, you know, this tragic accident happened. and it was an accident. and going to the hospital every single day being with john and being with his mother and praying with him and touching him, rubbing him and talking to him. then all of a sudden, not even talking to john's mom, i know there's going to be a lawsuit, but don't worry about it. john needs help and we're going to do everything we can do to help him. and the day they filed the lawsuit, i wasn't able to see john anymore. so the whole thing added to what was going on, and it was tough.

    >> so, you think you are financially responsible for john?

    >> no, i don't think that at all, but i'll do anything to help him, you know, anything in my power to help him. i love john and i know he'll be with us. he'll be back on what i call team hogan. and when he was released from the hospital about a month ago, it was one of the greatest days of my life to see john going home and getting better every single day. so you know, we know john's going to be back with us 100%.

    >> you know, you talk about your wife linda , ex-wife -- i guess the divorce settlement has come through.

    >> right, right.

    >> i know you can't talk about the particulars, but you're tough on her as well. you talk about the way she sort of brutalized you and the kids verbally and her use of alcohol. how would you describe the relationship that the two of you had?

    >> well, it was tough. it was constant chaos . you know, and i had no idea how beautiful life was and how nice people are, and you know, that the wind is beautiful and the sun's beautiful. i was not in that mindset, you know? i was madly in love with linda , you know, old-school, married to her for life no matter what happened, for better or for worse, doing everything i could to keep the family together. i used to brag that i was the only world's champion that never was divorced. and i just figured no matter how bad it got, we'd get through. it but it got to the point where everything was so negative. you know, we couldn't be friends with the neighbors, i couldn't have people over. it got to the point where i'd just get sick and tired of being sick and tired . and a few years before the divorce, i just started praying to be happy, you know? and it just got to the point where it couldn't go on anymore.

    >> but did you wonder, in writing the book, should i spell it out so specifically, my feelings about linda , particularly things like the alcoholism and the abusive language? because ultimately, this is the mother of my children as well --

    >> right. right. it just, it got to the point where you have to tell the truth. you know, you have to let people know, you know, what has happened in your life and how -- the reason i wrote the book was to let people know, if i got through the last two years, anybody can, you know? and what went down, you know, in my personal life , a lot of our friends knew. you know, a lot of our friends didn't want to come over. a lot of people that did come over, they would calculate their exit. they knew kind of like the right timing when to leave. so it was tough. it was really tough.

    >> we're running out of time . i know you'll be back at 10:00 to answer more questions. obviously, those of us who watched the reality show " hogan knows best ," we had no idea that your family was in the middle of unraveling at that point. i know you have moved on now. you have a girlfriend jennifer who's helped you dramatically. i'm sure you're going to talk about all that as well.

    >> yes.

    >> hulk, thank you for joining us.

    >> thank you.

    >> the book is called "my life outside the ring," and you can read an excerpt at our website.

TODAY books
updated 10/27/2009 9:23:30 AM ET 2009-10-27T13:23:30

Hulk Hogan burst onto the professional wrestling scene in the late ’70s and has gone on to become one of the best known names in entertainment and a world wrestling champion many times over. From the outside, his story was one of a charmed life — he was at the top of his career, had a wonderful and loving family with a wife and two children. Of course he had his ups and downs — including hints of steroid abuse and a falling-out with WWE and Vince McMahon — but it’s been the last two years that have tested Hogan more than any others in his lifetime. In this excerpt from his book, “My Life Outside the Ring,” the wrestling star writes about the events — his son's car accident, his wife’s filing for divorce and more — that led him to put a gun to his head and almost pull the trigger.

Introduction
Three pounds. I remember thinking, Three pounds of pressure is all it takes to pull this thing. Do you know how easy that would’ve been? I’d been staring at myself in the bathroom mirror for two days straight. Two days. A gun was in my hand and my finger was on the trigger and I was thinking, It would just be so easy. I felt like a snake charmer. I was headed down this dark road convincing myself it was a road I wanted to take. The weird thing was, I didn’t even remember bringing that gun into the bathroom. When did I pick this up? Was it in the safe? Did I have it in the car with me the other night? I bought that gun years ago to protect my family. A last resort. Was I really gonna use it for this?

