The Fantastic Five
Meet five folks who have overcome adversity, achieved their dreams and shattered expectations.
Wes Hurt, Shauna Martin, Dr. Don, Kristine Lilly, Beto Boggiano
photography by Brian Fitzsimmons
(page 1 of 5)
A Clean Start
Wes Hurt, CLEAN Cause Water
By David Leffler
Wes Hurt isn’t a man of subtleties. He’s in your face. He’s enthusiastic. And yeah, he’s a little all over the place. But when he’s rolling, it’s a sight to behold.
It’s a sunny December day and Hurt and I are driving around Austin in his black pickup swapping life stories. He’s dressed casually—blue jeans, a red v-neck, and sneakers—and has long brown hair that falls onto his shoulders. He seems completely in control as we riff, telling story after story with intermittent exclamations of “dude!” and “I’m telling you, man!” But things weren’t always this way.
Less than two years ago, Hurt was in the throes of addiction and depression. Despite launching the wildly successful Hey Cupcake! franchise—an iconic Austin eatery known for its innovative take on sweet treats—he was spiraling down a path of self-destruction and outright insanity. “I’d always had trouble drinking and drugging, but things took a serious turn when the emotional pressures of life and running a business led me to opiates,” he explains. “That was really the beginning of the end.”
Before long he was addicted to prescription painkillers, consuming as many as 35 Vicodins a day. His wife, Sheila, kicked him out of his house, so he was living in a warehouse smoking crack with a homeless man who he refers to simply as ‘Uncle Frank.’ Hurt’s life was circling the drain, and he knew it. “I thought of just about every way I could kill myself,” admits Hurt. “I was right there. I was standing on the edge of the cliff ready to take the leap.”
But when Hurt looked into the abyss that lay beyond that cliff, he didn’t like what he saw. He saw cold, utter emptiness. He saw regret. At that moment he realized that, as depressed and frustrated as he was, he didn’t want to die. He wasn’t ready to go.
Hurt breaks from telling his story for a moment. We’re sitting in his backyard now, and the sun is peeking through surrounding trees as dusk settles around us. Tears well up in his eyes as he looks up at me, half of his face covered in shadow. He takes a deep breath and gathers himself. “I’m sorry man. I just haven’t thought about some of this stuff in a while. It’s really shaking me up,” he exhales.
Hurt attributes this as the first of two life-saving epiphanies. The second came about a week later. “My heart just sort of fluttered inexplicably. I can’t really articulate it, but I knew it was from the drugs. I thought I was going to die then and there,” he says, struggling to speak. Staring wide-eyed at his mortality, he was convinced his time had come. “Those two experiences changed me,” he reflects. “I had to get out of there.”
Hurt called Sheila and told her everything. She demanded that he come home immediately if he wanted to get clean. She was bawling when he walked through the front door. “I knew the time for a real change had arrived,” he sighs. “The next day was the beginning of a life I’d never previously known.”
That was over a year and a half ago. Hurt’s never looked back, trying to quench his insatiable thirst for creative stimulation. Clear-headed and motivated, Hurt regained faith in his ability to inspire. “I started getting that spark again, which hadn’t happened in years. Within 30 days of getting sober, I came up with the idea I’d long been searching for,” he smiles.
That idea was CLEAN Cause, a premium bottled water company with an ambitious mission: to donate 50% of its profit to aid people struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction. “Addiction is a massive problem that nobody wants to talk about. People are dying from it every day, and we need to do something,” he says. “People often think it’s impossible to combine consumerism with a cause; but we’re bringing those two worlds together harmoniously, and we’re doing it now.”
Pairing his personal story of addiction with his proven business savvy, Hurt has quickly rolled out production for CLEAN Cause. The company currently features three types of water products: a premium purified, an electrolyte, and a sparkling mineral. Each bears CLEAN’s mission of aid and recovery in bold lettering. Although they are currently limited to the Austin area, Hurt has extensive plans to expand regionally and eventually nationally. The company’s new line of organic energy drinks—launching in early 2016 in grapefruit, coconut, and blackberry pomegranate flavors—should increase its visibility.
Hurt’s newfound resolve has him soaring. He’s no longer concerned about appeasing people or fighting off insecurities; instead he’s focused on the matter at hand. He recognizes that many doubt CLEAN’s viability, but he disagrees. “What I’m talking about is radical social awareness that comes in the form of consumerism and funds real, meaningful change. People want be a part of that,” he declares.
For Hurt, it’s as simple as ‘been there, done that.’ He’s built a successful business from the ground up. He’s been on drug benders that got him into dangerous situations and even the slums of Belize. But he’s come out of the other side inspired and equipped to generate change. “All those experiences—Uncle Frank, the addicts I met and the people I hurt—I remember all of it.” he says.
A lot’s changed for Hurt since last year. He’s stayed clean, found a new calling, and his marriage with Sheila couldn’t be better. In fact, they’re expecting a baby boy, Jude, in mid-January. The thing that has sustained is his spontaneity and desire to make an immediate impact. “People always want to make it about tomorrow—they say, ‘Oh you’re impatient.’ I’m impatient? You’re damn right I am, ‘cause I may die, so f*** it. Let’s go dude!”
Let’s go, Wes. We’re ready when you are.