Meet 21 Americans Ready to Inspire During National Recovery Month and Beyond

As National Recovery Month kicks off, Jason Wahler, Elizabeth Vargas, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, Cheryl Burke and more share the positive aspects of getting healthy and starting a new life.

By Mike Vulpo Sep 07, 2021 1:00 AMTags
Watch: Jason Wahler Shares Darkest Moments of Addiction & "New Beginnings"

It's time to celebrate recovery—and the people who live it every single day.

Across the country, it's difficult to find people who don't know someone personally affected by addiction. In July, a report from the United States government revealed that overdose deaths soared to a record 93,000 in 2020, a 29 percent increase from the year before COVID-19 impacted so many.

While there are many stories of hardship and grief, National Recovery Month is observed every September to teach Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those struggling to live healthy and rewarding lives.

Jason Wahler knows how difficult addiction can be. But after a public battle with drugs and alcohol, The Hills: New Beginnings star and CLEAN Cause ambassador is inspiring many to reach out for help.

"With National Recovery Month kicking off, the one thing I'd like to let people know is that it's never too late," he told E! News. "Ask yourself, ‘Does this add or subtract from the beautiful life I have to live? Am I really hitting my fullest potential?' If the answer isn't what you'd like, reach out and ask for help. You're not alone whether it's you, yourself struggling or a loved one around you and help is just an ask away."

Sweatin' With the Stars

For Captain Sandy Yawn, the decision to get help for her alcohol addiction came more than three decades ago. On Aug. 30, she celebrated 33 years of sobriety.

Paul Archuleta/Getty Images/Amy Sussman/Getty Images/Brian Ach/Getty Images for Apple TV+

"The fact that I have been able to stay clean for 33 years is because I keep doing the work and showing up for my life, which feels incredible," the Below Deck star told E! News. "It's such an accomplishment to look back on my life and see how I used to be and where I am today. It's a miracle."

Celebrities with thousands of followers and regular folks alike can experience the benefits of recovery. As part of National Recovery Month, we reached out to 21 inspiring individuals from all walks of life who find themselves experiencing the joys of recovery. Prepare to be inspired with their honest words of wisdom and tales of survival.

Elizabeth Vargas

+ New York City

Host of America's Most Wanted and Partnership to End Addiction's Heart of the Matter Podcast

"The best part of recovery by far has been the connection with other people on the same journey. It was particularly important during this pandemic. Addiction is a disease of isolation. Being able to connect and stay close to others—albeit on Zoom!—was a lifesaver. There is nothing like hearing other people being honest about life, their feelings, their challenges and struggles. I remember Anne Lamott writing about the power of the head nod, someone else saying 'yes, me too.' That is also why I wrote my book Between Breaths and started my podcast. There is nothing more powerful than hearing other people tell their stories of heartache and triumph, of struggle and sobriety. There is so much stigma, even now, around mental health and addiction. Millions suffer from both, and yet only around 10 percent get help. The more we can tell the stories of how people came out the other side, the more we encourage those still struggling to reach out for help. It can be so much better." 

Jason Wahler

+ Orange County, Calif

The Hills: New Beginnings Star and Ambassador of CLEAN Cause

"The best part of recovery is that I got to know myself. I live a life of integrity and that is full passion and purpose. I have a beautiful family who I love spending quality time with, and I have amazing friends and meaningful relationships. I no longer live a life full of lies, shame or guilt." 

Cheryl Burke

+ Los Angeles

Co-Host of iHeartRadio's Pretty Messed Up Podcast With AJ McLean and Rene Elizondo

"For me the best part of recovery is that I now show up for life as my authentic self. I'm more clearheaded, I am able to be there for my family and friends and I think, honestly, for the first time in my adult life, I am able to actually feel my feelings. Getting sober has allowed me to discover who I really am and to do the work to take care of the little girl inside that has a lot to heal from. It can be hard at times, and I know I will always have to take things one day at a time, but I wouldn't change my life today for anything." 

Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino

+ New Jersey

Jersey Shore: Family Vacation Star

"The best part of recovery is being the absolutely best version of myself and having the ability to share my story of experience, strength and hope with the world. The comeback is always greater than the setback and it's important to share positive stories of recovery so that we can show people that we in fact do recover." 

