Long-Time Drug User in Recovery Named 2017 Ultimate Men's Health Guy

By Victoria Kim 12/08/17

Michael Dubree was once homeless and struggled with meth and opioids before he got sober and started focusing on his fitness.

There's nothing like a good comeback story.

A former drug user graced the cover of the November issue of Men’s Health magazine, in honor of being named the 2017 Ultimate Men’s Health Guy for his dedication to fitness and health.

Michael Dubree, a 30-year-old forklift and crane operator from Louisville, Kentucky, came from rough beginnings. Now coming up on seven years of recovery, he's able to tell his story from a much different place.

Dubree was raised by his mother and stepfather, who was a drug dealer. “I’d come home from school and there would be six or eight vehicles in our driveway, and the people would be in the house getting served,” he recalled. 

The young Dubree “always felt like a square peg in a round hole,” not knowing where he fit in, especially with his family’s unorthodox lifestyle. Suicidal thoughts crept in at a young age. “I was 9 or 10 years old. I was so fed up with everything, you know?” he says. That was the first and only time he got to that point. “Even at my worst moments, that never happened again.”

He describes his early drug use. He first smoked cannabis at age 13 with a cousin and a friend. “When my mom found out, she was like, ‘If you’re going to smoke, you should smoke with us instead of doing it with people we don’t know.’ So after that I would smoke marijuana every day with my mom and stepdad,” said Dubree. “That was the only way I could really feel close to them. That was our dysfunctional family activity.”

He had his first drink at 14, and tried methamphetamine at age 16. It was his first brush with hard drugs. “That first line of meth was complete euphoria. Meth was my first true love. I can honestly say that,” said Dubree. “I lost my virginity about a month or two later, and I didn’t think it was anything compared to that first line of meth.”

But that all came to a halt when he had a heart attack at age 20. Two years later he cut back on booze too, after a car accident. But that wasn’t the end, or even the worst, of his experience with substance abuse.

He began using OxyContin to “take the edge off” after the accident, and became hooked on opioids. “I snorted it. And once again it was euphoria, like the meth. I graduated to Opana, a stronger opioid. I was 23.”

One year later, his life “went totally downhill.” Dubree had pawned off his possessions—his washer and dryer, couches, and TV—to buy Opana. He became homeless with his then-girlfriend; they were “dragging each other through this mess.”

After struggling for some time, the couple finally entered a recovery program at The Healing Place in Louisville. That’s where Dubree was introduced to fitness by a friend at the facility. It was the first time he’d stepped foot in a gym. “I have found that the gym is just like recovery. You never reach the end. You are always striving for better,” he said, according to USA Today.

He stayed at The Healing Place for 11 months, then moved to a halfway house where he lived for nearly three years. He was finally getting it together. He got a job, his own apartment, and eventually bought a house. 

Dubree is miles away from where he started. In his past life, he never thought he would own a house or vehicle again. He doesn’t have to worry about that anymore. He has a good job, a family, and finds comfort in helping others like him.

He sponsors others in recovery at The Healing Place, helping new detox patients start their recovery journey. “My dark past is something I can put to work,” he said. “I have the power to help other people.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr