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Rockin' Recovery

By: Super Star

Rockin' Recovery is the blog of Super Star, who chose to stay sober one day at a time after surviving an almost 15-year battle with addiction. He left the crack houses to mingle with Hollywood’s elite, which culminated in the creation of an all-star CD featuring his childhood musical heroes. Artists on the CD include current and former members of Kiss, Heart, The Goo Goo Dolls, Dokken and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. He now devotes his life to educating others about the prevention and treatment of addiction.

 

Remembering, and reaching out: Because actions matter

Aug 13, 2014

Since Monday, many people have been mourning the loss of the phenomenal actor, comedian and man, Robin Williams.  But I’m sure he wasn’t the only death that day brought on by addiction or mental health.  

I’ve read many brilliant and funny things Robin Williams has been quoted as saying over the years.  Many quotes with a depth and passion like none other all in the name of entertainment.  Yet this following quote struck a chord within me when I saw it:  

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”   ~ John Keating (William’s character) Dead Poets Society

As I have watched social media feeds being flooded with people sharing their thoughts and prayers, I’m reminded of a similar situation just a few months ago after reports that Phillip Seymour Hoffman lost his life to addiction.   That one, I do have to say, was a bit close to home for me, literally.  Philip Seymour Hoffman grew up in a town only twenty minutes from my childhood home -- two men, seven years difference in age, growing up only a few towns away from each other and both facing addiction in our lives.  

People are dying every day as a result of addiction or mental health. For some, the price of being free from the darkness of hell is ultimately the loss of life. There is an irony that there may be a freedom that one experiences through dying.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that death is the answer, but it shows the reality of this disease for too many people.  I saw that firsthand after losing my best friend a year ago to a drug overdose.  His life is over and those of us who loved him are left to move on even with this void in our hearts. 

While we have come a long ways, the lack of understanding about addiction and mental health issues still to this day saddens me. There is a need for quality treatment programs that are affordable and accessible, prevention programs for our children, outreach programs in our communities, addiction education for our medical professionals, advocacy and more.  I have met many people across the country in my travels who are out there educating and advocating for change through expression of their “words and ideas”, each one making a difference to change the world in their own way.  I think that’s why the above quote was so meaningful for me. 

I believe that through Robin Williams’ passing as well as Philip Seymour Hoffman and others who have lost lives, we have an opportunity to be talking about those crucial things that really matter.  Conversations that matter are not the details of their death but on educating how their lives were impacted by the disease of addiction and mental health issues, acknowledging that their family and friends are grieving today because they have lost someone they loved.  Tonight, countless people are mourning the loss of someone who is not with them because of addiction and ramifications of mental health.  

There is something to be said about walking a mile in another’s shoes because we never truly know the path one has taken unless we walked that same path.  And even then our experience and outcome most likely will be significantly different.  So there is no place for judgment here; only compassion.  And compassion can come through education. 

One of my own personal quotes is BAM!  Because Actions Matter!   My challenge for you is to share a kind word with another, engage in crucial conversations, spread love to those who matter in your world.  It’s in extending a hand to another that brings meaning and purpose to life.   The best gift we can give to someone we mourn is to make the memory of their life matter.  So go on out there and make a difference sharing your “words and ideas” to bring about change.   There are too many people tonight who need you to be this vehicle of change!

Our Stories Within

Aug 08, 2014

Have you ever created a story about a situation related to your life that you later found out wasn’t exactly how others saw it?  Did that story you believed to be true hold you back from something because you stayed true to the story?  I believe that we create stories based on events that we have experienced throughout our life and I have found sometimes people are not open to seeing the story from a different viewpoint. Ultimately, we lose opportunities for some wonderful exchanges in dialouge that could have positively expanded and or impacted our growth, whether it be spiritual, political or even tangible.

I believe that way too many of us have lost the ability, at least for now, to better a situation or scenario because we let our stories get in the way. I call this being "stuck in the swamp," meaning it’s a missed opportunity for personal growth.

Can you relate?
I am grateful that I have the wherewithal to take a moment every once in a while and expand the little book of references that I have between my ears. This is where my growth occurs. I call this my circle of influence and undoubtedly that circle has gotten bigger through my open-ended discussions I have with others.

I love filling up my mind with new and healthy panoramic views pertaining to matters of the heart. Reflecting on another person’s viewpoint in an effort to better gain an equal understanding on any matter is so powerful, and I believe it has allowed me to get to a point in my life where I allow dialogue with others to enhance my life.

So what do I do with those new ideas or understandings that I absorb throughout the course of each day? Well, I try my best to apply them in my interactions and experiences that fill up the 24 hours between today and tomorrow, oftentimes taking a moment to consider where or how this new or clearer viewpoint might be best utilized.

This in my opinion is what life is all about: displaying a certain amount of respect and compassion for one another so that we can continue our natural evolution towards a more positive and influential place in our world. Becoming open to different viewpoints and ways of thinking might just allow us to see beyond ourselves and ultimately shape our future for the better.

Cell phones: A threat to our very existence?

Jan 24, 2014
I have been wondering for quite some time now if cell phones are a threat to our very existence. 
 

How many times have you gone out to dinner and seen someone on their cell phone while sitting at the same table with another person?  

Ever seen both people at a table on the phone at the same time?  I have!

Or, how many times have you been out in public and witnessed a group of people together with their heads tilted down engrossed in their cell phones?  Whether texting, playing a game, checking emails or social media -- anything but talking to the person(s) they are with.

My question of the day is what is so important that we can’t put our phones down? What is so significant that we can’t be present with another person in their presence?

It pains me to think about what is happening to our culture and especially on the potential impact of our future generations. Are we indeed losing grip on something so extremely crucial like intimacy in our relationships and being present with another or is this the sign of our culture changing forever.

Maybe this is how people felt back in the day when cordless phones became popular.   Regardless, the way we connect with another is changing and I am curious what impact this will have on those coming up behind us.   

Will our ability to connect with another be forever changed?  

Did you know that nearly half (47%) of U.S. teens say their social life would end or be worsened without their cell phone? Or did you know that four out of five teens (17 million) carry a wireless device currently today and this is a 40 percent increase since 2004.  And is seems obvious that this trend will continue to gain traction.

A survey byThe Wireless Association says that teens say a person’s cell phone tells the most about their social status or popularity, outranking jewelry, watches and shoes and second only to clothing. This tidbit offers a glimpse into just how important having a cell phone appears to be for a teen.

There are plenty of studies that have shown that there is an ever growing issue concerning teens and their lack of social skills. Much of this is because of the way at which we are now connecting to one another. Facebook, texting, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media outlets are used by so many as a primary means of communication.  

The mode of communication has changed. I recently read an article indicating that less teens are eager to get their driver’s license.One hypothesis is that there is not a need to “get out” of the house because of the instantaneous connections they have via technology: cell phones, gaming systems, or computers. 

It has been said that body language is half of the communication during a conversation and can show how someone really feels about something despite what they say through words. But that as well as other things related to a face-to-face conversation seems to be going by the wayside.   

The other day I was having a conversation in person with someone and they were telling me about a conversation they had with another. You got it – the conversation they had had with this other person was via text. Lo and behold, the person in front of me was telling me about the conversation using their hands as if they were texting as they relayed the conversation. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Have we become that programmed and dependent on technology that we default to using our hands as if we’re texting when in fact we are not?

I can’t help but to believe that we’re losing a piece of real communication because of texting and other technology. And how is this impacting our ability to connect to one another on a deep and emotionally present level. It just seems like this is one more form of a disconnection from reality. Or if this is the new reality, I’m not sure it’s for me.

While there is the other side of the coin, where these forms of technology provide more opportunity to have contact with others but at what cost if any? There are those stories of people living thousands of miles away who are able to have conversations via Skype or Facetime and that can be a good thing. How about those in the military who have the ability to have contact with their loved ones as they are serving their duty in other lands? That is a great thing!

Maybe it’s like everything else -- moderation. The alternative is if we don’t maintain a healthy balance of connections with others that we risk drifting further into a valley compromising our ability to connect with one another in a compassionate, nurturing, gentle and caring way.

I do wonder how those relying on technology to communicate will understand the joy brought by a gentle smile or an endearing touch from another. Those moments shared in the presence of another can be priceless.  My hope is that we don’t lose sight of the benefit of true connectedness with another.         

The art of making it happen!

Dec 02, 2013

I believe there is an art to taking something that is a thought and turning it into something real.

Think about it, every single thing that you see that was not created by the earth is something that first was a thought. Everything you see that is man-made was at one time just an idea. If you take a moment and look around it’s pretty amazing. In fact I am looking around right now as I type  and am absolutely blown away by everything that surrounds me.

It’s a process to make an idea or vision a reality; oftentimes a long and grueling process with obstacles that were not anticipated. Many failures and numerous heartbreaking hours spent dealing with obstacle after obstacle. Many of these obstacles were at times moments of uncertainty. And unfortunately it is during these moments, right before the magic happens where people have thrown in the towel. I know these moments all too well. I am constantly facing discouraging instances during many of my pursuits but not once have I ever given up. Not once, not ever!

My dream-catching experiences have been riddled with times of challenge that are too numerous to count. I would be less than honest if I told you that I didn’t think about quitting at times, but when I turn on the news and see yet another teen dying senselessly from something that could have been prevented I push myself, keep going and continue looking for ways to curb the amount of individuals dying from drug related deaths.

There have been so many things I have learned along my journey and one of them is the art of making dreams happen. I feel it is an art because there is an awful lot of creativity that comes into play when trying to reach a goal or solve a problem when the solution or rules of the game aren’t obvious ones. Continuously you have to work an angle and when that angle doesn’t seem to be working you have to work another and then another.  It’s about creativity, going back to the drawing board and never giving up!