Kristen Feemster

+ Charlotte, North Carolina 

Therapist and Wellness Coach

"The best part about being sober is the freedom it's given me. Alcohol controlled my life, decisions and even my personality for a long time. In sobriety, I'm free to live authentically and face challenges with a clear mind."  

James Schienle

+ Orange County, Calif. 

Executive Chef at The Malibu Café at Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club

"The best part of recovery cannot be summed up into just one part, it is a culmination of many things. At the top of the list of things that are amazing about recovery is having my life back and a deeper sense of self. With that comes family, friends and love. Without recovery all the things that are important to me in life would be nonexistent, I would not have the family that is closest to my heart in my life, friends would be pushed away and I would not have the amazing wife and soon-to-be mother of my child in my life. The best part of recovery is all of God's blessings."

GiGi Robinson

+ New York City

Host of Spotify Greenroom's Everything You Need Is Within

"The best part about recovery for me is that I have finally focused on the relationship I have with my own mindset, personal growth, chronic illness and mental health so that I always put my physical health first. Doing that has helped me connect with people I love over shared experiences and genuine conversation, rather than connecting and drinking alcohol to defuse the moment. It has 100 percent made me a more intentional and confident person, especially when it comes to communicating!" 

George Youmans

+ Santa Monica, Calif.

Co-Founder of Hiyo

"The best part of recovery is finding the things in life that truly fill your cup. Substances tend to take up a lot of free time; free time that could be used doing something you truly love. Clean living requires you to get a bit more creative about how to spend your time, whether that is time spent with friends and family, new hobbies, fitness, etc. Recovery gives you the space to find the best parts of life." 

Captain Sandy Yawn

+ Denver

Below Deck Star

"I think the best part is the freedom, the mental freedom of remembering everything when you wake up the next day and having a clear mind and vision. Everything that has happened in my life is beyond any expectation I've ever had. It just keeps getting better and better and I know it is because I keep doing the work. It's not easy and it's one day at a time, but you have to remember no one is hopeless. I've felt hopeless before and I want to say that when you feel stuck, you have to remember to keep moving forward. Even if you feel like you are crawling, just keep moving forward...We all need to feel hope in order to keep going."   

Andrew Zimmern

+ Minneapolis

Host of Family Dinner on Magnolia Network

"After so many years, it's impossible to separate anything out. Recovery is my life and my life is recovery. I tell anyone who will listen that life is about human doing for others. By the end of 1991, I was a user of people and a taker of things and I was dying. I just didn't see it. Now my life is full from when I rise to when I go to bed, all thanks to the people who have shared so much with me over the years, loving me until I could love myself. Thanks to other people, I actually have a life and most importantly, the opportunity to give back every minute of the day. Other people gave me the ability to match every curve ball and heartache that life throws at me with choices about how I react. I can never repay that debt, but I try, by passing it all on to others. I am so grateful to be an active human doing, not a sedentary human being. I never saw that gift coming. Never asked for it either. And now I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."


Braunwyn Windham-Burke

+ Orange County, Calif. 

Former Real Housewives of Orange County Star 

"The past year and a half of being sober is the greatest gift I could have given to my friends, family and myself. The most amazing part of recovery is simply being able to show up—to wake up and be able to say 'yes' to everything. I can do all of the things, and I am able to be fully present for my seven little humans. Recovery, to me, is the awakened ability to show up, and it feels amazing." 

Nathan James

+ Orange County, Fla.


"The best part about recovery for me was recognizing the person in the mirror again. I was in such a dark place and dependent on alcohol that I didn't recognize who I was anymore. On my sobriety journey, I learned to deal with my emotions and pain, not numb them. When I look in the mirror now, I see the man God created me to be: joyful, loving and kind." 

Ashley Weaver

+ Memphis, Tenn.

Program Coordinator at Epicenter

"Through recovery I slowly created a strong foundation to build a life on. This includes relationships with depth and weight. I have found people that speak the same strange language as me. I even found someone I wanted to marry and start a family with. We have two wonderful daughters and live in a loving, stable home together. I am legally self-supporting and able to make a difference through my job, lifting up local businesses in my hometown, Memphis. Beyond that, and perhaps most importantly, I have gratitude and peace of mind, which allows me to be present for all of life's ups and downs."

