Meet Recovery Rockstar, Nicholas

Hello, my name is Nicholas Cunningham and I am a Recovery Rockstar. I am originally from Australia and I’m half Scottish so my addiction issues probably stem from that. Or not. Who actually knows, as much as we try to diagnose it as an illness, we all know as Recovering Rockstars that whatever you label it, IT is an issue. It affects our lives in many ways and what it has done to our past is psychologically and physically damaging to our soul and spirit. But with damage comes the ability to repair. What we are capable of is far beyond our first perception of when we take that first step down the road of sobriety.

My dad is an alcoholic, still is, and even after three cancers. Yes three. He continues to pickle himself as an addict. It’s become quite a sad state of affairs as I do love him but at this late stage the only person that is capable of helping him is himself. I saw alcoholic states throughout my childhood, the main one being verbal abuse to my Mother, my brother and myself (also the odd time when someone was in the firing line). It made me become quite an unconfident person and really unsure of my capabilities in life, as the constant torment of being called stupid and useless has continued right into my adulthood. It will continue too as I work on myself till I affirm that I am not. Oh that day will be bliss, but it is the constant project of living. I think these beginnings were something that lead me to believe that it was okay to drink excessively as I saw my Dad drink like that and STILL function. I must have picked up that trait, as this was something I started at 18 and carried right on till I was 30.

I thought I was capable, and I continued to heavily drink and use and figure out my life while I went along, thinking my behavior was okay. I look back and am astonished that the people around me had the patience to put up with my demons and behavior because it was less that desirable. I would constantly feel depressed and upset about my life, and continue to drink and use through it to make myself feel better. I was always looking for the next escape from reality. But as you all know, reality will always be there. Regardless of lifestyle choices, if you make a mistake/bad choice in life and drink/use to forget it, the issue will still be there when you wake up from the high. In my case dealing with whatever the issue was with a terrible hangover, OR, be a repeat offender and put it off again. Causing a very quick spiral to the bowels of personal hell.

During the darkest period of my addiction, I was using every day, drinking and using. I continued to escape from my reality and how much I hated myself, and how much I thought I was a disgusting human being. For many reasons, and much more than I can write about, but those thoughts in your head about not being good enough, and being a waste of space, and nothing is working out and, and, and… I had my ah ha moment right after the lowest point of my life. I woke up in the front yard of a house I was living in, in a city I was travelling to for work. I had lost my phone, my wallet, my bag was open and the contents were spread from the open/unlocked front door to the sidewalk, I had no money, I was $25,000 in debt, I had no foreseeable future of work and I was alone, no family, partner or friends at the scene. I woke up, with the potent mixture of a horrendous hangover and come down, I was picking up my belongings and trying to figure out what my next step was, as at that point I had nothing. I don’t know why, but when you hit rock bottom, you know it. You know there isn’t any lower you can go and at that point you make a choice. This is a choice to change, or a choice to continue a path of what brings you such sadness in life - and potentially gamble with life. I chose to change. I knew at this point if I didn’t make this life changing choice I would die. I wanted to live my life and continue to follow my dreams and aspirations. But that would mean giving up my two best friends, alcohol and drugs.

I dug deep and started a video journal of myself that actually ended up only being ONE video, because that one video changed my life. I sat down and started talking I spoke about my addiction and said into the camera to hold myself accountable that from that day forth I would live a sober life. I decided that if I was going to do this I would want every single person in my life to know. I tried getting sober back in 2011 for all the wrong reasons and only 5/10 people knew. I know that can’t be the case with some people but I was lucky enough to be able to share my story. I posted the video online thinking that if I did this in someway I would not be able to turn back as I was being brutally honest, not only with myself but everyone around me. I then cried myself to sleep.

I woke the next morning to an overwhelming amount of support, 400 + messages from people all over the world. Sending love and light from every part of my life, past and present. I sat there and read every single message and cried and cried and cried. Deeply letting go of fears and empty promises to myself and take that first step to sobriety. I had to make the change; no one could do it for me. No one.