So how do you know when it’s time to change your approach? Is there a moment where it is clear as to when it is time to step back and re-evaluate how you’re doing?

The answer is yes.

While you are chasing a dream or pursuing a goal and find that you are stuck or feel as if you are not progressing in the way that you know you ought to be, that is the time when you must stop, step back and re-asses your tasks. If I were to stress a point on this topic is would be learning how to adapt and evolve through adversity.  That is, going after ones dreams until they become your reality. This to me is one of the most important factors in dream catching. You must be open and willing to change the way you are doing things at times when they are not working because if you don't you will stay stuck.

Getting stuck is an energy drainer; a phase where it’s entirely possible that it could discourage one from continuing to pursue their dream. What happens then?  The person could become sad, pessimistic and not reach their fullest potential.

So when faced with a challenge, understand that there are many ways to accomplish a goal and it might take some time to realize it. But if you are willing to change your approach time and time again until you gain the results you seek that’s where dream catching becomes a reality.

Now go do something to follow a dream you have!

 

 

Degrading Doesn’t Help

Oct 27, 2013

I have been on the receiving end of experiencing negative reactions from others because of my addiction. I’ve been that person who upon realizing I needed help for my addiction reached out to someone close to me only to be faced with absolute negativity and discouragement.

It never ceases to amaze me the dance that the addiction engages between those in active addiction and family or loved ones. It is true what they say that addiction doesn’t just affect the one in the addiction.  When I was faced with this experience, my initial reaction was “how could someone who cared about me respond to me with such negativity when I finally wanted help?”  And it baffled me.   But that is truly part of the dance of addiction and something I had to come to terms with in recovery.

How we communicate to another whether through words or non-verbally is critical in any type of communication.   When there is addiction involved there are emotions that run high and deep that can come out sideways and be easy to personalize.  And that only leads to more intense energy that can spew negativity.   It’s a vicious cycle.  

It’s important if you’re the one in addiction to be aware who you are reaching out to and if you have any expectations of the reaction you are seeking. Know where to get support if you are in need of help; from those who understand the addiction and won’t respond to you through emotions.  If you are a family member, it’s equally important to find your support so that you too are able to express yourself to your loved one without projecting negative emotions inappropriately.   

There have been plenty of experiences where people have reached out to someone for support only to have a negative reaction and use that reaction as a means to stay stuck in unhealthy behaviors.  

When you think of your communication with others consider these questions:  How are you coming across in your communication?  Are you compassionate?   Do you clearly take responsibility for your role and your emotions? Or do you project your “baggage” onto others? 

There is so much to learn on the journey of recovery for everyone impacted by addiction.  And it’s a process that is on-going.   But it’s up to each one involved, to look in the mirror, do our own self-assessment check and to seek the support to move beyond negative ripples brought on by the addiction. 

I’ve witnessed it myself and know that those who do their work can and do heal.   And that if we do our own work, we can still heal even if those around us don’t.  We learn new ways to find compassion and allow others to walk their journey regardless if the path they take is the one we want for them.   Healing is real and healing happens!  

 

An Exercise in Knowing and Loving Yourself

Sep 13, 2013

I Am …

Today I was watching an advertisement for a product and thought, “We spend so much time and money coming up with the best description to promote a brand, so how come we don’t spend that much time and effort promoting our own selves?”  

It’s not uncommon for me to hear in my conversations with others how their self-esteem has taken a decline. So I thought it would be interesting and fun to do something I have never done before.

Instead of writing a story or blogging about a subject that is on my mind, I wanted to create an exercise and share with you; one that I feel could be interesting and useful. This exercise is a tool to connect with who you feel you really are inside, while offering insight into your personality and perhaps what makes you tick.

There are only two actions items in this exercise that I thought up after watching that advertisement. Yup, ONLY TWO!   

Here’s how this works. 

Envision your favorite merchandise catalog. a catalog, perhaps like those old Sears catalogs where you had a picture of the product and then sometimes a rather lengthy description of that product. You know those ads that really tried to sell you a piece of merchandise by painting a rather vivid description of what that product looked like or could do for you? 

That’s the premise of this activity. Although the intent isn’t to sell anyone on anything, it is intended to help paint a picture of who you are and what it is you feel you offer the world.   So here it goes:

Create a description of who you are, capturing those things that you feel are important to you and those things that you think would be helpful for others to understand you. After you have created this description of YOU, you can get real crafty by finding an image of what you think can sum you up in a picture. Sound like fun? Yeah I think so too!  So I will go first!

Name:   Super Star

Description: I am a true gentleman. Priorities are family, privacy and security. On the outside this medium-sized build Super Star prides himself in being well groomed, physically fit and careful at maintaining a healthy and well-balanced diet. He also likes his clothing! Most times you will find him comfortable and relaxing in his mostly snug t-shirts and stylish jeans. On the inside though, is where this male member of the human species shines.  Top 5 personality traits are fearless, discreet, intelligent, keen and capable. His mood does not change frequently. He is not easily stressed and is not one to worry. Young at heart and mature in mind, this Super Star inspires others to dream like a child but focus like an adult.

For my picture I choose a frog that is leaping into the air. This image struck me because the frog seems fearless and focused on where he is wanting to land, completely relaxed as he makes the leap from one dream to another. I think this picture of this darling amphibian replicates how I see myself quite nicely. 

Well that was fun! This exercise really provided me with a few moments of self-reflection that reminded me of just how unique I am and how wonderful I feel as a contributing member of society.  And if you want to take this to another level, you can share your description with someone you trust to get their feedback or even ask them to write a description. You never know that others may see greatness in you that you deny yourself!

I hope that you too try this exercise and discover some of those things that make you, uniquely YOU!

Living on Purpose

Aug 28, 2013

Each day I look for things that fill me with a sense that I’m making a difference. My history involved a drug overdose that left me 4 minutes from death in 2006.  I have also found myself on the other side of addiction, watching close friends die at the hands of their disease as I embraced the gifts of being sober. Because of this, it’s important for me to speak up to increase awareness about the fact that too many people are dying because of drugs and alcohol; dying senseless deaths and leaving family and friends to face their pain and loss. 

So of course, I am eager to participate in the upcoming FED Up! Rally scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 1, from noon to 2 p.m. in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill (Upper Senate Park).  For FED Up! a group of organizations aim to emphasize the need for society to come together because we are FED Up with the opioid epidemic that is taking lives every day.  

I have participated in a few rallies over the years and each one of them was significant in its own way to increase awareness to the disease of addiction. Some brought awareness about various regulations and legislations that needed to be changed or otherwise addressed. Others were to raise awareness to more specific topics in support of those people whose lives have been impacted by drugs and alcohol.

No matter what, rallies bring people together for a common purpose and are significant in that they are established to advance our work with the ultimate goal of helping to prevent more of the senseless deaths related to drug and/or alcohol abuse.

There can never be too much effort in promoting healthy agendas that have the potential to save lives. Teens and adults are dying at an alarming rate from drug overdoses, so from my perspective, now is the time to take any of the actions needed to decrease these occurrences.  Rallies, marches and other types of events do make an impact so I’ll gladly take part in as many of these as I can.

I am looking forward to the upcoming FED Up! Rally in Washington, DC next month. After all, I too am FED UP with hearing about tragedies related to drugs, alcohol and this insidious disease called addiction. It seems like more and more I am hearing about the devastating effects of this disease on not only my fellow addict but their friends and families as well.  As I travel to schools and communities I hear stories from students and adults about the growing trend in prescription drug use especially with our young people.  And now stories are popping up that as the opportunities become stricter to obtain prescription drugs, people are moving to heroin because of the access and cost.  

When I was in school, you could get weed pretty much any time you wanted but to now hear that school students have access to non-medical prescription pills any time they want is disheartening and scary. I know all too well the hell that a drug addiction can take you to and how it can grip you before you know what has grabbed you!

I often wonder what else we could be doing to curb the mayhem that we are seeing each day because of substance use disorder. What are we missing in the grand scheme of things?  Will there someday be something that serves as the ultimate deterrent to drugs or perhaps a cure for addiction itself? I don’t know but I have made it my mission to be part of the larger movement that is continually looking for these and other answers.

I do feel that someday we will find something that assists in combating drug and alcohol addiction on a larger scale. Something that penetrates into the evil that seems to be running rampant in our streets. My hope is that in my lifetime I will witness a better world with more promise and hope for our youth and a world where less people are impacted by this disease. 

No one ever said that this work would be easy. If you would have told me that I would be on the front lines trying to combat this issue I would not have believed you. After all, I was once part of the problem. After years of not knowing what my purpose was, I have found what makes me feel alive!  And despite the difficulty within this challenge of speaking up against drugs and alcohol and other destructive behaviors, I could not think of anything else that I would rather be doing.

I’d like to invite you too to find something you’re passionate about and do something to make a difference.  We are meant to be making a better place for those around us.   And if you’re inspired to show your support for the FED Up! Rally then I will be glad to stand with you there!   Together we can make this world brighter for the futures of our children and that will in turn make this a better place for all.  It’s time we come together and take a STAND!  

NOTE:  You can find more information on FED Up! Rally @ https://feduprally.eventbrite.com/

 

What chance would you take?

Aug 08, 2013

Last night I  did something I don’t normally do, I turned on the television.

The "Piers Morgan" show was on and his guest was the Beverly Hills ‘Pot Mom,’ who was talking about why she believes using marijuana makes for better parenting. The next 45 minutes would have me so appalled as to end up feeling helpless for the rest of the evening.

I wonder what has become of our television programming. So many shows are “popular,” yet irresponsible.  To see a mother on national TV advocating for the legalization of marijuana made me sick to my stomach.

What message are we conveying to our children with current TV programming? Are we really surprised that our children have such a mixed view of life and responsibility? What’s next?  Piers interviewing Beverly Hills teenagers telling him why their unattended parents' stash makes them better kids?

"Pot Mom," a cancer survivor, explained it is important for her to “come out of the closet as a corporate woman” who smokes pot. Smoking, she said, helps diminish her pain enough that she can function and be there for her children. I can’t deny that cannabis has shown to help cancer patients, but she lost all credibility when her daughter came on to defend her.

I wish I had taken notes, but I was too consumed in trying to comprehend what I was hearing. There were so many contradictions. Her daughter didn't think that marijuana can be addictive, which boggled my mind. 

Here are some questions I have regarding marijuana:

·         Under what condition would you consider it OK for your child to use marijuana?

·         Unless you’re being treated for a medical condition and prescribed it, how can you justify using marijuana as it alters one’s mood?

·         Are you willing to play Russian roulette and take the chance that marijuana use could lead to other drug use for you or your loved one?

Every single treatment program I have been part of included people being treated for marijuana addiction; people seeking recovery from a drug that they first thought was “harmless.”

Why are we a society that is not OK being who we are at any given moment?  Why do we need to seek unhealthy things to change our mood?  Try meditation or yoga or working out. They achieve a similar result, but are not unhealthy.  

I’ve had friends die from addiction; they started out smoking pot. They never thought they would become addictedn but soon found themselves seeking other drugs; drugs that ultimately killed them.

I worry what’s next to become “acceptable.” 

Students tell me that they don’t think marijuana is a problem, that they know parents who smoke and are “successful” people.  So who is educating young people on the dangers of marijuana? 

 People thought cigarette smoking was OK for decades, until research showed otherwise. I wonder when the long-term effects of smoking marijuana will become more clear. And  I look forward to a community of adults promoting other methods for achieving physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. 

So young people listening to these TV messages, I hope you don’t have to experience the lows of addiction. Some people never come back.

 

Honestly it's about Honesty!

Jul 19, 2013

Honesty is a key element at the forefront of recovery.  It’s a topic that I’m sure has come up for all individuals in the program at one time or another.  In reality, honesty isn’t just for people in recovery; it’s a trait that’s crucial for everyone to move forward in life in order to be true to themselves.

Dishonesty or lying is a piece of the monster we call addiction.  It’s part of how that beast continues onward refueling its power.  In the addiction lying to ourselves and others is the name of the game, which is why at the core of recovery honesty tops the list of musts. After all, lying about things, even the smallest of white lies, can be the key that opens the backdoor of the addict’s mind luring one back into its world of deceit and deception. Lying gets one nowhere.  And for the one with an addiction, it gets one nowhere except back within the chains of the addiction, struggling to find peace in a world where there is no such thing.

I’ll admit it. In fact, I will tell you that I have lied so many times that there was actually a point of me not remembering what the truth actually was or when I really did get clean.  All those times I wasn’t serious about getting clean; those times I was doing “recovery” to get someone off my back, I lied about my clean time.  I sure did!   How could I not?   I wasn’t ready to release the chains that beast of addiction had on me so I tried every angle I could to manage those in my world who desperately wanted me clean.   That was a feat that became impossible to achieve; presenting as if I was drug free when in fact I wasn’t. 

So why did I lie so many times? What makes dishonesty such a huge part of addiction?  Why was I one of those people who looked you straight in the eye and told you a fictitious clean date?  Well for starters I was embarrassed that I could not stay straight long enough to be that person across the room that had achieved many years clean. I was also arrogant.  I wanted so desperately to prove I could control my drug use; that I didn’t really have a problem.  And I certainly didn’t want anyone to think that I had failed again.  I wanted people to believe that I got the right formula to this sobriety thing. Admitting my failure would surly deflate the way I felt about myself, how other saw me and my arrogance wouldn’t allow that to happen.  None of the reasons I had were valid enough to flat out lie about my clean time or anything else.  But I did.

Most people in early recovery have to face others in their world not believing them.  That offered humility and opportunity for growth for me to stay strong when I knew I was right and others in my world did not believe me.  I had to realize that they too have been impacted by my addiction and I needed to earn trust back with those important in my world.  And that trust would be in their time, not mine.  

Honest is so critical to the recovery process.  We need to tell on ourselves in order to keep the addiction from entering into that back door of our minds.  When we justify one little lie it only makes room to justify bigger lies and hence the pattern is started.  And in reality, honesty isn’t just for those in recovery; it’s a practice that everyone could benefit from.  

So what if someone we know says they are sober yet we don’t believe them?  What would you do in this situation?  Would you confront them or let it go?  If it’s someone that is seeking recovery support from me I have a tendency to share what my thoughts are regardless if I think they want to hear it.  But if it’s a casual interaction with another person, I tend to let it go.  It’s really their journey and if they want my support they would ask.  

Today I come from a place where the clean time I’m most concerned with is my own. Now that’s not to say that I am not supportive or that I do not care aboutother's sobriety. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I care deeply for all of us in recovery and even those of us who haven’t found their way yet but I’ve learned to live by example.   Recovery has given me a new sense of what being honest truly is.  

Journal entry charts movement in recovery

Jul 10, 2013

Below is a journal entry I recently discovered nestled deep within the files of my old laptop while transferring data to my new laptop.  

I decided since I stumbled across this piece of writing, maybe it’s time that it sees the light of day for readers.

It reads like this:

Why must I be this person? A person who feels as if I just stood naked in the middle of a battlefield? My body riddled with bullet holes and wounds that even time would be difficult to heal. It’s almost as if I were chosen to play the part of a victim to some evil person's spell. One that when cast, would slowly over time diminish any light I had left in my heart, surely leading to my untimely death.

I do vividly recall the feelings of despair I had faced during the time of my drug use just a few months ago. My habits were beating my soul into the ground, deep into the dirt where I am certain if I hadn’t stopped my body would soon follow.
 
It was brutal coming up from the bottom of hell. I am nowhere near where I want to be. I see people in meetings who have years of recovery; they have a light deep within their eyes that convey a sense of strength and hope. But within their eyes I see the battle
that they, too, endured; eyes full of pain that witnessed things that should have never been seen. I am now muscling my way out of the darkness just as they have and am using all my might hourly to find a way out of the whirlwind I had created.

Just a few months ago I was malnourished, my eyes sunken, my brain mush and my muscles tired. I was sad, lonely and just didn’t know where to go or who to turn to. My secrets were dark and although I knew what I was doing was wrong during my use, I was afraid to stop because I knew the road back to being normal was paved with pitfalls setup for me by my disease. Obstacles that I created for myself, without even knowing were waiting for me to fall so that I would turn back to using in an effort to numb the pain of failing. But here I am sitting, wondering why me? And why was I also then chosen to survive the battle that so many have lost?

Reading this journal entry that I wrote years ago was for me a reminder of where I came from. Today I am one of those gentleman that can be found in a meeting whose eyes are full of that spark that I once was almost convinced would never return. But here I am, living to tell the tale in an effort to help others avoid the pain that I created for myself.

I hated myself back then. I mean, there were moments I can recall where I would see myself for what I really was, but those moments quickly faded in and out during the moments that made up each day. Today is a far cry from where I once stood and for that I am grateful; that I was given the strength to endure that battle.


I still ask “why me.” Today, though, I no longer come from the place of playing into the role of being the victim. Instead I cherish the fact that I have been given the gift to walk through to the other side and into recovery; that I have taken the steps and sought the wisdom to overcome such a wreck.  

Not everyone is as fortunate.
 
Today I’m grateful and I committed to spend the rest of my days giving back in an effort to celebrate life!

The sad truth about the big disconnect

Jul 01, 2013

It seems a lot of my writing is about hopes and dreams. Sometimes my writing comes from what I’m experiencing in this journey of life and my quest to realize my own dreams.  I’m pretty straightforward with others and don’t mind sharing the details of my life when I find there is story to tell with a lesson to learn.  

I’ve found that writing is a useful tool for me to gather my thoughts. Mapping my whereabouts out on paper allows me the chance to reflect upon my journey.  All in all, it’s really been a wonderful way for me to capture and analyze the data that I create during my various quests.

I recently passed the five-year mark that culminates my years in the world of recovery, along with the creation of the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT. Getting sober, getting in touch with my dream and taking the steps to move toward the realization of that dream has been an incredible story.  I’ve been blessed with people who have seen the value in my mission and hopped on board to help manifest this vision. I am very proud of this. 

And while I acknowledge the work we’ve been able to do over the past few years, there is still a lot left to do. So many rocks yet to be turned over to see what’s on the other side. Just like when I was a kid, walking through the woods discovering all those things that only grow in the wild. The things we find when we take the path less travelled. How exciting!

I sometimes believe I have fallen short on a few things with this journey. And when I get in this place I’m reminded of the things I have been able to experience.  First off, five years sober!  That’s a gift in and of itself.  Being able to record a CD with my musical heroes. Having a book on the shelves of Barnes & Noble.  And my most favorite part of this journey is going into schools and talking to students about living life being true to themselves. These are things I would have never been able to do had I not taken the step into recovery. For that I’m so grateful!   

I see people around getting caught up in status and material possessions. I used to be that person, but not today. Today I trust that I will be provided for and realize that success is measured in many ways that are not monetary.    

I sometimes get sad that others don’t seem to grasp the benefit of crucial conversations. I’m amazed in my travels hearing stories about people who don’t communicate in their relationships.   How did we become a society that is so self-absorbed and disconnected from true intimacy? No wonder there is so much addiction in our world. People have to turn to something outward to fill a void when they aren’t seeking connection with themselves and others.  

My hope is that someday we will experience living in a world where others are willing to help another just for the sake of caring. Maybe that’s part of what we can learn from all this devastation and destruction in the news: Maybe it’s time we don’t wait for the storm to hit before we extend a hand to another. Maybe we start to make it a part of our everyday lives doing something for another just because we can.

It will be so interesting to see where I am at in five more years.  One thing I know though, I will never stop striving to be that person I know I am supposed to be. Actually I should say, maintaining that person I have already become. Someone who is proud of his accomplishments and thankful for the clarity I have because I decided to stay sober.

In closing, I invite each and every one of you into a world that is full of hope and inspiration.   That’s where I choose to live today!  How about you?
 

Coincidence or Destiny?

Jun 21, 2013

The other day I woke up and began my morning ritual.  I was pretty focused as I had an appointment and my day was packed full of things to do.  And wouldn’t you know, with my schedule as busy as it was, my first meeting ran later than anticipated. I left feeling a bit overwhelmed and frustrated, projecting that I would be running late all day. 

I hurried to my car. I opened the door, sat down and prepared to start the car.  That’s when I glanced over to the passenger seat and saw one of my Serenity download cards with the Serenity Prayer written on it.  There I was being reminded to let go of those things I cannot control.  So I took a moment and began mapping out an alternate itinerary in attempt to complete my tasks for that day. 

I enjoy frequenting Starbucks as a treat. And I contemplated not stopping today because my schedule was busy. However, I found myself pulling into the parking lot of this one Starbuck’s which I have been known to visit often. I couldn’t pass up that Caramel Frappuccino, no matter how much I was running behind.

As soon as I entered the coffee shop, I was approached by someone who I have spoken with before during my trips to that particular shop. He proceeded to tell me that sitting in the corner of that Starbucks was the singer of a legendary band. This band was one that I had grown up listening to. In fact, for the last 25 years that band has consistently remained on my top 10 list of my most listened to bands.

At first I thought he was joking, but squinting my eyes, I could see in the distance someone that looked like the person who he was referencing.

As I walked closer, there he was, Joey Belladonna from the band Anthrax!  I could not believe my eyes!

For those who may not recognize his name, he and his band of musician virtuosos are quite literally some of the founding fathers of what we know today as Heavy Metal music. So for him to be there, in front of me was an opportunity that I would not take for granted. I decided I would approach him. 

I made my way over to the table Joey was sitting at and introduced myself. He was very gracious and interested in our conversation. We talked about his work and I shared about mine. It was awesome to meet another one of my childhood musical legends and to be able to share a bit of my life’s mission with him.  

Later that evening, I had a moment of reflection. How many times have I lost out on opportunities because I wasn’t present or because I attempted to control a situation not realizing that in controlling I was altering the plan?  It would have been easy to disregard my desire to stop at that Starbucks and keep moving on that day with the busy schedule I had. But I followed what I was led to do and that took me to this opportunity for this chance encounter. I walked in to Starbucks for a Caramel Frappuccino and walked out with Joey Belladonna’s contact information.  And who knows what can come from that! 

Coincidence or meant to be? That day offered me with yet another lesson to not take anything for granted, because one never knows when that next opportunity will present itself!

Navigating through the sea of life

Jun 12, 2013

Lately I have been feeling a little lost and I realize what I’m feeling is about my personal focus. Professionally, I have been feeling a true sense of direction and purpose. I think much of this has come from my discovery of the act of being specific. It seems the more specific I am concerning a goal, the more my actions have garnered the results I had been working toward. And I’ve learned to become focused on my professional goals.

Personally, however, I have become a bit scattered. I sometimes feel as if I am a ship lost at sea. My internal compass hasn’t been at all generous with providing me clues for some sort of direction.

I wonder if I ever was this aware of where I was at when I was using. Probably not. Being in a place of in-the-meantime, in between one phase of my life and the next, is not something I’ve had a lot of experience navigating well. Moving into unchartered territories sober is part of the process of recovery; learning to ride the waves through those times that may be foggy or turbulent where we can’t see clearly before us. It’s about embracing those times of uncertainty and putting one foot in front of the other in order to keep moving
forward. And that’s what some call living with faith.

Since recovery is also about finding balance in life, it’s time for me to put some focus on my personal goals. So now what? What does someone do when feeling a little lost? That’s a question I am now asking myself with the hope that I will find the answers within as to
where I am meant to be steering my mighty ship of life. I think the first tool I will pull out of my toolbox is the same compass I have been using in my professional career. I used it
successfully to get specific with my professional goals so why not use it in my personal life as well? Seems like the most obvious thing for me to do, doesn’t it?

So over the course of the next few days I am going to really take a hard look at where I am in my life and where I want to be one year from now. I will spend quiet time to listen to that inner voice and I will journal during this process. Then I’ll dig deeper and project a
five- and 10-year plan, and so on and so on, making sure to identify those things that are important to me.

After all, we only have one life to live and it is solely my responsibly to make it one that I am proud of. Fortunately I feel I have the tools needed to make my desired changes a reality. I just need more energy on my focus.

Mapping out where you would like your life to go can be an exciting time. Sometimes I forget how much fun it can be opening oneself up to a whole new world of possibilities and opportunities. Places to go, people to meet, things to experience. All these things are very much within my reach.

However as I think about my future, I wonder just where it was that I deviated from my personal goals? Can I pinpoint it directly to a specific turn I made somewhere? Was it a series of events that led me to this place of feeling so off course? I don’t know, but what I do believe is that there is value in this type of reflection. By delving into these questions and listening to the whispers of my heart I have faith that I will be guided to my next steps.

One thing I am certain about is it is time for me to steer into unknown waters once again. I will face the unknown seas that will sometimes be smooth sailing and other times turbulent with a newfound confidence. I will become more aware of the need to bring balance into my life both personally and professionally. I will find yet another opportunity to embrace life’s uncertainty sober.

And you never know, I might find that during the turbulent times, I still can experience a peace and serenity.  

Passion, not profit, at the heart of my work

Jun 04, 2013

I recently received this question in a correspondence: "Many people who were users try to sell their 'success stories' of rehabilitation for profit. What makes you different?"

My work with ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT evolved when I realized my desire to focus on my recovery by immersing myself in all things related to it. I have been one of the blessed ones finding recovery before my addiction physically took my life from me. And I wanted to do something to give back with the intention that if one person was spared the heartache, pain and devastation my addiction brought to my world, then my efforts would be worth it.

I don’t see my “mission” as being any different than that of anyone else in recovery who has taken a job in the field. There are lots of opportunities to give back and make a difference, whether someone is working in a treatment program, prevention, advocacy, public policy or public speaking. I think that those of us in recovery, whether from addiction or addiction in the family, who choose to work in the field do it because it was something we were led to do. There are lots of opportunities to spread the message and decrease the stigma around addiction and mental health issues. It’s a matter of finding what your gifts are and what area you want to work in.

My decision to write a book and write/record a CD came from paying attention to what my heart was telling me to do. This has led me to other endeavors that have proved to be rewarding spiritually and emotionally for me. Notice I didn’t say “financially.” While I’d love to be well off financially, the reality is that I am not making enough to survive on through this work. So that requires me to get creative and obtain other jobs to cover my living expenses.  

Some people in my world suggest I should go back to doing my computer work. Truthfully, I wasn't passionate about that work. I am passionate about my work with RSSS. So I know I must press forward with my vision for RSSS and trust that if I’m following my dreams, I will be provided for in what I need. I might not get everything I want at this moment, but I'll get what I need for now.

The truth of the matter is if I were doing this for the “profit,” I would’ve given up a long time ago. I’m doing what I call heart work; the work I am meant to be doing. You see, what fuels me is going into a school and sharing a message with students or parents. And then later hearing the stories of how people connected with something in the presentation and decided to make some changes. To hear about a student who stopped using drugs or is seeking help for their cutting after hearing my presentation; or to hear about parents and their teen who have started in family counseling because they realized they needed to heal things in their relationship; these things are priceless to me.  

I have been fortunate that people have joined in my vision over the years to assist with the work because they, too, have seen the value and the need to spread a message to others that we are all worth way more than what a life of destructive behaviors will bring. If I do end up building this to make a profit, it will be because it was part of my higher power’s plan. For right now, I will continue to do this work is because it's in my blood and it is the best way I can think of to pay respect for where I know my addiction could bring me if I succumb to its advances.

Richard Bach said, “We teach best what we most need to learn.” I know what it's like to walk the path of addiction and find the courage to walk recovery. And I know what it's like to struggle as an adolescent with family issues, poor self-esteem and and a lack of self-love. The moments in my life that have been the most rewarding and fulfilling have been the RSSS work I am doing, whether I’ve made a dollar or not isn’t my focus.

This work is all about dream catching for me. When we are passionate about something, it's a positive source of energy and it supports self-care and self-respect. That is how I have chosen to stay sober -- by the constant reminder of where I have come from. And if it saves one life from the hell that addiction creates, that was worth it all!

What's in a sobriety date? Today

May 29, 2013

Is your sobriety date important?

You may be asking yourself, 'What kind of question is this? Of course it’s important!'

Ok, I’ll agree. A sobriety date is important. But for whom is it important? And for what specifically?

I started exploring this question recently, after celebrating my own five-year sobriety date. (Well to use the word celebration might be a little overkill. All I did was realize that, in fact, it was my sobriety date.)

When I started to think about it, I realized that my actual date has never really come up. In fact I never bring it up in conversations or even when I am speaking on the topic of sobriety. Heck, I wrote an entire book and didn't mention the date anywhere.

Why? Might there be a subconscious reasoning behind this thing that almost appears as if it’s a secret? These were some of the questions I pondered on my fifth anniversary of sobriety.

So many times, often at meetings, seminars, or other gatherings of sober individuals, I hear others declaring the date when they made the switch to a sober lifestyle. I think it’s great that people want to acknowledge the date, but could using it in a dialog with another person ever have a negative impact?  

My answer is personal: It’s more important for me to acknowledge today, just for today. For me, this is the only date I need to be concerned about. I think framing a conversation based upon the efforts that it takes to remain sober throughout the day at hand can be of more value than having an entire conversation about what I had to experience during my last five years clean.

Of course, finding a balance between our yesterdays and today is the preferred context of a conversation like this. This sounds like an obvious statement but you’d be surprised. So many people don’t make an effort, especially for someone new in recovery, to really focus on the beauty of the moment rather than the ugliness of the past.

I have found that positioning a conversation in the moment creates the opportunity for the subject of sobriety to become more exciting and less of a chance for it to become overwhelming for someone who may still have a lot of work to do.

So here I am, a day or two past my own sobriety date. I sit, enthusiastic and hopeful about my future, and grateful and thankful for the moment. The next five years promise to be magnificent if I continue my willingness to do my own work.

If you are like me, do your best to enjoy each moment, every 24 hours. We only have one life to live and the responsibility to make it somethimg to be proud of sits solely on our own shoulders.

Shaking the stigma

May 21, 2013

If I were a gambling man, I’d bet that more people than we realize understand and have also experienced the challenges that come from shaking the stigma of addiction. You know, that moment when one is accused of using when in fact they are still sober.  I unfortunately will still get the occasional person in my world who questions where I’m at in my recovery.  And then I’m suddenly faced with that look; the old-yet-still-somewhat-familiar uncomfortable look of mistrust.

“Looks like you slipped huh?”

I can still feel that sharp piercing pain when I’ve been questioned about my sobriety; especially when it comes from someone close to me who never took advantage of the family component of treatment or engaged in the family recovery process to better understand about addiction.  Addiction is a family disease and I have seen the benefits from others in recovery when their family joined in the recovery.

I have seen people in my world who from my perspective are stuck and seem to struggle to understand that one can be happy and at peace in life without drugs or alcohol.  I think it is hard for some to comprehend that an individual can be full of energy and have an excitement for life without the use of mind-altering substances. But it’s true.  It’s like I learned a new understanding of myself and life without drugs, but those in my world who haven’t embraced learning about addiction/recovery can’t seem to grasp the process.

So what can someone who is faced with this type of situation do to not take it personally? Well I think the first thing we must keep in mind is that our choices and actions put ourselves here in the first place. Remember, we were the ones who created situations that led to feelings of mistrust and disbelief in others in the first place. It’s not something that we need to beat ourselves up about but there is some value in remembering that our past actions were created by us and can still have an impact on how others perceive our actions.

Another thing to keep in mind is that although this may be a judgment placed upon us, it is one that we don’t have to place too much emphasis on. For me, I no longer feel that this is something that needs much attention because I know where I’m at with my recovery. In the past, falling victim to the drama of it all at times made me feel minimized. But today I don’t give my power away because of another person. I feel bless for the opportunity of sobriety.

I also have come to realize that there are some people who may feel threatened by our new way of living life. Oftentimes, those closest to us who walked our journey during addiction learned to become focused on our actions in an attempt to try to help us.  But all that really accomplished is no one looking in the mirror and focusing within. When we focus outside of ourselves we lose huge opportunities to grow and learn about ourselves. I remind myself that I can’t control those who experienced my addiction as a bystander, just as they couldn’t control me stopping the use.   And then I’m reminded that all I can do is look in the mirror at myself and make sure my own side of the street is intact and on the path of healing.  

I can see the growth I’ve experienced in realizing there was a time when I would let something like this send me into a place of feeling empty or worthless. But not today. Today I appreciate all that recovery has taught me and embrace the opportunity to love those in my world who still don’t understand the impact of addiction from the perspective of having walked through an addiction.

As a recovery addict, this is my plea for anyone who might be a family member, loved one, colleague or friend of one with an addiction: I encourage you to learn about addiction and recovery both from the addict’s perspective, as well as the family. Because that which we let affect us, infects us. So it’s important to learn all we can to support healing. There are books, professional support, 12-step meetings, and more to learn about this disease and that is how we will shake the stigma associated with addiction.

The hero within

May 15, 2013

I recently received an email from a 19-year-old who is battling an addiction to prescription medication. He reached out to me and others for information on what he can expect if he quits. He isn’t sure about potential withdrawals and has other questions regarding his decision to stop abusing drugs. He is very concerned about how he will face life without the use of narcotics.

This young man contacted me me after reading my book. He expressed how stories of my journey helped him find the confidence to seek advice so he, too, can begin a journey of recovery. He shared in an email how he is preparing to join the Army and has plans for his life. He knows that his prescription drug addiction will not lead him to the road where he can achieve his goals.

I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with him. In doing so, I  reflected on the time when I started this journey of recovery and recalled those people who influenced my path.

During our email exchange he called me his hero and this got me thinking: What is a hero and do I deserve that title?

As defined in Webster’s dictionary, a hero is a person who is admired for courage or noble qualities. While I appreciate the definition, I get uncomfortable, even cringe, when I’m viewed as such by others. This email exchange provided yet another opportunity for growth. As I contemplated on the thought of being a “hero,” I realized I have placed a lot of weight and responsibility in the past on being a hero. Growing up I was surrounded superheroes who were larger than life and faced some unrealistic obstacles, always coming out on top. This gave me the notion that I needed to be larger than life; yet isn’t that what addiction instills on us? That false perception that we can defy all odds? Even the deadly ones?

I realize that today I have a much more humbling view of being a hero. There are heroes all around every day. My view of hero is much more in line with how I believe we should be living each and every day: extending a hand to others in our daily actions any way we can;
doing things like being noble or being that person who is willing to take a stand against something that he or she believes in.

I’d like to think we will someday live in a world where all of us do these heroic things just because they are the right thing to do.

I appreciated the gesture this young man took in reaching out. I love hearing how others are redefining themselves and making healthier choices that include living a life of sobriety. Recovery is an action program and this young man displayed action in reaching out for support. I commend him on his decision to join the Army and to protect and serve our country. That’s a noble and honorable vision.   So is his decision to stop the insanity of addiction so he can achieve his dreams.

I know the journey he is embarking on, joining the faces of recovery, and I wish him well. Life is full of surprises. His email was intended to thank me for my contribution to his journey and in turn I received much more from him. An opportunity to be reminded of my journey and how far I have come. 

I'm thankful for the opportunity to be reminded that to me living a heroic life means that I’m putting one foot in front of the other doing the next right thing while extending a hand to those that I come in contact with. My hope is that he realizes that there is a hero inside of him and the steps he is taking will shape his future.  Someday, I hope he will embrace the realization of his own greatness and see that his life has meaning and purpose; that we each are heroes within.

Where's your Focus?

May 08, 2013

Did you ever notice that some things you focus on have the ability to make you feel sad? Lonely? Less than? Have you also noticed when your focus is shifted to something associated with a sense of peace and happiness, that you have more enthusiasm or drive?

Let’s say you and someone you care deeply about are having a heated exchange because of differing opinions; a fancy way of saying an argument. What are you focusing on during the exchange? Probably winning the argument, right? Or making a point? You're so busy concentrating on winning that you forget, at least in that moment, about all the things that make that person special in your world. Have you ever been in this type of situation?

When we are so focused on something specific, we tend to delete  other information, some of which may be useful and pertinent. How many times have you said something you regretted in the heat of the moment?

The reality is that we do have the power to change our focus at any given moment, don’t we? It all comes down to what lens we look through.

Let’s consider, these options that could occur at a social gathering:  

1. If you spend much of the night focused on watching just a few people sitting at your table and seeming to be bored, then your experience may be that the gathering is boring.

2. If you focus on the people dancing and laughing, you might say that everybody danced all night and the party was fun.

3. If you focus on a couple having an argument, you might say the party was tense and uncomfortable.

Your focus helps create your experience. While each of the above scenarios could’ve occurred at one gathering, by limiting your focus you missed out on something significant. My world changed when I made the connection between what I feel and what I focus on. The chatter in my head has significant control over my experiences.

Did you ever wonder what drives your focus? Is there a theme to things you focus on? Do you find you spend more time focusing on things that are happy and joyful, or sad and unsettling?

If you have a tendency to focus on negative experiences, you’re going to have a more negative outlook on life. If you tend to focus on the positive sides of your experiences, you will be more apt to embrace life with gratitude and joy and to realize that there are gifts in all things.

“Why does this always happen to me?” “How come I can never do this?”“Why does everything I do go wrong?": These sorts of questions reinforce negative feelings and that’s how we disempower ourselves.

To change this, ask questions like, “What can I learn from this situation?” and "What were the good things that came from this experience?” Such curious questions are empowering.

By being aware of this dynamic and stripping away negativity, you will feel more inspired, positive and create newer and better opportunities. When I discovered this, I immediately saw the potential to create more happiness for myself regardless of my experiences. Suddenly I started to notice things I hadn’t noticed before. My world changed from grey to lots of colors.

If you’re feeling uncomfortable in your world, assess the lens you are looking through. And if you need to change it, do so: You’ll be so glad you did!     

A Call To Action

Apr 16, 2013

As I sat down to write this blog, I reflected on the message I wanted to share.  My hope is that my words stir up a certain amount of inquiry and passion so that we can come together finding ways to positively impact the world in which we live in and especially to bring hope to our young people.

Admittedly I have become rather frustrated lately with this sense that we should be doing more to better the culture and world for today’s youth.  I reach out for support via emails, phone calls and through social media with many requests going unanswered. And I wonder why others don’t get this sense of urgency that I feel. Maybe people do sense the conflicted energy around us, yet they are just so overwhelmed in their own day-to-day experiences that doing anything else is too much. 

Have we become a culture that struggles to realize that we’re living in a society of disconnection and that extending a hand to another sometimes seems more like a chore than a responsibility? I’m looking to build a team of people who want to collectively take a stand against destructive behaviors, especially with teens, and decrease these senseless tragedies that we continue waking up to in the news.

This past week I read a story online about another teen suicide that occurred recently.  This young girl posted a video on the internet about being bullied and picked on by her peers.  Her difficulty to move beyond this led to her taking her own life. Senseless!

The question I ask is how many more lives do we need to lose before we realize our teens are in crisis? What will it take for us to realize that we have been given the gift of responsibility to make a difference in this world, whether through our work, our words or our actions?  In my travels and discussions with teens, I hear the same things from coast to coast : alcohol, drugs, bullying, thoughts that life isn’t worth living; did I mention prescription pills that are in our schools, cutting, and more reckless behavior?

 I had a conversation with a teacher the other day, who shared that she did not see many teens struggling in her high school.  But I’m here to tell you that I hear it from teens across the country.  And they are communicating that they want to be inspired; that they want hope for their future; that a lot of adults are just not listening!  It’s time to wake up people!  Our youth NEED us to wake up!

My challenge is for all of us to come together and find ways to contribute in a positive manner to the lives of our future leaders. By doing this, we will find ourselves in a world where hope isn’t just a word to cling onto in times of struggle but is an action that inspires people daily to be their best. 

I’d love for you to join the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR STAR mission and help us spread the word. Or if you are doing your own thing, please share with me what you are doing. Or if you are doing something and we can collaborate, reach out to me.  Together let’s spread some positive energy so this world is a brighter place to live!

What is recovery?

Apr 09, 2013

Recovery goes much deeper than just stopping the use of drugs and alcohol. Recovery is becoming aware of our dysfunctional traits and thinking and doing the work to change and heal. This will then allow us to be our best self; the most genuine person with the highest and purest of intentions. That’s the mark of striving for and then capturing what recovery really is.  

I have spoken to many individuals who believe that the act of stopping the drinking and drug abuse is enough of an effort to claim the title of recovery. This isn’t the case. How many times have you met someone with who thinks like this, only to leave his or her company with a sense that something isn’t right? Perhaps the person's energy seems negative or the tone feels a bit abrasive.

Typically, people who just stop the alcohol or drug use and do not delve deeper into the process of recovery are referred to as “Dry Drunks.” When someone approaches getting sober as more than putting down that drink and embraces this as an opportunity to look at and then work on character defects, then recovery can be sustained and overall an easier task to accomplish.

When I was in rehab, I was told that addiction was tied to much more than my abuse of drugs; that underneath my need to quiet my mind with substances was a psychology that needed some work. Once I understood this and then was provided the tools to see where my stinkin’ thinkin’ at times was inappropriate, I was able to tackle the pursuit of recovery head on.

For me, finding recovery has been a beautiful thing and a wonderful experience to better understand who I am. I have learned the value in vulnerability and the bliss that comes from being honest. These traits aren’t something that once you have them, then all your work is done. It’s quite the contrary. The more you dig down into your work, the more you may find that there is a lot of additional work that needs to be applied to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a happy self.   

The real deal of recovery is a lot of work at times, dropping off that pretentious and fictitious front-end that you might think the world expects from you. When you finally find, develop and then show the word what the real you is made, it's such a reward. The payoff far exceeds the challenges of the work needing to be done.

I am blessed to have found and approached my own recovery this way. Having the opportunity to be as real and genuine as they come has had such an impact on me and the people with whom I come in contact.

Recovery is awesome if you are willing to do the work to maintain it. Not only do you get to put that drink down, but you get to pick up a chance to be the person that your Higher Power had always wanted you to be. That’s a beautiful thing!

Building Your Recovery

Apr 05, 2013


Early recovery can be a particularly fragile time for most people. Whether you're entering recovery for the first time, or you have been around the block block before, emotions and experiences will accompany early recovery and they will not always be pleasant. People who understand addiction know that using is largely about avoiding the unpleasant.

So much of day-to-day life in early recovery is radically different than it is while in active addiction. Depending on your life circumstances, there can be many stressors associated with doing what needs to be done to build that foundation of recovery from addiction. In some respects it can seem overwhelming for the person entering recovery, as well as for the family and loved ones. The key is to place recovery first, realizing that if you don’t have your sobriety life will most definitely present even bigger obstacles.

This is an important time to be as focused and as vigilant as you can on the the things going on around you. From your work life to your personal time, every moment is delicate in the sense that there might be opportunities for the back door of your mind to creep open, letting your addictive monster peek through and try to regain a sense of control.

Recovery is like building a new house. You gather tools and resources and develop a plan with the support of others with relative expertise in order to start (re)building the life you truly want to live. I’d like to share some things I’ve learned along the way to help me
strengthen my foundation in recovery from substance use disorder.

1. Be careful of down time. “Idle hands are the devils workshop”: When I first heard this, I didn’t understand what it meant. It wasn’t until I found myself with nothing to do during the early days of my recovery that I finally started to get it. During my active addiction, so much time was spent on all things related to getting my next fix and I never realized just how much time that consumed in my life. So of course, when I entered recovery I found myself with lots of spare time. I found it important to stay busy doing things that brought me a sense of purpose, in addition to attending to those things that supported my recovery. Keeping a daily schedule allowed me to decrease chances for down time, which would potentially find me in a place where unhealthy thoughts would appear. This allowed me to acquire more and more days sober.

2. Stay away from toxic people. Sometimes the people closest to us can be those toxic people, bringing negative energy into our recovery. I have coined a term for toxic people in my world as “Dream Crushers.” They are the people who will try to cast their pessimistic spell upon me. Sometimes they can be challenging to avoid ,especially when you are in early recovery as there may be relationships you can’t separate from immediately. It’s best to utilize your sober support network to build your armor of protection from the negative energy. This helped me to “tune out" the noise of my toxic people.

3. Confidence with humility. It’s not uncommon to struggle, especially in early recovery. However, I found that as I accumulated more days sober, I gained more hope that I could do this thing. As your confidence builds, maintain a daily inventory to stay in check
with yourself and to make sure arrogance isn’t being masked as confidence. I have seen so many people step in the world of recovery, get some time clean and suddenly think they have all the answers. A few months later I no longer see them at meetings, or I stop hearing from them completely. I cannot tell you how many times I have witnessed this scenario. Someone thinks that just because they finally figured out a way to scrape together some clean time, they now feel as if everything is OK. There isn’t one of us who has the answers to everything and there is not one person better than any other.

There are so many more things that I’ve learned along the way but these are a few of the things that came to mind as I sat down to write. Recovery is about progress not perfection. After five years sober, I still find myself at times with questions like, “Hey, am I
doing this whole recovery thing right?” It’s those times that I look at where I’m at in the moment and realize I’m still sober so, “Yup, I’m doing something right.”

Be gentle with yourself, utilize your supports and remember -- going to bed sober tonight means you will wake up sober for another day.

How Much To Share?

Mar 26, 2013

Often times I am asked just how much information one should share when it comes to recovery. During the course of my work, I find myself being very open. But some individuals, for the sake of their own personal or professional lives, have to be careful of just how much information pertaining to their recovery they share.

Stigma about substance abuse disorders is to blame for this dynamic. That's why we all need to continue our efforts to change the way people view someone with an addiction. Yet, we still have to consider this.

For me professionally, the act of sharing pieces of my past concerning my active addiction has been valuable. There are times when it has helped others in professional and personal situations to better understand addiction and recovery. Other times, teens who I’ve spoken with have been able to grasp a positive message through my story. This offered them an opportunity to take my story and gain a better perspective of where they are at in their life and where they could be headed. For others, the openness has offered hope that recovery can be a reality if one takes the steps to do the work.

I have gained an appreciation for sharing parts of my journey even when it’s, at times, uncomfortable. The deeper I dig the more I see the opportunities in being truthful and forthright, which are two words that were not used to describe me during active addiction. Honesty is the key for a successful recovery.

I realize, however, that each person’s circumstances are different. My work involves sharing my history. Others choose to not be so open, sharing only bits and pieces of their past or nothing at all because, unfortunately, it may be held against them. Despite it being illegal for someone to be fired for past addiction, this act of discrimination still exists. It’s an action of human injustice and ignorance. Therefore, for some people, sharing publicly has an element of consequence and should be approached with caution.

The same goes for individuals on a personal level. The stigma that addiction carries is so often times applied unfairly to us in all sorts of scenarios in our personal life, including our relationships with others. All it takes is for someone to apply their perception of the dialogue to their own meaning and if it’s negative in nature enough, then chances are the relationship could be impacted (and not for the better either). I have had my share of people reacting to hearing I’m in recovery from addiction. But now I know that it’s their issue, not mine.

So in sharing information about our past with others, professionally or personally, there are things to consider. Each situation and scenario is different. Take some time to assess your situation and identify benefits and potential consequences. Then you decide which parts of your story to share.

