Two years into sobriety, John is at peace

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I NEVER GOT THE HANDBOOK

My experience as a child is that everyone else got a handbook. Some rule book that I didn't get. 

I always felt broken. Ugly. Like an outsider. 

I learned from a very young age that my body wasn't mine. That it could be used by adults whenever they wanted. And I wasn't to tell anyone. I was to be ashamed. In fact - it was that trauma that took me outside my body. I always felt like I was outside my body looking down on me and my surroundings. Like I was the camera filming my life. I now know this is a response to trauma. Its how a childs' mind copes with trauma. The other way I coped with trauma was by crying and eating. Lots of crying. Lots of binge eating. Lots of weight gain. Lots of teasing. No rest. 

By age 21, I was body obsessed. I was a student at UCLA. Working out like a mad man to burn off the calories i would secretly binge on while working at Ackerman Union. I soon started performing as a go-go boy in West Hollywood. So sadly cliche. So sadly true. The first night I "danced" i was terrified. The bartender offered me a 151 and coke to "get my nerve up." It worked WONDERS. I was a totally different person. I immediately associated drinking with work and making lots and lots of cash. It was a life lesson that would continue for 22 years. 

I moved on from dancing and became a "real professional". I started to gain weight because I wasn't working out and dancing. A friend introduced me to cocaine. "What a miracle!" I thought to myself. What a nightmare. 

Despite my outward cockiness I felt unworthy and fearful. I drank and did coke every day to drown the feelings of being small. To avoid weight gain. I drank and used to get through the overwhelming fear that everyone else in the office knew what they were doing except me. I was still a child. A scared and fearful child locked in an adults body pretending to be a professional. AND ... I needed to be perfect at the role I was playing. There was no other choice. Perfection or nothing.  

Alcohol and drugs fueled my success. They pushed me to obtain material things that I thought were important. A house, a husband, cars, trips, things, things, things. As long as I was drunk and high and could buy me and people around me "things" everything was fine. Then it happened. Alcohol and drugs stopped working. My best friends had betrayed me. 

I was lost. Angry. Resentful. 

I had stuffed and numbed my feelings for 22 years. That broken child came screaming out when booze and drugs stopped working. At 41, at the height of my professional career I came unhinged. I reverted to the behaviors I had adopted to coping with trauma when I was a child: crying and binge eating. A 41 year old man breaking out into screaming tantrums and gaining obvious amounts of weight does not go unnoticed. I broke emotionally. I lost all my things. I lost my soul. 

Then on 10/01/2014, a moment of self-respect and faith in myself opened the door for recovery. On October 1st, I asked for help. I called and enrolled myself into rehab. That moment of willingness - coupled with my courage to walk through the fear and actually walk through the doors of rehab changed my life forever. I began to heal. 

What have I learned in the last 2 years of sobriety? 

I learned (and believed) from a speaker at an AA meeting that the obsession to drink and use would be lifted if I went to meetings, got a sponsor and worked the steps. He was right. The last day I obsessed about drinking or using was day 89. 

I was told that I don't have to drink or use no matter what. And that has been my experience. 

I was told to rearrange my apartment and to create a sober space. A place to go when I feel "off" ; when my addiction decides to rattle its cage. I created it. I say "thank you" in that space every morning. At night I say, "Higher Power, I pray I am treated tomorrow the way I treated people today." I sleep well. 

I also learned to speak up at meetings. To raise my hand. To participate. I do that. 

I learned that social media is an amazing resource for recovery. Private and public forums (like this one) BRIMMING with help and support for those willing to put in the work. 

I learned to forge my own pathway of recovery. That there is power in my voice. That I am the hero of my own story. That the past is just a story and it has no power over me. 

I learned to deal with my addictions in the order that they will kill me. That I should should make a list. That list should have at least 4 things on it. I'm working my way down the list. I am grateful I get to do the work. 

I learned "Exercise. Discipline. Affection. In that order. Everyday." is how Cesar Milan (The Dog Whisperer) made troubled dogs calm. I decided to try it on me. It worked wonders. I highly suggest it. 

I learned that the only things I had to change in sobriety was everything. That absolutely everything I ever wanted was on the other side of fear. So far, that has been true. 

2 years into sobriety I am at peace. I am happy. I am joyous. My brain is free from the horrors of paranoia and anxiety. I am grateful I get to put in the daily work to keep this amazing gift.