Sober by Gareth Bowler

This beautiful video has been making the rounds on social media. I wanted to share it because I think it eloquently captures what it’s like to be an alcoholic. Alcoholics are running away from themselves, we run and we run but we can never outrun ourselves. If there is someone in your life who doesn’t understand what an alcoholic is, show them this video, I think by the end they will see it differently. Let me know what you think.

Recovery Rocks – Sara Berelsman

Sara Berelsman used to drink. A lot. Now she is enjoying sobriety with her two lively and beautiful daughters. In addition she also has a hunky firefighter to keep her warm at night! What more does a girl need in life?
Sara writes non-fiction. She just believes there are so many fascinating true events, that she doesn’t need to make things up. She also writes a couple of regular columns for local newspapers. Writing is her passion, and always will be.

Sara Berelsman’s memoir, My Last Rock Bottom, has recently been published.

Sara Berelsman

Sara Berelsman

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
1. My rock bottom happened when I realized there was no way I could keep drinking and keep my husband, my kids, or my life. I had bargained and tried every which way to keep drinking. It was when I’d exhausted all that and put both my marriage and my kids in jeopardy on the same night. I had to quit.

2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

My first days of recovery were difficult and magical. It was a whole new world without drinking. It was a world I felt uncomfortable navigating, yet I discovered so many new things about my surroundings and myself. I never felt on a more visceral level. It was tragic to go through withdrawal and wonderful at the same time.

3) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
The best things that have happened to be since being sober are discovering all kinds of hobbies that were latent when I was drinking. I’m figuring my medication out, since alcohol prevented any of it from working (I’m bipolar). I published my book. I published an article in the Chicago Sun-Times. I’ve played with my kids. I’ve discovered my husband sober. I’ve discovered myself sober. I still am. I’ve set goals for myself. I’m going back to school to become a substance abuse counselor. I’ve done things to proud of for once.

4) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?

Honestly, I wouldn’t tell myself anything. I believe in fate, and I believe if I hadn’t experienced all of that, I wouldn’t be where I am now, which is exactly where I’m meant to be. Plus, I wouldn’t have all that material for my book.

5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?

The most useful things I’ve learned about myself are that I am actually a very patient person. I always thought I needed booze to deal with life, but I can actually deal pretty well on my own. I was also stunting my intellectual growth. Being drunk made me feel more articulate, smarter. Wrong. I am much smarter now. And a much better mom and wife and friend.

6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.

Something wonderful that happened recently, that happens every day, is waking up without a hangover. Seriously. They were awful. Ruined days, weeks, months of my life. Made me a crying, depressed, suicidal mess. I thank God every day that I was smart enough to decide to stop waking up with hangovers.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?
I love the Serenity Prayer…need it every day. There is some scripture that’s gotten me through some tough times. Basically anything positive about overcoming addiction. It works if you work it!

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Recovery rocks because I’m loving the person I’m becoming.

Recovery Rocks – Ron Morrison

Ron Morrison is retired from the US Navy. He is currently living his dream between his home in Washington state and the tropical islands of the Philippines. His days are spent working on his legacy, caring for his wife, meditating, and just being grateful. Ron runs the spirit of recovery blog where he writes about his reflections on sobriety and reviews books related to addiction and alcoholism.

Ron Morrison

Ron Morrison

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’

That depends on how ‘rock bottom’ is defined. I think the most common definition is ‘the moment when you decide you need help,’ so we’ll go with that. For me it was after losing two jobs back to back due to showing up under the influence, followed by an intervention by my wife and son.

I prefer to think of my rock bottom as the moment I surrendered and turned the whole affair over to the universe at large. That was one night, after I was three-quarters of the way through my recovery program, when the mother of all cravings hit me. That led me to a place of unfathomable hopelessness and demoralization, and sometime during the night I just gave up. I quit fighting it, turned it over to my conception of God at the time, passed out exhausted. I haven’t had a craving since.

2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

Ha! Which first 30 days? I relapsed over and over through the years. It was not always worse each time, but the overall trend was definitely down. My last first 30 days. I checked into the hospital for detox (I had an annoying habit of withdrawal seizures) and spent three to five days on the medical ward. And I did have a seizure while there. That was followed by about four months, if I remember correctly, intensive outpatient treatment at the alcohol counseling service. The balance of the 30-day period was a surrealistic blur while my body healed and my mind tried to un-fog itself.

3) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?

Well, I’ve reconnected with my true self. I found the courage to take a leap of faith and concede the race to the rats, which gives me the freedom to follow my passion. Maybe the best thing, tho, is just living without the guilt, shame and self-loathing I had while I was drinking.

4) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?

Not much I could say that I hadn’t heard and ignored already. Except maybe I could tell myself to stop looking outside for the answers, because I already have them in me. And that I don’t have to prove anything to anyone.

5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?

That I can choose my attitude, and making the right choice there makes all the difference in the world.

6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.

Hmmmm. I picked my first cashew nut off my own tree. And I turned 61 years old. That’s more than twice what most people who knew me back in the day were betting on.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

Mostly, I hate the slogans. But I find the Serenity Prayer and “Live and let live” very useful.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’

Recovery rocks because I am at peace with myself and the world in general. It’s a second chance to do something worthwhile. The possibilities may not be limitless, but they’ve expanded by several factors of ten.

Fear is the engine that drives alcoholism Part 2

Fear is such an unpleasant emotion that we want to get rid of it as quickly as possible. So we tend to choose whatever solution works the fastest. We often make the big mistake of choosing something that is ultimately destructive. However, because our need is immediate, we are unable to consider long-term consequences: if we are frightened, we want it to end NOW!

Image courtesy of hyena reality /

Image courtesy of hyena reality /

Here are some common methods of dealing with fear:
Drinking alcohol.
• Taking drugs.
• Cigarettes.
• Overeating.
• Gambling.
• Moving jobs/house.
• Watching TV excessively.
• Meaningless sex.
• Risk taking.
• Inappropriate relationships.
• Ignoring facts.
• Doing anything not to be alone.
• Complete denial.
• Getting angry.

The truth is that we will never be free from fear. As long as we continue to grow we will experience fear. However, what we can change is how we deal with it so that it no longer disables us.
Susan Jeffers, in her book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, discusses how fear is a natural accompaniment to growth and therefore cannot be avoided. From the day we are born, we are growing and seeking new experiences, with those new experiences comes fear. Again, It is the management of that fear that is key.

For some of us, our first day of school was frightening. It was the unknown, after all, and the unknown can be frightening. We are leaving the comfort of what we know and are stepping into a world we know nothing about. We don’t know what to expect and that frightens us.
I remember sobbing to my mother the night before I went to high school when I was eleven. I was terrified and overwhelmed. It was a big change and it felt like a world I wasn’t ready for. I was frightened up until lunchtime on my first day and then it just became normal. I had pushed through the fear; it was the natural accompaniment to a new experience.

Some of us are frightened on our first day of a new job. Others can just take it in their stride. Learning to drive, doing a presentation at work, meeting strangers at a party, letting someone down, saying no, all these things are frightening to a lesser or greater degree to different kinds of people. We learn to cope with the situations as best we can, and as we get older and have more life experience these things become easier.

Fear can manifest itself in many ways, and in relation to alcoholism I am referring mostly to the hidden fears: the ones that no one ever really talks about – because they’re scared to. These are the disabling, all encompassing fears that drive a person to seek relief in drink.
When a person’s drinking is progressing, it is the fear of how they are going to be able to deal with their fears that makes the thought of giving up drinking so hard. They usually haven’t ever told anyone how they feel because it’s almost impossible to put into words. But they are terrified, even when they know alcohol is destroying their lives; they are terrified of how they are going to deal with life without its support. They believe that alcohol is the only thing that is helping them deal with their fear.

