From Rock Bottom to the Top of the Charts

From Rock Bottom to the Top of the Charts

Trey Lewis talks sobriety, fame, and mental health

Words by Ashley Locke

What does getting sober and getting famous have in common?

“By 19, I was a full-fledged alcoholic,” said Trey Lewis. “I was in jail with a $500 bond, and it was time for my phone call. I was trying to think of who would help me—who was left that believed I was a good person—but there was no one.” 

Trey is a country singer. Many know him from TikTok, the video-based social media app that made him famous seemingly overnight, but that’s the smallest piece of his story. Before his viral hit, there were late nights songwriting and hundreds of small shows in bars and restaurants, playing gigs while working full-time—but there was also his recovery. Strangely enough, it was recovery that prepared him for fame.

“As far back as I can remember I had a dad and a stepdad. The relationship between both dads was very healthy,” said Trey. His parents divorced when he was three, but they co-parented well. Despite that, he still struggled. “We lived in Vestavia, Alabama, and I always had a predisposition toward thinking I didn’t fit in. There was nervousness—the anxiety I had came before I ever put drugs and alcohol into my body.”

He recalled his first night drinking—splitting a few cases of beer with his friends, prank-calling classmates. The night ended poorly. After downing nine cans and rolling around in a friend’s vomit, he called his dad to pick him up. His dad told him he couldn’t do that again, but Trey was already hooked on the feeling. “I was ready to drink again. All I really cared about was whose older brother would buy it for us,” he said. And when his mom informed him that she and his step-dad were going to split, that urge to drink turned into a crutch.

“I started using drugs when I was 13,” he said. From there, things spiraled downward quickly. “In ninth grade I met some guys and started selling marijuana. I dropped out and homeschooled for a year, then went back in tenth grade. That summer the drugs I was doing progressed into coke, LSD, and ecstasy. My brain was fried and I didn’t want to be in school.”

The following years were a blur of drinking too much, partying too hard, and getting in too much trouble, until he ended up in jail that fateful day, wondering who to call. “Eventually I got out of jail, and I remember telling my friend, ‘I’m not doing this anymore—I gotta get my life together.’” I even told this girl that I liked, and I meant it from the gut. But that night I got high and drunk again, and I did that for about three more months.”

Then he did what a lot of folks do when they’re struggling—he called his mom and said he needed help.

Help came in the form of the Bradford Health Services’ Warrior Lodge facility in Warrior, Alabama. He agreed to go to treatment, then afterward spend 30 days in a sober living facility. It was a bumpy start. At the beginning, all he could think about was getting a drink as soon as he left—but 14 years later, he is still sober. “Sobriety has not been easy,” he said. “When I was 26 my dad died of a heart attack. Right after that, my grandmother passed away, then my stepdad died of brain cancer. I’ve been married and divorced in sobriety.” But no matter how difficult it was at times, the commitment to his health paid off.

“My music career started when I was six months sober. I went with a sponsor to Nashville and realized I wanted to play music,” he said. “I started playing at Mexican restaurants, and I started a band. We played these small bars in Birmingham.” But no matter where he played, he never had a drink.

When he had been sober for two years, he returned to the Bradford Treatment Center—this time as a counselor. His days were spent helping people who were stuck in the dark place that he had just left, and his nights were spent playing music. Sometimes he played music for the patients. Eventually he was able to make a living off of music alone, so after seven years he left the treatment center. 

Then came TikTok. “I went from putting a song out with nobody listening to it, to having a song almost platinum,” he said. But what seemed like overnight success on the outside was the result of over a decade of hard work and healing. “I’m grateful for the time it took for me to have the success I did, because I really earned it. When things happen overnight, it builds no character. That’s part of what’s helped me be able to handle the success I’ve had—God has built me from the ground up.”

On stage, Trey doesn’t shy away from his past struggles. He’s open about his sobriety, and he connects with fans over it. “I’ve only been semi-famous for a year. I’m just a human, I’m just a normal guy, but I have this platform,” he said. “I always find time to respond to people who message me, who are struggling. I do a free meet and greet after my shows.

If I can change their perception on life, I’m going to do that. It’s not about being the top dog—it’s that God gives us the power to heal or change people’s lives.”

Getting sober was hard, but staying sober has been easier for him. “People ask me today if I’m ever tempted,” he said. “If drugs and alcohol were a solution I would have kept doing them. My sobriety is the most important aspect of my life. It’s the person I am.”

While many who are thrust into the limelight have a hard time with the transition, Trey was prepared. “Going to meetings, having a sponsor, having a therapist—that was what I did when I first got sober. Those same tools are what I use to deal with life today,” he said. “The cool thing about doing all this is I have been doing it for a while and I have a lot of practice. I know how to plan ahead. I told my label that the day I signed—I think it's about being mentally prepared to deal with what you have.”

So, what does getting sober and getting famous have in common? You have to be mentally healthy for both of them. And that’s why Trey wants his future to look a lot like his past—at least when it comes to taking care of his mental health.

“I keep going to my AA meetings, keep continuing to fall in love with myself. I had to learn how to connect with my inner child. Once I learned how to love myself and let God love me, I realized I was created to be loved. I allow myself to be happy, joyous, and free,” he said. “I can go on stage and be fat and take my shirt off because I love me. I’m not saying I found the answer, but being real with other people has made me the happiest.”