John Wolf

+ Austin, Texas

Chief Fitness Officer of Onnit

"At the peak of my addiction, I was a 130-pound shell of a human being, in a constant state of apathy that didn't allow me to express care for much of anything or anyone much less act in a way that made a meaningful contribution to the world around me. That said, the lessons learned through acknowledging how damaging the choices I made at that time were to me and others led me to dive deep into many avenues of personal development, eventually leading me to the path of coaching others. Drawing from my experience with addiction and lessons learned throughout recovery, I have been able to better empathize with the people I work with and help guide them on a path of self improvement and self love."

Sarah Levy

+ Oregon

Office Manager

"I get to create the authentic, true life I was meant to live, enjoy every moment and create a long life of peace, joy, happiness and freedom. Rob Lowe said it best: Sobriety was the greatest gift I ever gave myself. Truth." 

Wes Hurt

+ Austin, Texas

Founder of CLEAN Cause

"To me, the best part of recovery is the newfound freedom it brings. And while freedom comes in many forms, I value the psychological and emotional freedom the most. Having been addicted to drugs and alcohol for more than 20 years, I think the old expression sums it up well: Recovery really does give you 'a new lease on life.'"

Hanna Fobare

+ Dallas

President/Founder of HEF Recovery

"I used to look forward to going to bed and I dreaded waking up. The best part of recovery is that today, I feel like there are never enough hours of the day to continuously discover and be the person I was put on this earth to be. I turned my mess into my message and couldn't be more grateful for something I was once so ashamed of. I am proud to say I am in recovery. I am proud of the person I have become.  I accepted, surrendered and fully committed to start a lifelong journey encompassing something that was so hard for me; rigorous honesty. If I can do it, so can YOU. Trust me. It's worth it."

Noah Neiman

+ New York City

Co-Founder of Rumble Boxing

"Muhammed Ali said, 'Service to others is our rent for our room here on earth.' Too often in my life, I was so focused on myself: what I could achieve, what I could consume, what I could obtain. That fundamental shift in perspective in focusing on what you can GIVE, over what you can take, is one that changed my life forever. I try to honor that moment I shifted my perspective everyday, especially at Rumble. I'm grateful for being able to positively impact thousands of people across the country, and soon the world, with Rumble; because it was way too destructive and stressful to continuously think about myself. Serve OTHERS, and you would be shocked at how much YOU gain in return." 

Tiffiny Costello

+ New York City

Musician, Artist and Creator

"Interestingly, recovery is a noun—as if once you arrive in the state of recovery, you've made it and everything will be easy from then on. That's not the case, but it's one of the best things about recovery: knowing that you will never be the same once you walk away from whatever substance you were using. Knowing that you just have to take one day, one hour, one minute at a time. You learn that the person you were under the influence of drugs/alcohol is a part of you that has been crying out to be nurtured and healed. With a clear head, you can begin to work on that healing, instead of continuing to cover it up and distract yourself with drinking or using. You also learn more about yourself in the process. Living in recovery is not easier, but it brings light, meaning and purpose to your life." 

Justin Carrier

+ Dallas

Ambassador for the Tourette Association of America

"The best part about recovery is no matter how far down the scale we have gone, we get to use our experience to benefit others. Alcoholics and addicts can feel like the biggest drains on society, bringing more harm to the world than good. Recovery is about helping others to achieve sobriety. I've been able to take the most shameful decisions and experiences from my active addiction and relate to a struggling addict and help them make it to the other side."

Amy Liz Harrison

+ Seattle

Author of Eternally Expecting: A Mom of Eight Gets Sober and Gives Birth to a New Life...Her Own

"I no longer feel the need to define myself by my perceived failures or successes. I'm living life to its fullest and don't care what anyone thinks, even if I am the only PTA President in the history of my kids' school with a mug shot. Now, I offer the best version of myself, however imperfect, to my husband and eight kids. It's a massive shift from my previous routine of showing up to life bringing my hungover, emotionally bankrupt and mentally tortured leftovers."