I popped half a Xanax and took another swig from the big bottle of Captain Morgan’s I’d set on the counter.

The house was empty. Too quiet. I don’t do well alone. My kids were gone. My wife was gone. She had left before, but this was different. She didn’t want to fix things. She’d filed for divorce — actually went to a lawyer and filed papers after twenty-three years. My mind kept running through it all, over and over. My daughter thinks I’m the reason Linda left. There’s so much I want her to understand, but she won’t talk to me. She won’t hear my side of the story.

My thoughts drifted to my son, Nick. Nearly four months had passed since he got into that terrible car accident. And every day since, the details of that August night played over and over in my mind.

It’s not often that a man can pinpoint the moment when life as he knew it began to unravel. For me, it was just after seven thirty on the night of August 26, 2007.

After a long day out on the boat, I’d grabbed a quick shower and hopped in my black Mercedes to head to dinner. Nick and his three buddies had gone just ahead of me to grab a table at Arigato, this Japanese steak house a few miles away. I assumed they’d all gone together in my yellow pickup.

I was wrong.

The fast-moving thunderheads that passed through that afternoon left the roads soaking wet. I remember my tires splashing through puddles as I left the big house on Willadel Drive. Just as I left, Nick’s friend Danny drove up in my silver Viper with his pal Barry in the passenger seat. Their windows were down, and they looked a little panicky as they pulled up beside me.

“Nick got in an accident!” they said.

Great, I thought. This is all I need, thinking that it was just a fender bender.

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“Where?” I asked.

They told me on Court Street near Missouri Boulevard — not much more than a mile from where we were.

For some reason it didn’t occur to me that it might be a life-threatening situation. With all the stoplights on that road, I thought they meant that Nick had rear-ended someone, or maybe someone rear-ended Nick. I was a little confused as to why Danny was driving my Viper, but I still thought Nick was in my yellow truck.

So off we went. I turned east and headed down Court Street with the sun getting ready to set behind me. All the lights were green, so I was cruising along when all of a sudden I saw flashing red-and-blues up ahead.

What the hell?

I couldn’t have left the house more than three or four minutes after Nick. But as I looked toward the intersection of Court and Missouri there were police cars in the middle of the road blocking traffic in both directions.

That’s when I saw it: a yellow vehicle smashed up into a palm tree in the center divider.

Oh my God. Nick!

I panicked. I needed to get closer. Traffic was stopped, so I turned into the oncoming lanes and raced down Court Street the wrong way.

As I hit Missouri I just stared at this mangled yellow wreck on the tree, thinking, Holy sh--. It didn’t look like my truck at all. I was confused for a moment. I had this weird little flash of relief. Danny and Barry got it wrong. That’s not my truck. Phew! Nick’s okay.

Then all of a sudden it hit me. Oh my God. That’s my yellow Supra!

My stomach clenched up in a knot. I pulled the Mercedes up on the curb, got out, and started running toward the car. “Nick? Nick!?” A cop tried to hold me back, but there was no way. “That’s my son!” I yelled as I pushed past him.

The yellow Supra was the car Nick loved most. I had no doubt he was behind the wheel. But I couldn’t see him.

I could see his best friend, John Graziano, slumped over in the passenger seat. Nick was nowhere to be found. I thought he’d been thrown from the car, so I’m looking up in the tree, on the ground, across the street. By this time another police car is pulling up, and I hear sirens from the fire trucks coming up the road.

The car had spun around somehow and hit the tree backward. As I reached the front of it a policeman pulled John back. I saw his head. His skull was cracked open at the top of his forehead. It was awful. I almost fainted. It buckled me. John was like a member of my family. And the bleeding was bad — like it wasn’t gonna stop.

I was right there leaning on the side of the car with my hands when I finally saw Nick — my only son — folded up like an accordion with his head down by the gas pedal. “Nick!” I yelled. I could see he was alive. He turned his head, stuck his hand out, and gave me a thumbs-up. For a second I was relieved. Then the chaos set in. The sound of engines. Sirens. A saw. Paramedics pulling John from the passenger seat. So much blood.

