I lived trapped in active addiction for more than twenty-five years of my life. For much of that time, I didn’t realize I was caught up in the grip of what I now know as “active addiction.” For many years, I was a functional addict; however, addiction is so cunning, baffling, and powerful, for a long time I didn’t even know I had crossed that invisible line from recreational using into full-blown addiction.
I started smoking marijuana at the tender age of twelve. I had been warned by my great-grandmother that if I continued smoking marijuana, before long I would be using that “hard stuff,” as she called it. She was right! Over the years, those “little” joints I regarded as just something I smoked to get high with progressed, leading to drinking alcohol and
then onto using cocaine. Eventually, I even graduated to smoking crack cocaine.
I was a pretty intelligent kid and adolescent. From a young boy to a teenager to a young adult, I always made good grades, and was even on the honor roll several times. I was an all-county trumpet player in the school band, and I earned a high test score on the ASVAB that allowed me to join the US Air Force. Years later, I got married, had a daughter, and lived a somewhat functional existence. Until I didn’t.
Eventually, life became a living hell for me. I reached a point where I honestly didn’t care whether I lived or died, and I didn’t feel anyone else cared either, except for my nana and my granddaddy John. On many days, I cried out loud, “God, why did you let this happen to me again? Why?” I blamed God and anyone else I could for all the hell and misery in my life, but the reality was that neither God nor anyone else was to blame for me continuing in this condition. I was the culprit. This was my doing, but I didn’t know how to face this reality, and I didn’t have the courage to accept responsibility for this lifestyle nor the results from it.
During my twelfth (yes, twelfth) rehab, I came to the harsh realization that I didn’t know how to live. I could exist. I could survive. But I didn’t know how to live. This realization was heartbreaking and left me feeling dumbfounded and numb. But I knew I had to make a decision to either learn a new way to live or to die in the horrors of active addiction.
Instead of blaming everyone around me, I started to look at the real cause. What I realized was that there was a “root cause” behind why I was using and abusing drugs, alcohol, and people. The substances weren’t the issue. The issue was my way of thinking and the habits this thinking created, which controlled my behavior. Only when I began to absorb new, healthy information, change my thinking patterns, and create new habits that produced different behaviors and results, was I able to free myself from myself and become the responsible, productive member of society that I am today.
As humans, how we think is determined by our environment and the information our environment subjects us to, which we continue take in again and again, and over time the environment we’ve surrounded ourselves with creates our philosophy and ultimately our habits. Research proves that 80 percent of our decisions are based on how we feel, which dictates our actions. Our thoughts create and develop our habits, and our habits define our future. We are creatures of habit, although not all habits are bad habits. We don’t decide our future, we decide our habits. And our habits dictate our future.
I grew up on a 500-acre farm, and I’ve discovered that human functionality operates very similar to the process of sowing and reaping. Words and deeds are to our soul like seeds are to soil: If we plant an apple seed and it sprouts, we’re going to get an apple tree. If we plant a pumpkin seed and it sprouts, we’re going to get a pumpkin plant. If, throughout our lives, our environment—the people and events around us—sows seeds of negativity, immorality, and depravity, that’s the kind of harvest that’s going to be produced in our lives, which will lead to unethical and unhealthy behaviors. Changing those negative behaviors at the seed level and producing healthy thought patterns that create productive habits and behaviors is what Free Yourself From Yourself is all about.
In this book, I share my experiences with addiction and act as your personal coach to help you through your own addictions. Through exercises, I encourage you to take a look at those early seeds that were planted within you and that continued to be planted every day. After we root out the bad seeds, or “weed” seeds, if you will, I help you to begin planting healthy seeds that lead to moral thinking, healthier habits, and respectable behaviors. My goal is to help guide you to a more positive path and to ultimately living the life you were meant to live from the day you were born.
In the first part of this book, I relate my personal battles with active addiction and how it all started for me. In the second part, I outline how I freed myself from active addiction and continue to do so on a daily basis—because we live free from the grip and control of our addiction one day at a time. Here, I use anecdotes from my own experiences to illustrate the spiritual principles I discovered that can help you on your recovery journey. These principles are the foundation of the 12-step program, the basis for the majority of recovery programs in our society today. While learning and practicing the principles in these steps, I’ve gained knowledge for how to live my life. As of the writing of this book, I have been living clean and sober for sixteen years. By sharing my story with others, I have been able to help many find their way to recovery. My goal is to help you get to a place where you can live your life the way you want, free from the horrors of active addiction.
After I explain each spiritual principle in detail, I also include a practical exercise to help you apply the knowledge you’ve learned and take action. These exercises are designed to help you through the recovery process. Most of these exercises involve writing, so keep a notebook or a journal handy as you work your way through this program. Some of the exercises you will want to revisit again and again because, as I said, sobriety is a lifelong commitment.
In this book, which is the starter guide to my Free Yourself From Yourself Program, I will explain how understanding and applying these 12 core spiritual principles in my daily life worked for me, as they will for anyone, and deliver coaching tips to help get you or a loved one started on the road to recovery.
Addiction programs talk a lot about a Higher Power. Some choose to think of this Higher Power as “This Big Guy in the Sky,” otherwise known as God. This Higher Power for you does not have to be that particular “God.” What I suggest is choosing a Power that will help you look beyond yourself, a loving and caring Power that gives you a good, positive direction for your life.
When I started recovery, the Christian God was my Higher Power. As I learned more about the spiritual principles in the 12-step program, which are derived from the Bible, and more about myself, my Higher Power evolved into something different. But I still use God as an acronym to represent this power:
For me, having a Higher Power means having a deep understanding of and living the spiritual principles that give me my Good Orderly Direction. Living this way helps me make decisions that keep me from causing myself and others pain that requires medication. While they’re derived from the Bible, and while I do reference biblical scriptures throughout the book, the principles are more like a map that anyone who is willing to change can follow.
“What is a spiritual principle?” you ask. I’m glad you asked. It took me a bit of time to come up with an understanding of these principles before I could incorporate them in my life. Let’s take a look at the dictionary to see if it can lend us some clarity and understanding. The Oxford Handbook of Psychology and Spirituality provides two relevant definitions. First, spiritual is defined as “relating to, consisting of, or affecting the animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms.” In layman’s terms, the spiritual is something that gives life, or affects the will to live. Second, principle is defined as “a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption.” So, putting these two together, I constructed a simple, solid, working definition of a spiritual principle for us to use: spiritual principles are fundamental laws that guide our decision-making process, helping us live a lifestyle of morality and integrity, thereby defining our purpose and will to live.
Make no mistake. Even though I have been clean and sober for more than sixteen years, my goal remains progress rather than perfection. Breaking free from active addiction is always a work in progress, but it is achievable and sustainable. I did it, and you can too. This book is designed to help you or someone you love struggling with addiction get started on the path toward recovery. By following these spiritual principles, using my program, and engaging in personal coaching, you can discover, create, and nurture the habits that will deliver a brighter future and a better life.