5. I learned how to surrender in order to "win."


 

The idea of surrender always seemed like a loss. Like I’m giving up and having a feeling of defeat. The paradox of how learning how to surrender in order to win was a pivotal part of my recovery.
At first, this did not make sense to me at all. I would hear people in twelve step meetings sharing about this, and I would just think to myself “well thats just a stupid idea.” It wasn’t until my sponsor sat me down and started to discuss some of the step work around step two and three. While learning about myself, my disease, and the program of action that my sponsor was lining out for me… I started to buy into this idea. 
I came across this realization that what I needed to surrender was my old lifestyle, my old way of dealing with life, my old way of manipulating and sabotaging areas of my life. Essentially, I needed to surrender the idea that I knew what was best for me. My thinking was sick, and I couldn’t rely on it. But what I could rely on was this idea of a power greater than myself having better plans for me. So I slowly started to implicate this spiritual idea into my day to day activities. And one day it hit me! That if I can come up with an idea of how I’m supposed to live my life and be successful, then it’s like me tapping into a power equal to myself instead of God. 
Thankfully, my step one experience around my addiction proves time and time again that although I may have great intentions with my thinking, it’s never worked out for me. That’s what convinced me that a power greater than myself was needed to tackle this addiction. Especially since I met, and was being helped by, people who were once just as hopeless as I was and found a way out. They were my beacon of hope, the community I would seek counsel from… the proof I needed to believe in a power greater than myself. 
Then it became simple… I started to become open minded to how my higher power worked in my life. I started to be less rigid with how I think things should be. I started to enjoy life and this recovery journey. Yes, I would come across some difficult times but that’s when I would lean into this idea of surrender even more. And it just kept on working… year after year would go by and I just kept staying sober while also growing my spiritual life. 
It felt good… like I had an inside joke with my higher power on how my life is meant to be lived in order for it to be fruitful and, above all, my testimony gets to help others.
Ten years into this new lifestyle, and this spiritual principle continues to work for me. I get to explore it in new ways with new circumstances and it never seems to get old.

4. Old friends may not understand my lifestyle change.

Needless to say, a lot of my "old friends" were people I used drugs/alcohol with. That's all I did... so I would only associate with people who were doing the same as me, and even a few distant family members.

I remember sitting in treatment and thinking "will I have to 'break up' with my friends?" This was a big deal for me. Turns out a lot of my friends were sick like I was, to some degree. And when I first started to come around, early in recovery, people were really happy for me and proud that I wasn't destroying my life anymore. Some of them even inquired on how I "did it" or if I quit everything. Everything... or just the hard stuff? 

I only came around a few times... I was way too invested and excited about my new lifestyle change. Everything from going to recovery related events, to service opportunities, to physical exercise (I did't start practicing yoga until about 5 years sober). Slowly but surely, my lifestyle started to speak for itself and my old friends simply weren't attracted to the things that we were doing (even if they were still happy and proud of me) but the friends circle started to shift. And I came across a new friends circle. People that were in recovery, people bettering their lives, and people who were all about accountability.

I still have so much love for my old friends, but I feel like we just grew into different journeys. Needless to say, I didn't have to do anything forceful when it came to my old friends group. I just started to live my recovery lifestyle and the rest took care of itself. It's interesting how presently, it's a non issue in my life, but early in recovery this was a very stressful idea I had to battle with constantly. 

The biggest thing I learned about community during this journey is that not everyone will understand you, but that it's worth the effort of bettering yourself. There will be people that don't walk beside you in it, and that's okay. Love everyone. But once you walk in your new truth, healthier community will naturally follow. And life will open up even wider than before. 

3. The Pain and Misery of my addiction will go away.

3. The Pain and Misery of my addiction will go away.

This is something I would never think would be possible. In the depths of my disease, it’s easy to feel hopeless and not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there is hope! 
Interestingly enough, this can be a good and bad thing. The attempts I had at getting sober in the past consisted of me getting into treatment, not getting high for a couple of days, I start to feel better and the pain and misery are almost forgotten...which inivetebly lead me back to a relapse. Now, I’m not saying that pain and misery are a good thing for recovery or that’s what’s keeping me sober. Quite the opposite; pain and misery are a great motivator to get me to stop. But somewhere in the journey, I needed to be led by positve things to ignite hope for a new and better life. I didn’t respond well (I don’t think many people do) to negative reinforcement of fearing a relapse or have pain and misery motivate my recovery on a daily basis. 

On the brighter side, it was a great suprise to realize that I didn’t have to live in a constant negative hopeless state of mind. What a feeling of gratitude it is to be able to be a part of society and have both good and bad days without being overwhelmed and swallowed up by depression and thoughts of suicide. 

So yes, the pain and misery of my disease does go away, and it can be replaced with positive/healthy state of mind which is indeed a miracle (act of a higher power) for a person who’s in the grips of addiction. In my experience, this is a pivotal part of recovery. Without this energy shift, I don’t know if I could remain sober or even begin a new and healthy lifestyle.  
 