I can’t even describe to you how panicked I was. The police and firefighters seemed panicked, too. The Supra’s removable targa top was off, and you could see that the cockpit of the vehicle was pretty intact, but the rest of the car was just mangled. The fiberglass shell on this thing had crumpled like a toy.

All of a sudden the firefighters started cutting the side of the car to try to get Nick out, and I was standing right there when I heard my boy screaming, “No, no, no, stop! Stop! You’re gonna cut my legs off. Dad! Just unbuckle the seat belt. I can get out!” So I reached in and pushed the button on his seat belt, and Nick just crawled right out. His wrist was broken. His ribs were cracked. None of that mattered. He was gonna be okay.

But not John. John wasn’t moving.

I pressed the gun to my cheek. I tried not to look in the mirror.

In between flashbacks I kept obsessing about Linda. How could she leave in the middle of all this? How could she?

I even turned the pity party on myself. I’m a mess. I’m in so much pain. My hip. My knees. I don’t even know if I can wrestle anymore. What the hell am I gonna do? My back hurts so bad I have to sit just to brush my teeth. In this damned chair. Right here.

I can’t get out of this thing.

My God. Look at me....

As the paramedics tended to Nick, I called Linda. She was out in L.A., where she had been living for months. No one knew we were separated then. No one knew how bad things were between us. But she was my wife, and she was still my first call.

“Linda, you’re not gonna believe this, but Nick wrecked the Supra,” I said, expecting her to ask if he was okay. Instead, she lost it.

“What the ----!? What the hell was he doing?”

I tried to get her to listen, but she just kept screaming. When the cops came up to try to ask me questions and she wouldn’t let me get a word in, I had no choice but to hang up on her.

I called Brooke instead, who was off in Seattle working on her music. Nick’s her baby brother. They’ve always been close, and she broke down crying just listening to the sound of my voice. She was happy to hear that he was okay, of course, but when I told her that John was in real bad shape, she started bawling. She hated being so far away. I told her to get on a plane, and she said she would be there as soon as she could.

I was pacing like crazy at this point, just freaking out about the whole situation. For all I knew Linda still didn’t understand how serious this accident was, so I called her back, and she started screaming at me again for hanging up on her the first time.

By now a couple of medevac helicopters were landing on the scene. I couldn’t hear a thing. So I hung up again and turned my attention to Nick. He really seemed fine, and he kept telling the EMS people that he was okay, but they wouldn’t budge: They insisted he get into one of the helicopters — and told me I couldn’t ride with him.

I lost it. I was woozy. The whole thing played out in this weird way, like slow motion and all sped up at the same time. I looked over and saw John laid out flat, strapped to a gurney as they lifted him into a chopper. I turned and saw firefighters pulling that mangled, cut-up car away from the tree. The press was there. There were video cameras and flashbulbs going off. It was all just crazy.

As the helicopters took off I called Linda back, and she finally calmed down enough to ask if Nick was okay. I told her, “He’s walking around. He’s talking to me. They’re flying him to Bayfront Medical Center to check him out, but I think he’s fine.”

Then I told her about John. She couldn’t take it. I could hear her break down right over the phone.

“Linda,” I said, “just get on a plane and get back here. Nick needs you.”

At this point I was running back to my car, but a cop stopped me before I could get in. I guess he saw me all wobbly and pacing and didn’t think it was safe for me to drive. He offered to take me to the hospital instead. I was glad. I’m not sure I would’ve made it in that condition.

I climbed into the back of that police car, and he just took off. We were flying down all these back roads with the lights going and the siren blaring, running red lights, blasting through stop signs. The world was a blur. And as I sat in the backseat of that cop car, alone, the whole thing started to hit me.

What if Nick has internal injuries? What if he’s in shock? Is he hurt more than he’s letting on? How had this happened? And what about John? I’ve never seen someone’s head busted open like that.

I felt sick to my stomach. John had to pull through. I prayed to God that he’d be okay. And I prayed to God for my son.

