The host of the upcoming MSNBC series What’s Eating America made a sentimental Instagram post to commemorate this “golden milestone” and to encourage people who are struggling to seek help.
“Every anniversary I wonder ‘why me’? Why me when so many others end up in jails, institutions or die from this illness,” Zimmern wrote in the caption. “Well, I did jails/institutions and I wanted to die at the end, but the universe had different plans for me.”
In an interview with PEOPLE Now in 2018, the chef recalled his stints in jail and in the hospital while he was in college at Vassar in upstate New York, and what ultimately led to him seeking help.
After college, his problems escalated and he ultimately ended up homeless — squatting in a building in lower Manhattan and stealing to pay for his drug habit. One day he realized he needed to make a change. “I stole some jewelry from my Godmother; I hawked it. I put the $200 down for a room for a month at a flophouse hotel[…]and I tried to drink myself to death. And it didn’t work. I came out of a black out days later, and for the first time in my life I didn’t have that Ace bandage of anxiety and tension around my chest. I did something that I hadn’t done in 15 years which is reach out to somebody to ask for help[…]Four days later, I had a one-way ticket to a treatment center in Minnesota,” he said in the interview.
Zimmern continued to thank everyone who helped him turn his life around, and hopes his post will provide that same service for others. “To those struggling with this disease, I wasted years not asking for help from people who cared about me. Once I did, that simple act changed my life.”
Zimmern has been busy filming and promoting What’s Eating America, which will explore the politics of food. The five episode series will premiere on Sunday, Feb. 16 at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.