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Best known for his Travel Channel show Bizarre Foods, Andrew Zimmern is a culinary expert who has served as an executive chef at restaurants across the globe and cultivated a large following through his popular cookbooks. With hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and thousands more flocking to his restaurants and watching his shows, he is among the most well-known celebrity chefs in the country.
Zimmern is also well-known for a reason outside of his culinary talents: his has been sober for 28 years.
Throughout his culinary career, Zimmern has remained extremely open about his troubled past, and about the struggles that lined his path to success. Now 58 years old, Zimmern celebrates his sobriety, though with a keen sense of gratitude for those who helped him along the way.
Zimmern began his culinary training at just 14 years old, although he has admitted in interviews that his addictions began even prior to that time. Speaking with People magazine, Zimmern recalled a turning point in his life, when his mother was in an accident and fell into a coma. Zimmern was just 13 years old.
“It was so traumatic. My parents had been divorced for six or seven years at that point, and it was sort of the seminal event of my life,” he said.
Although his mother eventually recovered, Zimmern coped with the pain by turning to drugs and alcohol, and before long, became physically dependent on these substances.
While Zimmern struggled with substance dependence, he continued to fly under the radar at school, describing himself as “functional.” He graduated from high school, and then Vassar College, all while managing to pursue his training as a chef and maintaining employment in different restaurants.
Of his addictions, he stated, “I just became a snorting, speedball freak with a lot of pills and pot and booze. I created a balance of chemicals in my body that actually allowed me to be very high functioning for many, many years.”
In the early ‘90s, Zimmern hit rock bottom. Homeless in New York City, Zimmern described hawking jewelry that he had stolen from his godmother to fuel his drug habit, before checking into a flophouse hotel. During that time, he remembered trying to “drink himself to death,” though the stay in the hotel ended with Zimmern checking in to a rehabilitation center in Minnesota.
Through addiction treatment and programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Zimmern found sobriety, and though it nearly 30 years have passed, his journey has not been easy.
Many years, Zimmern has taken to social media to mark the occasion of his “sober birthday”—with this year being no exception. The most recent post, which features a photo of a much younger Zimmern holding a wine glass, boasts a thoughtful caption that reflects Zimmern’s success—and his humility.
“Today I’m 28 years sober on the 28th. A golden date. I’m grateful and very overwhelmed. Every anniversary I wonder ‘why me’? Why me when so many others end up in jails, institutions or die from this illness. Well, I did jails/institutions and I wanted to die at the end, but the universe had different plans for me. I can’t ever begin to repay the debt I owe to others,” he wrote in the post.
Zimmern goes on to thank several people who played a role in his ongoing sobriety, including his sponsees and roommates in treatment, proving the lasting impact of the bonds made in early recovery.
Now at the height of his success, Zimmern often remarks that his experiences led him to look at life through a new lens. At RECO we are familiar with this lens—of hope, of resilience, and of the will to survive.
Discover a better life and call our recovery helpline today.