LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Most of us know someone who has fought or who is fighting the battle of addiction. Many know someone who has lost or nearly lost a family member because of this illness.
Yet, at the same time, few other medical conditions are surrounded by as much shame and misunderstanding as substance use disorders. Fingers are usually pointed at the addict as they are accused of moral weakness or as a willful rejection of societal norms.
With no help, the addict's problems are often addressed primarily through the criminal justice system or by the undertaker.
The November issue of Men's Health Magazine brags in the top right corner of the publication that it is filled with "tons of useful stuff." The "stuff" inside this issue could be lifesaving, thanks to the story of the Ultimate Men's Health Guy, Michael Dubree.
"It came through Facebook," Dubree explained about the announcement of the Ultimate Men's Health Guy competition.
Dubree, a Thompsonville, Kentucky native, wanted to be that Ultimate man.
"There's a possibility I'm going to be on Men's Health Magazine," he thought as he received a message from the magazine after entering the contest.
After filling, everything out and sending everything in, Dubree was flown to New York with a group of men for a closer look.
"The biggest men's magazine in the entire world!" Dubree explained, with the excitement of a child at Christmas.
After flying to the Men's Health office in New York he received another call from the magazine.
"I answer the phone," he says with a smile. "We're trying to figure out which [pictures] would look the best on the cover of Men's health Magazine and I said 'Oh my God'."
The magazine is printed in 35 countries and Dubree is going to be on the front cover.
He had gotten this far but feared they'd change their mind.
"I actually had a little bit of fear my story was too brutal," he said wrinkling his brow.
Dubree may look like the picture of health now, but his story is one of nearly a decade of fighting the addiction of pills, pain, drugs and liquor.
"Somebody told their story to me and that's the reason I'm sitting here today," he stressed.
If he was going to be on the cover of the magazine, the story on the pages inside had to be his too. Dubree is a recovering addict.
"This disease is fatal if left unattended," he emphasized.
Michael started using drugs on a regular basis at the age of 13. When his mother and step-father found out, they invited him to join them as they also used drugs. Dubree explained that his mother's thinking behind the decision, was that at least she would know what he was doing and what he was taking. The family smoked marijuana together. Marijuana was a gateway drug for Dubree.
"At 16, I started using methamphetamines," he explains while shaking his head. "It was my first love. I never will forget it. The feeling was euphoric and at 20 years old I had a heart attack as a direct effect of the methamphetamines."
This could have been a wake up call, or at least an opportunity to get medical help for Dubree, but while recovering in the hospital he was given pain medication.
"That started a whole new ball game with drugs," he said with a chuckle.
Dubree was now taking prescription drugs, marijuana, methamphetamines, and consuming alcohol.
"One year after the heart attack, I was in a head on collision car wreck," he whispered.
Luckily everyone walked away from the crash.
One year after the head on collision, Dubree finally walked into the Healing Place for help.
"I was kissing death on the face," he said shaking his head.
He sees that now, but in the middle of his addiction, not taking drugs had never crossed his mind.
He thought, "Maybe I've got a minute pill taking problem but I'm still gonna drink alcohol."
The Healing Place felt more like a prison than a haven that could heal him. One day while in a meeting listening to one of his peers, the story sounded familiar.
"I've done that," Dubree said amazed. "That's me. I've thought the exact same thing. I've felt the exact same way."
He understood he needed help. He began to learn what it would take to take life one day at a time.
"I got sober January 17, 2011," Dubree said with pride.
He wanted a healthy body to go with his now healthy mind.
With a laugh he says, "Stepped foot into the gym March 2011."
Dubree went to the gym because one of his close friends would not stop asking him to go. He never had any intentions of staying. He was tired of the badgering and thought that he would walk around and leave. But, Dubree still goes to the gym every night, nearly six years later.
"You don't have to live the way you've been living anymore if you don't want to," he says with great passion.
Dubree's message in Men's Health Magazine, and in life, is that there is hope and there is help.
"The whole world knows now," he says proudly as he shares his story with as many people as will listen.