You might know me from the world of reality TV, but there's a part of my story that's less known, yet deeply defining — my journey to sobriety.

Growing Up in Pittsburgh and Early Influences

My story starts in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, where I grew up in a family that, despite being surrounded by affluence, grappled with its own set of struggles. Early on, I watched my brother battle with substance abuse, and it left an indelible mark on me. In high school, while some of my peers indulged in drinking, I stayed away, partly in response to what I saw happening at home. I was focused on my studies, determined to carve a different path for myself.

College Years and Life in New York City

But life has its ways of testing our resolves. I remember my first encounter with alcohol — a lukewarm Milwaukee’s Best Light. It left me feeling sick, a stark introduction to the substance I’d later have a tumultuous relationship with. Reflecting back, I find it ironic how we often return to things that don’t serve us well, a testament to the complex nature of human behavior.

College at Syracuse University introduced me to a whole new world. I joined a fraternity in my freshman year, and it was like stepping into an arena of binge drinking. It wasn’t just about the drinking; it was the realization that I could hold my liquor better than most. There was a sense of pride in bouncing back quickly the next day, oblivious to the damage I was doing to myself.

After college, New York City was a revelation. It was here that my journey with alcohol and drugs took a darker turn. The city offered a masterclass in late-night parties, accessible drugs, and choices I’d later regret. I developed a persona, fueled by alcohol and cocaine, that I thought was the epitome of who I wanted to be — charismatic, funny, intelligent. But it was a façade, one that required more and more substance to maintain.

Facing Myself on “Summer House”

My time on “Summer House” only amplified these tendencies. The show’s premise — a summer of fun and freedom — seemed like an extension of my own life. But as I watched myself on screen, I realized the toll my behavior was taking, not just on me but on those around me. I was trying to numb the discomfort of public scrutiny and my own self-judgment with more drinking, spiraling further away from the person I truly wanted to be.

It took a profound personal tragedy to jolt me out of this cycle. The loss of my brother was a devastating blow, one that made me confront the harsh reality of my choices. In the wake of his passing, I continued to drink and use, mistakenly believing it would help me cope. It was a misguided attempt to escape the pain, but in reality, it only delayed my healing.

My Turning Point: January 6, 2021

January 6, 2021, stands as a pivotal moment in my life. The chaos of the outside world mirrored the turmoil within me. I remember sitting alone, drowning in wine and cocaine, as I watched the news unfold. The next morning, I woke up to the consequences of my actions — a brutal hangover and the realization of the hurtful messages I’d sent. It was a moment of stark clarity.

I knew then that I couldn’t continue living this way.

My Sobriety Journey and the Hope I Hold for Others

The journey to sobriety is rarely linear, and mine was no exception. It began with a call to a sober friend and finding a sponsor through Alcoholics Anonymous. I embarked on a daily routine of calls, meetings, and therapy. I embraced meditation and exercise, finding solace in these healthier practices. It was a process marked by small victories and considerable challenges, but each step brought me closer to a life of clarity and purpose.

Sobriety has taught me the value of being present — for myself, my family, and those who share similar struggles. It’s a path that demands constant vigilance and commitment, but the rewards are immeasurable. Today, I stand not just as a man who has overcome addiction but as someone who is rediscovering the joy of living authentically.

I share my story not for sympathy but to offer hope to others. If my experiences can help even one person feel less alone or encourage them to seek help, then every step of this journey has been worth it. Sobriety isn’t just about abstaining from substances; it’s a journey towards self-discovery, healing, and ultimately, transformation.

As I continue on this path, I’m reminded of the strength of the people who stand beside me in this journey, and of my own resilience. Sobriety is not just abstaining from a drink or a drug; it’s a daily commitment to a healthier, more fulfilling life. It’s about facing the challenges head-on, with honesty and courage. I’m grateful for every step of this journey, as it has shaped me into who I am today — stronger, more aware, and committed to a life of sobriety and purpose.

In sharing my story, I hope to inspire others to embrace their own journeys, to seek help when needed, and to know that they are not alone. There’s a world of support and understanding waiting for those ready to take the first step. My journey continues, and I am committed to living each day with intention, purpose, and gratitude.

Thank you for being a part of my story, for listening, and for supporting me on this journey. Together, we can create a community of strength, hope, and recovery.

-Carl Radke