Brian is a recovering alcoholic and addict. In his 15 years of sobriety, he has worked with many other recovering addicts and alcoholics to help them along their journey. Today, we asked him a few questions to learn about his experience and how it has affected his life.
Why and when did you start abusing drugs and alcohol?
I started drinking and doing drugs when I was 13. It started gradually, but I knew after the first time that I tried it that I had finally found the feeling I had been looking for. I actually had a great childhood but I never felt like I quite fit in with other people. I know that a lot of people come from bad situations growing up but that was not the case with me. I had a wonderful childhood with great parents, but I always felt different.
I thought doing drugs and drinking was cool and it made me feel at ease in my own skin. It was 1968 so a lot of this stuff was popular in movies and with the culture around me. It didn’t have the stigma that it had today, nor was there as much knowledge out there about the effects of drugs and alcohol.
What were some of the emotional and psychological and financial effects of abusing drugs and alcohol?
Emotionally, alcohol and drug use began destroying relationships and hurting people who were close to me. However, prior to that recognition, I thought for decades that alcohol and drugs solved all of my emotional problems. After awhile though, they stop working the way you want them to and things begin to take its toll. Financially in the beginning I sold drugs and continued to work a regular job, so I was ok with money, but at the end I was bankrupt. Furthermore, my marriage ended because of drugs and alcohol and my kids from the marriage were stuck in the middle of all of it. I’m lucky today that they’ve been able to see me sober most of their lives, but it was very hard in the beginning. I felt like I let my family down and it is really difficult to get over something like that.
What made you decide to get help and where did you go to get help?
I decided to get help on Christmas Eve in 1997 when I was detained by the police for violating a custody order. It was not the worst thing that happened to me while drinking and doing drugs but it was the last straw. I did not think initially about going to AA, but I did go to rehab, which incorporated the AA program. After I got out of rehab, I was told to attend 12 step meetings if I wanted to stay sober. I went back to talk to counselors at the rehab center a few times when I was feeling shaky or like I might use. I cannot express how helpful rehab centers and 12 step programs are to recovery. They are essential to getting better.
What do you do for fun in sobriety and do you have more fun now than you used to?
I had a lot of fun while I was drinking and using in the beginning or I wouldn’t have done it. Towards the end of my drinking and drug use though, none of it was fun. I would sit alone in my room and do drugs and not talk to anyone. The kind of fun that I have now in sobriety is so much more fulfilling. I hang out with friends, I travel, I go out to eat, I go out to concerts, I run on the beach everyday. I do everything and remember everything, which is key. So many newcomers and even moderate drinkers often question me on how I have fun without drinking and drug use. It’s really sad because there are so many amazing ways to enjoy life without feeling inebriated. People need to find out what interests them and open their eyes to what’s available.
How has life changed for you since getting sober and have you had any setbacks?
My life has changed 100 percent. I am not as selfish as I used to be. I try to give rather than take, even when I want to take. I feel like I owe a debt to others instead of feeling like the world owes me a debt. That’s how I used to feel when I was drinking and doing drugs, like other people owed me things and the world owed me things. I’ve become an adult. Life is always full of setbacks, and that includes in sobriety. But I can handle any setback now like an adult. I don’t need a substance to make the pain go away or cower in a corner. I try to handle things maturely now, and I always remember, “This too shall pass.”
What advice do you have for newcomers and those who are still abusing drugs and alcohol that want help?
If they want help the biggest advice I can give is to tell them to throw in the towel and just give AA or rehab a try. There’s something about doing things not “your way” that really works. We always think that “our way” is the only way, but actually it’s “our way” that gets us into the messes we are in. Take direction from people who have worked a program and recovered. Let them teach you. I used to tell people off and be defiant but when I got sober I decided to do what other people said. I didn’t think it would work but it did.
Also, it’s never too late to get sober and clean up. It’s never too late to change. There’s a whole team of people out here who are rooting for you. There’s a whole life out here waiting for you. All it takes is the willingness to succeed; the program does the rest for you. Trust me, its much easier staying sober than it is being out there. I’m living the life I want to live and I’ve never been more fulfilled.
Are you or someone you know struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol? Contact Footprints Behavioral Health at 949-558-4723 and speak to one of our certified treatment counselors, Linda Rose. Start planning your road map to recovery today.