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Cheryl Burke shares details of her alcohol addiction: 'I was a functioning drunk'

The 'Dancing With the Stars' pro is celebrating three years of sobriety.
Cheryl Burke
Cheryl Burke spoke with Elizabeth Vargas about her sobriety journey.Kevin Mazur / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Cheryl Burke has been sober for three years, but at the height of her alcohol addiction she was drinking seven days a week.

The "Dancing With the Stars" pro sat down with Elizabeth Vargas' Heart of the Matter podcast on Tuesday to discuss alcoholism, sobriety and more and said she once was a "functioning drunk."

"I’m definitely an alcoholic and addict. Absolutely. Yes, 100%," she said.

The 37-year-old, who recently revealed that she had a breakthrough case of COVID-19, explained that she started heavily drinking to escape from reality.

"From my social anxiety to living here in Los Angeles, going to red carpets, that is not something that I will ever get used to. I’m very blessed to have opportunities, absolutely. And that doesn’t go unnoticed. But I am an introvert at heart," she said.

Cheryl Burke
Cheryl Burke is three years sober.Maarten de Boer / ABC via Getty Images

Burke said that she's never really gotten used to being famous and also revealed that drinking also used to help her sleep.

"And I’ve realized too now, I have insomnia since I’ve been sober. I used to sleep like a baby when I was drinking obviously, naps 10 hours, wake up, do it again, seven nights a week. I was a ballroom-by-day type girl and then party- or club-goer at night for 10 years in a row," she said.

The pro dancer, who started drinking at the age of 21, used alcohol to numb her emotions and said eventually, no amount of alcohol would get her drunk.

"It was survival mode constantly, seven days a week for me. I needed to just to get through this day," she said.

Burke's father was also an alcoholic and when she saw him with a glass of whiskey in his hospital bed as he was dying, it was a major wakeup call for her. When she got home after visiting him, Burke said her body began reacting in different ways when she would drink.

"I used to never turn red. Like I said, functioning. I almost probably came across more sober than when I was sober. And I started getting hives. I would drink or smell alcohol and all of a sudden I would break out into hives; it’s weird," she said.

Burke believes that her body was subconsciously telling her to stop drinking and once she did get sober, she said her whole life changed.

"And now being sober for three years, it has really, wow, it’s been scary, but it’s been so enlightening at the same time," she said.

Now that she's in recovery, the dancer said she finds it easier to love herself.

"Something that I was missing was self-respect, self-love, self-esteem, and just that peace. Wanting to be better. All of a sudden, I’ve been very interested in online courses. I was a horrible student, though, when I was in school. But now I’m so curious. I’m so clear headed.