Updated: Mar 2, 2019
July 24th represented my One Year Anniversary on this journey called Recovery. I wanted to share with you some of my reflections from the past 365 indescribable days of my life. Parental discretion advised, it gets dirty. Enjoy!
To get started we are going to go back to this very date, July 23rd, of last year. Now, the day that forever changed my life is my sobriety date of July 24th, the day I walked into a detox facility for my addictions to alcohol and opiates, and I haven’t looked back since. But on July 23rd something told me that the following day I would drink my last drink, a Fireball nip of course, and snort my last 30mg Oxycodone. It wasn’t going to be pretty that I could only afford one last pill when my body took upwards of 10 a day. But then again, there is nothing pretty about a life stuck in the grips of addiction.
I got home from my job as a bouncer at a bar (of course, right?) around 130am. I always brought four Fireball nips in to work with me, drinking half of one every half hour to cover the four-hour shift. Being an alcoholic is a science and you can never waste a single drop. I would leave a couple of nips in my Jeep under my driver’s side seat to consume after work, as a sleep aid and to help keep the shakes away as best as possible while my eyes were shut. For some reason that I cannot explain, I also took a sleeping pill that would knock me pretty much unconscious every time I took one, which was once every couple of months or so. Later on, while in that detox I learned that this particular sleeping pill (Seroquel) is severely abused and brings a pretty penny on the streets apparently. The things I learned during my 30 days inside that facility are still mind-boggling to me to this day. Addiction is the devil.
Back to Sunday, July 23rd, 2017; after I took the Seroquel and finished any remnants of booze I may have had leftover, I got comfy in my bed and by bed, I mean couch. This is when it all happened, and I could give two-shits if you don’t believe me: I knew precisely what was going to occur once I awoke from my dreamless state a handful of hours later. And if you’re reading this then you should know what happened because you should be well-versed in my book Stop Thinking Like That. Just kidding, long story short I came clean to my brother, then called the detox requesting a bed the following morning and finished by asking my mom via text if she could bring me to a 7am eye-opener AA meeting the next day before I entered through the doors to my new life at 9am. She did not answer my calls anymore, that privilege was lost months prior. I did, however, make that call to detox while at her & my step-dads house knowing they were out, at the bottom of the grassy hill leading to the beach, where I would take a few sips of my last Four Loko ever (technically my last drink was Fireball later that night, but I threw it all up. A standard occurrence for an alcoholic.) and poured the rest into the ocean, watching as my old life washed away with all the muck the Dane Street Beach tide picks up, which was very fitting because my life was one hot f*cking mess.
Everyone who was involved in my life (all by default) knew I was only getting worse by the day, but they didn’t know I was this f*cked up. My drinking started minutes upon waking up with a Fireball while still on the couch and whatever was left of the Four Loko in the fridge, then I’d rush off to the packie to be there by 8am stat when it opened, followed by a minimum of four trips throughout the day to see my dealer 30 minutes away. (I somehow managed to always save some of both of the sugary beverages for the following morning knowing that there was no shot in hell I could deal with any amount of time, God forbid sober, in the morning. I never bought all the pills at once because, well I am an addict and I would snort them all within hours leaving me SOL the rest of the day. On a typical day I would, gulp (clears throat), drink 3 or 4 fruit punch Four Lokos, a minimum of a sleeve (package of 10 nips) of Fireball, and 8-10 30mg Oxycodones. If my body didn’t reach those requirements, then Jason was in for a longgg agonizing night.
Okay, so now what? I entered the detox, got some help, and lived happily ever after? No, the power behind alcoholism and addiction (one in the same by the way), is scary strong, like that old man who every time he shakes your hand you think the bones are going to crush into fine white ash, but that white ash ends up your nostrils when you’re an addict. However, what I learned in the coming months was that there is something even more powerful than the disease of addiction and that is a determined mind. Yes, the human mind is the most powerful thing that exists because I witnessed it first hand, every day, for the past 365.
