Emerging from his near-death experience last month, Ric Flair said that heavy drinking led him to the brink of death and that, throughout his decades-long wrestling career, he regularly would consume "20 drinks a day."
Flair discussed his recent health issues and his lifestyle during an appearance on The Dan LeBatard Show on ESPN Radio yesterday.
"I just drank too much," Flair said in the radio interview. "But the problem is, is that when I started in the business in 1972, we drove 3,000 miles a week, we drank beer, rode down the road, threw the cans out the window, all this stuff. No cops. It was just a way of life. And then pretty soon it was drinking the beer and then getting in the hotel and then drinking the liquor."
A 16-time world champion, "The Nature Boy" was known for years for living his extravagant gimmick even when he was out of the ring.
"I've done all the math and figured it out with my accountant," Flair added. "Between 3,700 and 4,000 calories worth of booze, soda or a splash of cranberry, in my body every day. It'd be like 20 drinks a day."
Flair said that, throughout that time, he still had rules about his drinking. For example, he never drank before a match -- or had a drink on days when he had double shots in two different towns. Flair also noted that he never drank at home, alone, or when he was on his boat.
Flair went on to discuss the circumstances of first falling ill and becoming hospitalized.
"I had eaten some raw oysters and I told [his fiancee] Wendy I don't feel right. She took me over to the hospital on the 11th, the 11th of August, and on the 14th I was on life support," he recalled.
Flair was put in a medically induced coma, which he woke from on Aug. 19.
Flair said he started to experience kidney failure and congestive heart failure. One organ, however, showed no signs of failure.
"The joke was, with the doctors, that the only thing that was alive and kicking, sitting at the bar waiting for me, was my liver. My liver was completely normal. [The doctor] said, 'You're a strange dude,' " Flair said.
Flair noted that when he woke from the coma, he was always trying to get out of the bed, so much so that he even had to be restrained at one point:
"They tied me down, did the whole thing, like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Flair said, adding, "I remember I said to this one guy, 'Do you know who I am?' and he said, 'Yeah, you're Mr. Ric.' I told him, 'I'll give you $500 if you take off these restraints.'" He said, 'You got it on you?' "
Flair has gone on record previously about how his daughters had been told to say their goodbyes and briefly discussed that aspect of his recent medical ordeal as well.
"My daughters told me that [the doctor] said to go in and say goodbye to your daddy, he's not going to make it, which I wasn't aware of. That really rubbed me wrong," he said.
Flair still faces a long road to recovery. During the interview, he mentioned having a pacemaker installed during his hospital day. He also must wear a colostomy bag for at least another six months.
"I can do anything. Obviously, I couldn't play sports right now, but I feel great. My attitude's great," he said. "I'm happy for the people who put up with my bullshit over there, because I was hard to get along with, man. You're sitting there, pushing a button to get someone come to help you, you can't go to the bathroom because you need someone to walk with you. I'm lucky that I had a very nice and congenial crew to work with that liked me as well. Just thankful for a lot of things right now, but mostly, thankful to be alive."
Flair, who has gone on record that he will never drink again, was asked during the end of the interview by ESPN's Sarah Spain if he still could be the "Nature Boy" without the influence of alcohol.
"Yes. I can tell you something, that's the God's honest truth. When I was in rehab one time before they thought I needed a temporary refresher course … when I was there I started smoking cigarettes. And cigarette smoking, the nicotine is the hardest thing in the world to quit, I swear to God. I had a harder time getting off those damn cigarettes. I dipped Skoal forever, which I don't do anymore. I won't be sitting in a bar drinking diet Coke, that's no fun. I'll just have to learn how to occupy myself."
"I can do anything I used to," he added. "I just can't drink anymore."