Here I was, nearly four months later, consumed with thoughts of John Graziano, who was still barely clinging to life in a hospital bed.

What if he never recovers?

I took another swig from that bottle of rum. I got angry at the cops and the media and everyone who blamed my son for hurting John. It was an accident. A horrible accident. Nick didn’t set out to hurt anybody. He feels so guilty. I wish I could help him.

Slowly that anger gave way to pain and this feeling of helplessness.

Why can’t I make this all stop?

I could feel the life draining out of me. I could feel myself bleeding. That’s what it felt like: bleeding. Not from a cut on my body, but a wound somewhere deeper. It had me curling my index finger on the trigger of a loaded handgun and putting it in my mouth.

For all my strength, my will, my ability to excel and be the best, I couldn’t control that feeling. That depression. Whatever you want to call it. I couldn’t control it any more than I could control the craziness that seemed to be crushing my family.

I hit bottom, bro. And I stayed there for two straight days. I even slept with my head on that counter. If I got up to go to the bathroom once or twice, I sat right down again and stared at myself like some fool looking for answers that weren’t coming.

And that voice in my head would not stop.

Maybe I should just do it. Only cowards commit suicide. My family would be better off without me. What about the kids? I’m gonna do this. Just pull the trigger. Why not end it? Just do it, Hogan. Do it.

That could have been the end of me right there — that night in early December 2007, in the bathroom at the big house in Clearwater that everybody’d seen on Hogan Knows Best.

I could picture the crime scene. The news stories. The whole thing.

Obviously I didn’t kill myself — but I came damn close. And if it weren’t for a completely unexpected phone call that snapped me out of that stupor, I might have followed that dark road all the way to its end, and I might not be here writing this book today.

In the days after I sat there with that gun in my hand, I realized something: I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. If I was gonna keep living and breathing, I had to change things. I didn’t know how I would do it. Maybe I’d have to change everything. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I wish I didn’t have to sink that low to get to that point, but that’s what it took.

Slowly but surely in the weeks and months that followed, I opened my eyes to a whole new world. And it worked. I’m choosing to live life differently in the second half of the game.

That doesn’t mean everything’s perfect. Far from it. As I’m sitting down to write this, my soon-to-be ex-wife is dragging the divorce into a second year. Hell, she’s spending time with a nineteen-year-old boyfriend — in the house that I pay for. Not to mention I’m facing a civil suit from the Graziano family that seeks more money than I’ve made in my whole career. So no, not everything is perfect. The difference now is how I handle this stuff; how I look past those things to see the bigger picture; how I’m actually grateful that these things are happening because I know that something greater is right around the corner. If that doesn’t make a lot of sense to you right now, I’m hoping it will by the end of this book.

The main thing I want you to take away from this is simple: If I can get through everything I’ve been through in the last couple of years and be happier and stronger than ever, then you can get through whatever terrible things might happen in your life, too.

Despite what some people might think, I’m not writing this book to make excuses for anything I’ve done or to try to change anyone’s opinion of me or my family. All I want to do is tell the truth and clear the air so you’ll be able to understand where I’m coming from, and where I’m headed. ’Cause believe me, once you breathe clean air, you never want to go back to breathing anything else. That’s how I’m living now, and that’s why I want to use the lessons I’ve learned to help other people. I hope that doesn’t scare you off. In fact, I hope that you’ll be one of the people I help — even if it’s just in some small, unexpected way.

If not? Well, that’s okay, too. I’m ready to open up about everything in my life. And there’s plenty to tell! So I promise to be as open and honest in these pages as I possibly can —occasionally about some heavy stuff that I’m sure you never expected to hear from the Hulkster. I don’t know, maybe you’ll laugh at me. Or maybe you’ll see a little bit of yourself in me. Either way, if you want to read this book for the sheer entertainment value of it, that’s fine by me, too. Let’s face it, brother: My life’s been one hell of a trip, and I’m more than happy to take you along for the ride.

Excerpted from “My Life Outside the Ring,” by Hulk Hogan. Copyright (c) by Eric Bischoff Group, LLC. Reprinted with permission from St. Martin's Press.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive

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