Gifts of Recovery
A reminder that my sober life is far from peaches and cream, as I sit here typing away at my dining room table (a gift of my recovery; get used to that phrase but simplified to GoR for word count sake), my rottweiler Shaq just attacked the stove aggressively. Sounds weird, right? This is a normal activity during the evening hours here at my apartment because that oven houses a rat that is tormenting not only Shaq, but also his big little sister, my boxer Beanie. You see, I still must deal with the everyday real life issues, from battling rats at all hours of the night, the rare occurrence of being in the dog house by my girlfriend (my favorite GoR), long bouts of quiet time with my not-so-stubborn mother, a pile of bills that seems to be growing versus dwindling down, to roughly five visits thus far to the mechanic since I was blessed with another gift of recovery, a 2007 Camry, upon graduating the rehab I checked myself into. My Jeep’s lease was up that same month and I didn’t have a penny to my name, literally. You’d think that when you drive a car off the lot, even if used, it would have a properly working alternator and exhaust system, amongst other things. The big difference to now and that old life which should be called existence is I don’t need to run to the packie for that sleeve of nips or to my dealer for another handful of painkillers to alleviate the headache and stress. That thought has NOT crossed my mind even once during my recovery. Again, I could give two shits if you don’t believe me.
Back to the Camry. Why in the world would someone buy me a car when I have already had two different cars repoed (one twice!), crashed about four, and made my car payment as often as I went to the dentist? The answer is because I am clean and sober. Fact. I learned early on in my recovery that if you continue to do the next right thing then good things would inevitably follow. I thought it was, as one of my alcoholic brothers in rehab would say, horseshit, to think things in my seemingly unfixable damaged-beyond-repair life would manage to put themselves back together simply by refraining from a drink or a drug. I am happy to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. It is astounding when you hear about all the amazing opportunities I have been blessed with over the past year due to this phenomenon. It doesn’t make sense to me nor others who are in my life today (not by default anymore, I don’t think?), but I am certainly not going to try and figure it out because I absolutely LOVE my life today.
I mentioned a book called Stop Thinking Like That earlier. Stop Thinking Like That is absolute proof that ANYTHING is possible No Matter What! While that broken life started to slooooooowly piece itself back together one day at a time, I began to feel something indescribable coming from within telling me to keep writing, amidst all the naysayers and haters. Envy is very common in early recovery and it is a bitch. When one is envious of another they are taking away precious time and energy on something out of their control, when they could be putting that effort into making themselves better. I didn’t have time for being envious or for those that were, I was too busy trying to get better every day. And I continue doing so by doing whatever it takes. Why should one even bother getting out of bed if they aren’t waking up with the intention to have a better day than they did yesterday? Life is all about growing, and growth is a forever process. Each night when I rest my head down clean and sober I am growing.
Anyways, I wrote a few short stories in the first couple months in rehab and one day I decided that I was going to write a book. Yes me, the kid 90 days removed from a brain filled entirely with deadly toxins and the antithesis of confidence, was now going to write an entire book. Did I mention I never have written in my life prior to this? I loved hearing people laugh, mock, and ridicule me whenever I reminded them that I was writing a book. I told everyone, not caring who, because I knew the more people who heard about the crazy kid in the Link House (the 6-month rehab I checked into) saying he’s writing a book would in turn make me more accountable to fulfilling this goal, even if they were complete strangers. I thought the more accountable I was would mean that if I did manage to fail, the greater the number of people saying he’s just another statistic, and I was in rehab, not jail; I am not just another number. That was the selfish part of why I enjoyed the musings of the peanut gallery. The bigger, more significant part of the equation was that when I finished said book it would prove to all the naysayers, non-believers, and hopeless, that anything is possible.
Side note on accountability; it is a MUST in recovery to become accountable for all your actions, past, present, and moving forward, and it’s vital to anyone trying to become the best version of themselves. If you continue to blame others for your life circumstances, then you will continue to be a miserable you know what. Sorry not sorry.
What started as a version of self-therapy, I would soon find myself lost endlessly writing with the goal to help others learn to love themselves again, find happiness, and give them some of the inspiration that I had found. So, what would come of Stop Thinking Like That: No Matter What you ask? Well, to further show all the sick, suffering, lost, depressed, and suicidal (all of which I felt 12 months ago) that they can achieve anything, I wrote, edited, designed the cover, and published the book all by myself. I don’t say that to brag whatsoever. I say it to show you that YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT IN LIFE! There is NOTHING too big so do not ever hold back in your dreams. Write down the biggest baddest goals you have always wanted to achieve, because if you build it they will come. I sent an email to my mother, CCing myself, that had the subject line: You will become a bestselling author. The email, which I have saved, was sent in early November, a little under four months into my sobriety. Stop Thinking Like That became a #1 National Bestseller less than two weeks into being available for pre-order in March in paperback and on Kindle. Conceive. Believe. Achieve.
Who says you can’t?
Okay, now it’s time to talk about the good stuff, the stuff that has me sitting upright grinning ear-to-ear, raising the hairs on my body, and getting my heart racing. The BEST part of my recovery is that I get to help others. There is no greater satisfaction and nothing more gratifying than knowing I have played a part in helping someone get clean and sober. I signed up for a Recovery Coach class that started exactly a week after graduating from the rehab and became a certified Recovery Coach in the state of Massachusetts a month later. The course was one of the most educational classes I have ever taken, and that’s coming from a kid who spent 5.5 years in college. My mind was blown because I was seeing things from the perspective of the outside looking in. Addiction takes away any sort of certainty in life, as we become completely oblivious to anything and everything. ALL that matters is finding that next high.
One thing I didn’t mention that occurred early on in my recovery was that right along the time I sent my mother and I the email of becoming a bestselling author, I also began saying to my therapist, counselors, and even my psych doc whom I would visit once a month (Told you I was that f*cked up. Feel free to judge, it means I’m doing that much better!) that I would find myself speaking at the State House in Boston by the end of 2018 in front of the very people who can help the sick and suffering tremendously; state legislatures. I don’t know where it came from, an out of the blue comment because I highly disliked any form of public speaking. I was not one that was comfortable standing in front of any amount of people to talk about anything, and certainly not when there were no substances involved. But I had that same feeling in my gut that was telling me to keep writing also pushing me to keep speaking. And speak I did. I wanted to make sure that the first commitment I went on would be back at the place that I say saved my life, the Danvers Detox and CSS (clinical stabilization services). I can not describe the literal high that I had after speaking that evening. I felt like I had enough energy to run the fifteen or so miles back to the Link.
The speaking has not stopped since, and only continues to grow to bigger audiences on more significant platforms. My first time speaking outside of an AA meeting or commitment was at a high-school north of Boston for an event the local state representative put together to help spread the awareness of addiction, in particular to opiates, to parents, and was open to the public. I found out about the event a week prior and decided to reach out directly to the state rep, feeling that there needed to be someone who has been in the trenches of addiction to speak alongside police chiefs, senators, the state health commissioner, and a courageous parent who’s gone on to do great things with her program that helps families suffering. One week later there I was, 8 months into my recovery, standing at a podium alongside the very people I knew I was meant to speak in front of months prior.
There have been many instances in my journey that are unexplainable, that have further proved to me that all of this is far bigger than me, my personal, recovery, and a book. I knew that I would receive a standing ovation upon finishing my speech at this event. I knew this because what I wrote was from the heart of an addict, speaking on behalf of those still suffering, others in recovery, parents and loved ones of addicts, and in honor of one of my best friends who was taken far too soon from this disease on Easter Sunday two years prior.
I was extremely nervous in the hours prior to the event, and although I had already written my speech days prior (at Barnes & Noble bringing my girlfriend to tears after I read it for the first time), I was still very new to this public speaking thing and this wasn’t just in a room full of fellow addicts, it was in front of a group of the very people trying to help (or hinder, depending on how you look at it) the crisis our country is engulfed in. One person who I still had not seen since I returned to my hometown was the father of my friend I mentioned above, that was until that morning when I came across his big work van, and began honking at him like we were in Bronx traffic, until he pulled over. After many tears were shed between us, he said something to me that has stuck with me since and is exactly what needs to be heard by everyone, regardless if dealing with addiction or not: “You don’t just throw the addict to the side like they’re trash and move on.” I added that exact quote into my speech at the last second because I knew Frankie was there guiding me along. There are NO coincidences in life.
I said I was going to speak at the State House though, not just in from of state reps. I am blessed to say I will be fulfilling that premonition on August 31st, as I was recently asked if I would like to speak at the International Overdose Awareness Day on the Boston Common, which happens to be the State House lawn. There I will be able to share with thousands pieces of my journey, proving to them that anyone can do it, and spread the hope and inspiration that so many desperately need. This is so much bigger than me, I just happen to be the one chosen to pass along these encouraging words to as many people in this world as possible. That is my purpose, and I could give two shits if you don’t believe me.
There is Hope
The stigmas that are attached to an addict are well-known and wide-spread in this country. I came out to the world that I was in rehab for being a full-blown alcoholic and addict via social media on Christmas Eve, my 5-month sobriety date & the eve of my father’s passing. Oh yeah, my father died from the disease of alcoholism on Christmas morning 2016. Like I said, addiction is the devil. After a long piece of writing similar to this, that got real ugly and dark because, well, that is where addiction takes you, I began to receive an outpouring of messages from people as far back as my little league days, to strangers from Canada to Atlanta. I was shocked at what was to become a normal part of my morning routine; answering to all types of messages from all types of individuals.
There was one common theme to every message I received; the individual stated they had never told anyone before and / or were hiding their addiction from others, too fearful to ask for help. I know that feeling and can only speak for myself when I say that my reason was that I didn’t believe there was any help possible in my predicament. However, I needed to know why all these people held back and every single one of them had the same answer; the stigmas that will forever be attached to them. It saddens me and angers me at the same time that good people, hardworking fathers, loving sisters, amazing sons, et al, continue on living in that cynical cycle of hell because they know YOU are going to judge them forever. That is the world we live in today and have since, umm, forever? Remember when I said envy is a bitch? Well envy comes from judgments, which are attempts at attacking another’s character flaws because the person judging is too scared to look in the mirror and work on their own. No one is perfect!
The mission of my journey, which I call NoMatterWhat, is “to spread hope and inspiration from coast to coast” and fortunately for me, because of the notoriety Stop Thinking Like That has and only continues to receive, I am able to fulfill that mission one day at a time. I certainly do not have all the answers, I am the furthest thing from perfect, but I do know how to stay sober for 24 hours at a time, and that is the first thing I tell anyone who comes to me for advice for their child/loved one or help for themselves. I will continue speaking my truth, no matter how sickening it may be to hear and regardless of all the garbage that will be spewed about me by ignorant individuals, because it is helping others realize they are not alone, and that it is okay to ask for help. Recovery is not the end of the road for the addict, it is just the beginning. I will take on all the stigmas society throws at me, bring it on, because NOTHING will ever be as painful as being buried in addiction. I choose to ignore the noise of the judgmental negative people who try and enter my life because I do not have time for that shit. One of the biggest breakthroughs during my journey was learning to not give a f*ck about what others have to think of me. I can’t make anyone like nor dislike me, that is their decision only. All I can do is try to become a better man on a daily basis, and I do that by helping others, crushing any negativity that may get in my path, and being grateful for each day I have on this beautiful earth.
Addiction is sad, hellacious, scary, unpredictable, non-discriminant, but most importantly, it is BEATABLE. Now, before all the talking heads in AA /NA start barking down my throat, I am very aware that there is no cure for addiction and that it can rear its ugly head at any breaking moment, no matter how much sobriety one may have. However, it is NOT as strong as a determined mind. I could give two shits if you don’t believe me. I have lived it. I am living it. I know any one who is struggling right now, at their greatest depths of depression, lost and hopeless, can overcome their problem. It IS possible. How do I know this? Because I was right there, waiting for the devil to pull me under for good, left to nothing more than a thing taking up space.
You are never alone. There is always hope. Don’t YOU dare ever throw the addict to the side. That addict could end up changing the world, you never know. What I do know for a fact is that one person can make a difference and I could give two shits if you don’t believe me.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some rat traps to set…
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