Jesse's Recovery Story
"The best weight you'll ever lose is the weight of other people's opinions" - Jesse
Standing in my dorm at Painter Hall, the Crow soundtrack blaring on my speakers, watching countless double-vodka shots enter my lips - I can still see myself knocking those shots back clear as a bell. I totally thought it would help me get a grip on the social anxiety I felt when I went out partying and socializing.
I had drank before this day, but those were dabbles in the drinking world that were eclipsed by the actions I took on this night and all the subsequent nights that followed. Now I was consuming booze with a purpose - to build a tolerance so I could drink like a “man” and not pass out in public. Passing out was a no-no in my fraternity house and was rewarded with obscene marker drawings on all exposed skin.
I started drinking in order to overcome social anxiety. I wanted people to pay attention to me. I wanted to be seen by the pretty girls. I needed the other guys around me to respect what they saw me doing. In college, hearing that I killed back 6 double shots pregaming was enough to have any dude feel like hanging with me.
My life changed the moment I started binge drinking because then I was fun-Jesse and the life of the party. I made sure of it. I started dealing coke and LSD to up the ante. I always had multiple women interested in me and I saw no reason to change my ways because it was those very ways that had built up the Jesse fandom to the heights it reached - and that fandom, that social acceptance, was what I was living for. A large, wasted social circle became the nutrients my toxic lifestyle craved. The medicine for all of that social anxiety and loneliness from childhood and my teenage years became the poison that would kill me from the inside out in my 20s, and eventually into my 30s.
I went from a straight-A student to a hungover frat dude in less time than the Freshman Fall semester took to unfold. For the next 22 years my life ebbed and flowed with varying degrees of successes and failures - always shrouded by the illusion that I had my life under control and blanketed with intoxication and hangovers.
My sister’s own sobriety journey proceeded mine and provided the spark I needed to change my life. My absolute collapse as a useful human on this planet became the accelerant her spark ignited. I didn’t want to die, though I behaved like I did - what I really wanted, more than anything, was to live differently and my fear of what that would feel, sound, and look like was almost too much to overcome in order to even take that first step.
My body began to break down, my moans of agony at night as a detoxed for the 10-thousandth time, seeing myself in the mirror, a ghost looking back at me, asking myself why I continued to live this way - I had lost touch with anything remotely stable in my life and it was either change or prepare for my roommates to find me dead in our bathtub or in my bedroom.
Leaving behind my best girl, Ally alcohol, the only one who stuck with me through everything, was easier because, for the first two weeks of my sobriety, I could barely hold down water. That first month seemed to grind forward because the detox process was so painful, yet going each day without booze wasn’t “hard,” again, I could barely hold down chicken soup let alone booze. The challenges came later.
When the fog lifted, I awoke to a version of myself that was so far from who I dreamed of becoming that even almost four years into sobriety and recovery I am only at what I would consider the beginning stages of this life term journey.
I had muted my pain, my suffering, my disappointments with myself and my life for 22 years and going through all of that baggage is taking time - time I am blessed to have, time I am blessed to be able to give because I am alive. I could’ve died at the beginning of 2017. My body was ready. My mind was not.
To me, challenges are all about perspective and perception. What one finds challenging another will flow through. My body was my biggest challenge that first year. It was 60 pounds overweight and just demolished from years of abuse. My confidence in myself was shot and I honestly doubted that I would ever be able to right my life. The limiting beliefs I had nurtured for so many years now were the anchors around my neck, holding me back from who I was ready to work toward.
Kaiser Permanente was my saving grace. They put me in an out-patient program that scheduled out everyday for me. I didn’t have to wonder what my days and nights were going to look like because they had something for me to attend everyday. I didn’t start Refuge Recovery meetings until much later. I haven’t attended an official AA meeting. Refuge was my jam for about nine months from mid-2017 to early 2018. My program is one built upon my ways and means of growing myself toward my potential. I believe no one program is ever the same and no one person has it all figured out. You do your program. I’ll do mine. If we wake up sober then we are doing it right. If not, then it’s time to evaluate the program.
The number one technique I can remember using was the fact that I chose to not drink anymore and by the gods I was not going to renegotiate that decision with myself. I am blessed to have that kind of fortitude in my soul. I believe one of the trails I was to overcome in this life was that of active addiction. I used to think it was my sole soul’s mission to get sober. I don’ think that anymore. I now see that was just the first step, the price of admission, in order to get past the gatekeeper and onto my real purpose for my life.
Curiosity tiggers interest which grows into passion which begets purpose. The best part of my sobriety and recovery journey is being of sound mind, body, and spirit to strive to thrive each and every day of my life. I believe my passion on this planet is to show myself that I can achieve anything in my life I prioritize. My purpose is to guide others to feel the same about themselves, to discuss with them how to do that, and for them to see in themselves the greatness I see in them. Hearing someone say they believe in you is powerful. Feeling that within yourself is a super-power.
I love teaching, training, and offering advice, check out my podcast, “From Sobriety to Recovery,” to hear that in action. I am not the all-knowing being my ego thinks it is. I have been humbled by life to an extent that I know better. I do know this - everyday is better than the last, and for sure every day is the best day of my life because I wake up sober. You can not speed up time in order to have 100 days, or 1000 days in sobriety under your belt. Each day is its own blessing, is its own journey with challenges, victories, and feedback opportunities (other people call them failures.)
Take a breathe, take 10, breath them in deeply, and calm yourself down. You have plenty of time. There is today. More likely than not there will be tomorrow. The Universe or God willing - there will be thousands upon thousands of days beyond our wildest imagination.
You are not trying to be sober for years and decades. You are sober today. Just for today. The objective is a continuum of days - with the best version of yourself showing up everyday.
You are either growing in the sunshine of sobriety and recovery or dying in the shade of shame, grief, trauma, and suffering. It is up to you to decide which life you will lead. Make the choice to start healing from your life today. It is never too late to have your best life. Just decide today that’s your mission and do not let anything or anyone steer you otherwise - least yourself.