John Mabry’s story of addiction begins where most people’s end. At 22, he was involved in a horrific SUV accident that claimed his right leg as well as the life of his friend. (The vehicle flipped 10 times in less than 10 seconds.) It’s the sort of shocking, violent twist that takes place in Act 2 in most screenplays about substance abuse. Not for Mabry. This happened during the opening credits of his life story. It wasn’t until after John survived the accident that he found himself in a private hell of painkillers and alcohol that very nearly took everything he held dear. Years later, his bout with addiction has become the backbone of a remarkable recovery, which now sees him as a counselor, motivational speaker, triathlete (yes, you read that right), and a proud, married father of three who uses his past weaknesses as present strengths. It’s clear that John Mabry hasn’t simply learned to use a prosthetic leg so much as learn how to walk, fearlessly and courageously, through life. I also started working for a non-profit called the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which I still do some work with. They’re in San Diego. We raise money for people with physical disabilities access to sports. They’ve funded tens of thousands of dollars to me over the years for sports equipment and a running leg. In turn, I’ve been able to help raise money for things like wheelchairs for kids’ wheelchair basketball teams. It’s great to work alongside a charity with a meaningful purpose. I even got a master’s in counseling to get myself in a position to help other people.
Skydiving, triathlons, snow skiing. I continue to push myself physically. Crossfit took a toll on my good leg, which I have arthritis in. Now it’s boxing at Title Boxing, which has been challenging. Really good therapeutic outlet to let go of steam. I frequently quote Scent of a Woman, when Al Pacino’s Lt. Col. Frank Slade says, “There is nothing like the sight of an amputated spirit. There is no prosthetic for that.” I think so many people today struggle with disabling events in their lives that they don’t feel they can share with others or find the strength to face them. Maybe something in their past has caused shame, disappointment, or unmet expectations. Loneliness is a big one. Especially with millennials. Everything’s gotta look good on social media. All the filters. Or, “Oh, that angle didn’t work. Let’s try it again so I look thinner.” It’s really just about “If you’re struggling—it’s okay. It’s not ok to cover up your struggles by endlessly checking your phone, turning to food, toxic relationships, or any other addictive behavior. If you need help, ask for it.” You don’t have to work through your struggles alone.