John Mabry is a highly sought after motivational speaker, philanthropist, and athlete. He is an actor and stuntman who has been featured in numerous television projects including Cold Case, E.R., JAG, and feature films such as Super Bad and Sublime. He also has a prosthetic leg from a car accident.
John experienced a charmed journey to Hollywood. He had the big bank account, the fancy condo, and the elite social circle. Soon, he was doing shots with movie stars at the Playboy Mansion. No one knew that inside he was lost and terrified, drowning in an addiction to pills and alcohol.
Learn about how John Mabry finally got sober and the incredible life he leads today in recovery working with Addiction Campuses and the High Sobriety podcast.
Listen to John’s story now!
CLEAN DATE: Dec. 22, 2015
Here are a few highlights from our interview. To get the full story please join us on the podcast now!
Before John puts on his prosthesis for his leg, he must put on his prostheses for his spirit. Checking email and social media first thing in the morning starts him off in a bad way. Instead, John devotes his morning to prayer so that he can get outside of himself and let God take over. He’ll follow with a bit of meditation and a recovery devotional that he receives every day. Then John is ready to connect with his family and start his day.
The First Time
John grew up in San Antonio, Texas in a southern Baptist culture. His father was a preacher and a personal friend of Billy Graham. John says he was a late bloomer when it came to experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
I used to show up at parties with chocolate milk.
In Texas, most of the families had property and the kids had wide open spaces to party outside. John held onto his chocolate milk for most of high school. He finally gave in to trying alcohol in his junior year. John remembers wondering why he hadn’t tried it sooner.
He ended up puking in the river. His buddy went out to help him and remarked on how great it was because the vomit would float down the river and there would me no mess to clean up. John says this moment became a metaphor for his career in using. He never had to face the consequences of his addiction.
John Mabry was always sociable and a class clown, but he sensed that there was something underneath his skin that was unscratchable. He couldn’t put his finger on it. All he knew was that alcohol encompassed his soul in a sense of peace.
Once he went to college, he joined a fraternity. The guilt from his Baptist upbringing made him want to drink even more. Still, he maintained his grades and earned a scholarship. His life was lined up perfectly. Until March 11th, 2000 when everything changed in 7 seconds.
He was traveling in his friend’s Ford Explorer. The tire blew out and the vehicle went into a roll. He saw his legs fly out the window and get crushed numerous times. The accident was part of a rash of tragedies that lead to an official recall by Ford and Firestone. After fourteen surgeries, trying to save John’s leg, it was amputated. His bright future was wiped away. He had to move back in with his parents, where he lived an isolated life in a hospital bed.
John received a multi-million dollar settlement because of the accident. In the meantime, he drank like crazy and used painkillers. He survived though, and graduated, but any decision he made was terrible.
I was so terrified of going into the real world.
He had a great sales job, but quit within six weeks. Even though he was in the midst of full-blown active addiction, he wanted to get his masters degree in counseling. He moved to San Diego with good intentions, but he was further isolated outside of Texas. He went to the doctor and got a prescription for Adderall and began abusing it, going days without sleeping.
On the surface, his life was great. He bought a half-a-million dollar condo with a view of the bay. He got engaged to his present-day wife. He worked for a charity for the physically disabled, but every night he he found himself passed out in his living room, totally alone.
His fiancee lived far away at the time and had no idea of his addiction until they got married. It took her 6 months to fly home and tell her parents what was happening. They pushed her to do everything to save the relationship.
I would’ve left me.
He got his masters, even though deep inside he knew he wouldn’t be able to help anyone. Then he got a call from his cousin who worked as an actor. His lead character played a soldier who lost his leg in Iraq. John was hired as a consultant to help him emotionally connect with the character, who also happened to have a painkiller addiction.
The story of him helping his cousin was picked up by People magazine. He was launched into the Hollywood limelight overnight. He and his wife moved to LA. He got an agent and began landing roles in TV shows. He was on the quest for fame and attention. He was invited to the Playboy mansions for a film premier where he did shots with Adam Sandler. He made it.
But on the inside he was demoralized. He felt heavy with anxiety and depression. Then he got a call that his brother, his best friend and only sibling, had not shown up for work. His brother was a successful MBA who lived in Beverly Hills. John went to check on him and found him face down locked in the bedroom. He had been dead for three days of an overdose.
You can’t get a prosthetic for somebody who dies.
John was traumatized. He and his wife moved to Nashville, where he got another fantastic job with financial guru Dave Ramsey. But John brought his same problems and his addiction with him. He was drinking so heavily and popping so many pills, his problem finally became obvious and Dave Ramsey himself told him to go get help.
John went to his first inpatient treatment at a luxury rehab. There was reiki, massage, and pool volleyball. He was babied for 45 days. There were people with names there, and it acutally made him feel cool to be among them.
He drank within the first few days of getting home. He started taking pills again. His outpatient treatment recommended that he go to another facility. This time he went to the rehab for ‘big boys’ where he did the Twelve Steps the way they used to do it. They grilled him until he was reduced to tears. This was a huge turning point.
John relapsed a year after that, but he didn’t give up. He went to a therapist who dealt in childhood trauma, and he discovered he’d been suffering deep down inside from an experience that he had never addressed. As a child, he had a serious problem with his ear that required several surgeries.
From an early childhood, I felt defective. I felt different.
This was a profound discovery and John was willing to try anything to fix himself. Western medicine was not working so he tried holistic alternatives like yoga, meditation, and essential oils. He started going to a boxing club and wailing on the punching bag. It was a kind of release he never had experienced.
During this time, he began working as the Director of Public Outreach for Addiction Campuses. He uses his story to connect the community with their mission to treat people with addiction and mental health issues with compassion. He is now the host of their podcast, High Sobriety. He talks at schools and community events. He finally lives the inspired life he always wanted.
What kept John from getting clean?
John says it was his ego and stigma that kept him from seeking help. He always felt that recovery and rehab were for the people who lived under bridges or the crazy relative who can’t get it together. But addiction knows no boundaries.
That aha moment
Once when John was released from rehab, his wife wouldn’t allow him to come home. He had to find a sober living arrangement and ended up at a place where he had to share a trailer. It was a run-down double wide, covered in mold with holes in the floor. It made him think about how he went from the Playboy mansion to his present situation.
This could be my life if I don’t get my shit together.
Get over yourself. That means: get in touch with a higher power.
For the newcomer
Keep coming back, don’t give up, don’t give up, don’t give up. You build up on failures.
See you then!
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Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.