Understanding this, and supporting the alcoholic to find new ways to deal with their fears, is an essential component to recovery from alcoholism. I believe that if the alcoholic doesn’t find a better way to manage fear then they will either return to drinking or simply replace alcohol with another substance or unhealthy behaviour.
Fear is simply too overwhelming to ignore.

You can read the first part of this post here.

This is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom.’
2013 How to Stop thumbnail 130x160
Available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

Recovery Rocks – Diane Cameron

Diane Cameron writes a wonderful blog called ‘Out of the Woods’ She is coming up to 30 years of sobriety so has a great deal of experience in the issues many of us face when we get sober. She is a columnist and author, whose stories and essays challenge readers to think about events, culture, community –and themselves –from new perspectives. “Looking for Signs” published in 2013 is a collection of her essays. Diane speaks and presents on a wide variety of topics and offers keynote talks for seminars, conferences, corporate and community events.

Diane’s newest book, “Out of the Woods–A Guide to Long-term Recovery” is available now. Published by Central Recovery Press, “Out of the Woods” is available at Barnes & Noble, all independent booksellers and at
Recovery works because of the people who came before us, I am so grateful that after 30 years Diane is still around offering her wisdom and support to those still suffering from alcoholism.

Diane Cameron

Diane Cameron

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’

In those long ago days I considered myself quite ladylike and it was even kind of true. My using was private. I hid it well, for a long time I looked good on the outside and people would ask me what was wrong but few suspected my secret addictions.

So the horror was also in private. Realizing that I could not drink and that I was hiding to keep using. And what was visible were relationships failing one after the other—intimate relationships, friendships, jobs and coworkers all failing. The suffering was so intense.

2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

There was relief and pain. I quit alcohol and food at the same time. I was raw. Totally vulnerable to every emotion near me, and I had few skills then to cope so I cried and cried and I was pretty scared. But at the same time something much deeper in me knew—truly knew that this crazy thing I had committed to was the way out. And I wanted out of addiction and all my own suffering.

And I was right. Recovery was the way out of pain and he way in to a new joyous life.

3) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
The list is so long but at the top is having a group of true friends. Not drinking pals or folks who complain and suffer with me but loving and true friends. Next great physical health—over time my body also got clean and strong and energized. I also value having a genuine spiritual life—not religious necessarily though I’m less afraid of religion now—but an authentic spiritual life that supports me and my dreams.

4) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?

I wish I could tell the younger Diane to sit still with the pain. And to look at all the ways I was making pain: drinks, pills, food and men. I didn’t have much capacity to sit still but I like to hope it would have saved me a little bit of time and a lot more pain.

5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?

Most important: The Tenth step axiom: anytime I am upset it is because of something inside of me. Also: Examine my motives and my projections, and of course: I am responsible for my life. Bad stuff can and will happen but I am responsible for what I think about it and what I do about it.

6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.

In the years before recovery and even in the first couple of years I could not speak to anyone who described themselves as writers. I was jealous, envious, furious. Of course that was because writing was my secret dream. A secret I kept to myself and even from others. Over these many years I began to write, joined writing groups, took classes, dared to call myself a writer and after many days (one at a time) I have just published my second book, “Out of the Woods—the Journey of Long-term Recovery.”

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

My all time favorite is one I heard early on and somehow I “got it”—or maybe it got me. It is this” “I didn’t quit, I surrendered.” Some part of me even through the fog understood that difference.

I also love this very, very old slogan” “Under every skirt’s a slip.” It always makes me laugh and reminds me of the true old-time guys that started this movement. And even though now we know Spanx better than slips—it’s still true that relationships in the first year are tricky business.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’

That whole business of being “rocked to the fourth dimension” which sounded so old-fashioned and weird when we are new turns out to be absolutely true. There is a life beyond our wildest dreams. Miracles really do happen. We become one of those “Happy, joyous and free” people. Corny? Maybe. But recovery leads to a life that just gets better and better.
Rock on!

Carnage – does exactly what it says on the tin.

