The Belgian-born actor, who achieved stardom in 1988 with the film Bloodsport, was married four times between 1984 and 1994. He says he started using cocaine in 1993, during the filming of Sudden Death. At that time Jean-Claude Van Damme was married to his third wife, Gladys Portugues, but had begun an affair with Darcy LaPier, who would become his fourth wife in 1994. His career began to suffer, as three movies in a row were box office flops.
In late 1996 he checked into a month-long rehab program, but left it after only a week. Then in mid-1997, after the filming of Knockoff was finished, Van Damme came near to suicide - but instead reached a turning point.
Not long after that, he was formally diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder and placed on sodium valproate, which he calls "that simple salt." E! Online quoted him as saying, "You just have to take a little salt, and since I'm doing that it's, like, BOOM! In one week, I felt it kick in. All the commotion around me, all the water around me, moving left and right around me, became like a lake."
In late 1997 LaPier filed divorce papers charging him with drug addiction and spousal abuse. A settlement was eventually reached. In the meantime, a mellower Jean-Claude Van Damme returned to his third wife, whom he remarried in 1999.
About the turning point in his life, when he faced his cocaine addiction and quit cold turkey, he said, "It became a point where I wanted to die. I didn't have any reasons to live. Maybe it's selfish to say that, but I was not excited about anything. Then you have to find back your self-esteem. And then, slowly, every piece of yourself becomes precious again. One day it's, like, either you pass or you don't. It's not the drugs, it's a problem with yourself, which you have to cure."