Michael Dubree wasn’t more than a year old when his parents got a divorce. He was no older than a toddler when his mom met his eventual stepfather. His stepfather was also a drug dealer, a fact that set Dubree’s life in a direction he wouldn’t wish on anybody.

As Dubree told Dearly, for the first three to four years of his life, his relationship with his mom was “great,” even calling her his “best friend.” It was after she met her second husband that things got a bit rocky for the both of them.

According to Dubree, his relationship with his stepfather was pretty good for the first couple of years as well. But as time went on, the both of them started getting deeper and deeper into their drug use. Dubree’s stepfather became emotionally abusive.

Michael Dubree/Instagram

The now-30-year-old explained to Dearly:

“They both were caught up in addiction. There was a lot of mental and physical abuse, never anything sexual, but there was a lot of mental and physical abuse. Child Protective Services came to our house two times. So, you know, obviously, it wasn’t just my perception — there was something going on.

My mom, when I was between the ages of 13 to 18, she would just sleep a lot of the time, she was so high. At one time, she would cook meals every night, you know, do normal activities that moms do. But as time progressed, that stopped.”

Dubree always knew his childhood was different than most. As he described it to Men’s Health magazine, he constantly felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

When growing up, he would often compare his childhood to the childhood of his peers:

“I would compare myself to other kids and their families and how they grew up. They’re living in these nice homes and their moms and dads are driving these nice cars, and they’re going to football practice and all this stuff.”

And although he knew his life was different, Dubree explained to Dearly, he was too scared to tell anyone about what he was going through. In fact, when questioned by Child Protective Services about his upbringing, he lied, telling them “everything was fine” because he “feared the unknown.”

However, that didn’t stop Dubree from making attempts at getting the type of lifestyle his peers had on his own. He told Dearly that at one point, he moved out of his mom’s home and into his grandparents’ when he was 12.

He lived there for about a year before he began living a life similar to that of his parents. Despite moving away from the constant drug use, Dubree found himself using by the time he was a teenager.

Once Dubree began smoking weed, he eventually moved back in with his parents, where they found common ground in their drug use. He told Dearly:

“I guess you can say I finally felt accepted in a way, in a weird way, I kind of felt accepted.”

He continued by saying his mother never tried to steer him away from drugs. In fact, she contributed to his addiction:

“She contributed to me trying to do new things, like Zanax. Zanax, if I remember correctly, was the drug that I got introduced to through her.”

Eventually, Dubree’s drug use spiraled out of control. He became addicted to meth, among other drugs, and suffered a heart attack at 20 years old. The heart attack forced him to stop doing meth, but after an alcohol-related car accident introduced him to OxyContin, he became addicted to that.

After about a year on OxyContin and later Opana, he and his girlfriend at the time checked themselves into a rehab facility. That’s when he was first introduced to the gym and where his life would change forever.

It was his friend, who was also getting help at the same center, who encouraged Dubree to get into the gym with him. He told Dearly:

“I got sober, January 7, 2011, that when I went to The Healing Place, which is the place my recovery started. While I was in there, I got introduced to working out through one of my friends. The first time I ever stepped foot into a gym was March 1, 2011.

I was very scared. My ego wouldn’t allow me to work out at that time because there were a lot of guys in the gym. I’m like, ‘I’m not the strongest, I’m not the best looking,’ all these things that normal people would face the first time they go to the gym. It was very intimidating. So I just kind of walked around until finally, everyone cleared out. That’s when he began showing me the ropes.

For some reason, I just kept going back.”

After about two months of spending his free time working out, Dubree began to see results, giving him the self-confidence he never knew he had:

“I hadn’t seen myself in the mirror until one day I got out of the shower and I looked at myself in the mirror and my whole body had changed drastically. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, my God, this is actually working. From there, it just lit a fire in me.”

Sadly, the guy who introduced him to the gym started using again and left the facility. No longer having a partner to rely on, Dubree started turning to Men’s Health for tips and tricks.

Now, five years later after working toward getting his life on track, Dubree has a new girlfriend, three stepchildren he claims as his children, and was named the Ultimate Men’s Health Guy of 2017 by the same magazine that helped his progress.

Dubree called the honor “indescribably wonderful,” adding that it’s also left him speechless.

Now looking to continue his life in the gym while helping raise his girlfriend’s three children, Dubree says that the rough upbringings both he and his girlfriend have faced have caused them to ensure their three girls have everything they could ever want in life.

He told Dearly:

“I definitely spoil the children a lot. I’m really big on home time. We all sit around and watch movies, even though they aren’t my children, I claim them as mine. The love that I have for them is as strong as if they were biologically mine. I give them everything that I ever had.”

And while being on the cover of Men’s Health has always been a dream of his, the most important part of his journey so far has been his ability to inspire others during their journeys toward sobriety.

He added, “Whenever I get those messages, that just makes my day.”

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