Carnage has been back in the news after a horrifying video has emerged of a drunk 18-year old girl being encouraged to perform a sex act on over 20 (equally drunk) young men in a bar in Magaluf.
The idea of this is so horrifying I don’t even know where to start.
Carnage UK advertises itself as the UK’s No1 student event (as voted for by the readers of NUTS; a ringing endorsement indeed).
Their idea is a simple one.
To get lots of students (particularly fresher’s) drunk as humanly possible by visiting lots of local bars and nightclubs in the vicinity of the local university.
Sort of Club 18-30 but at home and in the cold.

Image courtesy of photostock /

Image courtesy of photostock /

Now they have spread their brand abroad to the favorite vacation spots of young British holidaymakers. The British have long had a reputation for invading European vacation destinations and getting wasted.
Carnage have just organized this to a whole new level.

Carnage UK first came to the attention of the public when one of their clients, Philip Laing was caught pissing on a war memorial while out on a Carnage UK event in Sheffield.
Philip Laing will now live on in internet perpetuity, forever young, forever shamed, forever getting the gall of Daily Mail readers everywhere (almost worth the trouble) because of a stupid decision he made.
It has been no secret that students like to drink and some would indeed argue that drinking is a vital part of the student experience, it certainly was of mine. As well as being a fledgling student I was also a fledgling alcoholic so the blatant binge drinking was my raison d’être and therefore made it easy to blend in. Carnage have seen an opportunity and run with it.

Now Carnage Magaluf has upped their game in encouraging young women who are completely incapable of making any kind of rational decision to publicly humiliate themselves for the sake of entertainment.
The video of this girl is all over the internet and will be forever.

Carnage UK presents itself as a credible ‘student event’ organisation with the obligatory message about safe drinking on its website, implying it actively agrees and promotes safe drinking. The owner of the company Paul Bahia says; “Our events are heavily focused on group identity, social and ethical cohesion, and fancy dress themes.”

Liar, liar, liar, liar.
That is not the purpose of his company. The purpose of his company is to encourage people to get mindlessly and dangerously drunk so they can make money off them.

Consider that the (UK) guidance for appropriate drinking is 14 units* per week for a woman and 21 for a man, spread over a week. This would mean at a Carnage event, the men would be limited to 2-3 pints and the girls to 2- 3 small glasses of wine. Now Carnage UK visits over 10 bars on an average night, as well as a club, and the events go on for hours. The bars are the kind that everyone is made to stand up and have loud music pumped out thus disabling all social interaction leaving one with the only option to drink (Duh!).

Carnage may say their doing one thing, but their actions say quiet another, their actions are actively encouraging and enabling binge drinking to the point of recklessness. After all Carnage doesn’t make their money from the students, they make it from the bars and clubs where they can guarantee hundreds and hundreds of willing punters. Imagine if everyone stuck to 2 or 3 drinks, the bars wouldn’t make enough money, they need people to drink to excess. They are lying if they say otherwise.

I feel terrible for this girl who went on holiday to Magaluf hoping to have some fun and an adventure, to get drunk and to party. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself, but at some point she lost responsibility for what was happening to her and Carnage took up that responsibility and abused her. I would even argue it facilitated her rape as she was in no position to understand what she was agreeing to.

If we are horrified by this event then we must start looking at the delusion we have created around our binge drinking culture. Collectively as a country, we continue to see it as a bit of ‘harmless fun.’
But it’s not the binge drinking I’m actually protesting against here. It’s the lies and blatant dishonesty that Carnage and all of us are telling ourselves.
Destructive and dangerous binge drinking has been commoditized as a legitimate business. When actually it’s commercialized abuse.
Organizations like Carange have contributed enormously to the normalization of abnormal drinking, now they have normalized sexual abuse and put both under the banner of ‘having fun.’

It’s time we opened our eyes to what’s really going on here.

Please see my previous posts on the Normalization of Abnormal drinking and Drunk girl child.

