From USA Today:
LOUISVILLE — At 30 years old, Louisville native Michael Dubree is the epitome of what it means to be physically fit and mentally healthy.
He appears to be a well-rounded kind of guy, which landed the soft spoken bodybuilder on the November cover of Men’s Health as the winner of the magazine’s 2017 Ultimate Guy contest.
His sculpted pecs and steel biceps are the result of spending six days a week at Powerhouse Gym on Shelbyville Road.
But it’s more than a “perfect body” Dubree is after. With every trip to the gym, he knows he is that much further away from the life he once lived.
Dubree grew up in a home with a stepfather who was a drug dealer and his mother, a user.
“I was smoking pot and drinking alcohol starting at age 13,” Dubree recalls. “I had a heart attack when I was 20 related to my use of [methamphetamine] so I stopped that, but then I started in on OxyContin and eventually a stronger opioid called Opana.”
To pay for his drug habit, Dubree sold nearly all of his possessions and eventually ended up homeless.
“By the time I was 24, my life had gone totally downhill,” he said. “Everything I had went to those pills.”
In 2011, with his life in turmoil, Dubree entered a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program in downtown Louisville. He spent 11 months at the Healing Place and then moved into a halfway house for the next three years.
During the early months of his recovery, a friend at The Healing Place suggested they visit a gym together.
“I weighed about 155 pounds at that time and I really didn’t want to go, but to get him to shut up and stop talking about it, I agreed,” he said.
It would be the first time Dubree had ever stepped foot in a gym.
“I was scared,” he said. “I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to embarrass myself, but eventually when everyone else cleared out, my friend showed me how to do a few different things and from that point on, I kept going back.”
Like showing up daily for his recovery program, Dubree became devoted to the gym. Gradually, both his mental health and physical body began to transform.
Several weeks after his first visit to the Sheppard Square Community Center’s gym, Dubree mustered the courage to look at himself in a mirror. Up until that point, he hadn’t wanted to see his own reflection.
“I was like ‘oh my God, this is actually working,’ and from that day forward, something happened,” he said. “I guess it was the first time in my life that I had tried something and got positive results from it.”
Because he wanted to learn more about bodybuilding and healthy eating, he talked with other people in the gym and read articles in Men’s Health.
“I used to eat nothing but the cheapest fast food because let’s face it, when you’re a drug addict, every bit of my money went to drugs and alcohol,” Dubree said.
His diet has completely changed. Now, his morning typically starts with six eggs and oatmeal. Throughout the day, he eats some combination of chicken, rice, fish, sweet potatoes, avocados, almonds and any kind of green vegetable.
Today, he weighs 197 pounds — of pure muscle.
Seven years after losing everything, Dubree has traded his drug addiction for a determination to continue to improve his own life and support other addicts on their road to sobriety.
Volunteering his time in the detox unit at The Healing Place, Dubree offers encouragement to those just entering the program — often retelling his own journey to sobriety.
“In order to keep it, you have to give it away,” Dubree said. “One of my ways to hold onto my sobriety is to offer my experience and hope to these guys.”
No longer unemployed or homeless, he makes his living as a crane operator and recently worked on the new Ohio River Bridges project.
In the gym, Dubree has exceeded his wildest dreams and continues to pursue higher levels of health and fitness while sharing his expertise with anyone who asks.
It’s this combination of compassion, determination and hope that lead Men’s Health to honor this Louisville man and to put him on its cover as an example to others.
“I have found that the gym it’s just like recovery,” he said. “You never reach the end. You are always striving for better.”
Link to original article in USA Today: Once homeless and drug addicted, man’s transformation in pages of ‘Men’s Health’