Alan S. Charles is a 56 year old father of two beautiful daughters ages 13 and 11. He is assertive and outgoing; attributes that make his ability to be successful as an account executive in the energy business possible. He is passionate about baseball (he have played professionally in the Dominican Republic) and harness racing, working a program of recovery and being in a healthy and loving relationship. Having written a book about his addiction and recovery he is now a professional speaker, bringing his message to many different groups and venues around the world. He is also the author of ‘Walking out the other side,‘ a memoir on surviving addiction.
1 – Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
I find it amazing that the one question that I get most often is, “what made you hit bottom?” I call it amazing because in my life, although I’m sure I’m not alone, there were so many instances that one could refer to as the ‘bottom,’ that specifying the one moment that brought it all to a head is extremely difficult. In truth, hitting bottom is the culmination of many disastrous episodes where the end of the road is either death or recovery. In my case, after a 24-year addiction to cocaine, I was on a straight-line trajectory to the grave that was seemingly fast approaching if I didn’t do something about it.
At 42, after 18 years of being addicted, I got married again and began a family. My first daughter was born with autism, which sent me into a tailspin, as I was full of fear and concern. My cocaine use increased, if that was even possible, and had a devastating effect on my marriage. My wife just couldn’t handle it; as well she shouldn’t, and eventually filed for divorce after five years of marriage. By then we had had another daughter, very healthy thankfully, however my ability to be a husband and father was impossible as the grips of my addiction to cocaine caused me to check out quite frequently.
My wife took me to court, petitioned for an order of protection and I was issued a drug test. After I came up positive the judge ordered that I produce 6 months of weekly clean drug tests before I would be allowed to see my children. Between the stress of the divorce, the pressures of my job (which I was barely holding on to) and the pain of not seeing my children, I fell deeper into cocaine use, doing more than anyone could imagine someone can possibly do and not die.
It was during this time that my memories of my father dying when I was 9-years old came flooding back and I realized that if I continued what I was doing, I would die as well and leave my children without a father, just as I had been left all those years ago. The pain of that thought and the insistence of my therapist who said to me, “Alan, please stop, because you are going to die,” brought me to the very bottom of the well that had previously eluded me. Somehow I “heard” it. I was as low as I could be; barred from seeing my daughters, without a wife, without a home, fired from my job; no one to care. I knew that I couldn’t live this way anymore and that I had to either get better or die. Unbelievably, I chose the former. I dug down as deep as I could and found what became my mantra; “I can do this.” I rejoined the Cocaine Anonymous (CA) on December 8, 2007 and with the help of my therapist, my sponsor and program members who believed in me, I am sober to this day. Of the many miracles that I encountered during my 24-year addiction, surviving time and time again when it seemed impossible to do so, this is the miracle that finally saved my life.
2 What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
30 days is tough but honestly in the back of my mind there was always a thought that I would use again. One of the hardest things I have ever done is putting together the first 365 days of sobriety. I had managed a few months at best over the years so getting to one year was incredible. Mixed in with feelings of desperation, and being alone, I went to 2-3 CA meetings per day and made lots of phone calls everyday to people in recovery. The camaraderie and the fellowship of the program that included coffee and meals after meetings sustained me and I finally made it. To this day, I practice a program of recovery and I will for the rest of my life.
3 What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
The best thing that happened to me is that my ex-wife now trusts me with my daughters and I get to see them and have them sleep over every other weekend and on various holidays. My relationship with my ex-wife has been repaired and we are managing to co-parent, something we never did before. I am healthy, I have my self-esteem back, I am working on myself daily and I’m in a wonderful relationship with an incredible woman.
4 If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?
I would tell myself that it is time to stop because the bottom keeps getting lower and lower. I’d say Alan, you shouldn’t miss out on life because you never know where it might take you if you were clean. I would tell myself that the desire and obsession to use cocaine will lift and that life can and will be better if I stop. I would also ask myself if I was happy with being high on life artificially instead of naturally high and truly enjoying all that life has to offer me. And I would say that hurting myself and everyone around me is not worth the high and that a lifetime of apologies will never alleviate the pain I will cause to others and myself.
5 What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
I have learned so many things about myself since I have gotten sober. The first thing I learned is that I have something to say and I can and do make a difference in people’s lives. This difference can be something as simple as telling my daughters I love them or something as complex as talking an addict into attending a CA meeting. I am no longer afraid of the world and fearful about what others think of me. I am ok with knowing that not everyone will like me but if I am kind, honest, able to be a good friend and live my life with integrity, those people that matter will always love me. I am capable of being a partner in a loving relationship and I know I am worthy of being loved in return. I am a loving father with two amazing daughters and am looking forward to the growth of those relationships going forward.
6 Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.
I published a book called “Walking Out the Other Side – An Addict’s Journey from Loneliness to Life” The opportunity to reveal my inner self, tell the stories about how I grew up and turned into a major drug addict was both cathartic and devastating, but it made me grow as a person and has allowed me to begin a life where I can give back and hopefully change someone else’s life for the better. The second thing, which I mentioned before, is that I am in a loving and healthy relationship and I couldn’t be happier.
7 What are your favorite recovery slogans?
“don’t quit 5 minutes before the miracle happens”
“one day at time”
“It’s none of my business what other people think about me”
8 And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Recovery rocks because I have my life back. I wake up everyday with a purpose to be the best person I can be. Giving back and helping people and families that struggle with addiction motivates me. I have big plans, am excited at every sunrise, and, I get to watch my daughters grow up.