Eric Nies In addition to starring in a reality television series, he also starred in the very first iteration of MTV’s The Real World, a show so influential that it would continue to shape the genre as we know it today.

The experience would be monumental for anyone, but like Eric in this quick look at E! ‘S For Real: Reality TV’s story reveals it probably saved his life.

“If the real world hadn’t happened and my life hadn’t gone like this, I might have been dead,” the 49-year-old reality TV veterinarian told the host Andy Cohen in the clip above he is sitting next to his former castmates Julie Gentry, Norman Korpi and Heather B. Gardner for their first reunion in 20 years.

“There have been a lot of wounds I’ve been repressing since childhood and I’ve been on a self-destructive path,” adds Eric. “And I started using drugs at a young age.”