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As a seasoned ballroom professional, dancer Cheryl Burke has a lot to be proud of—including two wins on Dancing with the Stars. Two years ago, though, she made headlines for another milestone—getting sober.
While Burke has found happiness in her decision to get sober, she recently opened up about the nervousness she’s experienced ahead of her return to DWTS—her second season of competition since getting sober. Paired with Peloton fitness instructor Cody Rigsby, Burke has once again taken up residence on the ballroom floor in her 24th pairing since the show’s debut.
In an Instagram video caption, Burke shared with fans that she was apprehensive about her return to the dance floor, saying, “Confession time—this may be my 24th time doing #dwts, and even though I’m SO excited, I also have major nerves.”
She went on to say that her sobriety was at the root of her nerves, stating, “I know you guys are gonna be like, ‘Why [are you scared]? You’re fabulous!’ Which I thank you for so much. But I want you to know, since being sober, this has been really scary for me.”
For Burke, the decision to get sober came during a celebratory—and somber—period. Newly engaged to now-husband (and brother of former DWTS contestant Joey Lawrence) Matthew, Burke was entering an exciting new phase. Though some time after Burke and Lawrence got engaged, Burke’s father passed away, which caused her to re-evaluate her relationship with drinking.
Reflecting on this momentous period of her life, Burke said that her father was a former alcoholic, which caused her to decide that, “[…] either I was gonna crash and burn and check myself into rehab or I was gonna just quit cold turkey. That’s just my personality. It’s either black or white.”
In her first season of competition post-sobriety, Burke was partnered with Backstreet Boy AJ McLean, who has also been vocal about his personal journey toward sobriety. In an interview, McLean stated that he was a “chronic relapser,” and that he had restarted his sobriety shortly prior to his stint on DWTS.
Speaking about their partnership on the show, Burke said that their connection and support for each other was meaningful—and helpful. In an interview with Us Weekly, she said, “AJ also has influenced me in a positive way with him being sober and we can talk therapy talk.”
Today, Burke shares a podcast with McLean called Pretty Messed Up, where the two discuss their experiences in sobriety, among other topics. Although the pair placed 7th in their season of DWTS, their friendship endures—as well as their individual commitments to sobriety.
Burke cites friends like McLean, as well as her husband, and others she has met through recovery meetings, as the encouragers who have sustained her as she fights the daily fight to stay sober. While she has refrained from drinking for over two years, she is still finding her footing as a sober dancer performing in front of millions.
“Doing this show sober has really made me realize my every insecurity and the amount of pressure I put on myself, which is tough,” she continued in her recent Instagram post.
In the season premiere of DWTS, Burke and Rigsby earned 24 out of 30 points with their first dance. Although they were set to take the stage again this evening, Burke has unfortunately contracted a breakthrough case of COVID-19.
From the enthusiasm Rigsby displayed upon learning he would be partnered with Burke, it’s clear to see that the pair will continue to learn from each other and improve their skills week by week when it’s safe to resume.
For now, Burke has a sober community behind her, rooting her on as she defines her own path—and success—in recovery.
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