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The Bachelorette franchise is making headlines in the world of addiction recovery. Zac Clark, the winner of season 16 and Tayshia Adams’ top pick, has been sober from drugs and alcohol since 2011.
As fans of the Bachelor and similar series know well, the long-standing TV show often features contestants drinking—sometimes heavily—and includes a weekly “rose ceremony” that’s punctuated with a champagne toast. For many, this is part of the Bachelor/Bachelorette experience. For Clark, the experience was markedly different.
Early into his stint on The Bachelorette, Clark was open about his sobriety and had frank discussions with Adams about his journey through addiction. Clark noted that as a teen, he experimented with certain drugs. Though after college, he underwent surgery to treat a brain tumor, and began taking heavy pain medication as a result. Now 36 years old, Clark realized he needed help around age 25, when he attended rehab for his addiction to those pain medications, as well as alcohol.
In a presentation at Alvernia University in 2014, Clark shared the gritty details of his addiction, which notably included a dependence on OxyContin. He also spoke about an 8-month binge period where he experimented with everything from intravenous heroin to whippets.
Clark recently reflected on his lowest point in a heartfelt Instagram post, where he paid tribute to the person who helped him in realizing he needed professional help. In the post, Clark recounted an incident during his active addiction where he tried to cash a forged check. The bank teller recognized that Clark may need help, and instead of reporting him to the authorities, she called Clark’s dad, the account owner on the checks Clark had stolen.
The bank teller—Rhonda—made the call that ended up making all the difference. Upon hearing that Clark was at the bank, his father met him there, and within that same week, Clark entered treatment.
After completing treatment, Clark committed himself to sobriety, and founded his own treatment center, Release Recovery, in 2017. The New York-based sober living program serves men and women in the beginning stages of addiction recovery.
Initially starting his Bachelorette journey as a suitor for Clare Crawley, Clark stayed on the show to meet Adams when she arrived as Crawley’s replacement. The pair hit it off early into the show, and quickly bonded on shared experiences. Both Adams and Clark were previously divorced.
On the podcast Click Bait, Clark revealed that staff offered him sparkling apple cider or ginger ale to participate in the show’s many toasts. To squash any speculation that he did indulge in champagne on the show, Clark said, “No, there was no drinking on the show. Sober to me means no drugs, no alcohol, no nothing since August of 2011.”
In a later “rose ceremony” on the show, Adams also opted for the apple cider option in solidarity—and affection—for Clark.
Clark is one of few openly sober Bachelorette contestants, and certainly the contestant who has shared the most of his story with the public. With a platform as wide-reaching as the Bachelorette, Clark has sent an incredible message of hope to those who are struggling. With nearly a decade of sobriety behind him, his experience now serves to help others as he has turned recovery into his life’s work.
Today, Clark’s journey has come full-circle, with millions watching his journey on the Bachelorette. Clark’s candidness and charm proved to impress Adams, who accepted his proposal on the final episode of the season. Now engaged, Adams plans to move to New York to live with Clark.
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