“I had a high-profile magazine job and so I think some of the things I did like drive down to Tijuana, Mexico, and smuggle 1,000 pills over the border and then go on the “Bill Maher” show that same day or go out and try to find heroin after hosting a party for Hollywood celebrities in L.A., these are probably things that might surprise some people,” muses Dan Peres. “But it’s my story.”
Dressed casually in jeans and a navy sweater over a white shirt, the former Details editor in chief is perched on a chair under the bright lights of a studio and appears much healthier these days, although visibly uncomfortable at the prospect of having his photograph taken. After all, he’s used to being on the other side.
This, though, is something he’s going to have to get used to as he promotes his new HarperCollins memoir “As Needed For Pain,” which shines a light on the first half of his 15-year-long Details reign, during which he was at one point swallowing up to 60 Vicodin pills a day and concealing it from everyone. Only once did he try to score the aforementioned heroin, but was chased away by a one-legged drug dealer.
He cleaned himself up for the second half, but during the messy years he somehow managed to function to a degree. Well, enough to keep his well-paid job under the watchful eye of the Newhouse family, who owned the award-winning men’s fashion and culture magazine through Condé Nast until they shuttered it in 2015, citing cost-cutting.
Now sober since 2007 and a single father of three sons living in Westchester, NY, (he is divorced from actress Sarah Wynter), Peres is finally ready to bare all — and the drug smuggling might not even be the most shocking part. There’s the prostitute; conning numerous doctors; experiencing a drug withdrawal at the CFDA Awards while WWD executive editor Bridget Foley was accepting an award, and lying to Wynter about his addiction, even during her first pregnancy.
And let’s not forget the part about snorting pills and sharing a drug dealer with a famous L.A.-based rock star (sadly, he wouldn’t reveal his name) and subsequently having to pay his bill despite him being a multimillionaire. The musician’s ex-wives, accountants and managers were watching him like a hawk, he explained. Then there’s his long friendship with magician David Copperfield, who hosted magic-obsessed Peres’ engagement party at his Manhattan penthouse and provided him with a couch during a time when Wynter had kicked him out.
His book, though, isn’t meant to be just a salacious tale. He also wants it to be a cautionary one, recalling his childhood in Baltimore and how he got into drugs — first being prescribed Vicodin at age 25 for a back problem while working as an Eye reporter at WWD.
Peres, who had a brief stint at Bustle Digital Group’s Gawker and also worked as a media consultant in post-Details years, isn’t blaming anyone for his addiction. He takes responsibility for his actions, although he raises serious concerns over pharmaceutical companies and their lobby. More than anything, though, he wants to add his voice to the millions of opioid addicts in the U.S. to highlight the devastating results of choosing this path.
“I think it’s a national health crisis and it’s important that there are voices out there representing people, who have suffered with this addiction and I’m incredibly proud to be one of those voices,” he says, seemingly relieved that his photo shoot has come to an end.
Here, Peres talks about writing a book, addiction, and the battle of staying sober:
WWD: Did you find the writing process a cathartic experience?
Dan Peres: It really was. I had a really massive addiction and I got sober in 2007. I probably started writing in 2016 and so I had a few years of sobriety under my belt and felt really good about that first and foremost. Second, yes these were stories that I just wanted to kind of get out. So it was incredibly cathartic. But I will tell you this — I’ve worked with a lot of writers over the years and I have an entirely new respect for people who write books. Let’s say that it was both incredibly rewarding to write, but also just agonizing — not the actual stories but the writing part was kind of intense for me.
WWD: Do you think a lot of this will be shocking to people in the media industry?
D.P.: I think there’s probably some stuff that will shock people. It’s hard to know what’s going to shock people these days, though, quite frankly.
WWD: Ten years ago, it would have been a different story.
D.P.: If this had been 10 years ago, people would’ve really fallen out of their chairs. But I think the reality is on many levels, not all, my story is a fairly common one in that I got addicted to prescription painkillers after being prescribed them for an injury. And that happens quite a bit and these drugs have been wildly overprescribed and this is why we’re in the middle of an epidemic. What’s not common about me is this career that I had and the fact that I was to some degree a high-functioning addict.
WWD: How do you think you managed to have a successful career while being so high?
D.P.: I was surrounded by really talented people. I think it’s as simple as that. I had such an amazing team of people that I was working with, truly at the top of their games and were it not for them everything would have fallen apart. There’s no question about it.
WWD: Did they pick up the slack sometimes? You write about times where you weren’t really going into the office.
D.P.: I know that they picked up the slack and really on a monthly basis helped get that magazine done. I wasn’t entirely disconnected. I was there shaping our coverage and all of that, but I wasn’t present really at all. I wasn’t present for my life at all. It wasn’t even specific to my professional life. I wasn’t present for family, friends. I had one priority and that priority was drugs. And taking them, getting more of them and nothing else really mattered so I’m just really grateful to everyone that contributed to Details over the years so that we could publish a great magazine. I got sober in 2007 and I was there for 17 years, so the first half were the dark years; the second half were not and it felt really great to engage and plug back in and be a part of a team that I think did something really wonderful for 15 years.
