Ben Weis: A Long Fall From the Top

Posted at: 02/27/2013 7:24 PM
By: Caleb Ostrander

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Imagine being called one of the best in the world.

Imagine being at the top of your game.

Imagine that entire world crashing down around you.

"Gosh, I was an idiot," professional rollerblader Ben Weis said.

Weis is an Austin native who laced up his first pair of inline skates in the third grade.

"I think I would've been 15 years old when I first started doing tricks and stunts," Weis said.

"He excelled a lot faster than everyone else," childhood friend Jens Raffelson said. "We were all doing the same stuff, but Ben definitely pushed the limits more than anyone else."

"I was seeded to turn pro as a senior in high school.  I got sponsored and started getting paid while I was in high school," Weis said.

By the time he was 20, Weis was a world champion, and he had everything - the endorsement deals, the trophies, even the DVDs.

His career continued to skyrocket in 2003, when he won the prestigious Bitter Cold Showdown for the second time.  He also placed fifth in the X Games.

But when the fall came, it came fast, and it came hard.

"Around the death of my brother Aaron was when I really did not care at all, which is very selfish," Weis said.

Weis started using prescription drugs to mask the pain - both the emotional and the physical.

"I thought I was actually helping myself, but at the same time, if your body doesn't know the threshold of pain, you're running into overdrive," Weis explained.  "It's like you're redlining in a car."

Eventually, Weis hit rock bottom.  He was sent to prison on a felony drug conviction.

"As angry as I was at everyone else when I was so messed up, it was the greatest thing that could've ever happened to me," Weis said.

While at the Minnesota Department of Corrections in Willow River, Weis enrolled in the Challenge Incarceration Program, which is a six-month military-style boot camp for prisoners, and it's something that Weis credits with turning his life around.

"It was such an eye-opening experience," Weis said. "It was a six month program of an intense treatment plan."

Weis is just now starting to pick up the pieces of a once-promising career.  He's two years sober, and after completing the CIP program, was released from prison last October.

"I'm getting emails, phone calls, hand-written letters from kids all over the place - Mexico, Ireland, London.  They're just so happy to see me on skates again," Weis said.

Many recovering addicts say it's not when you hit rock bottom, but rather how many times.

For Ben Weis, hopefully the answer is once.

"Just stay away from what doesn't matter," Weis said.

And imagine getting your life back on track.