By Brooke Hill | Staff Writer
In an instant, Baylor alum John Clint Mabry’s life was flipped literally upside down in a car accident that would shape the rest of his life.
It was his senior year of college, everything was going great, and Mabry felt invincible. He was on a full-ride scholarship as a videographer for the athletics department, he was a DJ for KWBU radio and was the social chair for Delta Tau Delta fraternity. He thought life couldn’t get any better.
Coincidentally, it got worse.
“We’re coming back from this magical spring break cruise and the unthinkable happens,” Mabry said.
As Mabry and his friends were driving back to Waco, a tire blew out on the car he was in near Centerville on I-45. The car rolled 10 times.
“When something that heavy happens to you … I thought I was going to die in those six or seven seconds of that car turning over and over and seeing my legs get crushed numerous times and not being able to do anything about it,” Mabry said. “I was conscious the whole time. It’s just absolutely terrifying when you tell yourself, ‘I’m going to die in this moment,’ and then the car comes to a complete stop and everything is quiet.”
The accident resulted in Mabry losing his right leg. He had a year of surgeries following the amputation, while attempting to finish out his senior year. He eventually graduated after five years at Baylor.
The accident introduced him to pain killers. When Mabry moved to Dallas for a job after graduation, more drugs were introduced. The combination of prescription pain killers, anxiety pills and Adderall began to send him into a frenzy of addiction, paired with the alcohol consumption that had been ongoing throughout his college experience.
From there, Mabry moved to San Diego to work on attaining a master’s degree in counseling. Upon his arrival, his cousin, actor Josh Henderson, asked Mabry to help him prepare for a role in which his character had lost a leg. Mabry was hired on set as a technical consultant, and that was the beginning of his acting career. Mabry appeared in “Superbad,” “NCIS” and “ER.” He went bowling at former NBA star Phil Jackson’s house and got to meet Peyton Manning and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson backstage at the ESPY’s. He says the pinnacle of his time in Hollywood was being at the Playboy mansion with Adam Sandler.
The atmosphere did not help with his addiction.
“There were times when my wife came home from work and I was passed out and she couldn’t wake me up,” Mabry said.
Mabry and his wife moved to Nashville, where the full effects of his addiction came crashing down on him when lost his job. This is what caused him to realize that he needed help.
“Addiction isn’t about the drugs themselves,” Mabry said. “It is about a disconnection from others. It’s about people being disconnected, which I believe is through technology and social media and through distractions of the world that we are more and more pulled apart from other people on a heart level. Are we ever really present in our lives anymore? We’re always trying to be somewhere else or someone else and we’re never really comfortable in our own skin. It’s just so easy for us to try to find something outside of ourselves to try to fill the void that we have inside.”
Mabry said that the hardest battle is battling yourself. A huge advocate for analyzing childhood abuse, Mabry realized throughout his treatment that an experience in his childhood is what had given him a predisposition to use disorders. A therapist who resonated with him said that after so many traumatic experiences, drugs and alcohol were an almost natural response. The therapist likened his addiction to him being on fire and looking for the first extinguisher to put out the flames.
“I thought addiction was people under the bridge, that it was somebody else’s problem,” Mabry said. “Addiction doesn’t care who you are. If somebody finds themselves with a substance abuse issue, it’s OK. If you’re abusing drugs and alcohol, there’s probably a good reason you’re doing that. It’s probably not because you’re super happy and life is going great and you want to screw it up. It’s probably because you’re miserable and there’s something that you’re not handling and you’re scared to face.”
The treatment that was the right fit for Mabry was Addiction Campuses. In addition to assisting him on the road to recovery, they hired him as director of public outreach and as the host of a podcast, High Sobriety. Recent guests on his show include members of the Grammy-winning rock bands Korn and 3 Doors Down; Michael Lohan, Lindsay Lohan’s dad; as well as many leaders in the field of addiction and mental health.
“Once I got myself out of the way, which I have to do every day in recovery … what I did for staying sober yesterday isn’t going to keep me sober today,” Mabry said when asked why he began the podcast. “I still have to get up today and do the next right thing every single day or I’m just going to go backwards.”
Baylor’s Beauchamp Addiction Recovery Center is an on-campus resource where students can go to be in community with other students in recovery. September is national recovery month, so the BARC has hosted events such as moonlight yoga and bringing in Angel Paws to bring awareness to what they do.
College students are more likely to binge drink and misuse prescription drugs, according to Senior Recovery Support Coordinator Lilly Ettinger. Alcohol and drugs are the No. 1 reason education gets interrupted, and when it’s interrupted there’s a less likely chance of finishing it. She encourages college students not to give up on their schooling in spite of their struggles.
“For college students, their dreams are one of their biggest assets in recovery, not a liability,” Ettinger said.
She emphasized that students are not alone in their struggles. There are resources available to them through the BARC and the counseling system to support them.
“Being in recovery is one of the clearest examples of day to day, of what the resurrection of God means,” Ettinger said.