After just relapsing at 28 years of age, I once again put myself at the precipice of dereliction, and self-enslavement to an addiction that ensnared much of my life and family since adolescence.
My family suffered at the behest of my unresolved emotional pain and an insatiable craving to use drugs. Saliently: my 20’s fused with the ’90s were a blur, colored with successes (by way of recovery) and significant relapses. Namely: I would not exercise the kind of fortitude and transparency it took to maintain ongoing recovery.
My relapse ended on April 19th of 1998, by way of love from family and friends. I had weighty responsibilities ahead; a girlfriend who was seven months pregnant, a new job, living with my parents at 28 years of age, and I violated my probation, called “drug-court” (from a prior drug possession charge).
Day two of abstinence: while in a haze, I go to work, and while on my lunch break, I had to go before the judge for a progress report, but there was very little progress. I could not go back to work. Why? Because I was bused to LA-county jail due to a positive drug test. The drug court counselor advised me to be sent to an in-house jail program for thirty days due to my relapse. I felt what best would be described as a punishment-punch to my stomach; I saw myself as the victim.
While on the bus, gazing through the window, watching people go about their productive lives, and thinking my whole life has come to this? A wide-awake nightmare! I was sure I was going to lose my job; my girlfriend, a family that consisted of my parents and a younger brother and sister; and I’m about to be a father; what am I going to do? Well, one thing is for sure, I’ll have some time to process all this. That’s what I did.
The counselor that was assigned to me in the drug court program (that I’m still in close contact with) shared his wisdom, guided, and challenged me so that I could leave jail ready for an early and uninterrupted recovery experience. One of the other counselors, while facilitating a group to about thirty inmates/patients, stated: “the odds are that one, maybe two of you will make it.” I knew what he meant, and was not too fond of the sentiment at the time, but I remember thinking that I have to be one of those who make it.
On my first day out of jail, I attended a 12-step meeting; from that day forward I attended meetings regularly as if my life and sanity depended on it. I took it very seriously and did what was suggested.
Twenty-one days out of jail, our son was born. I’m now a parent in early recovery. Retrospectively: the two responsibilities (both recovery and parenthood) strengthened me. For the first time in my adulthood, I learned how to show up consistently.
My job at the advertising agency as the head mailroom clerk was saved. My father was a colleague and close friend with the CEO…I caught a break; Mike S. stated in a stern tone: “I’m going to give you another chance, don’t …up!” And thank goodness for that.
After several years, I am promoted to the editing department because I would pester the head-producer weekly to give me a chance. He acquiesced and would give me an opportunity. The learning curve would lead to knowledge for the pre-and-post-production side of TV and radio advertising; I grew out of the mailroom and kept an excellent position with a reputable company that was quickly becoming the standard-bearer in its respective industry.
The year is 2005 and at seven years of abstinence-based recovery, with the same employer, a member of the 12 step community, playing drums in a band, and, most importantly, being a responsible father, son, and brother. Life is going well; I did become complacent at my job, with no real passion for that kind of work as a career; my love for playing drums in the band was waning. Then, my life took another unexpected turn. My Mother (1st), and a mutual friend (2nd) asked that I (informally) meet with a lady who owned and operated a Sober Companion agency (on this basis, my friend Jessica stated: “I think you would be good at this”). I said, “sure, how are a conversation and coffee going to hurt…” I didn’t really see it as an interview, but that’s what it was. I felt no pressure, that is likely why I impressed her enough to where I was offered an opportunity to be hired as a Sober Companion on the spot. I enthusiastically accepted; within a day, on my first case. It was a 24/7 Companion job and lasted thirty-one days. After that short but consequential experience, I knew coaching and companion work would become my life’s work.
Not long after my first sober companion job, I interviewed for a position at a brand new Malibu treatment facility. Though naturally therapeutic and intuitive in specific areas, not lacking in personal experience at a young Thirty-Five years of age, but, I was without the clinical piece, so I enrolled at the Institute of Chemical Dependency Studies. I went to school full-time for three months and worked part-time. Then I worked full-time and went to school part-time for six months. I graduated with a 4.0 GPA and became a certified Chemical Dependency Counselor.
At the treatment center, I confidently spoke up when addressing client’s issues in staff meetings. I was given access to attend clinical meetings, and from that point forward, I requested to facilitate individual sessions and group counseling. The clinical director took notice and gave me an opportunity. I met the challenge and excelled. Right away, I had a modest caseload of patients and a myriad of other responsibilities and freedom to create projects within the company structure. I felt fulfilled, both personally and professionally.
In 2007 my independent streak, newfound confidence, and curiosity inspired me to take another leap of faith to go work for myself. I gave my resignation, and have remained in good standing to this day. I was very fortunate to facilitate groups at that facility for nine months after my departure. I built my practice with several clients over the first year from Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Attorneys, professional referrals and colleagues.
Since then, I have worked with a couple agencies and as a consultant for a few different treatment centers, however, primarily for myself. Traveling to cities and small towns all over North America. I have spent hours, days, weeks, and months with clients and their loved ones. My practice has afforded me so many opportunities—the gift of learning to know people in such a vulnerable way. To be a witness to struggling families heal, the tears of pain and joy that have been shared with me and shed by me. Though a challenging and gratifying ride, it has not been a job; this has been a whole experience, a livelihood; it’s like always being up-to-bat in the World Series, you just want to make contact.