Monday, December 16, 2013

Steve's Theory of Addiction and Recovery


Steve Timmer’s Addiction & Recovery Theory
I.                   What is addiction, alcoholism, chemical or substance dependency?
Addiction (Substance dependency) and alcoholism is a disease of the brain.  It is a disease because it meets the criteria for all diseases:
1.      It is Primary – not the result of another disease or other factors.
2.     It is Chronic – may progress slowly and subtlety, is constant and lasts for a long period of time.  Other chronic diseases include diabetes, heart disease, emphysema and arthritis.
3.     It is Progressive – left unchecked and untreated, the dependent person moves from an early stage where the substance appears helpful and seductive to an uncontrollable craving.  Over time, the person’s condition becomes more severe and mental, physical, emotional and spiritual problems occur.
4.     It is eventually Fatal – if the dependent person continues to abuse her or her substance, the addiction will eventually lead to a shorter life span. Death may occur due to the following:

                                                            a.      Liver, heart, kidney, pancreas, lung or other organ failure.
                                                            b.      Overdose.
                                                             c.      Suicide.
                                                            d.      Auto, fire, water or other kind of accident.

II.                 What is the cause of addiction or alcoholism?

There is no known specific cause why some people become addicted and others due not.  However, the vast majority of people have one or most the four basic reasons for becoming chemically dependent:

1.      Chemical imbalances in the brain or body,

2.      Past, unresolved trauma.

3.      Poor coping skills.

4.      Perceptions and beliefs that cause the person discomfort, sadness, anger or pain.

Factors such as a family history of alcoholism or addiction, family dynamics, environmental factors, and head trauma also have a high correlation with susceptibility to chemical dependence.

III.              What is the cure?

This causes and conditions can be very complex and subtle.  The cure is what has been driving pharmaceutical companies, medical schools, treatment centers, psychiatrists, psychologists, addiction physicians, addiction researchers and therapists for decades.  By far, the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other 12 step programs have been the most successful in the treatment of alcoholism and addiction.  Other therapies have also been shown to be effective, including cognitive behavioral therapies, secular and religious programs that seek to adjust perceptions and coping skills while addressing trauma, and some medical therapies.

In an interviewed study, Anne Fletcher, in Sober for Good (Houghton Mifflin, 2001) examined 222 people who had “alcohol problems” and who have abstained from alcohol for over 20 years.  The following was how each one did it:

Recovery Method
No. of People
     Traditional 12 Steps
97
     Nontraditional Recovery Methods
125
            Sober on their own
25
            Multiple Paths
25
            Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS)
18
            Women for Sobriety
15
            SMART Recovery
13
            Went to AA, but quit after some years
12
            Treatment Center, then on their own
5
            Religion
4
            Rational Recovery
4
            Psychological Counseling
3
            Moderation Management
1

As a treatment provider, I look to the bio-psycho-social assessment and other evidence-based diagnostic tools to create treatment plans and to help determine the best course of treatment.  However, since this paper is my theory of addiction treatment, I will share with you my fundamental belief on each individual’s recovery – you do it yourself.  Somehow, some way, you hear the right words or experience the right experience to find the motivation or to perceive a new way of thinking or envisioning your world. 

I have an aunt who wrote a book called By Monomoy Light, in which she describes her experience living alone on an island for several months:

Living simple and in solitude is difficult, admittedly, since it strips you of distraction and defense.  You find out the gravest danger you face – always – is yourself, and that you are your own way out of trouble, the doorway to your own hard-sought freedom.  These are truths not everyone wants to know.  But they can stay at home.

As for me, I plan to remember Monomoy and face the really scary business of day-to-day living with purpose and a sense of my own necessity, as the birds and animals do.

With me I can a page torn out of Crossing Antarctica, the journal of Will Steger, the leader of a six-man international team that crossed the vast southern continent on skis and dogsleds – and faced dangers more tangible and extreme than I probably will ever know.  In the long polar night, in the midst of his expedition of hardships, he recalled the earlier difficult and rewarding times:  ‘During the struggle to raise money to go to the North Pole,’ he writes, ‘we had an ardent supporter in Duluth, Minn., an 85 year old woman named Julia Marshall, whose family owned a hardware story.  At a time when we were desperate for cash, I remember getting a check in the mail from her for $5,000.  Accompanying the check was a nearly illegible note, which took me four or five readings to decipher.  It said simply “WE NEED ADVENTURE NOW.”’

And we can have it.

Of course, adventure, like everything else worth having has its price: I’ve had the discomfort of poison ivy for weeks; I know what it means to be cold, drenched to the skin, and squirrelly from cabin fever.  But a little risk has its undeniable payoffs, too; being awakened at midnight by the eerie, lone cry of a great horned owl; being stopped dead in one’s tracks by a doe diving through bay berry for cover; finding all vital hungers filled.

Talk about fear.  You could move without love, forget how it feels to live.  You could think you were safe – and never know the danger of deep joy, the pitfalls of beauty, and the passion of being free. – North Cairn.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Five Healthy Behaviors to Prevent Dementia, Cancer, Heart Disease and Stroke

In a recent report on the BBC, the University of Cardiff Medical School conducted a 35 year study of Welsh men and concluded that by making five (5) lifestyle choices - 1) No smoking, 2) Regular exercise, 3) Low to no alcohol use, 4) Maintaining a health diet, and 5) Maintaining a low body weight. Selecting just a few of these behaviors can reduce heart disease by 60%, stroke by 70%, full dementia by 60%, cognitive difficulty by 60% and cancer by 40%BBC Science World - Dementia
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01ncd42

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Nelson Mandela's Gift to Addicts and Alcoholics



On October 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela, the first black President elected in South Africa, passed away at the age of 95 years.  He had spent his entire life fighting for the freedom of his countrymen of all colors and races.  Equality and freedom were his two passions.

