Chris Beckman seemed to have everything. He got his big break on MTV's "The Real World" and after that, his face was plastered on billboards and magazines and he appeared in several commercials. But beneath all that, Beckman was a deeply troubled young man who had spent much of his life grappling with addiction.
He now has a new book about sobriety called "Clean" that details his struggles with alcohol. He said he began drinking at age 11 and even showed up at school under the influence. His drink of choice? Jim Beam. He even recalled sneaking eggnog at Christmastime.
"I got away with it. … Being able to manipulate every situation and that was the first clue to the addictive mindset that I had as an early child," he said.
"When I was with my relatives, there always seemed to be alcohol along with the fun and warm feelings of family," Beckman writes in his book. "I would sneak down the drinks that my relatives didn't finish."
As is the case with so many alcoholics, the stage was set early on for Beckman. More than 40 percent of those who start drinking at age 14 or younger become dependent on alcohol as adults. Beckman said he continued to lie to mask his addiction throughout high school and into college. He even convinced his mother that he was enrolled in college and getting great grades when he had not attended for a year and a half.
Until one day, he flipped his car over while driving drunk.
"To see my life almost pass me within a flash of an irresponsible choice, I chose life from that day on to get help," Beckman said.
After college, he was cast in the 2002 season of "The Real World -- Chicago," a move that proved to be challenging.
"The roommates are really pressuring me to go out for drinks," he said while on the show. "I don't celebrate things like that anymore. If I don't feel centered and if I don't feel serene, I'm not going to put myself in a situation that I'm going to be angry or bitter."
After the show ended, Beckman traveled across the country to caution kids against making the same mistakes that he did. That's a daunting task, considering that the average person tries alcohol for the first time at 12. As many as 38 percent of kids between 13 and 15 say they drink on several occasions.
"I've met teenagers that have started smoking pot and cigarettes and drinking at age 8 and 11," Beckman said. "It's alarming, and I'm not alone."
Beckman said that kids often asked him how to deal with a boyfriend or girlfriend who struggles with a drinking problem. He also said that adults were too quick to point the finger at teenagers in regard to alcohol.
"Create a relationship that's open," he said.
Even though he's been sober since Feb. 5, 2001, looking at photos from years ago, Beckman recalled how close he was to the edge.
"I learned that I have a whole new opportunity to experience life in a different way," he said. "I can have fun and remember it the next day. I have the memories of it. I look at some photos and I think: 'Who is that person?' And how far I've come and how grateful I am to be different now."