WWD: And actually, enjoy your life.
D.P.: Yes, my whole life changed. I became super present and healthy. I became a father for the first time in sobriety. I now have three kids. Everything changed.
WWD: Did you have to pre-warn your family about some of the things that were going to be in this book?
D.P.: I didn’t.
WWD: Have they read it yet?
D.P.: Yes, they have. My mom is a fragile person when it comes to things like this. She’s an incredibly strong person when it comes to many other things, but my mom was worried and saying, “Oh, my God, am I going to be able to read this?” What I would say was, “Listen, you know how it ends, look at me and the life that I’m living now and so really anything that might be in this book shouldn’t impact you too greatly because you know the outcome.”
But my parents read it, my brother read it. They were all very happy, proud — of course. I definitely think there were some things that they thought, “Oh, my God, no.” I also think there was a lot of, “Oh, this explains a lot.”
WWD: And to you, what was the craziest moment? There are obviously quite a few.
D.P.: There’s a chapter that I write in the book about a night that I went to the CFDA Awards and I had run out of pills and was starting to go through withdrawal.
WWD: What does withdrawal feel like? What type of symptoms were you having?
D.P.: It’s hell on earth. You become the most uncomfortable in your own skin that you could possibly imagine. Your body starts to ache. Your stomach starts to churn. You start to perspire, but then you’re cold and then you’re hot. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s absolute misery. So, here I was in a tuxedo at the CFDA Awards. I wanted to stay to at least see my old friend Bridget Foley win an award but I was miserable.
WWD: Did you stay?
D.P.: I ended up going home that night and ultimately going to St. Vincent’s Hospital, which is no longer there, and getting some pills. I was very good at conning doctors. I didn’t look like an addict so I would show up for a doctor’s appointment in a suit and tie and I was able to get ultimately what I wanted, which was really scary and sad, but that was the case — certainly back then.
WWD: For sure.
D.P.: This particular night after the CFDA Awards in the emergency room I was wearing a tuxedo. I was seated across from a woman in a pink paper gown, who was exposing herself to me and behaving in unusual ways. I eventually was asked to change into a blue paper gown and I ultimately saw a doctor and I was talking to him as he was writing a prescription for me and I said, “You won’t believe I had this crazy experience with this woman” and he said, “What color gown was she wearing — was it pink?” I said, ‘Oh, my God, how did you know that” and he said, “Well, we give pink gowns to the people who might be a psychiatric concern and people that we may all keep an eye on.” Anyway, two months later I was suffering through withdrawal again, I was out of pills and I went to the emergency room not wearing a tuxedo this time and I must have been a total mess and I was perspiring and I was talking to the triage nurse and I was impatient and she handed me a pink paper gown.
WWD: You probably didn’t really see yourself as that person until perhaps that moment.
D.P.: Whenever I was out of pills and started to feel sick I saw myself as an addict. When I had enough pills to keep me going for a number of days I saw myself as being healthy, oddly because the pills helped me feel like me. Or at least what I thought was me, but there came a time maybe in around 2004 where I was well aware of the fact that I was a drug addict.
WWD: I know it all happened a long time ago, but is it a relief to finally have everything out in the open or is it nerve-wracking?
D.P.: It’s a relief. I’m happy to talk about it for a lot of reasons. I think it’s important to try to destigmatize opiate addiction.
WWD: Do your experiences make you angry about the health-care system and that as a young guy you were given these drugs?
D.P.: I wouldn’t say angry because I don’t really have any real anger about it. It is concerning that this could happen and to some degree still can happen. Over the course of the last decade the pharmaceutical lobby has spent something in the neighborhood of between seven and eight times more than the National Rifle Association. Then you have these pharmaceutical companies who have falsely minimized the risk of addiction of these medications over the years. They’re starting to be held accountable for that now.
So I’m not angry about what happened. What happened to me happened. I made choices and eventually became addicted, but I was able to stop. I think there’s a lot that needs to be done with respect to prevention and education and treatment — things like that. At the end of the day, it needs to be easier to get the treatment as it is to get the drug and we’re not just there yet.
WWD: You end the book with a strong determination to stay clean after the birth of your first son. Did you manage that or was it a messy road to recovery?
D.P.: I have been sober since the birth of my son.
D.P.: I got sober in 2007 and I’m still sober today. It is a daily effort and all of these 12-step sayings can seem incredibly trite and silly but it really is a day at a time. Everybody has a different path and everybody has a different journey and I feel incredibly grateful that this has been my path. So for me, sobriety comes first in my life because without it I don’t really have my kids, I don’t have my life, I don’t have relationships and friendships and employment and all of these things.
WWD: When you say you’re sober, did you also give up alcohol?
D.P.: I did.
WWD: Even though that wasn’t really an addiction for you?
D.P.: I don’t do any drugs. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t think I ever drank alcoholically, but I identify as an alcoholic and it keeps me focused on staying healthy.
WWD: You’ve been focusing on this book, but what’s next in your career? Are you done with the editor path?
D.P.: I certainly wouldn’t say I’m done. It’s what I do and it’s in my blood and now that the book is coming out, I’m focusing on finding my next career opportunity.
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