Utah actor and producer discusses addiction recovery

Jul 21, 2020, 1:37 PM | Updated: 2:54 pm
Casey Scott and Dr. Matt are joined by Michael Birkeland (actor and producer, known for Phobic [2020], The Singles Ward [2002], and Everything You Want [2005]) to talk about his experience working in the film industry and his work with LDS comedies. We also dive into his experience with using cocaine to stay focused in the 90s and how abusing drugs caused him to spiral into addiction.
(actor and producer, known for Phobic [2020], The Singles Ward [2002], and Everything You Want [2005])

SALT LAKE CITY — Thirteen years have passed since Utah actor and producer Michael Birkeland hit his “rock bottom” and now he’s using his past to help others start their own road to recovery.

He recently joined the Project Recovery podcast to tell his story of substance abuse and how he was able to curb his addiction.

From actor to addict

Birkeland, known for Phobic [2020], The Singles Ward [2002] and Everything You Want [2005], has an interesting relationship with comedy. While he is predominantly known in the LDS comedy world, his use of laughter and joy was often masking a tumultuous past. 

“I completely hid behind comedy. I could not turn it off because I thought if I turn it off … They’ll see all of my imperfections if I’m not funny,” Birkeland said.

Birkeland realized that his portrayal of himself to those around him required him to be funny all of the time. His drive to constantly be “on” slowly began to deteriorate his mental health. In his mind, people had expectations of him that he had to meet, but he just needed someone to talk to.

“I didn’t want to be funny all the time anymore,” he said. “I realized no one cared. They only wanted the funny Michael B.” 

Cocaine abuse

Constantly battling with himself ultimately led Birkeland to begin abusing cocaine to always have the energy to please everyone. His drug use got so out of control that he started to rely on the illegal substance every day. Instead of talking to someone about his issues, he was destroying every aspect of his life — until it all came crumbling down.

On the morning of June 1, 2007, Birkeland woke up looking up at a blue sky. He was naked in a field with his car running next to him completely confused about how he got there in the first place. After partying all night, Birkeland had passed out and realized he had missed his son’s birthday.

After pulling himself together, he knew he had to make a change. He vowed to get help and begin his road to recovery. Looking back, Birkeland realizes how fortunate he was to hit rock bottom and be able to pull out of his addiction.

“I was really fortunate. It had affected me so strongly. Something about missing my son’s birthday, it really bothered me,” he said.

Road to recovery

Birkeland found help through two separate treatment facilities, one in Utah. With the help of medical professionals, he began to learn the benefits of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) treatment, which is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. 

“Seven years ago, I couldn’t see today. I couldn’t see myself being a father again … being happy,” Birkeland said. “The second you turn that next corner, there’s something else. It’s not over. It’s not done. There is hope.”

Listen to the podcast to learn more about substance abuse awareness and recovery

For more information on addiction or if you or someone you know is struggling, you can find more information on Facebook, KSL TV, or from Use Only as Directed. To hear more from Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley, you can listen below or subscribe to the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get major podcasts.


Lack of Russian oil supply greatly effects Utah along with rest of Country...
Curt Gresseth

Will Biden’s plan to tap national reserve lower gas prices?

An industry insider says it's good President Biden wants to encourage oil and natural gas production, but isn't sure what it'll do for gas prices.
1 month ago
Woman at home. Do you regret quitting jobs?...
Curt Gresseth

Do you regret quitting your job?

A Utah economist discusses the pros and cons of remote work as a study shows a majority of workers regret quitting jobs during the Great Resignation.
1 month ago
Parents TikTok childeren Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes reportedly will run for 2024 Senate....
Carlos Artiles Fortun

Utah AG Sean Reyes asks TikTok, Snapchat to better protect children

Utah AG Sean Reyes joined with 42 State Attorneys General to tell TikTok and Snapchat they aren't doing enough to protect children.
1 month ago
electric vehicle...
Curt Gresseth

Is now the time to buy an electric vehicle?

The question arises with the rising price of gasoline. The executive director The New Car Dealers of Utah offers advice and recommendations.
2 months ago
rising interest rates affecting millennial home buyers...
Curt Gresseth

Rising interest rates put homes out of reach for 2 of 3 Utah families

Rising interest rates typically lower demand for homes but housing costs remain high in Utah due to a lack of inventory, says a Utah real estate agent.
2 months ago
Curt Gresseth

With the drought still severe, Utah water restrictions are coming

Due to the ongoing through, Utah water restrictions will be in place for customers in the Weber Water Basin.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Prescription opioid...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Utah actor and producer discusses addiction recovery