*One unit is a small glass of wine

Fear is the engine that drives alcoholism – Part 1

Image courtesy of hyena reality /

Image courtesy of hyena reality /

Fear is a universal experience. Everybody feels fear. Very few of us talk about it.
If we do it’s at a superficial level. People rarely open up about what they’re really scared about, which is extraordinary, because we’re all scared of more or less the same things:
• Being vulnerable.
• Loneliness.
• Other people.
• Not being good enough.
• Not being loved.
• Speaking in public.
• What other people think of us.
• Someone seeing who we really are.
• Failure.
• Success.
• People laughing at us.
• Looking stupid.
• And – other people finding out we’re frightened!

How many did you recognise?
There are, of course, many more, but this is an example of the core fears most people have to some degree, but are least able to speak about. I would boil these fears down two dominant ones:
I’m not good enough, and therefore,
• I won’t be loved.

It is my belief, and professional experience, that these two fears exist inside everyone at some point. It is part of the human experience.
It also seems to me that potential alcoholics are the least equipped to deal with these fears. Dealing with our deepest fears is something we can learn to do at any point in our lives. Some people can deal with them very easily. Others develop healthy or unhealthy coping strategies. As a last resort, alcohol and drugs will just temporarily block out any fears of not being good enough or not being loved.

What is also true is that fears can be imagined and irrational. However, this doesn’t make the experience of them feel any less real. A child can be scared of monsters under the bed. We can tell them to not be silly, we can show them there is nothing under their bed, but once that irrational fear takes hold, it can be hard to let it go.
When dealing with an alcoholic’s irrational or imagined fears, it’s no good telling them to ‘snap out of it,’ ‘get over it,’ or, ‘not to be so silly’. In fact, it is almost irrelevant what the fear is, what is important is the way that fear is managed, not what the fear actually is. So the alcoholic has to find a healthy way of dealing with the fears that are part of the human experience.

Fear becomes the default setting for an alcoholic. They live in fear constantly, are frightened of the world and are constantly trying to find ways of dealing with the fear. In order to understand alcoholism, we must understand how alcoholics react to fear and how it can come to dominate their lives. (Part 2 of this post on fear next week).

This is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom.’
2013 How to Stop thumbnail 130x160
Available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

Recovery Rocks – Tom A Gilbert

Tom A. Gilbert describes himself as ‘a very passionate lover of people and of life’. He works in the addiction field as a counselor and case manager. He also has the fortune to help house and counsel the most vulnerable homeless in my community. Tom loves reading the Bible, and any other spiritual literature he can get his hands on. To balance his life and relieve stress he likes to cook and lift weights. But his favorite thing in the whole world to do is also his biggest gift in recovery and that is just spending time with his wife and children.
Tom offers Pastoral counseling, spiritual direction and consulting through his Break Every Chain service.

Tom Gilbert

Tom Gilbert

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
I ended up in the emergency room due to a drug overdose which resulted from ingesting too much cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana. I was nineteen years old and suffered a heart attack. It was then that I realized I had no control. The illusion that I was in control was smashed. I overdosed because no matter how much I used or drank I could not feel “okay”. I was alone no matter how many people surrounded me. My anger was overwhelming and I thought I was going crazy.

2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

Only one word can describe my first 30 days; awesome! I felt hope for the first time in years, found people who accepted and cared about me, and I felt I belonged. This is something I had always longed for.

3) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?

I completed both a bachelor’s and master’s degree, have been graced with a healthy and loving family, repaired broken relationships, found Jesus, and I know peace and love.

4) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?
Don’t waste your time, this isn’t it.

5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
That I used to and still can live in fear and I am much smarter and more loving than I could have ever believed while using.

6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.
I started my own Pastoral counseling business.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?
“Live and Let Live”

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Recovery rocks because it is love, peace, friendship, and freedom!

Staying sober on July 4th

Nothing looms larger for a newly sober alcoholic than a holiday, a weekend, or worse a holiday weekend.
In early sobriety, holidays are something to be negotiated carefully, especially holidays that involve a lot of drinking.