It’s important to realize that we cannot control how another reacts to us, so there are no guarantees. Making informed decisions about sharing our history is important.

Make your recovery your own

Mar 12, 2013

 

When I entered my first treatment attempt at recovery, I had no idea what to expect. I had been using drugs for 15 years and that lifestyle was what I had become accustomed to. Following “rules,” listening to others, living with structure had all been something I wasn’t very open to do. As you can imagine, walking into that first treatment center and being told what my day would look like was a bit of a culture shock.

Since, I have learned what works for me in maintaining my recovery. Some of the lessons have been through trial and error, while others have been by doing something different that was suggested by professionals and others who have walked the path I have walked. 

It’s important to take a personal inventory of what is important for our own recovery program. While there are similarities, there are also individual differences. One thing I have found was that it was important for me not to make those decisions by myself, especially in early recovery. I talked with my sponsor and others to determine what a solid recovery program would be for me.

One of the things I found valuable in treatment was group sharing. I learned that talking about my experiences brought me to become vulnerable with others in a safe environment, which was something I wasn’t used to doing. Sharing this vulnerability with others allowed me a sense of connection to others; a sense of connection I had never experienced before. Through opening up and sharing my deepest fears and brightest hopes, I came to realize that I did not have to struggle with life alone. Building connections with others helped me develop self-worth and value; and that led to increased confidence. These are things that I lost during my addiction.

I saw in treatment and 12-step meetings that others did care about me and they understand. They also knew what to look for and shared their insight with me, so I could become more aware in order to not be a barrier to my own recovery process. Many of us, when in recovery, come into treatment with only a couple people left in our world that we feel still care about our well-being. Well, truthfully, there are probably a lot who care, but most have turned away to remove themselves from the unhealthy energy tied to addiction. I had burned so many bridges before I finally sought treatment and this just made loss feel immeasurable.

Another thing that I realized through recovery was the lesson of structure. Having to adhere to a strict schedule in treatment wasn’t easy to get used to at first. I had been used to waking up and being very lax concerning anything that pertained to time, with the exception of finding my next hit. Being on a schedule for daily tasks helped me immensely from letting my mind wander toward anything destructive. Finding structure within my day has become a necessity and I credit my stay in treatment with teaching me the value of structure.

Along with that structure was the importance of daily exercise. Exercise has been significant component for maintaining my recovery. I found that exercise was a tool to keep myself in balance emotionally and I became stronger and more physically fit through regular exercise. All of this contributed to strengthening my confidence.

So whatever you’d like to change in your life, whether your own recovery from substance use disorder or to get in better health physically, educate yourself on what resources are available. Seek people who know about what you want to achieve, whether professionally or through their own personal experiences. Take steps each day toward your goal and if you slip up, get back up and move forward. And most importantly do it for YOU!

Letting go of unhealthy relationships

Mar 05, 2013

 

I continue to be in awe of the clarity I gain from not running away from life and working a recovery program.
 
Most recently, I’m aware that the clarity I’ve experienced has allowed me to see just how much I have allowed other people’s negative behaviors and attitudes to affect me over the years. Before I had this mindfulness of the impact that comes from taking on the energy of others, I turned to drugs as an excuse to avoid the negative energy I was surrounded by. 
 
Over the years, I have found myself using drugs and alcohol to quiet my mind and bring me some sense of relief from my thoughts and emotions that I didn’t understand. Because sobriety is important to me, using isn’t an option for me any longer and I have had to look for new ways to cope and deal with other people’s destructive energy. When I became willing to look at the world through their lenses, I gained a better understanding of where they were at and began to stop  personalizing my perception of their negativity. 
 
At first it wasn’t easy and I was quick to place judgment on others. Now I take time to understand where it might be coming from; to help me put it in a different perspective and not own the energy. This has allowed me not only to move beyond another person’s negative influence, but also has helped me find compassion for their actions.
 
I remember a time in my past when I found myself in a slump. In fact, it was an overwhelming state of depression. While in the midst of this depression, I couldn’t figure out where these feelings of despair were coming from. But after time, I began to see that I was allowing other peoples unhealthy and toxic behaviors into my world. And that energy led to my own feelings of uncertainty and despair. It wasn’t until I went into a retreat to regroup that I was able to see not being near others who were less than positive with their thoughts had a direct impact on my own thinking. 
 
I didn’t realize that I was giving so much of my own personal power away to others. I found myself almost five years into my recovery and still allowing others to affect me in negative ways. I thought for sure that I had developed a solid foundation of recovery. However, I was reminded quickly that life is a journey not a destination and that there will always be work to do; that life will be a journey of growing and developing. I’m grateful for these opportunities to better understand myself and others.
 
I have built connections with a variety of people both personally and through my work with the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT. I think I had the misconception that once in recovery I’d be surrounded by healthy people. This isn’t nearly the case. Today I choose wisely who I work with and I am so very grateful that I have come to that awareness through my recovery. I have gained the self-confidence and self-awareness that has allowed me to decipher who I want in my close circle, who I need to keep at bay and who I need to let go of. I don’t find myself relying on others for my own emotional regulator.
 
Today I believe that I am worthy of having positive people in my world. That what goes around comes around. So if I’m putting out healthy and positive energy, that will come back to me and I’ll have the capacity to determine when I need to hang on and when I need to let go.
 
I don’t take for granted any of the relationships that I have developed over the years as they have taught me so much about myself and being in relationship with others. Having the right friends and acquaintances has been a huge support for me staying in the path of recovery. I am grateful to be aware of the importance of healthy relationships and am looking forward to meeting new friends along my journey. 

Today is day one

Feb 27, 2013

Recently as I was going through some files on my laptop and found additional journal entries that I had written but not included in my book, "The First 30 Days to Serenity: The Essential Guide to Staying Sober."

Finding those writings was an opportunity for some self-reflection on that time in my life and my journey since entering recovery.

This piece below from my last day of use almost five years ago is an account of the thoughts and feelings I experienced enduring yet another bout of withdrawal from drugs.

"Today is day one of my detox from crack cocaine. I had been sober for nearly 60 days but recently I've relapsed. I can't believe I am here again because I have been through these withdrawals so many times I can't even recall. I am up, then down. My mind is on an emotional roller coaster and at times I am so desperate I'm not sure if I can make it through the next 60 seconds. Not only is the physical pain unbearable, my mind is playing tricks on me and I feel as though life for me is over, as if the worst thing in the world is happening to me and the only power I have over it is to sit back and watch this horror movie of a life unfold. I am powerless over my mind, I cannot think rationally or worse off see the bigger picture which is to come eventually. In about three more days, relief will present itself and I will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As of right now, I am in the midst of this cruel tunnel, searching long and hard for that light; waiting in the darkness which has become so cruel."

As I sat down and read this specific journal entry, I vividly recalled the sequence of intense emotions, dark thoughts and physical pains I experienced on that day. Awful can’t even begin to describe that experience. The days and nights were not my friend at that time in my life and I can still tap into the hopelessness that I felt then.

I wonder if I had known that there would be withdrawals from using drugs and the extent of what withdrawal from crack cocaine would feel like, if I would have picked up in the first place? If someone told me that some moments the process of moving from active addiction into recovery would be so challenging, where I’d be gripping for my life sometimes what seemed like second by second, would I have turned to drugs?

I don’t know the answer to these questions and maybe it’s pointless to even reflect. However, I do know that if spreading the message about the dangers of drugs and being a beacon of light for others to make healthier choices in their life spares one person from experiencing a day like I had that day, then it’s worth it to keep sharing my story and the pain I caused myself, my family and my friends.

Of course I wish I never picked up in the first place and had been spared from that near-fatal train wreck called “my addiction.” But I wasn’t. Eventually for me, using didn’t become a choice. Once in active addiction, the only choice for me was to sustain my use because I didn’t know how to live life sober. But then came the day when I finally decided to take that step, reach out to others and learn how to live life on life’s terms, sober.

I am blessed that every day I wake up sober; move one day further away from my addiction to drugs and that horrific time in my life. I don’t think about that time much anymore and am grateful that the cravings are a thing of the past. I am one of many people who have lived to tell the tale of how drugs and alcohol abuse can wreak havoc upon one’s life. I am blessed to have this chance to educate others about addiction, recovery and the role that personal responsibility plays.

We have choices each day and only we can make those choices for ourselves. Today, I choose to say“yes” to a life of sobriety and to help others see that there is hope even in the midst of all the darkness that accompanies the path of addiction.

'I found me in recovery'

Feb 19, 2013

 

I used to think that my imperfections made me inferior to others. I was constantly judging and comparing myself. Today I know that I have no true imperfections. I'm just being me. 
 
My imperfections are really just an illusion. They contributed to my disease in an effort to convince me that I was less than; that I was not equal to others. I don't often think about all the time and opportunities that I missed out on by not being present with myself during active addiction. When I do, however, I wish I hadn't run as fast and as far away from myself as I did.
 
I lost a lot of things while in my active addiction -- relationships, trust, money, self-worth. All of these things I gave away to the pursuit of my drug habit. And I gave them away freely. I found the more I moved away from my true self, the more I would use in an effort to numb myself. 
 
I did all of this to avoid feeling the painful reminders that I had let go by the wayside. It became a vicious cycle.  I couldn't stand the pain of any more loss or regret in my life. And when I got sober, I thought that losses would end.
 
That was another illusion. I told myself that being sober meant not having to lose anything. I have found that even in recovery there are losses, because losses are a part of life that no one can avoid. 
 
However, there is a difference with losses in recovery vs. addiction. And the differences are significant. My losses during my addiction were masked by the drug use in an attempt to avoid feeling them. This only took me deeper into the pit of my addiction. There were a lot of tangible losses during my addiction, but of the ones that weren't, I have been quite successful in regaining for myself. 
 