2. My addiction is not my fault but it is my responsibility

2. My addiction is not my fault but it is my responsibility. 

I remember, in the depths of my addiction, I would often wonder.. “why me?!”
Why did I get picked to have this terrible, haunting disease that causes me to hurt the people closest to me? Not to mention, destroy my mind and body to the point where I no longer wanted to live.
I would spend countless hours reviewing my life… trying to crack the code of why I can’t stop getting high. Was it a DNA predisposition?Was I destined to live this way? Was I a mutated reject of the human species? Am I just born to live this rotten lifestyle until my heart stops beating?! 
Being in treatment and spending so much thought and energy on who’s fault it was that I became an addict… I honestly can’t remember who or where I heard the statement “My addiction is not my fault but it is my responsibility.” 
And that seemed to be the answer- it truly resonated with me. I don’t believe that anyone truly chooses to become an addict. I sure as hell did not choose that. I may have chosen to experiment and try new things, but the whole being a slave to the needle idea. YEAH!…Definitely was not in the plan.
And by the time 2008 rolled around, it finally dawned on me. I don’t really care anymore why I am the way that I am- more importantly I’m interested in how to change it. 
That only became possible by seeing people before me walk the walk of recovery. And they told me I needed to take action, I needed to follow some steps, and I needed to do some daily spiritual disciplines if I were to change my life. And I bought that idea! 
At the time, that’s all I could afford.. I had no choice. And that’s exactly it! I had lost the power of choice of whether or not I was going to get high or not. 
I truly felt and believed step one to my core… that on my own will power I can not, NOT get high. 
But through a twelve step process, I could become empowered to no longer HAVE to get high. And thats exactly what the actions did for me. That restored my mind, body, and most importantly, restored my broken spirit. And still, to this day, the same daily disciplines and spiritual principles are the same guiding force that help me enjoy and contribute to life. (And a biproduct of that is that i get to stay sober.) 
But just like it was then, and still is today- responsibility to take actions- to walk the walk not just talk the talk. 
I am responsible for my recovery and also responsible to let others know that there’s a way out. And yes… I know it sounds like I’m contradicting myself, but it’s more of a paradox. “Of myself I am nothing the father doeth the works” is a quote from a book I like to read. While I know this quote sounds very western culture religious (personally I lean to eastern philosophy) it still rings true for me. 
That at ten years sober, I am just as powerless against putting a needle in my arm as I was at day 1. 
The only difference is that I’ve taken action that’s enabled a connection to a higher source that is empowering me to stay sober (I just happened to do that ten years in a row).
So if you’re out there struggling, or know someone who is… Please know that it is not their fault they are addicted, but also hold them accountable. That it is their responsibility. At least thats what has worked for me.
Namaste

1/10 things I learned through getting sober

A shift in perception needed to happen, that kind of goes without saying. 

Since my idea of self-medication was to intravenously inject cocaine/meth and take a bunch of xanax with alcohol. 

That's an extreme example of how screwed up my thinking was. But also in how I viewed problems, situations, and life circumstances needed to shift. 

The idea of going out with friends, partying, going out for drinks. I do all of those things now, in sobriety, but usually when I go out with friends, I’m not doing illegal activities… where NOT selling dope means going out to a party or a concert and I get to actually enjoy and remember the music/artist. 

Going out for drinks usually means I go out for a topo chico or some other kind of fancy sparkling water. And yeah, I have a blast- I have fun, I’m social, interactive and fun, until I’m not anymore.. and thats usually the time I start to make my way home. 

I’ve gone to bachelor parties, weddings, graduation parties.. and all of these things I still do, but my perception of what they mean to me has now shifted to a more sobering one.

Perception of problems and how I deal with them has shifted. When I first got sober, I had a pile of unpaid tickets,  warrants, and probation in multiple counties with seven years of probation fees that seemed so overwhelming that I couldn’t imagine ever getting through it all. 

My perception shifted to just doing the next right thing, and not try to delete it all out of my life at once.

I spoke to the authorities and explained my situation, and made out a reasonable payment plan. 

I started to slowly chip away at this mountain of “problems” and during this I started to gain self esteem. I started to clean up the wreckage I caused. I realized that these authorities were after me because they needed to be.

I was a hazard on the road (I’ve never had a DWI but probably deserve hundreds). I was a danger to society. They were just doing their job to protect and serve civilians. Once I started to take responsibilities for my actions and started to make things right, I slowly started to become more comfortable in my skin. 

My perception of “bad days” needed to shift, don’t get me wrong guys… I do have bad days. But often I get to think of my best day getting high doesn’t even compare to my worst day sober. 

An attitude of gratitude keeps me on a positive path. Seeing problems as opportunities to grow and become a better person, instead of throwing my hands up and saying “fuck this I give up” (which used to be my go to for EVERY problem).

Learning to ask for help if I don’t know something (this happens often because I don’t know much). It’s a humbling experience, but also I get to connect to another human and usually learn something about them. 

