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Kelsey McNeal/ABC via Getty Cheryl Burke
After three years of sobriety, Cheryl Burke is sharing new details about what her life was like before she quit drinking for good.
The Dancing with the Stars pro, 37, opened up about her experiences with alcoholism and sobriety on Tuesday's Heart of the Matter podcast hosted by Elizabeth Vargas, who has also been open about her own sobriety journey.
"I was a ballroom-by-day type girl and then party- or club-goer at night — for 10 years in a row," Burke said, later telling Vargas, 59, "I am definitely an alcoholic and addict, yes. One hundred percent."
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Burke shared that when she started drinking at age 21 after moving to Los Angeles, her life was quickly consumed by alcohol. The pro dancer told Vargas she would drink with an "all or nothing" approach and was often "super mean" to herself, which made her drink more, noting that her tolerance for alcohol eventually reached a point where she said, "nothing got me drunk."
"I was a functioning drunk for sure," she told Vargas. Burke went on to explain that she tried to set rules for herself to curb her drinking, like: only drinking after 5 p.m. or not drinking alone — but she struggled to stick by the orders she had given herself.
"I was drinking because I was numbing — and we all know that that's a scary place," she said, adding, "It was survival mode constantly, seven days a week for me."
Burke told Vargas she never had a defining, single moment that made her quit drinking, but the "feeling of just emptiness, of feeling there's no purpose," was her own version of "crashing and burning."
"I felt disgusting. There was nothing there," she said. "I had no identity."
Seeing her father, who was also an alcoholic, on his deathbed with a glass of whiskey contributed to Burke's decision to stop drinking, she said. And when she began to have allergic reactions to alcohol, Burke quit for good.
"Obviously subconsciously something … it was my body rejecting all this poison after drowning with it for so many years," Burke said.
After taking a single shot of whiskey at her engagement party and breaking out in hives, Burke decided to "quit that night," she said.
While she's been sober for years now, Burke told Vargas she used to view sobriety as a weakness.
"I had this saying: 'I don't trust people that are sober,' " Burke said. "There's obviously some demons that they're living. I was so ignorant to the fact that everything that I thought was weak is actually the most courageous thing you can possibly do."
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.