He has so many lessons for those of us suffering from addiction as well as people generally, but the most important lesson is that resentment - lack of forgiveness is fatal - terminal. 







The second and much more powerful message is that love truly is more powerful than and truly does overcome hate.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Lies We Tell

If you are struggling with a friend or a loved one who has a substance abuse problem or addiction to a behavior, you know a sad truth.  They are liars - They lie about their problem and almost everything else.  My partner left me because of the lying more so than the drinking.  Addiction is called the disease of deception for many reasons.

One of the reasons that we become liars in our addicted states is because our brain could never accept the truth of what we are doing to ourselves or others. We must lie in order for our behavior to become acceptable to us.  We must lie so that we can live with the intolerable parts of us. 

The first step in recovery is admitting we have a problem.  The first action required is to start telling the truth. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Adolescent Intervention

How soon can your child start abusing drugs or alcohol?  Probably not this young, but I have seen kids needing recovery at 6 years old.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Interventions

It is taking its toll.  Always someone is suffering and slow;y killing themselves.  I have been working more and more with elderly and senior citizen alcoholics and I am amazed at how this disease of alcoholism is really anout the "ism"
 
I heard a great acronym last night - ISM - "I separate myself".  That is what alcoholism and addiction do.  They force us to separate ourselves to protect our addictive behavior.  Recovery allows us to reconnect, renew and regain our lives.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

What is a sober adventure?

What is a sober adventure? A sober adventure is doing anything that you are afraid to do. Why would we be afraid of doing something? We are usually afraid of the unknown - but that's what makes it an adventure. I remember that I was going to run a 5k Race at the Gasparilla Running Festival with a 10k, a 15k, a half marathon and a marathon. I had to register with 25,000 other people. I did not know the area or what to do. I was nervous and called a sober friend.

The friend said "You're afraid to register for a race? After spending 10 months in prison, you're afraid to register for a race?"
I said, "well, I don't know where to go or where the start will be or the course?"
She replied "Why don't you just follow the crowd? You aren't going to be coming in first are you?"

She was right. I was only afraid because I had never done it before...what if I failed. What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? What adventure does fear hold you back from doing?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day - Start of Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey 21 Day Meditation - Desire and Destiny

Today, I began the Oprah and Deepak Desire and Destin 21 Day Meditation Challenge.  You can find information on the program at the following link - We are so excited to announce our ALL-NEW Meditation Experience, Desire and Destiny, starting November 11!
Nearly 2 million people from around the world have joined us for this original transformational meditation program, mastering the art of living well. Whether you’ve joined us for one of our authentic meditation experiences such as Perfect Health or Miraculous Relationships—or are new to meditation altogether—Desire and Destiny will change your life.
Join us for this FREE 3-week journey toward living with passion and abundance! We’ll be your guides, every day, as you uncover your creative brilliance, connect with your deepest desires, and tap into to your pure potential. Then, watch your soul’s purpose and true destiny emerge, opening the door to living a life in which all things are within reach and your dreams transform into reality.
It’s free and open to everyone—worldwide! We encourage you to sign up now and invite those you love to join us.
We look forward to sharing this powerful experience and celebrating your magnificence with you!
Blessings,
 
On this Veteran's Day, we can honor those who have been through the hell of war and military service by seeking quiet contemplation.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Miracles Are Commonplace

In the early days of my own recovery, I heard two things - 1) Never Give Up Just Before the Miracle Happens and 2) In recovery, miracles are commonplace.  My sponsor sent me this message today:

On this day of your life, I beleive God want you to know...
that miracles do not, in fact, break the laws of nature." 
C.S. Lewis said that, and it is an enormous insight. 
If we think that miracles are normal, we will expecte them. 
And expecting a miracle is the best way to get one. 
Just pray to whatever Higher Power you believe in for your miracle...
and if you have no belief, then perhaps you can believe
 that I believe you will get a miracle -
it may not come the way you think, but it will come.
 
I remember trying to decide if I should go to treatment and it was the prospect of miracles that made me come and the promise of miracles that made me stay and kept me coming back.   Expecting miracles - large and small - do end up in the manifestation of miracles.  This is our experience.  This is my experience. This has been shown over and over again.
 
 
 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Today, I won...1st place in my age division and there were actually more than three people in the division. Last Saturday, I was 6th from last place. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose...but as I heard once, life is a game that can neither be won nor lost, only played.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Getting an Addicted Loved One into Treatment

Although I have only been doing interventions for the past eight years, with about an 18 month break in 2007-2008, I am still surprised how different each intervention is and how similar they all are.  I can never say "this was just like the intervention I did in _______".   Each intervention is as unique as each person and each family has their own dynamic.  But the goals of all interventions are the same - to get the addicted loved one to agree to some action - treatment, therapy, or program - to help address the addiction.  There are other goals that are almost as important:
  1. To unite the family together to show support and healing.
  2. To break through the walls of denial and delusion.
  3. To work together instead of on a 1:1 basis where the addicted loved one cannot manipulate, lie about another family member, or triangulate people.
  4. To help the addicted loved one face reality and the existence of a chemical-dependency problem.
  5. To give the addicted loved one and family members the information needed to accept help.
  6. To offer hope to the addicted loved one and the family and options for a happier, healthier life!!
There are many professional interventionists that charge various rates, but a good place to start is an Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meeting.  It is important not to confuse Nar-Anon with Narcanon.  Narcanon is a drug and alcohol rehab treatment program run by the Church of Scientology. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Time takes time

TIME = Things I must Earn.  People suffering from addiction and mental health issues are really like people that have a really, really bad flu.  It affects their mood, their perception of reality, and their sense of what is important.  Because they are sick, they are preoccupied with themselves and obvious to others.  This is the nature of addiction - the perfect predator. 