Image courtesy of nirots /

Image courtesy of nirots /

The first year of sobriety is really about a lot of ‘firsts.’
• First sober birthday
• First sober Christmas
• First sober New Years Eve
• First sober Thanksgiving
• First sober Superbowl
• First time having sex sober

You get the picture. These are all events that previously would have been perfect excuses to drink. Alcoholics particularly like events that ‘normal’ people drink (and get drunk on) because for that day they can pretend they’re normal too. Alcoholics can hide in a sea of drunk people.

In truth, alcoholics never need an excuse to drink, although if we have one we will never waste it.
So if this is your first sober July 4th here are some tried and tested methods for getting through it sober.

1. Have an escape plan. Wherever you are going, whatever you are doing, think of an exit strategy before you go. Don’t put yourself in a position where you are stranded and relying on someone else to give you a ride. Make sure you drive yourself to wherever you are going or have enough money for a cab or bus. That way, if you feel wobbly and need to get away, you can make your excuses and go.

2. It’s ok to lie. If you are not ready to tell people that you have stopped drinking and are in recovery it’s perfectly ok to fib. Tell them you are on medication that means you can’t drink, tell them you are driving later, tell them whatever you want.
Rehearse it in your mind before you go out, so if someone asks why you’re not drinking, or tries to force a drink on you, you have an excuse already to go. Don’t feel guilty about telling a white lie; your sobriety is your business and no one else’s.

3. Watch what you drink. It’s really easy in social situations to put your glass of soda down and go to pick it up and realize it’s someone else’s rum and coke. For someone in early sobriety that may be the only trigger they need. Keep hold of your drink at all times, or do something to the container that identifies it as yours, like writing your initials on it if it’s plastic.

4. Hang out with sober people. Sometimes in recovery, we feel that as soon as we get sober we have to start making it up to the people we hurt when we were drinking. It is a mistake to do this too early.
If you have been invited to a party with family or friends and there is usually lots of drinking and partying. Give yourself permission to politely decline. You may be feeling you should attend to make up for all the years you didn’t show up, or showed up drunk and ruined it for everyone. You don’t have to do any of those things. Remember July 4th comes round every year and next year you will be in much better shape to take part. This year, it may just be safer and wiser to hang out with people who don’t drink.

5. Think through the drink. If you find you are in a situation and you are tempted to drink, think through the ‘drunk’. Play the tape in your mind as you think through having the first drink, then the second, then the third, then what happens next. Think about how you would feel the next day, remember how awful it was.

Lastly, don’t’ be alone, don’t struggle on your own. Pick up the phone and call a friend or another sober person, be honest about how you feel and you will be amazed and the difference it makes when we begin to tell someone how we really feel. You don’t have to hide anymore.
Happy July 4th!

Recovery Rocks – Tim Stoddart

I’m thrilled that this weeks Recovery Rocks interview is with Tim Stoddart the co-founder of the awesome recovery site Sober Nation. Very quickly Sober Nation has become one of the most prominent recovery sites on the web. It offers some great advice and articles on getting clean and sober and has a created a really supportive recovery community. I’ve really enjoyed my connections with Tim and the team at Sober Nation and love that they are actively re-branding sobriety into something cool and aspirational. Also check out Tim’s clothing line New Lyfe which specializes in funky sober T-shirts.
Here’s Tim, I think you’ll agree he rocks.

Tim Stoddart - Co-founder of Sober Nation

Tim Stoddart – Co-founder of Sober Nation

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’

My mother had gotten very sick. It’s difficult to explain but she developed a brain disorder that was very painful for her and really life threatening. There was only 1 surgeon who could possibly help her and he was in California. We all flew out to Stanford. On the plane ride I was so dope sick. I drank a lot on the plane to help with being sick, eventually they cut me off. When I landed I was already pretty trashed, but I was withdrawing from opiates so hard I couldn’t get comfortable. If I stood, or sat down, or anything. I would squirm and disappear to throw up.

Early the next morning my mother had a meeting with the surgeon to go over a few things. She asked me if I would go with her, because she was scared. We were all scared, but my mom’s health had declined so fast and her body wasn’t working right and she was just terrified. She asked if I would come and I said no because I needed to use. When she left I remember breaking some lines on the desk in the hotel room. The feeling of relief came over me, and I looked out the window. At that moment I knew that I had let my mom down. That was the beginning of the end for me.