My perception of success shifted. I’m a college drop out but I have my dream job. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I need to remain open minded, teachable, and willing to learn about alternative paths to a problem instead of it being my way or the highway. 

But all of this didn’t happen because I thought it into existence. It happened slowly, gradually, over time as I took action. Healthy actions caused healthy thinking, never the other way around. 

The 12 step program I follow asked me to have a spiritual experience that would shift my thinking. Not to have a spiritual opinion/theory… I needed to have experiences to shift my thinking. 

Because prior to getting sober, I could tell you what a healthy life can look like, and probably do it very eloquently and poetically. But still sit there high as a kite as I fed you this bull shit. 

Us addicts, were not stupid or idiots. We know right from wrong, we know a healthy life, we can probably even sell it to you if it means we could get a  fix out of it. 

But I couldn’t manifest the very thing I was talking about until I asked for help, until I started to take actions, until I was willing to be held accountable, and until I started to walk the walk. 

I think with making changes in your life in any area- I’ve learned it always just doing the next right thing. 

Solution to Addiciton

There’s different modalities and new trends when it comes to treating addiction. 

As a profesional in this field, I get to come across all sorts of new cutting edge technology, research, and innovative solutions to addiction. And sometimes I’m like -enough is enough! All the bells and whistles to treating addiction have become a novelty item to get at trade shows.

As a person who’s recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body, the solution has remained the same for me for 10 years. First of all, I will outline the disease of addiction as I see it... all addiction. 

I see it as a spiritual war fare within the addict. It’s spiritual cancer that engulfs and overwhelms the addict. So much so that it manifests to mind and body, but the root is at a spiritual/emotional level. It’s self-ceteredness. Rotten, icky, nasty self centeredness... so much so that it rots away the very host that it lives in. I have had countless conversations with friends and mentors about our disease of addiction and we all seem to relate on this- although many of us had varied traits of how this self ceteredness showed up in our addiction. That seemed to be the common thread. 

My mentor broke down the word “disease” for me as dis ease. Meaning not at ease, and that’s exactly how my internal condition felt. Not at ease with myself, so much so that I had to put high powered chemicals into my body just to feel ok. Like seriously- how badly does a human have to hurt in order for me to put a rusty needle in my arm filled with poison just to ease the internal pain?!

And of couse I share about my expeience because it’s the one that I know the most but have met with several of people who have had their strruggles with gambling, sex, gaming... who suffered from the same dis ease aspect that I speak of. 

And the physical aspect of my addiction was the easiest to spot, this overwhelming obsession of NEEDING to get high at any cost. But I’ve also had stints of sobriety and then going back into getting high. And now I know it’s because I never treated the root of the disease. It’s like pulling a weed from the ground, but the root still being in tact. After a while, the weed comes back. And that’s what it was like when professionals would take the drugs away from me. 

It only treated the surface, because after some time, I would just go get high again because my dis ease was not treated. 

As my journey with my addiciton progressed, I finally saw the layers to my disease and I’m grateful to have been lined up with a mentor who was able to break this down for me. 

It wasn’t until I was fully ready to face my reality. I hear this over and over again. 

“First step of treating addiction is admitting I have a problem”. While yes this is true, this needs to be understood on a cellular level, not just paying it lip service and then doing something differently with my actions. 

I had to fully conceded to my inner most self that this was my reality. That I had a spiritual disease and I could nothing about it unless I took direction from somone who had found the way out. And here it is guys! 

The million dollar question, is answered! 

The solution to a self cetered disease is selflessness. Which for me, meant having to reverse every thought, every action, everything of how I did life. Especially towards the end of my addiction. It was so rotten and nasty that I had this self loathing, hated, discontent outlook on myself and it was a nasty shadow I couldn’t shake. 

See, even when I’m at my lowest I am still centered on ME, aka self centered hatred is still self centeredness. 

And it wasn’t until I was shown a program of action that consisted of making a decision to follow directon, admitting wrongful behavior, learning to make peace with my demons, doing my best to right my wrongs, and this whole healing process was done. 

In order to pay it forward, the “end” of my healing process consisted of “giving it away” and it was then, and only then, that it clicked for me. 

I was allowed to heal and get better to be a living testimony to show others how to do the same, AKA selflessness.

And it’s as simple as that! Self centeredness is the problem and selflessness is the solution. And yes of course there’s lots of details on how to do that, and I’ve seen different schools of thought on how to experience it. I’ve seen friends do it with church, yoga, 12 step, budhisim, christianity, self-help, therapy, clinical, non-profit, and tons of other paths. 

But they all seem to have a very similar under tone. They all seem to harp on certain things like. Honesty, integrity, forgiveness, self love, righting wrongs, and being of service. 

So we use different words and cultural norms to describe these actions. But walking the walk of recovering from adiction always seems to look similar in spite of whatever path was taken. And I’ve also had the opportunity to speak to people who are not “addicts” but suffered from the disease of self ceteredness that manifested in some sort of unhealthy self destructive reality and it seems that the solution for them has also been an altruistic selflessness path that has led them to a life of happiness and abundance. 

Some things I often ponder about is...Is there another layer for us humans to look into that goes deeper than addiction? Is addiction just a side effect of the consciousness of mother earth suffering? Are humans suffering from addiction- the cancer of our planets biology, and our planet’s spirit??

50 Years of Marriage

 

March 10, 2018 my family had a celebration for my parents Golden Anniversary.
 Over and over again I would hear people say “that doesnt happen anymore.” So I figured this was worth writing about. My parents are strong in their Catholic faith and started the celebration at the church having a beautiful ceremony. It was funny seeing my dad so nervous (he’s not one to be in the spotlight.) My parents renewed their vows in front of God and promised each other another 50 years. Surrounded by friends and family, the FAMILY during the ceremony- I realized how many kids, grand kids, and great grand kids were here. And knowing that none of us would exist if it wasn’t for them.
There were tons of pictures and memories made that day, catching up with old family members from all over the country who flew in for this special occasion.
My god parents from St. Paul came in as a suprise none of us knew if they would be able to make it but it was great seeing them.
My God father is my dad’s best friend and he’s told me plenty of stories of their adventures as immigrants in this country when they were young.
My siblings and I even got a chance to recreate a picture from 25 years ago (the last time they renewed their vows). That brought us all so much joy be on laughter trying to recreate that.
I got a chance to ask both my parents what its been like to be married to each other for this long.
My mom said “I dont really feel a difference, we just do this every day” , “it feels good”, “feel happy to still be here” They still finish each other’s sentences and thoughts.
My mom said that having the ceremony brought back old memories and feeling nostalgic. I asked them what it was like to become grand parents and great grandparents. With a huge smile, she said it feels so good to see my kids, my kids-kids, I just love them all so much.
I then asked my dad the same questions. I sensed a tone of grattitude and love when he said “well she’s put  up with me all these years” “I made some mistakes in the beginning and she forgives me and still loves me” “ and now all I want to do is take care of her” “she’s never asked me for a bigger house or a new car” “wonderful having her be my wife for this long” “she always took care of my kids”.
My dad tells me about her going to pick up his check every week taking care of all the bills and other finances.  My dad talked about all of the milestones he’s had a chance to see for his kids and grand kids.
Then I realized it really didn’t matter what graduation, sports, etc. type of milestones it was he was just happy to be a part of it support us and show us the he loves us throught all of this. I mean my parents showed up to see my graduate rehab for gods sake. But it was all the same for them they dont get wrapped up in the details they keep it simple. They show up for family and love us unconditionally . My parents are still in love with each other and they still play jokes on each other and I cant help but be hopeful about love. I realize that for them loving each other has just been part of their life. My mom talked about having different levels to their life. From first becoming parents to becoming grand parents and just growing through it together, learning as they went a long. Truly  being life partners and having the best time along the way, through the good and the bad.
 

Losing a Loved one to Addiction

Last week as my daughter and I were packing up to go to her moms house, I get a phone call from my mother. That’s when I heard the news about my older cousin passing away (He was 49 years old).

We all knew he had been struggling with his health for the past year. He was in and out of the hospital for organ complications. This news stopped me in my tracks. I remember spacing out and having flashbacks of memories of my cousin- he was our next door neighbor my whole life growing up. 

When I finally snapped out of the flashback, I remember looking at my daughter; so sweet, so innocent, so filled with love. 

She had finished packing up her back pack and cleaning up her play area before going back to her mother’s house. It was almost as she could sense my energy. I teared up and gave her a big hug and told her how much I love her.

 

My cousin and I really didn't communicate a whole lot after I got sober. I remember him being in and out of court ordered rehabs, and (in full disclosure) I used to buy a lot of drugs from him. 

As a professional working in the field of addiction (and a person in recovery), I couldn’t help but feel like I should have done more to help him. 

The survivor’s guilt set in right away. I drove back to my hometown a few days later to pay my respects and be there for my family. 

Seeing my aunt destroyed gave me so much pain. This was the third and final son she’d had to bury because of the disease of addiction. 

It was intresting seeing my whole family together again. I saw lots of cousins I hadn’t seen in forever and then something kind of awesome happened. 

I ran into an old cousin and her husband who were big suppliers to me in my addiction. These two were bad off into the disease of addiciton. I never would have imagined that they would straighten their act up. But they were both sober, and looked great. I was blown away by this. I caught up with them and they told me about how they had found God and were living a better life. 

 

I didn’t stay in my hometown for too long. I was there for my mother and supported her, and did my best to be a loving son. I could tell she was in pain- she has buried so many nephews and seeing her sister hurt was not easy. Throughout all of this, I had a very interesting conversation with my uncle. 