Recovery takes time.  TIME is an acronym for "things I must earn." When I got sober, I so much yearned for my life back, my spouse, my career,  my home, my things...It has taken a long time.  I had to earn this life that I have today - your loved one will too.  Encourage, but for God's sake, let them do it.  It is a journey that should not be robbed from them.   What you can do is encourage, love, and pray for them.  But their time, like my time, I must earn myself.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Change at the rate of PAIN

I was not willing to change until the pain got too great.  When family and friends ask me to do an intervention on a family member, they want me to be the tough one while they keep insulating their loved one from the pain.  Why should they change if nothing is encouraging them to change.  Most people will change when presented with two options:

  1. The pain gets so great that they are willing to do anything to releave it. 
  2. The reward for the change is so good that it is better to change than to remain the same.
An intervention is simple the two motivations being used in various ways to get people to change from a self-destructive behavior to a self-affirming one.  However, often what is needed is pain and instead we give our family members love and understanding.  "I know you didn't mean to smash your car driving high for the third, no, fourth time this year, but mommy still loves you..." Great, no pain, no change.

My sponsor told me one thing that I will never forget "Why would you deny anyone, anyone, the pain that taught you so much."  It did.  It continues to teach me. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Running 13 races 13 miles long in 2013

Emmanuel Jal - International Hip Hop Artist and Peace Activitist
The first race I ever ran was a 5 K River City Run (11-01-2008) in my parent's winter home, DeBary, Florida.  I had never done one before, but I did it and it was really great when it was over.  So, I did a few more, and in December, 2008, I ran a 5 K race in Orlando with the OUC Half Marathon.  I saw people lining up and thought, "OMG, they are going to run 13 miles??? Are they crazy???" Then, in 2009, one year later, I ran that half marathon.  I couldn't beleive that I did it.  I did it. 

On January 10, 2010, I ran my first full marathon - the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando, Florida. I did not do well, but I finished. I never, never, never imagined I could run a full marathon, but I had two things - 1) a burning desire to do something noble after losing my career, my money, my life partner and my self-respect, and 2) I had the music of Emmanuel Jal on my iPod and when I listened to it, I could run for miles.

In February, 2010, I became Facebook friends with Emmanuel Jal and we would chat. He invited me to go to the Clinton Global Initiative in March, but the volcano in Iceland grounded Jal in London and he could not attend. Also, in February, I decided to run the Chicago Marathon which was going to take place on 10-10-10. That date will never come again until 2110. So, I decided to raise money for Emmanuel Jal's charity - GUA Africa. Gua means peace in Jal's home language, Nuer.

The following year, I decided to run 11 marathons, half and full, for GUA Africa. In 2012, I ran 12 full marathons. I thought I would stop after that, but I cannot give it up. It makes me feel so good about myself; it is one of the few things that doesreally make me happy and proud. 


Kids benefiting from GUA Africa, South Sudan

This year, I was running the St. Pete Beach Classic and I thought "I should run 13 halves because that would be 13 x 13.1 x 13 - 13 halves (13.1) in 2013 and try to raise moneyfor GUA Africa by getting 1000 or even 100 people to donate $13.00. So that is the goal...check out my website at www.runforguaafrica.com.








Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Addiction and Shifts in Perception

One of the reasons that people need interventions from time to time to get help for their addictions or addictive behaviors is that the addiction almost always requires denial and delusion in order to allow the addictive and bizarre behavior to continue.  Much of the time an addict sees the idea of treatment as a horrible, torturous experience.  It is a matter of perception.  Once they get to treatment and are fully detoxed, they are so happy and can't imagine or even remember the hell they put their family and friends through to get them to treatment.
 
 Many non-addicts or normal people often have these distorted perceptions in daily matters.  They will see a situation as bad or unacceptable.  I was talking to several people this morning who were complaining that this was not good or that was not good...and my experience is that just because something is not good does not mean it's bad. Some of the worst things turned out to be blessings in disguise. I am not saying we need to go around loving situations which are difficult, unpleasant, challenging, frustrating, painful or infuriating, but perhaps we should wait and see what lessons we can gleam before we shut the door on possibilities. Difficult, I admit. But it is what I try to do.
 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

FEAR - Face Everything And Recover vs. Forget Everything And Run

It is said that "resentments" cause more people to drink and drug than anything else - "The number one offender." However, I am convinced that most people, including myself, react to their feelings of fear more than any other feeling.  There are 6 basic fears:

- The Fear of Poverty
- The Fear of Criticism
- The Fear of Ill Health
- The Fear of Loss of Love of Someone
- The Fear of Old Age
- The Fear of Death

What do you fear most?



 




 



 




Thursday, October 10, 2013

This past week, I was at the American Bar Association (ABA) Annual Meeting on the Committee for Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAPs) which help lawyers, judges, and law students with addiction and mental health issues. There I was forced to confront the most difficult pasts of my past minute-by-minute and day-by-day. I attended this conference because I have had two career goals for the past 7-8 years - 1) to be the best interventionist possible, and 2) to create a treatment program that really and truly effectively helps legal professionals address their addictions and find recovery.
This year I took Absolute Adventure Addiction Interventions full-time and have started a lawyer treatment program. But it is all difficult. Very difficult. But what truly remarkable challenges are not difficult.

I know we grow when we are outside our comfort zone, but when we fly without a net...it's scary.

One of the reasons that intervention is so important and necessary is that our addictions are the most cunning predators, as a woman I heard today stated, "addiction is the perfect predator because it finds it's place in our brain that will allow it to take another chance at our soul."

The good news about recovery was found in the resiliency - not of the mind, nor of the body - but of the soul. The soul seems to be always under attack and is never destroyed. Thus, the entry point for recovery is not necessarily the mind or the body but through the spirit...through the soul.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sober Saturday Nights


 
 
Running season is beginning again.  This is the time that I remember most what I am doing with my own recovery and the miracle of my sobriety.  Tonight I am spending time with my parents.  They were there for me when I was at my worst.  Tomorrow I will get up at 5 am and run the length of New Smyrna Beach from Flagler Ave to the jetties and back - about 5 miles.  Then go surfing if there are waves or Stand Up Paddleboarding if there are not.  I am 51 years old and I will do these things as if I am 21 years old.  When I was 41 years old, I was drunk at this time on a Saturday night.  Not this Saturday night or any other for many years.  Sunday mornings feel really good.
 
I am so grateful to take part in this miracle - to be a miracle or a tragedy.  Miracle today, baby!!!




 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Krokodil - Scarier that anything yet!!!

11:00 a.m. EDT, September 28, 2013
 
A highly addictive drug whose name derives from the green, scaly sores that develop on users’ rotting flesh was reported to have found a toehold in the United States this week.  In Phoenix, physicians told toxicologists at the Banner Good Samaritan Poison Control Center that they spotted symptoms consistent with krokodil, an intravenous drug that is prevalent in Russia and Eastern European countries, according to a statement released to the Los Angeles Times.  Although toxicology reports have yet to confirm the presence of krokodil, reports in the media sounded the alarm, prompting fascination and speculation.
 
"The Most Horrifying Drug in the World Comes to the US," said Time magazine. Mother Jones minced no words: "Zombie Apocalypse Drug Reaches US: This Is Not a Joke."  The appeal of news about krokodil (pronounced "crocodile") stems partly from its dramatic consequences on the human body: The drug ravages the flesh, exposing the bones, destroying internal organs and leaving users vulnerable to infection. Users quickly develop abscesses and gangrene, and often amputation is the only way to protect a patient’s life.
 
Curiosity also stems partly from the do-it-yourself nature of the drug’s preparation.  According to New York’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, it can be made with ordinary ingredients, including paint thinner, codeine, iodine, hydrochloric acid, red phosphorus, gasoline and lighter fluid.   Krokodil is essentially a back-alley version of desomorphine, which was introduced in 1932 as a less addictive version of morphine.
 
But according to a study in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, desomorphine turned out more addictive and up to 10 times stronger than the drug it was meant to replace, so it was mostly discontinued. Switzerland produced the drug until the 1950s, and today, desomorphine is banned in Austria and Germany.  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has been tracking use of krokodil abroad for at least two years, where the drug has surged in popularity, especially in Russia. Up to 1 million people in Russia are estimated to use krokodil, according to New York's Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.
 
But has it reached the United States?
 
Absent any definitive proof that krokodil abuse has occurred, the DEA has -- so far -- labeled the Arizona cases anecdotal. Other reports of krokodil in the last two years in Alabama and Arkansas were never confirmed, agency spokesman Rusty Payne said.  “When I hear about about these things like krokodil, I’m skeptical,” Payne said. “I’m not believing it until I get a lab report.”  There’s still no evidence that it has entered the illicit drug market in the U.S., Payne said.  But toxicologists at the Arizona poison control center said they remain worried about krokodil usage, explaining that emerging drug habits are typically first seen by area physicians.
 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fall Fitness

Today, I am starting my fall fitness program - weight training and 5 mile run this morning.  No more junk food for a month, no more diet soda, or sugar. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Change and Dealing with the Reptilian Brain

When someone begins the study of addiction and the biology and the science of addiction, one of the first things that we learn is that addiction is a disease of the brain. There are many things that we still do not know, principally why some people become afflicted with addiction and others do not. We have learned that virtually all people who have severe addictions also have suffered severe trauma, occasionally emotional trauma, physical abuse or a traumatic brain injury. However, not all people who suffer from trauma also suffer from addiction. So the question is "why do some 'get it' and not others?" We do not know exactly what causes it either. However, there is a lot that we do know.
We do know which parts of the brain are affected by addictive behaviors and chemical substances. So, for example, in the case of the alcoholic or drug addict, we know that the chemicals act on the brain stem or the reptilian part of the brain. This is the area of the brain that controls our animal instincts for food, fight or flight and pro-creation or sex. Thus, the first addictions and perhaps the roots of all addictions are food addiction, sex addiction and fear.
Now here is the part where the interventionist is the most important in getting someone to accept help for their addiction. With addiction, the brain is satisfied temporarily when the addict gets his or her high from alcohol or drugs, the high from cake or sweets, or the latest sexual conquest or winning horse at the track. But soon the beast needs to be fed. When family or friends say, you need to change. What happens to the addict's brain? It hears "no more alcohol, drugs, gambling, compulsive eating or sex, etc" and goes into "fight or flight" out of fear. I have had interventions where many people fight verbally or occasionally and once with a gun. I have had a few who take flight on foot or in a car. But it is all fear overriding reason. What needs to happen is that the addicted loved one needs to hear "HOPE - FREEDOM - SAFETY SECURITY NEEDS MET IN ANOTHER WAY - A HEALTHIER SUSTAINING WAY." This is done through acknowledging the fear and addressing it in a non-threatening way and appealing to the basic response of "Here is how your needs will be met now."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Never Give Up...just before the miracle happens


Never Give Up Just Before the Miracle Happens

My name is Steve and I am a gratefully recovering alcoholic. My sobriety date was not planned. I had previously decided many times “This is a great date to quit drinking…but the first day of my recovery for more than 6 years was 5-12-07.  To me, it is no coincidence that the year and the month added up to 12 and that the date was the 12th.  I did not even realize this until more than a year after my sober.date. I really beleive in 12 Step programs, but I do not speak for any organization or program.  I speak only for my own experiences. 

When I was in undergraduate school I was selected by the graduating class to give the closing speech at graduation.  That was in 1984. In 2008, I was again selected by the graduating class of another educational institution to give the closing speech at graduation – but this one was in a federal prison camp.  So today, I will do my best to fill in the gaps and as is stated on page 29 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, I will attempt to describe in my own language and from my own point of view the way I established my own relationship with God.” 

Getting sober has not been easy for me as it has not been with most people – ego, fear, doubt, delusion and denial have been the hallmarks of my resistance to surrender.  But the very first thing that ever stuck in my mind and kept me from giving up completely was a phrase that my aunt North told me back on Labor Day weekend in 1995 “Never Give Up Just Before the Miracle Happens.   Then I heard Chuck C. comment that a priest told him that “Miracles in AA are Common Place! Common Place!” So I bought it and I have prayed for miracles and I have remembered that for me “life is a miracle.”   For people like us there is no middle ground – it is either miracle or tragedy.  Today, I don’t ask for miracles as much as I try to be one with God’s doing his or her part and me doing mine.

I had a really hard time surrendering – I really needed step 2 “HOPE” in order to do step 1.  They say that step 1 is the only step we need to do perfectly.  However, for me, I needed to do the second step, if not perfectly, thoroughly: I needed to learn, understand and truly believe that a power greater than me, whom I will call God, could and would restore me to sanity. I needed you, my sponsor, meetings and the Big Book. However, in the end, it was only when I acknowledged that I was responsible for the mess I had made of my life and I needed to decide whether I was going to go on drinking or whether I was going to do whatever it took to change so that I would no longer need to drink. 

I had to believe that I could change.  I believed in God, though not the dogma attached to many churches or religions.  I just didn’t think that God cared whether I drank or not.  So, despite the efforts of MANY members of AA, various detox hospitalizations and three 28 day treatment programs, I could not stay sober despite acknowledging, accepting and conceding to myself that I was an alcoholic and believing that the Program worked.

I grew up in a family dynamic of the upper middle class – loving, supportive, ambitious and as dysfunction as most families – but I never felt that I really belonged.  I remember feeling different from a very young age.  It was probably sometime between kindergarten and first grade that I knew I was going to have to fend for myself and needed to figure out the rules of this world.  I had these dreams and passions that kept get stifled for some reason.  I was an artistic kid and a terrible team athlete.  I loved sailing, waterskiing, and swimming, but could not play baseball, basketball or football to save my life.  Still, I felt this endless restlessness and dissatisfaction in life – which I had to prove my worth in being allowed in my family, in my school, in my community, in my country and in the world.  I went to 10 schools in 12 years up through high school because of family moves and school changes. 

When I was in seventh grade, an incident prompted a major change in me.  I was in gym class and we had to run eight laps around the track.  By the time the other guys had completed the eight laps I was still last and just completed my 7th lap.  It seemed ridiculous for me to keep everyone waiting while I would run the 8th lap, so I lied and told the coach that I had finished.  All the other guys immediately admonished me and condemned me.  They called me a liar and a cheat – and I was.   It was a Friday and I pretended to be sick the following week – all week – in hopes that they would all forget me.  While I stayed home, I reflected on what a disgrace I was and how I seemed to be so unsuccessful in my day to day living.  I would watch movies and retreat into fantasy – I dreamed I was like James Bond leading a life of adventure and intrigue all over the world. The fantasy “me” knew the major cities of the world intimately and spoke several languages.  The real “me” memorized the maps of the capitals of Europe, Africa, Asia and South America.  The real “me” studied the histories and the cultures of the world.  The real “me” learned to speak several languages.  The real “me” did everything possible to travel around the world – going to places in reality and, if not, then through movies, books and pen pals. 

As a teenager, I resolved that I was going to become as close to the fantasy “me” as I could.  For the next 6 years of junior high school and high school I coped perfectly with the world by escaping to my fantasy world whenever I was unsatisfied with the real world or needed an escape.  When I started college, I went into a panic that I would not succeed and I would never be worthy of anything.  However, the next four years were years of tremendous success.  I was the Chief Justice of the Student Court, an honor student, involved in everything and very happy.  After my freshman year, I realized that I had not had to retreat to my fantasy life because once I was away from my family and in college, I felt free to become my true self and I sought earnestly to study, work hard and do anything that would prepare me to become the man of my dreams.  I did not drink much in college, but I remember getting drunk a few times.  I thought that is what college kids do.  Still, I graduated summa cum laude, gave the commencement address at my graduation and seemed on top of the world with a bright future.  The problem was that I had a secret – I was gay and that was not in my plan.   I had no idea how to solve it – I prayed to be “cured of my affliction.”

I took a year off between college and law school to study and teach English in Japan.  I also went to Japan to cure myself of being gay – I reasoned that Japanese women were hot and Japanese guys were not and I had a book that promised a cure.  Once I got to Japan, once again, I was gripped with fear that I would be a failure; that I would not succeed. I doubted myself and felt that I again would never succeed or amount to anything.  There I drank like the Japanese did - a lot.  One night at a club, I had too much to drink and decided to break dance.  It was the 80’s. I did break dance and I broke my ankle.  I was supposed to take my test to get my black belt in Shorinji Kempo and had to do it in a cast from the Red Cross hospital. I realized the cure was not going to work and I delayed dealing with the homosexual issue.  Nevertheless, I left Japan with a great sense of love for the country, a black belt, many friends, and I felt accomplished.

 I arrived at the University of Florida on a Sunday from my year in Japan and started law school on Monday. Apart from a great culture shock, I went again into panic at starting a new challenge.  I felt that I was a loser again, that I would never succeed and I was totally unworthy of anything good.  Plus, I had not found a resolution to the gay issue.  Well, after a difficult first year, I was accepted to clerk with a Japanese American law firm in Chicago and lived with my grandparents.  There, I discovered the magic of alcohol.   Every day after work, I would come home and have cocktails with my grandparents.  My grandfather was a prominent lawyer in Chicago, Harvard educated and kind of my hero.  I would drink Scotch with him and talk about the law.  I felt I had arrived and drank every night.  When I went back to law school, I stopped the daily drinking, but I sensed that alcohol had an unnatural power over me. 

Just as outward success had come in high school, college and Japan, it also came to me in law school.  I taught legal research and writing; I was elected to a national office as the Treasurer of the Association of International Law Societies and I served as the Editor in Chief of the Florida International Law Journal.  I also worked as the graduate intern in the International Student Center.  I dreamed of being a successful international lawyer.  At the end of law school, I was hired by an international corporate firm in Chicago and earned one of the highest starting salaries in my class.  It was a successor firm to my grandfather’s firm.  Once again, the future looked nothing but bright.

When I started practicing law, the familiar doubts and fear reappeared and I feared ever being a success and was certain of failure.  Nevertheless, I was able to bring in new clients at an astonishing rate and was soon considered a wonder kid rainmaker in the firm.  I was representing Japanese businesses and international companies in matters far above my skill and experience level so I learned to fake it well.  As a closeted gay guy, I had learned how to lie to protect myself and how to “create an image” for myself.  The real me could never be known.   I drank heavily but carefully. 

Once I was assured of my success, I came out to myself as well as my family and this was very difficult for my family, but they loved me and learned to accept this “shame” over time.  “At least, Steve is a successful lawyer”.  Within a few years, I was making more money than I knew what to do with and spending it just as fast.  I was traveling to Europe and Asia on exotic corporate transactions and all over the United States.  I went through a few short relationships and drank too much but without major consequence. 

However, I knew deep inside that I did not drink like normal people.  I often liked to drink alone and finally decided to go to Alcoholics Anonymous.  That experience taught me that terrible things happened to alcoholics and it was better not to associate with them or I would end up like them.  I drank in the closet like I had lived in the closet.  This went on for a few more years. 

I finally met someone I wanted to spend my life with in 1994 and he moved from New York to be with me.  We started a life together and I made sure that it was as perfect as possible by writing checks and drinking to solve all my problems.  I hid my worst drinking from him, but he knew something was wrong. In 1998, we had a commitment ceremony, my father had a stroke and lost his job as the president of a big company and my law firm decided to break up.  I went with a new firm and immediately knew it was not the right place for me, but I felt trapped and drank even more.  By 2000, my drinking was affecting my work and my relationship, actually everything.  Alcohol had taken over my life and I had to hide this from everyone.  I lied to my partner, I lied to my family and I lied to my law partners and clients.  Soon I was lying about my work and started to falsify documents to match my lies.  In 2002, my deceit was uncovered and I was fired from my firm.

I spend the next year and a half drinking, trying to work as an investment banker and going in and out of detox and treatment.  My partner had finally lost all hope for me and lost all trust in me.  I went to a 28 day treatment program in Chicago and did great.  I felt good for the first time in years.  It was recommended that I go to a halfway house, but I wanted to go home.  After leaving treatment and seeing the wreckage of my life, there seemed to be only one way to cope with it – keep drinking.   I was drunk again three days after treatment.  I was sent back again for a week and then went to a halfway house where I lasted two days and was kicked out for drinking.  I simply was hopeless – my life seemed lost forever. 

My partner called my parents in Florida and they came to get me.  I was basically poured out of Chicago and into Orlando where I stayed for three months going to AA and drinking whenever I could.  I went back to Chicago to try to get a job with Credit Suisse, but I was shaking so much that I had to go out and get some vodka just to finish the aptitude test.  I left and kept drinking – I was a homeless man in an Armani suit. By then, I would regularly go back to the loft I shared with my partner and just drink alone while he was gone.  In the middle of the night, I woke up and needed more alcohol so, still intoxicated, I climbed over my balcony on the tenth floor into the loft of the 82 year old lady next door and stole her vodka. 

I was sent to treatment in St. Pete Beach, Florida, not far from where I had gone to college and this is where I got sober.  I was in treatment 71 days and then began working at the treatment center.  I worked hard at my recovery and had a good sponsor.  We did a fourth and fifth step together on a cloudy day on the beach and were both crying in the end.  He said “No wonder you could not stop drinking…but you never have to drink again.” I said, “I may have to go to prison.” He replied, “Then you will go sober.” Suddenly the sun came out and we both sat in marvel at the timing as rays of sunshine burst through the clouds.  I also got a part-time job crewing on a dolphin watch sailboat. I literally lived with the dolphins.  I bought a Hobie-cat sailboat and started taking clients sailing to show them the thrill of living large in sobriety as dolphins popped up next to the boat.  I took them to the beach, kayaking and all kinds of activities that took their breath away.  Sober life is an adventure became my mantra.

I wish I could say I lived happily ever after, but my story is real life and alcoholism is a subtle foe that wants me dead.  After working in treatment for a year and a half and becoming the poster child for the treatment center, several things happened and I once again found myself hopeless and alone.  I don’t remember the details but I drove myself to the beach and started drinking in my car. I passed out and was awaken by the police and arrested for DUI.  Until that point, a DUI was the only thing that had not happened to me as a result of my drinking.  The treatment center I was working for wanted to keep me and sent me to its center in Laguna Beach, California.  I sobered up.  The last weekend of April, 2006, I attended an AA convention called “Miracles Happen”.  I was profoundly moved by it and prayed for a miracle.  About 20 minutes later, I received a call on my cell phone from an old law partner in Chicago.  The Chicago Tribune had an article in it that I had been indicted for document fraud.  I flew to Chicago and plead not guilty.  Once again, I was so full of fear and doubt – I was hopeless.  I drank on a rampage and was near death several times. I was facing years in federal prison. 

Finally, I did what so many of us do.  I crawled out of bed shaking, in pain and begged, begged God to help me.  I always believed in God, but I never believed He cared if I drank.  I promised I would do anything as long as I could be shown it was worth it, in other words, as long as I can have hope.  I learned that night that hope does not abandon us, we abandon it. I woke up the next day feeling much better than I anticipated and had surrendered to my fate.  For the first time, trusting in whatever outcome would come and still hoping for the miracle that I had prayed for.  I wanted the miracle to be that I was miraculously exonerated.  God had other plans. 

For the next several months I wrestled and struggled to stay sober.  In January 2007, I thought I was going to kill myself.  I did not want to drink, but I did not want to face my future.  I went to a Tuesday night meeting in Lake Mary and prayed for help.  Two other ladies came and one suggested we read a story from the big book.  Independently, we each opened to page ---, the first page of the story “Grounded” about a pilot who had to go to federal prison as a result of his drinking.  We read it and I learned that “courage is not the absence of fear, but the walking in the face of it.

The next month I was back in Chicago and getting ready for my sentencing.  I went to an AA meeting the night before and it did not help my fear and anxiety of what my fate would be.  I prayed again, “Look, God, I know I am always asking for your help, but I am so, so afraid.  Please just let me know you are with me! Please!”  I jumped in a taxi back to my hotel.  As I got out, a homeless guy asked me if I wanted my shoes shined.  I told him it was too cold and I just wanted to go inside.  He asked if I could help him out and I gave him some money.  “Hey, thanks!” he said, “what’s your name?” He held out his hand and looked me straight in the eye with a strange intensity.  “Steve,” I told him.  “Well, Steve,” he said, “my name is Emmanuel.”  Then, he shook my hand and walked away.  Realizing that Emmanuel means “I am with you” I looked up into the cold dark sky and smiled. “OK, I will give you that one,” I said, looking into the sky, “that one was good!”  No matter what was to happen, I felt that God heard my prayer and I would not be alone.

The next day I was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison.  I felt that God was with me and still hated the idea of it, but I felt hope for the first time.  It was a hope borne out of nothing but being sober and believing that a power greater than me could restore me to sanity.  Going to prison to me was my greatest fear since I was a child and all my nightmares involved concentration camps.  I arrived at the Pensacola federal prison camp, was strip searched, everything but my recovery bible taken away, and put into the population. I thought, “OK, so here is your worst nightmare...face it!” I could not talk to my family for five days.  The first morning, I met one of the other two members of Alcoholics Anonymous.  We were now three of a population of 700, approximately 500 of which were there for drug related crimes.

I was scared and, being gay, I was going to be back in the closet for as long as it took.  The following weekend though, the camp had a special program called “Insight” or as the inmates called it “Hug a thug” and I was allowed to go. During the program, this lady talked about facing fear.  She said that, when lions hunt, the male lions will come across a pack of prey and crouch down in the brush while the female lions carefully encircle the prey on all three sides.  Then the male lions let out their fierce roar!! When the prey hears the roar, they run away in fear right into the mouths of the female lions.  The lesson is “Run toward your Roar”.  During the course of the weekend, I had come to a point where I either had to lie about being gay or tell the truth.  I told the truth and it was all around the camp the next day.  Suddenly, many guys who had previously spoken to me now stayed well away.

There was this crazy ex-marine and FBI agent in for corruption and he ran a Navy Seals workout.  I joined up and took whatever physical test he dished out.  None of the other guys were willing to go to the lengths that I was.  I remembered that Clancy got sober when he got willing to do the things he did not want to do so whenever I faced a situation that I did not want, I got willing to do it.  My job was to work in the wood shop.  I volunteered to do wood working and I was assigned to carve dolphin out of wood because “Kiki” the dolphin was the camp’s mascot.  I made over one hundred dolphin carvings. 
 
