Cheryl Burke Explains Why She Used To Show up To ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Drunk

Dancing With the Stars pro Cheryl Burke has been extremely open about her addiction to alcohol. Now more than two years sober, Burke uses the Pretty Messed Up podcast to share her about her sobriety. In opening up about her experience with alcohol, DWTS fans are learning a lot about Burke — including this shocking fact she revealed during the “PMU Ask Us Anything” episode of the podcast. 

AJ McLean and Cheryl Burke
AJ McLean and Cheryl Burke | Eric McCandless via Getty Images

Cheryl Burke co-hosts the ‘Pretty Messed Up’ podcast

Each week, Burke co-hosts the Pretty Messed Up podcast with AJ McLean and his mentor, René Elizondo. While Burke and McLean were partners during season 29 of Dancing With the Stars, they actually met before the show on a Zoom call. 

So far, Burke and McLean shared behind-the-scenes tales from season 29 on the podcast, but they’ve also interviewed various celebrities and told some of the darker stories from their past.

Cheryl Burke says she drank to become numb

“I don’t think I ever drank socially,” Burke said of her addiction to alcohol during the “Ask Us Anything” episode. “I drank for a reaction, which was to numb myself and to be more social. It was never just to have one cocktail. I don’t think I’ve ever had that.” 

In a previous episode of the podcast, Burke cited a traumatic moment from DWTS moment that pushed her to drink even more. 

‘Dancing With the Stars’ impacted Cheryl Burke’s drinking habit 

“One season I danced with Chad OchoCinco [Johnson],” Burke said during the “What MATTers Most” episode featuring her husband, Matthew Lawrence. 

Burke, who has been with the show since 2006, was partnered with the football star in season 10. 

“There was something in my head and I had never experienced it before,” she continued. “I wasn’t drunk, I wasn’t hungover, but it was still when I was drinking. I remember messing up on my choreography. It was this crazy voice in my head saying, ‘Go the other way, go the other way.’ I butchered my routine when I’m supposed to be there for the celebrity.”

From then on, Burke convinced herself she wasn’t good enough to compete on the show. She used alcohol to numb that doubt.

“Ever since that traumatic time, I drank way more because I was so scared of that voice,” she explained. “I was self-sabotaging and from then on, I felt like my career plummeted down.” 

Cheryl Burke would often show up to ‘DWTS’ rehearsals drunk 

After Burke’s misstep, she began drinking even more. Eventually, Burke started showing up to set intoxicated. She recalled arriving at rehearsals with a smile on while under the influence. Despite being drunk at work, Burke felt like her dependency on alcohol “wasn’t that bad,” so long as she could do what she had to do.

RELATED: ‘Dancing With the Stars’: What Cheryl Burke’s Idea of Retirement Looks Like

Burke wasn’t only drinking before work. She would drink before any kind of event. 

“I would have to drink before I saw anybody,” Burke said added. “I would never start [drinking] with everybody — I would start by myself at home.” 

Eventually, Burke’s addiction started affecting even more aspects of her life, including projects outside of Dancing With the Stars

Cheryl Burke got called out for drinking by an E! News anchor 

Burke always promised herself she would never drink alone — until she started drinking alone too much. 

“Literally, before every interview, I would be drunk — not drunk, but I would have a to-go cup with tequila and soda,” she explained. “I got called out on E! by Jason Kennedy.” 

Burke remembered co-hosting on the entertainment network. When her nerves got the best of her, Burke had a shot of tequila handy. Kennedy took notice. 

“I get really nervous…and [Kennedy] goes ‘Why do you smell like — is that tequila Cheryl?'” she recalled. That’s when she knew she had a problem. 

Today, Burke is more than two years sober. Now, she has an even bigger support system for her sobriety, thanks to McLean and Elizondo.

How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.