My uncle is a very riligious man and very intelligent. I have lots of respect for this man. I opened up to him about feeling guilt and anger towards my cousin I remember saying “well at least he got out (leaving this world) and he left everyone else here to deal with the pain.” 

My uncle was very understanding and he used biblical examples to speak to me. I am familiar with certain passages of that book but personally I’m a fan of eastern/buddhist philosophy. But I’m open minded, and so is my uncle, so we continued the conversation.

I realized that the whole time I just wanted somone in my family to tell me they are proud of me. And that's exactly what he said. He said that he was proud of me and that he’s glad I was able to turn my life around and help others do the same.

I realized then that I have a certain perspective about my family (this may totally be all in my head), but I guess it feels like when it comes to my family, we don’t really get a lot of recognition unless it’s negative. And I feel a bit disconnected from my family because of that.

I told my uncle that I felt a bit like a traitor to my family because I have bonded with other people (some in recovery) and feel more “family” like with them compared to my own flesh and blood. My uncle assured me that I was not being a traitor, and he used other biblical stories to help me understand that and he told me to keep doing what I’m doing and to follow my heart. 

Dating in Recovery

 

This seems to be a touchy subject in the recovery world and everyone seems to have different approaches to this. One of the big no nos is the infamous 13 stepping. 13th step is not part of the recovery process and it’s a term usually used for a person with multiple years of recovery going after a “new comer”. Someone fairly new in recovery and taking advantage of this very vulnerable state. There is also this other idea that I see get thrown around, “don’t date for a year.” I can totally see the benefits of this, but personally I’m not a fan of negative reinforcement. I’d rather work on bettering myself and be taught on what to do, instead of what not to do. In the nine years I’ve been sober, I’ve made my share of mistakes when it comes to the dating world but more so I’ve seen other people in recovery relapse and or participate in other unhealthy behaviors that are, in my opinion, just as bad as getting high.

I also have an awesome sponsor who has taught me to work/change my behavior in relationships rather than just not date for year. In my opinion I could totally just not date for a year still have unhealthy behaviors and make a mess of my recovery dating life. And then blame the recovery world for doing as they told me and still causing a shit show. I’m not a fan of timelines, and to top it off, in the recovery literature (I personally practice the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous) It doesnt say anything about not dating for a year. That’s just some shit people made up. But it does say to make a fearless searching moral inventory of our romantic relationships, so I can see how I show up and how/where I am selfish and self centered and how I can focus on changing those behaviors before attempting to date somone.

Also, I just feel that if I’m not good at treating myself well: ie poisoning my body and mind. Not to mention, I have access to my own thoughts and feelings. 

What makes me think that I can treat a whole OTHER human with dignity and respect who probably has different ways of thinking and feeling that I dont have access to? Just makes it that much more difficult. 

In the last nine years of my recovery I’ve gone from swearing off dating people in recovery to swearing off people not in recovery, to working on myself and not dating anyone, to casual dating, to attempting to find a life partner. And honestly, at this point, I’m just focusing on living my life and not putting so many “rules” on it. Dating in general is just hard. I get to sponsor guys in the recovery world and I do my best to guide them and direct them the same way my sponsor does for me. I’ve personally seen way too many people get wrapped up in the drama and gossip of who’s dating who while in a 12 step meeting that it loses focus on why we’re there in the first place. If you’re in recovery and reading this, please don’t head towards a relapse by getting wrapped up in another person, and losing focus on healing yourself. 

My sponsor has always told me that if I’m getting worked up about a girl I’m dating, to focus on helping someone else, it’s the simplest way to get out of my selfish mindset. Because when I’m obsessed and focused on my dating experience, all I’m thinking about is how I’m being affected, how I’m feeling, how I’m being perceived, how I’m being treated, and just like that I get stuck in a selfish spiral (even having negative thoughts about myself is selfish because I'm only thinking about myself). Not to mention, I’ve probably lost focus on the girl I’m dating all together and how she feels and thinks. So the whole giving a fuck about someone else trick seems to always save my recovery. Even though I struggle with it at times, it hasn't failed me yet. 

 

From a Probation Officers Perspective

I asked my old probation officer to write a piece describing her view of me from the last time she saw me high. This was the last time I got arrested, this is what Lisa Page wrote.

In 2008, I transitioned from treatment coordinator back to a probation officer position. I enjoyed the treatment aspect of my job but was ready to supervise probationers again. I noticed a familiar name when I ran my caseload list- Peter Maldonado. The name was familiar, because I approved him for residential treatment earlier that year. His name stood out, because he relapsed WHILE at the treatment facility. Rather than kick him out of facility, I deferred to his counselor's recommendation and extended him in the program. After he graduated from the program, he relapsed again and self-referred back to the same facility. I was looking forward to meeting Peter and see how he was doing with his sobriety. When he came in for his appointment, he was sullen and withdrawn. His hair hung down in his face, making eye contact difficult. Peter was polite but detached. He didn't have much to say about his experience in rehab, and I was concerned that he had possibly relapsed.  