It is terrifying. That first moment, where you think I have to actually do this now and commit to a life free of addiction. I made my own phrase, “choice is change”. I said it EVERY SINGLE DAY. I said my daily choices would eventually create change. Almost like saying “One Day At A Time” which I use frequently as well. But using this phrase “choice is change” I knew I would eventually see it. Change.

Life gives you snippets, small little doses of showing you what you create. Within two weeks of being sober, my health had improved slightly, and I was offered a full time job on Broadway. I knew at that point the universe had given me a sign; a second chance and I had to follow it. Step by step. From that point I was in for the long haul. I knew that I was making the right choice.

I’ve done many things to stay sober. I don’t go to AA, as it doesn’t work for me.  I do encourage anyone with addiction issues to go though and see if it works for them. It is personal and every single person on this planet is different. So you must do what works for YOU. I read about it, I read about addiction, I learn about what parts of my brain are stimulated, I read about what the chemicals do to my body, I learned about what happens. I write, I have a blog, which I’ve not written on for a while, but I wrote every week for six months, and shared my story hoping to help one person. In turn I helped A LOT of people and talking openly about my struggle gave me strength as recognizing the issue and talking about it made it much easier to say no. I have also become quite structured in my life, and have a lot going on. It keeps me sober and I like it. That helps. I do feel at some point I want to be able to encourage my Recovering Rockstars in being the person they were put on this planet to be by sharing my story and helping them through fitness, health, wellness, talking and therapy. Yes, I also go to therapy once a week and talk about all the things I don’t want to talk about as the issues that have risen after being sober I now have to deal with SOBER, and not drown them with substance. Which 100% helps with a trained therapist, someone to bounce those thoughts off and figure out how to deal with them every day. Little by little.

I think about the people who have stuck by me through thick and thin. They are the people who inspire me. Because they saw the good in my heart and spirit and stayed with me through the darkness, and now when I see them they smile radiantly as I bring a new energy to them that comes full circle. It’s a universal blessing to keep going and know that I am doing the right thing.

I stay sober by saying no. It gets much easier the further along you get, but just say no. Out loud and audible. Say NO. Remove yourself from any situation that you feel unsafe and don’t feel embarrassed to leave. This is for YOU, and YOU need to make the choices for yourself not anyone else. When I want to use, I instantly connect my thought to every single bad thing that happened during the times I was using it usually only takes me three memories to think, “well that is a terrible idea” and then I move on. Also leaving the space you are in really helps, going for a walk, fresh air, change of space will instantly switch you from circling the drain.

I knew my purpose was to give back in life, I’ve a nurturing spirit, and I’ve a huge heart. I am a performer and giving my time for people to escape reality for two and a half hours every night is the start of me giving back. I try and share my story and encourage change. I support the people around me and hopefully one day I’ll have a center for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts to feel safe and recover without a twelve-step program. The passion lies with being an empathetic person and I know how hard it is. I know the struggle and I’ve done the dark battle on my own. I did the work and continue to.

My personal advice is, don’t do this for anyone else but yourself. If you rely on the thought of I’m doing this because of this person, or this person, or my job, or my family. No. You have to want to help yourself first. Love yourself, care for your soul, your spirit and believe that you can make a change. Do not give up. It is possible. I am living, breathing, and walking proof. If you’d ask me two years ago, would I be sober today? I would have laughed and said no. Impossible. But it is, if you start with a thought and a dim little light you can make that thought blossom into an incredible life.

For the people around a recovering addict or alcoholic, I would ask you to shower them with love, don’t exclude them from your life. We need as much love as we can possibly get. We already feel like outcasts, people that can’t be fixed, people that are useless and have deeply rooted insecurities, but we have a constant yearn for affection and love. Which we often find in the people we choose to surround ourselves with when struggling, often those who are also alcoholics and addicts. By letting us/them know there is support there, eventually time will help us to open up and “choose to change”. But we can’t do that with out the support of those around us. You can also educate yourself and read about it too. Every little bit does make a difference. Send love, messages and thoughts of light. Any little bit helps. Don’t isolate, include. Talk, communicate and accept. It helps.

I’m so grateful I could share part of my story and I believe that everyone can recover from the darkness. We just have to be patient, choose to change and take it one day at a time.

Nicholas Cunningham

Sober: June 8th 2015

488 days sober.