5 Lessons Learned From Writing as a Recovering Addict.
Everyone has a purpose in life, it just takes some longer to figure out theirs than others. I am part of those some, as I was clueless to what my purpose for living was until 34+ years into my young life. It was worth the wait. My purpose is to put all my ugly truth out into the universe showing others who are stuck in a dreaded life of addiction that all hope is not lost. I am here to shed light on what life really is like when alcohol and drugs run your every move of every day, every week, every month, and every year. My Voice is being used to spread hope and inspiration coast to coast to the sick and suffering. I am here to let them know they are NOT alone and that they can get their life back because if I did, anyone can. That is a promise.
My Voice is far from just audible-- it spills out effortlessly onto pages full of experience, strength, and hope. Writing has become my way of self-therapy on my personal journey in recovery-- another way of keeping sober. There is no right way to abstaining from a drink or a drug, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The attitude necessary for success in one’s recovery is whatever it takes. If you are willing to do anything to stay sober for 24 hours at a time then you will find yourself living a better life, no matter what.
From all this writing-- including a bestselling book titled Stop Thinking Like That: No Matter What-- I have learned many things about myself, my life, and most importantly, I have found that purpose. Through my writing I have been blessed to be introduced to many courageous individuals all over our great country-- young and old, rich and poor, man and woman-- further proving that addiction does NOT discriminate. I have been given this gift of recovery and there is NO plan of slowing down any time soon, amidst all the naysayers, critics, doubters, and non-believers. Those are the ones who only further fuel my push of spreading the hope and inspiration from coast to coast that I am meant to.
Here are the 5 most impactful lessons I have learned from writing in my recovery about recovery:
1- Mental Clarity
Writing has given me the insight into how my mind works. It’s helped me make sense of the endless amount of thoughts that flew through my brain every day during the very tumultuous and confusing time of early recovery, a time where my mind was constantly racing. One of the first things I noticed during those first few weeks was how foggy my brain had gotten from my time stuck in that awful life of drinking and using. Too many people to count told me how they feared for my safety, worried that I was too far gone, or of a story I had no recollection of. When battling addiction, we become completely oblivious to our actions that others clearly see, but we simply do not. This really hit me when my best friend’s mother told me how her family worried about me after seeing how lost I was at his wedding. I was shocked upon hearing her tell me this, which was over three years before I finally stopped the devil from running my life any longer. I had NO clue people saw me like this, whether because I was an ignorant asshole, or my brain and mind clearly was unaware of how far my life had fallen. My writing has helped me to slowly make sense of all this, as putting it on paper really allows it all to sink in to comprehend what was going on inside my head.
From the insight into my blurred mind I was able to validate my experiences, as bad as they were, putting my entire truth out there for the world to see. A bittersweet part of clearing our brain from all the lethal toxins that inhabited it for years is that you start to become aware of a LOT of things that you thought you buried deep long ago. And by that, I mean the not-so-great events that are completely alcohol/drug induced and make ourselves look like complete jackasses. In AA these events are called “jackpots” and my 20s were full of them.
There is no joy when reminiscing about the past events that have caused pain and agony to the very people who love us and just want to see us get well. An extreme amount of shame and guilt inevitably take shape, and we will want to go run and hide. I became an expert at running from my problems. BUT from this we can learn a vital piece to the start of a successful recovery and that is acceptance. No longer do I run away from my problems, in efforts that they are somehow forgotten by those hurt by my actions. As deep as we thought we may have buried all the times we wished to forget, now that they are in the forefront we MUST accept these atrocities and just as importantly take accountability for them.
Once I learned to accept the jackpots of my past, taking accountability for these events was the next phase in my personal development. This has been a crucial step in not only helping me stay sober, but also heal. We must remember that our families and loved ones aren’t the only ones hurt by our drunken shenanigans, the person we are hurting the most is our self. Personally speaking, I was at a point of having zero self-love, no self-respect, nor any self-worth, and gave up on caring if I were to hurt myself in any aspect or not. As long as I got my drink or drug, I didn’t care what harm may have been caused in the path of destruction in doing so.
Writing about my faults, my flaws, and my inexcusable actions provided me with many learning lessons for my future because even though I am over a year clean and sober, I am still far from perfect, and I am going to make mistakes, as well as fail, and fail often. However, as I stated above, I no longer run from these mistakes and failures, instead I use them as learning experiences, which helps me grow as an individual, becoming a better man. Today I am accountable for my actions and my circumstances, pointing fingers at no one but myself. Playing the blame game only hinders any type of growth, and further separates us from others because people don’t appreciate having fingers pointed at them, especially for someone else’s childish acts. And there were many childish acts occurring when I was in the midst of a bender.