Every morning I would wake up at 5:00 am and would go out to the weight pile to lift weights.  Every morning I prayed that I would get a miracle that would allow me to leave, but after about two weeks, I just prayed for a sign that God was still with me.  That evening, I was walking to the one AA meeting and heard my name being called to Dorm C.  I was told that I had been accepted to the Drug and Alcohol Program which would get me out in nine (9) months.  It was the answer to my prayer.  However, the original prayer had gone unanswered, the prayer when I had asked for a miracle at “Miracles Happen”.  Now this is hard to say, but after praying for the answer why, why did I have to go through all this, the answer that came to me was this: “Steve, I am sick and tired of your lack of faith in me and in you.  I am sick of carrying you from one part of your journey to the next with such doubt.  Look at your life!  Look at it! In every change, in every challenge, in every dilemma and in every difficult moment, I have been with you always and, damn it, I am tired of your doubt, so I decided that you need to spend some time in the worst possible place in your mind to know that I will always be with you and I will always protect you in all times until the moment I take you from this life.”  Now, I don’t know how that came into my heart and mind, but from that moment, I totally surrendered to who I was, and to where I was, and from that moment, I have been trying to be the best that I can be.  I realized that when I surrendered to who I really was, I became the person I always wanted to be.  When my group finished the Drug and Alcohol Program, I gave the graduation speech before the other 90 inmates and 25 staff.  It meant more to me than the graduation speech I had given at my college graduation 24 years prior. 

I was released in April 2008 to spend 6 months in a federal halfway house in Orlando, Florida and home confinement.  I was released from that program on October 4, 2008.  In March 2011, I was asked to come back to organize AA and NA meetings at the federal halfway house and lead a group every Monday night.

While I was on house arrest, I worked at a law firm for someone with whom I went to law school. I stayed active in AA with my sponsor, sponsoring others and taking various service positions.  

While I was in the camp I started running around the track to get away from the other 700 inmates and have God time. When I returned to Orlando, I would run during lunch and before work simply to feel free. 

Since that time, I have run 18 marathons, over 50 half marathons, 30 5K, 10k, and 15k races. I have done numerous triathlons.  In August 2009, I completed the Chicago Triathlon and I went back to Chicago where they had to pour me out and I was sentenced in disgrace.  In 2010, I did my first marathon, the Disney Marathon in January 1-10-10 and then did the Chicago Marathon on 10-10-10 and raised money for a school in Africa.  In 2012, I was able to run 12 marathons to raise money for the school in Africa.   

In May 2010, my three (3) year probation was terminated a year and a half early.  I had been working as a law clerk and legal researcher for an insurance defense firm.  I have a blog called Sober Adventure Steve and it is anonymous, but in February 2011, I was asked to resign from that law firm because of my blog.  I was very unhappy there and it was another example of God doing for me what I could not do for myself.

The day I was fired (2-11-2011), I incorporated a new business – Absolute Adventure Radical Recovery for Interventions and Addictions treatment. I became certified in the State of Florida as a Certified Addiction Specialist and became a board registered interventionist.  I completed a Substance Abuse Counselor program from Stonebridge College in England and graduated with Distinction.  

While I was in the prison camp in 2008, I heard a news report that a treasure hunting company in Tampa, Florida found a sunken Spanish ship in the Atlantic with $500 million in silver and gold.  The Spanish government filed a lawsuit to get the ship and treasure back.  I thought “that would be a dream case, my dream case, I look what I have done to myself.”  In October 2011, I was asked to work on the Supreme Court appeal to that case by a friend from law school.  I did and discovered, it was not my dream case.  My dream is to help people get clean and sober.  I drove by my old treatment center in St Pete Beach just to stop in a say hello.  When I went in, the director said she finally got permission to hire another counselor.  I told her I would be interested and was hired. So, in 2012, I returned to the treatment center that got me sober and helped numerous clients. Later I joined Intervention Specialists and became certified as a Certified ARISE Interventionist.

I had two dreams left after leaving prison – to start a treatment program and to reinstate my law license.  One day I was in the Tampa gay meeting and a woman was there whose story changed me so much I called her one day out of the blue and she answered.  I told her I was going to prison and I wanted to kill myself.  She told me she did not know what would happen if I went to prison but not to worry because “GOD WOULD PROVIDE”. As a result, I did not kill myself that day (obviously) and I remembered that.  I asked her to become my sponsor and the first thing she said was “I want you to get your law license in Florida and fight as a lawyer and lobbyist to allow gay marriage in Florida.

This month I am opening my own treatment program for lawyers struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and I applied for the Florida Bar.  There will be many more challenges and hurricanes before I reach home port, but I know how to steer my sailboat today and I am better about not sailing into storms or running aground.

Today, life is difficult, but I always have hope.  No challenge is too great.  Many financial amends are still before me and I have a lot of other amends to make. I have a lot of goals and dreams, but I trust that my higher power will guide me if I let Him.  Problems now are opportunities and I know that God truly has me best when He has me at His mercy.  I believe, truly believe, the first thing I ever heard in AA – “Don’t give up just before the miracle happens.” My hope will never die. AA will never let me down.  I have been restored to sanity and plan to spend the rest of my life giving what has been so freely given to me.  My greatest antidote for fear is what I learned in prison “Run toward your Roarrrrrrrrr.”