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BJ Bedard works out at the Outer Limits Gym, in Brattleboro, Vt., on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021. Bedard, who struggled for years with mental health and addiction issues, is now 14 years sober. He credits that success in becoming a bodybuilder.

BRATTLEBORO — BJ Bedard is now curling 95-pound dumbbells instead of 12-ounce cans of beer.

That change likely saved his life.

“Miracles can happen,” said the Brattleboro resident, who used to get drunk and high on a daily basis and is currently a professional bodybuilder.

He remembers chugging brews at the age of 13 in order to help with the pain of losing his mother.

“I loved the way it made me feel. It numbed the pain and took away some of my anxiety,” he said. “My drinking progressed throughout the next couple years. I drank more and more. It was the solution to my problems at the time.”

Bedard began with Budweiser and Coors Light. He was later introduced to cocaine, which he was instantly hooked on. His daily diet consisted of one gram of the addictive stimulant and at least a case of beer.

“At this time, the drugs and alcohol turned me into a person that really wasn’t me. I was stealing and lying to my wife and family. My habit was expensive, and my wife started to notice our bank account was dwindling,” he recalled.

His wife left him after 13 years of marriage. His friends and family alienated him. His doctor was surprised he was even still alive.

“I had turned into a complete monster,” said Bedard, noting that he got a couple of DUIs and was getting in trouble with the law.

He eventually landed at Serenity House, which provides residential treatment services to those suffering from substance use disorders, and started to attend self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. After seeking help from his doctor and several therapists, he finally got on the right medications and was able to deal with his mental health struggles.

Oct. 20 will mark 14 years of sobriety.

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“I’m happy to say that now I finally have my family back in my life for good, after so many years of disappointing them. Today, I feel I am a productive member to society rather than a menace. Life is good,” said Bedard.

In 2011, he became addicted to iron.

He started pumping it at Outer Limits and fell in love. That led to him to flexing on stage just like legends Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger once did.

The 56-year-old finished first in his division at The Summer Explosion bodybuilding competition in Connecticut in August and plans on participating in the Granite State Open on Oct. 30 in Dover, N.H.

“I am very excited and motivated for this upcoming show,” Bedard said, adding that he works out five days a week for about three hours at a time.

He can bench press 285 pounds and curl 95 pounds, but tends to use lighter weights and do more reps in order to get more definition.

“The gym members and staff look up to me as a role model both inside and outside of the gym, for everything that I have overcome in my past,” he explained, noting that the Outer Limits owner sponsors him and supports him 100 percent.

At his natural bodybuilding competitions, scores are based on physique, appearance and how smooth poses and transitions are. The participants do seven mandatory poses for the judges and then perform a 60-second posing routine to music.

“It is an all-out blast and we all have a lot of fun. It is awesome to meet all of the other competitors and hear their stories,” Bedard stated.

The former Burlington High School ice hockey star is now helping people recover from substance abuse as an employee at The Phoenix House Rise Program in Brattleboro. He is also a mental health worker at the Windham Center in Bellows Falls.

“I believe that every single patient and client has what it takes to be successful in their recovery,” said Bedard. “I never give up on any of them. I support them and back them up 100 percent, because I know what it feels like when someone gives up on you.”

Shane Covey can be reached at scovey

@reformer.com or 802-254-2311 X163.

On Twitter: @ShaneCovey.