As Bachelor Nation fans may know, fan-favorite Zac Clark has always been honest about his battle with addiction — even while courting the lovely Tayshia Adams. Now, it’s still no different as he got even more candid about his long journey to sobriety on the podcast Heart of the Matter with Elizabeth Vargas on Tuesday.
In the interview, the Bachelorette season 16 winner revealed he was offered his first sip of alcohol when he was just in eighth grade, explaining:
“Whether it was seventh and eighth grade or eighth and ninth grade or whatever it was, we’d go to this Christmas party every year. And it’s kind of like the older kids take the younger kids out back and give them their first beer.”
Afterward, the 37-year-old addiction specialist said he sobbed to his parents about it, confessing:
“I was offered a beer, and I thought that meant I was a really bad person. And I didn’t drink. But then I had a whole year to obsess over this moment coming again. And it did.”
Fast forward a year later, Zac said he drank again, realizing this time he could “lie and get away with it” at the time.
“I know a lot of people describe that first drink as this white light experience. But for me, I think the only thing that changed is I learned that I could lie and get away with it. So I, like, went back to the party where my parents were at, and they asked me what I was doing and I lied about it. And then, you know, the next morning, Christmas carried on as usual. And so, for me, for the next 15 years, I knew I had this new thing, which was I could lie at any time and get away with it.”
Throughout high school, the Bach alum explained that he continued to drink and party with his friends, and it wasn’t until college that he started to experiment with drugs.
“At some point, I think I was introduced to Adderall. And the Adderall eventually turned into some cocaine use here and there. I would not tell you that my drug use was so rampant during college. I mean, I was playing baseball, and I was trying to get out of there in four years, which I was able to do. And, you know, I started dating a girl my sophomore year that I would eventually marry. So, I had a lot of the outsides going on.”
He later realized “there was something wrong” as he was “having experiences that other people weren’t having.” It turns out that around this time the Recovery Release co-founder started to experience blackouts.
Then, in 2009, Zac married his high school sweetheart Jennifer Stanley-George and continued to struggle with substance abuse. The turning point of his addiction journey happened when the organization leader learned he had a brain tumor and became dependent on pain pills.
“That’s when I started experimenting with the painkillers. And they remained around and, in my life, and then eventually I got hooked in there at some point…I’ll never forget, I went to an Eagles game on a Sunday and overdid it, which basically means I did all my drugs. So, I woke up Monday morning with nothing left and I was sick…I had this crazy thought.”
In the conversation, Zac, who got engaged to Tayshia on the season 2020 finale of the dating series, went on to explain how he was willing to go to “any lengths for the next high” — even if it meant getting unnecessary surgery.
“I didn’t know what my plan was. And then I think dehydration or something kicked in and I felt my side. I was like, ‘I think I can figure something out here.’ I think I Googled, you know, whatever symptoms I had to Google. And I’ll never forget—I probably owe this guy an apology, like we make apologies—but the doctor walked in. He was from my hometown. So I knew in that moment that I’m good because he’s gonna believe me. I’m going to schmooze him. And sure enough, he was giving me Dilaudid within a half hour and I ended up going through with the surgery.”
WHAT?! How does a medical professional just go ahead with something like that?!
At some point in the interview, the ABC News anchor asked for clarification:
“You had the surgery? You had your gallbladder removed just so you can get pain pills?”
To which he replied:
“That is correct….I’ll never forget right before—you know, they put you under, they knock you out for that surgery—the doctor looked at me in the eye and he goes, ‘You know what we’re doing today, right?’ I said, ‘Yeah, you’re taking my gallbladder out.’ He said, ‘Before I put you under, I just want to make sure you want to go through with this.’ And I was like, ‘Yep.’ And I did it. It was nuts.”
Just…. wow. The American’s Most Wanted host thanked him for opening up, saying:
“I don’t think people really, really understand the depths that people will go in the grips of the disease of addiction to get what they need. I mean, that’s an incredible story.”
We totally agree!
As we mentioned before, while vying for the 30-year-old’s heart on the ABC show, Zac had been incredibly honest about his past. While on the podcast, he took the time to gush about how supportive his future wife has been, saying:
“She’s a total sweetheart. And she was attracted to it because of all the reasons you should be attracted to it. I know who I am. I know what I’m saying. I can show up. All those kinds of things.”
While on the series, Zac revealed how his first wife decided to leave him after he relapsed and got a DUI. Prior, he went to seek treatment for the first time and stayed for about 28 days. During his stay there, the former couple apparently signed a contract saying she’d “kick [him] out” if he used again. And it unfortunately happened.
“Sure enough, about two weeks after getting out of treatment, I was trying to get high. She walked down, caught me, and she kicked me out that night. She was done. She kept her boundary, her dad drove down. That was the last night I slept in that house. So, I always tell her she saved my life because she was the first person to really tell me that like, you know, the party’s over. Just an amazing job by her of just setting the boundary.”
According to Us Weekly, the pair separated in January 2011 and finalized their divorce in February 2012. After it happened, Zac explained how everything got “pretty ugly and pretty dark,” expressing:
“I mean, most of my friends weren’t talking to me. My parents are the best. They’re my heroes. My mom got to a point where it was just hard for her to even communicate with me. And so, my dad was really the guy that kind of hung in there and stayed on the ropes with me until the very end.”
Since, Zac has celebrated nine years of sobriety.
We cannot begin to thank and express our gratitude for his continued honesty about a real and serious topic. It is also refreshing to see someone from Bachelor Nation truly use their platform for something as big as this. How do U feel about Zac’s admission? Let us know in the comments (below)!
If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction, please reach out to SAMHSA’s National hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). It’s free, 100 percent confidential, and available 24/7.
[Image via Zac Clark/Instagram]