Kenny Dunn's Sobriety Progression Photos Show Just How Transformative Quitting Alcohol Can Be
After three years sober, the photos of this man's journey will wow you.
A couple of days ago, Kenny Dunn, 37, celebrated three years sober by posting a series of progression photos on Imgur. Immediately, they went viral—and Dunn, a railway engineer in Vancouver, Canada, received tons of support and applause from other social media users for getting clean. His smile in the final photo shows how proud he is of himself today. But when Dunn took that initial selfie documenting his first day of sobriety on Nov. 2, 2016, he was absolutely miserable. "I was drinking 12 to 24 drinks every day and getting blackout drunk three or four times a week," Dunn told Best Life of that fateful day. "I knew I needed help, but I didn't know what to do."
Like many people, Dunn began drinking in college, and by his mid-20s, it had become a full-blown addiction. His heavy drinking put a strain on his marriage, as he would frequently overindulge and embarrass himself at social occasions, or say hurtful things to his wife that he couldn't even remember the next day. "I'd black out and argue with my wife and then I'd come to and see her just standing there weeping and have no idea how she got like that," he said. "I was remorseful, but I didn't even know what I did. It was almost as if another person was controlling me."
Then, three years ago, Dunn hit rock bottom. "I had put my son to bed and set out to drink no more than three beers," he said. "Instead, I drank 19 beers in three hours. I realized that I just couldn't manage my life anymore."
The following day, he took a photo of his first day sober. At that point, his self-esteem was at an all-time low.
"I didn't care whether I lived or died," Dunn said. "I'd look in the mirror and just wish I wasn't a drunk. I felt very alone, because I felt like nobody understood what I was going through."
Like many others with alcohol addiction, Dunn had resolved to quit drinking many times before, and would have sobriety stretches that lasted as long as 14 months. But then, he would fall off the wagon again.
"I would convince myself that I could go back to drinking responsibly," he said. "But it would rapidly spiral out of control again and be even worse than it was before."
"I knew a friend who was in recovery, and I texted her and said I needed help right away," he said. "She picked me up and took me to my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and it saved my life."
At his first meeting, Dunn saw a sign on the wall that read, "You never ever have to be alone again."
"That hit me like a ton of bricks," he said. "The people there knew what I was going through, so I wasn't alone anymore."
Through the 12-step program, Dunn began confronting some of the causes of his addiction, and gained the tools to help him cope with problems when they arose, instead of turning to alcohol. But, perhaps most importantly, he finally had the support system he needed.
After all—unlike other drugs—alcohol is something many people enjoy casually and alcoholics have to face it constantly, leaving them feeling especially ostracized.
"The alcoholic is truly alone," Dunn said. "Nobody understands that internal fight. We see other people drinking and having no problem with it, which strengthens this desire and belief that we can be like them. But the reality—for me, at least—is that I can't."
When Dunn took that selfie of himself at 24 hours sober, he did it so that he could remind himself of how horrible alcohol made him feel.
"I was so hungover and ill," he said. "But that first week, I felt like I had gotten out of a bad relationship. The worst was behind me."
Dunn continued to take photos of himself every time he received a chip—and by the time he hit his one-year mark, he had regained his sense of purpose and self-worth.
"I liked the person that looked back at me in the mirror," he said. "I felt like I had all of the opportunities in the world. Every day seemed filled with possibility, whereas before, once I took that first drink, the rest of my day was committed to drinking."
As he continued with his sobriety, Dunn began to eat better and exercise more regularly, losing 76 pounds as a result.
In his eyes, the pictures "serve as a reminder" that he wants to "keep improving," and needs to stay sober in order to achieve that goal.
"I like to look at that person in the 24-hour photo, because that was the person that I saw every day," he said.
As for Dunn's advice to anyone who is struggling with addiction, he urges them to not go it alone.
"You have to reach out," he said. "There are so many people who are willing to help." And now, he's one of them, too.