By Kelsie Calderon/Sept. 9, 2021 10:52 am EDT
Though Katie Thurston’s season of “The Bachelorette” has just wrapped, fans can’t seem to forget about Zac Clark and Tayshia Adams’ romance from the 2020 season. Today, Tayshia has made herself a staple in Bachelor Nation as a new host, and Zac has now made himself busy behind the scenes with a much different passion — helping other people overcome addiction.
Before he was ever cast on Season 16, Zac was dealing with addiction himself. After being diagnosed with a brain tumor after graduating college, he began to rely heavily on pain medications and quickly found himself headed down a dark road. His addiction made up some of the darkest days of his life. Yet, after his family stepped in, he spent four and a half months at Caron Treatment Center and became sober. The journey even inspired him to start up his own recovery center.
This month, Zac Clark is celebrating 10 years of sobriety with his soulmate by his side — and we got the chance to sit down with him to hear all about it. In an exclusive interview with The List, he told us what he wishes he could have told himself during his darkest days, spilled a few behind-the-scenes secrets from his time on “The Bachelorette,” and even discussed if there’s a future for him on reality TV.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Since celebrating 10 years of sobriety, Zac Clark is receiving a major honor from his recovery center
You’ve had a really exciting year. Congratulations on your engagement! You’re also celebrating 10 years of sobriety, which is a huge deal. And on September 9, you and your family are being awarded with the Richard J. Caron Excellence Award from Caron Treatment Centers. Can you talk a little bit about the Gala and what receiving this award means to you?
Yeah. It’s funny you lead with that piece about it’s been a crazy year, which it has. And for better, for worse, there’s been a lot of attention on me. So tomorrow night, with my family really being honored, I’m kind of thinking it’s about time. Because there was a lot of heroes, kind of, in my journey. And my family is definitely front and center with all that. So for me to kind of be able to step aside and really honor them, especially my parents and my siblings, who were there through some pretty dark times and never left my side, it’s going to be really special. And that room at Cipriani on 42nd Street, I’ve been to the Gala many times. I know how special the night is, so we’re looking forward to a good party.
How are other people able to help out or get involved?
Well, I think when it comes to kind of like the work I do and Caron Treatment Centers do, who’s giving us the honor tomorrow night — and it’s actually where I went to rehab 10 years ago — there’s a ton of ways to get involved. So it’s kind of like, I always go back to, like, time, talent, and treasure.
You can give your time to an organization that speaks to you. And obviously, Caron is an organization that speaks to me and speaks to my family, so we’ve been really involved in giving back to them.
You can volunteer your talent — so if you have some special skills and can reach out in that way.
And then treasure. I mean, obviously, any organization, whether it’s the American Cancer Society or the Caron Foundation or whoever it is, they need funds. Because in order to help people — like for me, when I went to rehab, it wasn’t cheap. And so, there’s a lot of people out there that can’t afford to get help. And so by raising money, which we’re going to do [on the evening of September 9], I think we’re already over a million bucks, that’s going to give some other people an opportunity to get help.
How Zac Clark is giving back with his own treatment center
You also co-founded your own addiction treatment center called Release Recovery. Obviously, your own journey inspired you to do that, but what made you want to go as far as offering your own recovery services?
I think for me, the thing that really struck me — well, when I was first starting to get sober, I thought it was a death wish. I thought it was a punishment. I thought my life was going to stop. And my experience has been — it’s been exactly the opposite. I’ve met so many cool people. And the thing that’s been constant for me throughout these last 10 years, it’s just that community and meeting people who share similar struggles. I think if you just look at the world today — yesterday was the three-year anniversary of Mac Miller dying, obviously a very talented musician, and someone that I loved, personally. Michael K. Williams passing this week, obviously another super talented guy, and all signs are pointing to an overdose there. So people who struggle with drug addiction and alcoholism are super talented. And for me having the opportunity to give people another opportunity at this life is really just — it’s my purpose, and it’s super fulfilling.
Zac Clark explains how you can help someone you love with their addiction
What should people look for and what actions should they take if they are worried about someone in their life?
I mean, I think the thing that’s overlooked is the first step — is try to have an honest conversation with that person. Sit them down, express your concern. I’m from the school of thought that you lead with the love, and you lead with the compassion, and you try to kind of break those walls down early on. And if the person is resistant, you don’t give up.
And then from there, it’s important — I know for my family, when they were going through it with me, they sought out their own help. They engaged in their own personal therapy. They connected to other families who were going through similar struggles, and they found a lot of strength and hope from that, but it sucks. I mean, you get cancer, you get heart disease, you go to a doctor, and they write you down a prescription, or they tell you exactly what to do, and you do it. And in the world of addiction, we’re losing just as many, if not more people. And there’s no straight line or book on this thing.
If you could go back and tell yourself something during those times, is there something you wish you could’ve heard? Or for someone who’s going through that now, what do they need to hear?
Oh, man. I mean, what I always think about is, like, this life that I’ve been given, if I was to write down 10 years ago what I wanted 10 years later, I would have sold myself so short. I just wanted to be sober and happy. And I’ve gotten so much more than that. So I think for those people that are out there and that are struggling, just knowing that you’re worth it, you’re not alone, is super important. Because in our darkest moments, we do feel like we’re not worth it, and we do feel like we might be alone.