4- I have the power to give back
As I began to slowly heal, build up my confidence, and clear away all that fog that filled my head, I realized I had something I could give back to others who were in that desperate scary position I was a couple months prior. Since day one, my writing has been very raw and candid, as I held nothing back regarding the realities of my life. I didn’t know any other way to write about my past nor did I want to because by putting out everything, as dirty and grimy as it may have been, it helped me tremendously in the healing process, and I continue to get better mentally and spiritually to this day. The physical part is taken care of in the gym and by my diet, which I’ll get into shortly.
I came clean to the public via social media on Christmas Eve 2017, my 5-month anniversary, and the eve of my father’s passing on Christmas morning the year prior from the very disease of alcoholism. Before I knew it, I was receiving messages from past acquaintances, teammates, and friends, to complete strangers across the country. The common theme to all the messages was that they were thankful to hear that they were not alone, but more importantly or unfortunate is that every single person gave the same reasoning as to why they have been holding in their dark secret; they feared the stigmas that would be forever attached to them. Asking for help is NOT easy. Try it yourself the next time you can’t figure something out on your own, whether on the job, an issue at home, on your car, or in your relationship. Then multiple that exponentially when someone knows they need help with their drinking or drugging but cannot ask for help. It is terrifying, plain and simple.
There is nothing more satisfying nor a greater feeling of gratification than knowing I have played a part in helping someone, well, get help. I have been very fortunate and blessed to do so on many an occasion over the past six to seven months, showing me the importance of my voice and that I must keep pushing forward no matter what is in my path. Every page read of my book, every blog that I have written viewed, and every copy of Stop Thinking Like That ordered means more hope and inspiration being spread, furthering my mission of helping as many people as I possibly can.
Let’s make this very clear. I am extremely lucky to be even writing this piece right now. I did everything within my power to throw my life away, losing every job, vehicle, friend, family contact, you name it, due to my life buried in drugs and alcohol. I may or may not have realized any of this because of the incoherent mind I spoke of, but that didn’t make it any better nor mean none of it ever happened. That is why the first 3 lessons learned are so valuable in my personal recovery, but more importantly in formulating the last 2 powerful lessons learned. Gaining mental clarity helped me realize all the pain I had caused and for me to grow as a man, and in my recovery, I had to accept everything that came with my alcoholism and addiction to opiates, and just as imperative, I MUST take accountability for ALL of those actions. If I chose to continue blaming others for my circumstances, then I would inevitably fail in my recovery and end up right back at square one.
This all leads to my attitude of gratitude. My heart is full of gratefulness today. I am grateful for each new day I have on this beautiful earth. I am grateful that I wake up in a bed, not passed out on a couch or a floor. I am grateful that I wake up sans a headache and not running to the toilet to vomit. And vomit again. I am grateful to be able to text my mother and know I will get a response (maybe not in a timely manner, but she still responds nonetheless). I am grateful that I get to share love with my best friend, a woman who trusts me, supports me, and keeps me accountable. I am grateful that I have a healthy body once again not only due to abstaining from a drink or a drug for over a year now, but also no fast-food in the past 12+ months. That leads to my gratefulness for choices. I have the ability to choose, among other things, what I want to eat today, and as much as I want. The last few months of my using I was resorting to a daily diet of a piece of toast. Yes, on a typical day I would eat a single piece of bread or if I was lucky, I could hold down a double cheeseburger.
The most important thing I am grateful for is the ability to help others at any given time on any given day. I can help others find what I found, and that is what I strive to do. These opportunities all stem from something I learned I had hidden inside me among all those transgressions I thought I forever buried: the ability to capture an audience through my writing. I am extremely grateful for this gift that has been so graciously given to me by something greater than me, providing me the proof that my purpose is unequivocally to give back to those in need. I write to show others that ANYTHING is possible because if I did it, ANYONE can.
Thank you for reading, be blessed, and always be grateful for everything that you HAVE in life, never focus on that which you do not because everything can be ripped away from you at the snap of a finger, or at the snort of one line or drink of one beer. Always remember, under any and all circumstances, NO MATTER WHAT do not pick up!
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