Why name your book “Walking Out the Other Side?” And who/what was your inspiration in writing it?
After being sober for a couple of years, I realized that I was in a completely different place from where I had been just a few short years before. It hit me that I had literally walked out the other side from addiction to sobriety. That is when I knew Walking Out the Other Side would be the name of my book.
My inspiration for the book came from being grateful for having survived not just the addiction, but also the PTSD from what I had gone through in my younger years. I felt strongly that I could help other people - either by stopping them from using drugs or giving them hope that survival and sobriety are possible no matter how deep into addiction they may be.
In addition, I have a better understanding of my mother’s actions after my father died and have not only forgiven her but I also credit her for giving me a foundation of confidence and strength. My ability to survive was likely the result of what she had given me early on and as such, became much of the inspiration for this book.
You’ve mentioned a CA meeting called Miracles on Madison in your book. What was so special about it that you’ve recommended it to phone callers of CA Help Line?
This meeting is made up of a group of people with multiple years of sobriety. They are a compassionate and loving group that has developed an amazing camaraderie and fellowship. We have established a closeness that we actually go out for dinner every week after the meeting. We know each other so well that if anything is “off” with any member, we can address it and potentially help to avoid a relapse if one is around the corner.
How thankful are you that Nancy, your therapist, never gave up on you?
Nancy is one of the most special people I have ever met. She is a therapist, yes, but she also has an enormous amount of compassion and an ability to see who the person really is behind the controls of the addiction.
Nancy could have stopped seeing me many times during the years as it became clear that I could not stop using. However, she saw something in me, something I didn’t even see myself. She never walked away or thought I was a lost cause. Without her help I am not sure I could have become sober. A good therapist is priceless. And making a special connection like I did with Nancy is nothing short of a miracle.
Why do you believe that Peter F., your sponsor, was a good match for you?
I had many sponsors over the years. I am not certain why none of them worked before. It probably had nothing to do with them; it was more likely my unwillingness to participate with my whole self. However, Peter F has an incredible amount of empathy and strength, which made it easy for me to share my feelings with another man; something I had never been able to do before. He also represents a father figure – clearly something I needed.
How did your daughters, Sami and Jordyn, help you become the better person that you are today?
When you have children, you realize the depth of love that you can have for another individual. You realize that there is a selflessness that exists within yourself where you would not only die for your children, but also that you need to live in order to give them a future. I felt all of those feelings when my children were born, even though the addiction had a hold on me and prevented me from being everything I knew they needed.
It took several years for me to marry that love with the strength I needed to get sober, however, I believe that my children were the catalysts to get me to that place. I know that I am a better person today – not just because I am sober, but also because my children made me realize that they needed their father and I needed to be healthy in both mind and body to be there for them.
What does it feel like to share your story with many individuals who are going through what you’ve been through before?
If I help just one person it will be worth it.
There are so many people I believe my story can help. Someone contemplating trying drugs may realize that the first try may lead to a life of addiction. Someone who is addicted and feels hopeless may realize that they too can survive in sobriety. Someone who doesn’t understand how anyone can be an addict may gain a better perspective of the addict’s state of mind and the reality of the disease. I just want to be of help and give back, so sharing my story is the best way I could think of to do just that.
What is your message or advice to those trying to get sober for a while or those who has just started to?
- First and foremost, find a therapist who you can connect with and who helps draw out why you became addicted in the first place.
- Second, don’t think about getting sober for life. Think about getting sober for a day. Don’t put pressure on yourself to get sober forever. That kind of pressure is a recipe for failure.
- Get together with people who have been through addiction and came out the other side, either through an AA-type program or otherwise.
- Surround yourself with people who believe in you.
- Reach out to these people every day.
- Don’t worry if you mess up. Keep trying. Congratulate yourself on the smallest successes.
- Know that other people who seemed too far-gone have done it and you can too.
Can you describe how your life is now? What do you do? How do you spend your time?
I am the happiest I have ever been. I am sober for eight years.
I no longer hide behind a mask; I share my feelings easily and I don’t worry whether or not people will like me. I talk to my daughters every day. I have great friends, a wonderful sponsor, friends in the program, and a new relationship where I am open and honest. I have a great job, I work out, share my story and love life every day.
I only see a bright future ahead.
What were the best experiences you’ve had throughout your life? Could you at least state three?
The birth of my daughters is the best and almost nothing compares to that. Another great experience was pitching in my first professional game in the Dominican Republic and driving in my first harness race. Writing the book would have to be one of my greatest accomplishments and aside from my daughters makes me very proud.
Why do you believe that sobriety can still be achieved even after you’ve hit rock bottom?
The ability to achieve sobriety is different for everyone as is the definition of “rock bottom”. There are many times that could have been defined as my rock bottom. I believe sobriety is possible for everyone as I still believe that my sobriety is a miracle given how far gone I had been. There comes a point for everyone that the choice is either sobriety or death. Unfortunately, both are possible. That is what makes addiction so scary.
Can you agree that you are able to embrace more people because of the hardships that you’ve been through? Why?
Yes, I believe that is true. I have an empathy now that is deeper than what I had before although, I believe that I was an empathetic person beforehand. When you have gone to the brink of death and back and then laid bare your entire life for everyone to see, I believe that you have a greater capacity for compassion than others.
We all know how hard life is in the early years of sobriety, how did you manage to stay sober?
Staying sober is working at it one day at a time.
For me, it was working the program, staying in touch with my sponsor, and congratulating myself for each day that I succeeded. Any time I managed to stay sober after a particularly hard situation made me all the more steadfast in my desire to keep it going.
What is your advice to someone who has gone from one rehab to another, and then another, yet hasn’t been able to stay sober?
You need to pick yourself up and start again. Don’t look back and berate yourself for your inability to stay sober. Try again and set your goal for staying sober at one day. Then move on to the next.
What is the best lesson you've gained from your journey to the other side?
The best lesson is that life is worth living and that we each have within ourselves the ability to make it on our own using our own willpower and the desire to breathe another day.
On the off chance that there's one message you want readers to detract from your story, what is it?
The one message I can give readers is “never give up.”