2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?

The honest truth – I don’t really remember. It’s all a bit blurry. I did 28 days in rehab, came back to Philly. After about a week there I knew I couldn’t stay in Philadelphia but I didn’t know where to go. I had a carpentry business and a dog and an apartment. Somehow or another I sold my work van, and came to Florida to stay with a cousin who said he would get me into a halfway house. I eventually was able to get my dog down here. Now that I think about it I still don’t know what happened to that apartment. The whole first year is a bit blurry to be honest.

3) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?

My website – and the people I work with. I can’t really narrow it down to one thing. It’s more along the lines that, there are no restrictions for me anymore. So far this year I have – gone with one of my best friends up to Philly for a work trip and he got to meet my family. We went sea kayaking and diving on my birthday, which I was always scared to do because the ocean freaks me out. We took a trip to Las Vegas and Los Angeles. We just got back from the Bonnaroo Music Festival. I’m going skydiving sometime in the next few weeks. My oldest friend got married and I went back up north to the wedding which was a blast. The best thing that has happened is that I have developed a belief in myself that allows me to work towards my dreams and enjoy my life.

4) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?

Nothing – I don’t live in the past.

5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?’

Learning about a Higher Power. I don’t believe in an all knowing God. I only call it God because it’s easier that way. I’ve never been able to relate to people who say that God loves me and He cares about me. I don’t really talk about it too much because people have the right to believe what they want.

Over the years with some meditation and reading about the Universe and the connectedness between everything, I feel a lot bigger now than I ever did before. I feel a part of the Universe and part of the energy that’s all around me. It’s good to finally have that nagging uncertainty put to rest. Now I know that everything is just the way it should be and none of it is really in my control, which I am perfectly okay with.

6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.

My crew and I went to Bonnaroo. We flew into Atlanta and rented a 48 foot camper that we drove through the hills of Tennessee to the festival. For four days we listened to music and met people and stood on top of our camper handing out free tank tops we made for the festival. My friends got engaged. I saw Elton John from 8 rows back.

When I was using, I went to a lot of concerts. My biggest fear when getting sober was quite literally that I wasn’t going to have fun anymore. I thrive off of excitement and I enjoy chaos. It took some time, but I learned to enjoy music and dancing and talking to people like never before.

There was one show in particular at Bonnaroo. His name is Kaskade, he’s a DJ. He didn’t even start playing till 2:45 AM. It’s hard to really explain but when there’s 80,000 people dancing all around you, you get this rush. Almost spiritual. I remember looking around at some of the people in the crowd. Some of them were so wasted I don’t know how they were standing. I’m not the type to say there is anything wrong with doing drugs at concerts or anything, I’m just saying I am grateful I was able to enjoy that moment to the fullest. I’ll never forget it.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

I’m not really into slogans. However, before my grandfather died he told me that “Life shrinks in proportion to one’s own courage.” Anytime I am having a hard time I think about that. Reminds me that fear is ok, and courage just means moving forward even if you’re scared. I got his words tattooed on my arm. I look at it often to just remind myself.

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’

This is a tough question for me. When people learn what I have been through and that I have been clean for 4 and a half years they always tell me good job, and that I should be proud of myself. Of course I am proud but I feel a bit humble when taking credit for it.

It’s not as if I woke up one day and said “you know what I want to do with my life? I want to get sober.” It’s not like that, I just didn’t want to die.

All of the benefits I have gotten from recovery, were life changing. No doubt about it. I had no idea getting into this the strength and advantages that recovery would give me. But that’s not why I got into recovery.

Before I got sober I had over dosed twice. I crashed my friend’s car over a trolley rail and across incoming traffic on Girard. I drove my jeep into the side of the highway from nodding out. My liver enzymes were way off. I was cutting myself. I was really a mess. Recovery rocks simply because it kept me alive.