Here's how Zac Clark ended up on The Bachelorette
I love how you’ve been so open with your story. I think that’s something that a lot of people need to hear and that people don’t hear enough about. And your story went public on “The Bachelorette,” which your sister actually signed you up for. What made you want to do it? And had you seen the show before?
So I’ve told this story many times. Yeah. My sister, Catherine, is a fan, and her and my mom always longed for me to find someone naturally. Mom and sister wanting, wanting brother or son to find love. So yeah, I guess, it was during the pandemic, and she had submitted, I guess, an application, or however one goes about doing that, to the show. And I got a call from a producer on a Friday night. I guess it was like April or May. And my first thought was “Lose my number. You have the wrong number. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And then they kind of dropped the line about, “Well, is it possible that your sister might’ve or someone might’ve submitted you?” And I was like, “I guess.”
And then the conversation just kind of took off from there, and ultimately I did. I ended up on the show. I had maybe seen a couple episodes over the years. I understood the premise of what I was getting myself into. But outside of that, no, I didn’t have much idea of what I was signing up for, but sometimes that’s better. Right?
What was the casting process like?
I mean, for me, it was pretty straightforward. I mean, I had some conversations with some people and next thing you know, I was kind of showing up there. I mean, I don’t know that I really thought about it. I mean, it was pretty straightforward, honestly.
This was Zac Clark's first impression of Tayshia Adams
What was your first impression of Tayshia when you got there?
I mean, beautiful. So I guess it’s not typical that there’s two, you call it, leads in a season. So, Clare [Crawley] and Dale [Moss] kind of rode off together, which, super happy for them. And eventually Tayshia walked into the room, and I was just — before meeting her, you’re just struck by her beauty, obviously. And then in getting to know her, you understand that there’s just so much more there. So I’m a lucky guy.
Was there ever a time on the show where you were afraid you wouldn’t receive a rose?
I mean, no. I mean, maybe at the end, the thought crept in. But throughout the process, I was pretty secure in where we stood.
Zac Clark reveals what it's like to watch The Bachelorette now
Did you two sit down and watch the episodes together once they aired?
I mean, I was actually thinking about that the other day. It was a bit of a whirlwind, watching everything back. There were some we were together for and some we weren’t. And I think what we have been able to do since then is go back and kind of share. And recently, we actually watched a couple episodes together, just kind of like our love story unfolding, which has been really nice to, amidst all the craziness, remember kind of where we started.
You have it available to watch again and again!
I know. It’s f**king crazy.
Is there any moment that wasn’t included in any episodes that you wish we could have seen?
I don’t know. I mean, this is like so long ago now. I mean, I think what you see is what you got. I mean, we definitely had that connection early on, and I was grateful for that. As much as there’s a lot of time spent there, I think our love story was told pretty authentically. So I’m grateful for that.
Zac Clark tells us the exact moment that he fell in love with Tayshia Adams
When was the moment that you knew that Tayshia was the one and that you guys were right for each other? Was there a definitive moment?
Yeah, I mean, I think I’ve been asked this question a lot over the past year. I think there was a date where we kind of rode the Ferris wheel, and we’re kind of looking over the desert sky together. And it felt like nothing else was going on in the world, so that moment was one that I remember. And then, obviously, things kind of picked up from there with meeting each other’s families and all the other stuff that happens.
Was there anything you would change about your experience on the show?
No, I don’t live with regret, so all good.
Where are Zac Clark and Tayshia Adams at with wedding planning?
Have you guys gotten into any wedding planning yet or set a date, or are you just enjoying life right now?
Enjoying life. Yeah. It’s been a crazy year for both of us, so we’re just cherishing the time that we get to spend together in person. And we’re excited for a New York City fall. It’s going to be good.
The beginning of your relationship was on camera. How has it changed or evolved since you guys got back and have been off camera?
How has it changed since we got back? I think it’s like any relationship. You’re getting to know someone, you’re learning what drives each person, and how to comfort them, and when they need comfort, and when you might just need to put a smile on each other’s face, or whatever it is. I mean, it’s just really the everyday living that anyone who’s in a relationship goes through, but it’s been fun. It’s absolutely been a good time.
Will we ever see Zac Clark on TV again?
Would you ever want to be on another reality show?
I think I’m good on the reality show circuit for now. That’s just me, though.
You have a lot of other things going on right now, for sure!
Yeah. I don’t know that I am the carbon copy for someone that goes on a lot of reality television, but it’s tough. I mean, I do — I respect the people that do it. I mean, honestly, I really do. I have friends that I have met that have done some other stuff, and it’s not easy. I mean, you can’t really knock it until you try it. And there is a certain level of vulnerability and honesty and authenticity that’s required to do stuff like this. So for me, I think I’m good, though.
Yeah, it really opens up your life. But like I said, you already got to share your story on TV, which is inspiring. Congratulations on everything!
And thank you for your time!
Thanks, Kelsie! I appreciate you shining a light on [addiction]. And my hope with all these interviews is that really, truly, that if we can help one person — I appreciate you being open-minded, too, to talk about this, because you might not realize it, but it does, it impacts people. And a lot of people have been helped as a result of, kind of, doing some of this stuff. So I want to thank you.
As part of the Caron New York City Gala night on September 9, Zac Clark will be delivering a live testimonial about his journey via his Instagram Live at caron.org/2021nygala.
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