Chris Bukowski is getting real about reality TV. After appearances on no fewer than five Bachelor Nation shows, including The Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad, and Bachelor in Paradise, the 28-year-old is hanging up his proverbial hat and retiring from the franchise — but not without first getting a few things off his chest.
Earlier this week, following a less-than-stellar showing on Bachelor in Paradise Season 2, the Washington, D.C., transplant shared a lengthy open letter about his time in the spotlight, which began during Emily Maynard's season of The Bachelorette in 2012.
"My first go-around on The Bachelorette was an amazing experience because I had no expectations," he wrote in his Rant Now post. "I met a great girl, made friends, traveled the world, and put myself out there for people I'd never met before...I was 25 and on top of the world."
Unfortunately, that was the best it would ever get. Later that same year, Bukowski was cast on Bachelor Pad 3 — and things started to go downhill.
"My competitiveness got the best of me and with that came some serious consequences. I will NEVER forget the feeling I had when I woke up in the Bachelor mansion knowing every single person in that house hated me," he recalled. "I'd never felt that before and honestly, I didn't know what to do. I wanted to leave but quitting is not in my vocabulary."
Looking back, though, he may wish it had been. "Bachelor Pad was the pinnacle of my Bachelor career to say the least," he wrote. "It almost completely ruined me, my family, and my career."
His folks took it especially hard. "I'll never forget going to my parents' house and witnessing my dad obsess over all the stuff being said about me," Bukowski shared. "That show ruined my relationship with my father at the time and created distance between me and my mother...I went months without talking to my dad because he simply didn't want to talk to me. He even said, 'That wasn't my son.' He was right."
After Bachelor Pad 3, Bukowski opened a bar in Washington, D.C. "On the surface I was fine," he wrote. "Things couldn't have been more opposite."
By 2014, the Chicago native's reality TV infamy had started to fade. "As my popularity fizzled, I felt the pressure from my business peers to get back into the spotlight. People weren't showing up at the bar just to see me anymore. I was old news...and believe me I was okay with that," he said. "But constantly being told that I was irrelevant played a major role in my unexpected arrival during Andi's season of The Bachelorette."
As Bachelor Nation fans may recall, Bukowski showed up uninvited on the first night of Andi Dorfman's season of The Bachelorette, begging host Chris Harrison to let him meet the Atlanta beauty. He was turned away — but he insists he didn't orchestrate the drama by himself. "If for one second you thought I pulled that whole night off on my own, you're absolutely insane," he wrote.
"At this point [in] my career, I had officially become the biggest joke on reality TV. Attempting to fix my reputation had ultimately made it worse," he admitted. "My obsession with television had completely taken over my life. I had to fix this; I needed to show everyone the true me. But how could I? I thought to myself, 'This isn't how it's supposed to be.' I was on the brink of giving up. I struggled daily. Literally, every single day."
"We all have our battles," he continued, "but my TV obsession had taken me down a dark road. I was battling anxiety that led me down a road where I couldn't find happiness. I compounded the problem by getting addicted to my anxiety medication. How was this happening? How did everything go from perfect to complete crap? It didn't matter how much money I had or how many women wanted to date me. I was just a hated, desperate person."
That didn't stop him from signing on to the first season of Bachelor in Paradise, though. There, he met Elise Mosca, a contestant on Juan Pablo Galavis' season of The Bachelor. They left the show early together, only to split soon after.
"Elise was a sweet girl who didn't have a single mean bone in her body," he blogged. "I was never as miserable before as I was on Bachelor In Paradise. Yet, I kept coming back. I kept trying to fix my reputation and I again continued to make it worse."
Fast forward to August 2015, when Bukowski returned to the franchise for one last appearance. "What you saw is me at my absolute weakest moment, masking everything in my head behind ounces of alcohol," he explained of his most recent stint. "I returned to Bachelor in Paradise in hopes of finding a date to my sister's wedding. I left without a single memory of my time there."
With that behind him, Bukowski is ready to exit stage left — this time for good. "I won't miss it. I can't wait for my television career to be over. I miss being me," he wrote. "And after today, I get to be me again. The best part is, this is the last apology I'll have to write. I'll never have to be sorry for being myself."
"I've made great friends through this journey and for that I will be forever grateful to The Bachelor franchise," he continued. "I'll never say I regret being a part of it because at the time I always had a reason for doing what I did. At this point, it's all in the past. I want to be Chris again...I want to make my parents proud, my sisters proud, and my friends proud. And I will."