A few days after that appointment, I went by Peter's house. He kept his bedroom dark by hanging sheets over the windows. Recycled syringes were used as tacks to hold up the sheets, which I found disturbing yet inventive. On a dresser just inside the room was an explosion of electronics. Wires, pieces, and parts were everywhere. I think he disassembled everything to make sure no one was spying on him. Peter told us to be careful as we looked in his bathroom, because there were uncapped syringes lying around. Drops of blood, a bent spoon, and empty dope bags were also in his bathroom; it was like a scene from an icky movie. I asked Peter if he would be willing to try treatment again, and he said he would. I remember looking at his eyes as we spoke (he wasn't hiding behind his hair that day) and thinking how empty they were. This kid had given up and checked out on life. The drive back to my office was quiet with me and my coworker reflecting on what we had just experienced.

I talked to the judge over his case that day. I found another facility to send Peter to and had already talked to Sandy, who would be his counselor there. After some discussion, the judge agreed to send Peter there. He wanted him in jail until a treatment bed became available. I returned to Peter's house the following day with a deputy. I explained he would be going to another facility; however, he was going to jail that day. He was arrested in his room and went straight to county lock up.

Sandy let me know Peter arrived in Austin. From that point on, everything changed. Through our treatment team phone meetings, I could tell he was alive again. He was so grateful to be there. To this day, Peter continues to thank me for giving him another chance at treatment. It is so incredibly fulfilling to see what he's accomplished professionally and spiritually. Peter has presented his story to our Drug Court graduates, probationers in outpatient treatment, and to my coworkers. Regardless of which audience he is speaking to, his story is moving and gives hope. I don't consider him a former offender/probationer; he's a fellow human being and my friend. When I find myself frustrated with my current caseload, I remember the kid with the empty eyes. It reminds me that there may be another Peter who needs someone to help guide them out of the darkness into their new, better life. 

More than Just getting Sober

There's more to recovery than just not using/drinking.

I attempted to get sober several times and I would have bouts of sobriety whether it was forced upon me- for example, going to jail- or being court ordered to go to treatment.

And after a few weeks of not using/drinking I expected everything to just be peachy, but that wasn't the case.

In my disease, I cause a lot of wreckage. I abuse trust, and my loved ones are afraid of me because of my past behavior. Family members were constantly suspicious and had a hard time believing I was sober. And honestly I can't blame them for that. My actions lead them to think that way.

I was about 18 months sober and one of my sisters was still suspicious that I could go that long without drinking/using. My point is that just not drinking/using is only the beginning. Emotional sobriety and having healthy coping skills to deal with life was really when the rubber meets the road. I had to think of this recovery deal as a marathon and not a sprint. It was quite the reality check!

In my mind, I’m like “look guys I’m not getting high anymore.” Although that is a huge deal for a person struggling with addiction, it's only the beginning.

I found a mentor (sponsor) who guided me in my spiritual path towards a healthier lifestyle. I did a lot of soul searching and self realization, and I realized how much of a selfish, self-centered asshole I really was.

Even without dope in my body, my whole perspective on life slowly started to shift. And it was just that, a very slow process. I started practicing daily habits like meditating every morning, and journaling every evening (checking in on my day). I started to help other people who were struggling with addiction, and this was a huge key to my recovery, because I could see my unhealthy lifestyle in someone else and totally call them out on it.

The funny thing is, that once I called them out on stuff, it was an immediate spiritual mirror for me to look at myself and I was almost forced to shift my unhealthy behavior.

Constantly having these mini epiphanies about myself and seeing a different path for how to do life. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you're early in recovery or your loved one is early in recovery, there is still a lot more work to be done.

But it is possible and the process can be a little bumpy, but I know several people who have used this type of approach and had success (including myself.) Emotional sobriety is very real, and so is emotional relapse but I’ll talk about that in another post…

Not a Quick Fix

My sobriety journey has been a marathon, instead of a sprint.

I attempted to get sober three different times before I finally “got it.” And it wasn't until I started to develop healthy spiritual practices or “habits” that slowly became routine and natural.

This has been true for me with other journeys, like yoga.

At times, I get asked how long I've been handstanding or doing yoga (I usually get asked this when I get caught doing an advanced asana) and I usually answer with “It’s a lot of practice and a lot of falling out- and getting back up.”

Through these journeys, I have fallen in love with the practice/process. And it's not all sunshine and rainbows. There's days that I just don't want to do it... like ANY of it.

But through determination, I realized that even my “off” days are still progress. I get to look back at my journey and realize that my “shitty days in sobriety” are still a blessing because at least I'm still sober. And once upon a time- that's all I ever wanted. To be able to draw a sober breath.

Having gratitude for my milestones are very important. And this is true in other areas in my life. Some days my handstand practice is just off, but I realize that I’m still getting some hang time and I'm still progressing compared to when I first started the physical practice of yoga. When I couldn't even hold a crow pose.

I guess I’m saying all of this to say that, it's the little things. The countless drills, the countless mini spiritual epiphanies in my recovery journey, the struggle, the “failures”. ALL of it is part of the process.

So if you're venturing through a new journey, remember that this is not an overnight matter. You have to learn how to celebrate the mini victories and have gratitude for them.

Being of Service

First couple of times I attempted sobriety I would hear comments like “being of service is part of the program…” and I kind of just thought this whole giving back thing was optional or something you did only if you were a recovery nerd.

I relapsed a few times before I finally got sober and my mentor made it crystal clear to me that being of service was necessary and not optional, and I was like “WTF bro.. I can barely help myself.” As a matter of fact I’m the one that needs ALL the help that he can get. I suck at living life. I can’t hold a job, I can’t get through school, I can’t go a day without having a needle in my arm. Who the hell is going to want ME to help THEM?!

But as I journeyed through my recovery, my mentor would continuously put me in positions to help other people, especially other addicts.

My mentor would tell me “you don't have the luxury of staying sober if you don't give a fuck about someone else.”

When I was six months sober, my mentor would drag me to this detox center and would have me share my experience strength and hope. I was nervous and didn't know what I was saying most of the time. I just knew I was speaking my truth and from the heart.

Afterwards people would come up to me and thank me for coming out to help them. And then it dawned on me that I do have something to offer. I can offer hope just like hope was offered to me.

It's so easy to become self absorbed in addiction, and even in my recovery it was all about me and how I needed to get better. But once recovery shifted my perspective on how I could be useful to someone else's recovery, I began to experience gratitude.

In the beginning, it was just about asking people how they're doing and offering simple acts of service. Since then, I've had awesome opportunities to help in all sorts of ways- whether it's helping someone find treatment or mentoring them in their journey. Being of service is something I get to do, still.

My recovery always feels best when I get to be a of voice of hope and love for people. Especially people who experience similar situations as I do. And the universe never fails. Every time I'm going through a hardship- sooner or later I get the opportunity to use that experience to help another person whose going through the same situation.

And the hardship is no longer a hardship, but rather a useful tool to put back in to life.

I always took when I was in the depth of my addiction, and it only makes sense that the solution to that is to give back.

The Beginning of the End

This time of year is tough to say the least. It doesn’t matter if you’re in recovery or not.

December of 2007 was especially a tough time for me. This was my last relapse and last big binge. I had been to rehab in July of 2007, and I remember my sobriety date was 7-7-07. I felt like that was a good luck charm so I was sure I was going to keep this one.

Needless to say, that wasn’t my experience. Around August of 2007, I started to drink and smoke weed occasionally, but in my mind I wasn't using my DOC (drug of choice) IV cocaine, so I hadn't really relapsed yet.

I really thought I had it under control this time. I was passing drug test for the probation officer, I wasn't getting arrested, and I wasn't causing too much of a shit storm.

What started off as drinking on the weekends and smoking weed occasionally turned into a couple of xanax bars every once in awhile. Maybe an XTC tab here or there. And then during my birthday month (December) I figured I needed to celebrate, but I didn't realize that my disease had me right where it wanted me.

I started to have these insane rationalizations with myself about my drug use. It was the end of 2007 and I started to slowly justify my DOC.

I thought to myself: “Well I was shooting coke first half of 2007, so this year is pretty much screwed anyways. No harm in shooting a little coke before the new year.”

OMG you guys- like literally who the fuck thinks that?! I guess I do; an addict who is suffering and doesn't have a solution for how to "do life" without some kind of crutch.

And then all hell broke loose, January, February, and March, came and I was still on my "one last time" kick and I couldn't stop.

I remember feeling so empty and hollow that I wanted to want to stop- that I honestly thought I was a sociopath. I was using coke, meth, xtc, xanax, alcohol, weed and anything else I could get my hands on almost every day.

Before this, I usually would only take xtc at nights or at parties, but it got to the point where I hadn't slept for days and I'd end up taking xtc tab at around 10 in the morning.

Finally, the beginning of April, my mother was fed up with my shit (I was still living at home) and she called my probation officer on me.

I was paranoid and freaking out about all of this. Two of my probation officers came to do a field visit at my home and I wasn't even pretending to hide anything anymore. There were empty baggies, pill bottles, vodka bottles, syringes all over my room and I just pleaded for help. And so they did. They put me in county jail for my own safety. The crazy thing about this, is that I actually felt good about it.

Like, how fucked does my life have to be in order for a trip to jail being a step up from the way I'm living?

 

There’s obviously more to this story, but it’s just important for me to talk about relapse during this time of year.

 

I'm in recovery, can I go to this music festival?!

When I got sober back in 2008, there was a ton of different suggestions around what I should and should not do being in recovery. The most common one I had heard at various 12 step groups was about changing "people, places, and things". This cause me to begin looking at what I loved, thinking that I had to sacrifice some of these activities not that I was sober. Immediately, music festivals popped into my mind. I love music festivals! I loved everything about these festivals; the dancing, singing, laughing, food, friendliness, seeing amazing artists I had always looked up to and so much more! I'm also very aware of the underground drug scene that goes on at these events. Everything from molly (MDMA), acid, weed, cocaine, alcohol and pills. I asked myself, should I avoid music festivals all together?! Do I need to hire a body gourd to shield me away from these temptations?! What’s a music lover to do?!

I had been told that if I was spiritually fit I could do anything any free man could do. I decided one night to challenge the “people, places, and things” slogan. My first concert in recovery was in Austin, TX at Emo's (the old Emos off of red river). Bone Thugz-N-Harmony was playing a show and I really wanted to attend. Bone Thugz was the first CD I ever owned. I had about 9 months sober at the time and I felt like I was solid in my unity, recovery,  and my service work. I had a weekly commitment sharing my experience strength and hope at a detox center. I met with my sponsor almost weekly, practiced daily spiritual principles, and had a home twelve step group that I was a part of. I consulted with my sponsor and he referred me to a page out of the big book of alcoholics anonymous that states. "So our rule is not to avoid a place where there is drinking, if we have a legitimate reason for being there. That includes bars, nightclubs, dances, receptions, weddings, even plain ordinary whoopee parties. To a person who has had experiences with an alcoholic, this may seem like tempting providence, but it isn’t. You will note that we made an important qualification. Therefore, ask yourself on each occasion, Have I any good social, business, or personal reason for going to this place? Or am I expecting to steal a little vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere of such places? If you answer these questions satisfactorily, you need have no apprehension. Go or stay away, whichever seems best. But be sure you are on solid spiritual ground before you start and that your motives in going is thoroughly good. Do not think of what you will get out of the occasion. Think of what you can bring to it. But if you are shaky, you had better work with another alcoholic instead!"

After consulting with my spiritual advisor, I went to the Bong Thugz concert and had a blast! Most importantly I was blown away by the idea of not wanting/needing to think about drugs/alcohol. If you know about Bone Thugz you can imagine how much marijuana smoke was in the air, but it did not bother me one bit. First concert in recovery was a complete success. 

Since then I've gone to probably hundreds of concerts in recovery (living in Austin made it very easy to see musicians) 

My experience shows me that if I stay spiritually fit, I will stay sober through these situations that some people in recovery tell me to shy away from and avoid. I had to check myself heading into this weekend because I got a free ticket from Black Swan Yoga to attend the Free Press Summer Fest in Houston. I am elated to get the opportunity to experience another event like this sober. Please tune in next week to find out how the festival went!  I have asked one of my best friends, Mark Rector to contribute his thought on this topic as well. He and I will be enjoying the festival together this weekend.

Getting sober, I had all these fears and questions about what I could and could not do. I was sure that I was going to be doomed to a boring life. After all, look at how much fun I had in my life at concerts and events where there was drugs and alcohol present. In my head, alcohol and drugs made the event fun. It was backwards thinking. I was dependent on a substance to enjoy life and now that I had used up that privilege what was I supposed to do?

Luckily, I was introduced to people who were enjoying life and the experiences they were having. They promised me that since these things had happened to them they could happen to me as well. This was news to me because the message I had heard in many rehab and meetings was that I would have to avoid alcohol and areas that might have drugs. These people offered a solution that didn’t involve avoidance, it promised freedom. I bought in, but was still extremely nervous. I hadn’t been sober doing ANYTHING in 8 years. They said I needed to be spiritually fit in order too experience these things and stay sober so I began to work at that. I really wanted to live a full life and not let my sobriety hinder me. I attended many meetings, began prayer and meditation, got unified with my peers and was being of service in the recovery community, I met with my spiritual adviser and was working steps consistently. After checking in with my peers, house manager, and spiritual adviser I got the go ahead to go to see Flosstradamus, a DJ duo that was gaining momentum in 2012.

I remember the concert vividly (probably because I wasn’t on my usual cocktail of alcohol, Xanax, molly, and heroin). I went with some friends in recovery and another old friend who I didn’t think was an alcoholic/addict (come to find out she joined our ranks 3 years later). She partook in some molly and acid, which I witnessed her take. The desire to ask for some was gone, lifted completely. I didn’t even have to think about thinking to not use. It was amazed how spirituality had solved my problem in a few months that I hadn’t been able to figure out for 8 years. I didn’t even notice that people were drinking and using. I was in it, entrenched in the beat. I walked out of that concert excited for life again. It was possible, I could make it through things like this as long as I was spiritually fit.

Since then, I have enjoyed hundreds of shows by myself and with my peers and have yet to experience an obsession that this concert would be better with a substance. I continue to check my spiritual fitness before each show and proceed to enjoy my life, free from alcohol and drugs. I will check where I am at again before I head into Free Press Summer Fest this weekend and decide if I need to go or not. I do know that if I am not fit, there is a solution to it which is relieving. Ideally, I will join in with Peter and others at the festival. Until next time guys…