Sobriety has allowed me the ability to keep the things I have acquired in recovery: self-worth, confidence, and my belief in myself. They are all here within me. No one will ever be able to take these things away from me as long as I stay sober. And that's a great thing for me to be aware of, especially during difficult moments.
 
Dealing with personal issues while in recovery brings a different perspective, especially in dealing with those things that in the past seemed unbearable to walk through. I realize now that those uncomfortable emotions I used to run from are really just feelings that can offer information about what I'm experiencing. 
 
Maybe I'm at a place of uncertainty or facing a change in my life. Yes, it's uncomfortable, but in recovery I can face it and stay sober. That's living life on life's terms.
 
No matter what, I have myself. I have 100 percent of everything that is truly important that I have gained while in recovery. I haven't lost me. I am perfect the way that I am. I have clarity that with all things lost, things are gained. This brings me to see my own inner strength and courage and allows me the opportunity to move forward despite the unknown.
 
At every moment all is well in my world, no matter what is going on. Of this I am certain. 
 
My goal is to continue to live daily by my motto: Always love, always encourage and never let despair get in the way.

Sobriety and 'Serenity'

Feb 11, 2013

 

When I got sober, I realized I had a lot of time to fill with other, more productive activities than obtaining and using drugs. So I sat down and compiled a list of things I used to like to do and included things I have never done but wanted to do.

At first it wasn’t easy to make this list, because focusing on what I like to do, things that are constructive, had become foreign to me. I kept at it, though.

I grew up loving rock ‘n’ roll, especially anything KISS! So as you can imagine, on that list was the task to write and record a song with some of my music heroes. Mind you, I had never written a song and was a little rusty on the drums, which meant this would be a great learning experience for me.

Some said it was a bit of a lofty goal and maybe it was. I didn’t want to limit my ideas, though. I was finding that the more I tapped into my creativity, the more alive I felt and the more passion I had for living. That was a real plus for staying sober.

I decided that I would write lyrics about my experience with addiction and also about insights I was gaining in recovery. This became a great tool for further exploring my addiction and gaining a deeper understanding about this beast of a disease. Through this process, I also found greater healing power.

Two years later, my goal of writing one song turned into writing and recording nine original songs on my CD, “Serenity,” featuring guest musicians from KISS (yes, my rock ‘n roll heroes). Other featured artists came from Heart, Dokken, Goo Goo Dolls, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and more.

The journey of going within to capture in lyrics and music what addiction and recovery means to me has been a priceless experience.


 

Here is a verse from the song, “Abuse Me.”:

I see your darkness, I know your pain

Wastelands of broken dreams and my scattered remains

I do what you tell me, I do what you need

My soul is blackened, for you I bleed.

My addiction left me feeling shackled to the core, unable to break free from its almost deadly embrace. Addiction knew my pain; maybe in some way relished in my pain. It was such a dark place to live, becoming a victim to this disease.

I’m grateful I have since been able to see its true face and realize that there are tools and resources to free me from its grip. I just had to take those most difficult first steps: believing I was worth it, reaching out to others, and then taking those steps that worked for so many others others.

Another song Serenity has special meaning for me and here are some of those lyrics:

 

 

There was a time not very long ago

I didn’t know who I was meant to be

Nothing but despair, I was on my own

Nothing in this life seemed right for you or me

I never knew it could be this way

I never thought we could have it this way

But that changed when I learned to let go

When I learned to be with you, instead of all alone


 

Letting go of my vices and learning to be with and accept all of me – the parts of me I love and the parts that make me still a work in progress – continues to be a path to freedom for me. I never really knew what serenity meant until I got sober. For without sobriety I will not have serenity.

Finding Me in Recovery

Feb 05, 2013

 

Something that has helped me to stay sober is viewing my addiction as an entity in and of itself. This has helped me maintain sobriety and strengthen my recovery, as well as keep my cravings at bay; cravings that today are completely non-existent. 

The further I have gotten away from my last hit, the less I have thought about going to get another one. In fact, even during the roughest and most challenging times in my recovery, not once have I had the urge to use. This didn’t happen overnight, however. It took time and a whole lot of work, but it did happen for me. 

I am not naive enough to think I am cured. I am acutely aware that I must give attention to my disease until the day I die, which for me means taking care of myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. The moment I let my guard down and get complacent, if even for a split second, could quite possibly be the moment my disease begins to take control of me again. That’s the way that I have found to help me better understand this cunning and baffling disease.

Addiction is a powerful force if left untreated, so being able to face my addictive side more objectively has allowed me to tell it to “get lost” when it’s making advances. Putting a face to it enables me to stop my cravings for drugs with a lot more success than when I used to just think it was something invisible I had to deal with. 

I know my disease is an ugly creature. Knowing this and imagining it with a face seems to work for me. It’s like knowing there is a cell within my body that given the right environment will turn cancerous and deadly. That is the sense of urgency that I give to keeping my focus on recovery and toward doing what I can to keep the cancer out of motion.

I view the recovery side of me a little differently. To me, my recovery represents an extension of my soul. It’s the opposite of my active addiction. It’s an angelic presence, a spiritual entity residing within every core of my being, encouraging me to do the right thing every day. My recovering self is the “me” I want to nurture and grow today. On the other hand, I’m keenly aware I can't provide my addictive self the fuel it needs to grow. I’ve learned through the recovery process what fuels the “me” I truly desire to be and what fuels my addictive thinking. This has allowed me to rebuild a sober foundation to stand on. 

Another day sober is another day of saying “yes” to life.

Recovery has given me a chance to clean up my side of the street after 15 years in active addiction. I realized that I was carrying a lot of baggage that was weighing me down by supporting my stinking thinking. This ultimately led me to drugs. Today I know when those “life on life’s terms” situations come my way, I have tools to use that prohibit me from creating that excess baggage, like talking about what is going on for me, extending a hand to another so I can get out of my own way, writing, and especially working out. I can recall the feeling of stinking thinking trying to convince me to go numb, but I ignored its advances using the tools I learned from others who have taken a path of healing. Remaining aware of this has blessed me with continued sobriety by helping me to release some of that unnecessary baggage.

I am now a completely different person than the shell of the man I used to be. This road of recovery hasn’t been paved with gold, but it hasn’t been the pit of quicksand it used to be, either. Being sober for this long always eluded me. It was something that seemed unfathomable; something unobtainable. But I put one foot in front of the other to do my work and started identifying and using the tools that I had learned along the way. That’s when the switch occurred; my willingness to try and then try again was what brought me successfully to today.

Now it’s the addiction that’s become unimaginable and sobriety has become my reality. I became stronger each day and the process of recovery has made it possible for me to say “good-bye” to that person I once was and “hello” to the angelic presence I’ve found through recovery. Saying “good-bye” nearly five years ago opened a door for me to say “hello” to a whole new world; a world in which I became reacquainted with my soul – seeing myself as I truly am. And I liked what I saw, despite my faults and long-term active addiction.

Recovering addicts can’t turn back the clock, but we can reconnect with our true self and experience the amazing beauty of life. We can realize that life's ups and downs are merely a rollercoaster ride that even at the highest and lowest points can be met with serenity. And we can live a life in which no matter what is thrown our way, we can handle in a healthy way and not seek anything outside of us to cope. 

That’s the world I live in today. How about you? 
 

Affirmations

Jan 28, 2013

 

Affirmations are positive statements that describe a desired situation. I began using affirmations months ago after looking at how I was using my own internal language in a way that wasn’t always supportive. Most of us have taken on over our lives, negative chatter that we sometimes believe to be true and this is disempowering and consequently, creates undesirable situations and negative reactions. Words and statements work both ways - to build or to destroy. It is the way we use language that determines whether our language supports bringing positive or negative energy into our world. Becoming more aware of our own self-talk whether negative or positive and learning to redirect our internal dialogue in an empowering manner is a great tool for achieving success, and ultimately for improving the quality of your life. Here is an affirmation I have created that I’d like to share with you:

Motivational Dream Catching Affirmation by Super Star

I have been given the gift of life, the gift of another day. How can I live today to the fullest?meditate-stress-relief-art

I realize that life is precious. I do not take today for granted. I move through this day with a purposeful determination to dream catch – to live with purpose – seeking that path that has been laid before me … just for me. I feel through every core of my being the energy I desire to release throughout this day.

My intention is to move through this day dream catching as I purposefully look deep toward the clouds feeling their soft satin embrace, allowing their energy to guide me to my higher self, my higher purpose, leading me with pure thoughts and unconditional love towards all things. How will I continue to stay in this place of wonder? What tools will I need to remain focused on my personal intention to be a dream catcher?

I embrace the majesty of life and extend my heart to all I come into contact with today. I leave a positive imprint on those who I come into contact with. I am present with myself; therefore I can be present with others today. I handle the pursuit of my dream because I was born a dream warrior, born to fulfill my destiny. I see resources at every turn and use the tools and the knowledge that is before me to accomplish what I set out to do.

Today I am aware, acutely aware of the endless possibilities I find within those things that once were just obstacles. I welcome the opportunity to problem-solve today. Where will I look today to discover and learn something new?

Today is my day; a day that is about realizing dreams; my dreams and the dreams of others. The journey of dream catching is deep within me; calling me to take action to move towards my dream; to live with purpose. I can feel it. I welcome the commitment to never give up on any task at hand no matter how challenging it may feel today.

How can I share this feeling with others?

I feel the sensation of silver and gold sparkles stirring placing a protective cover around me as I breathe in and out. Breath is the source of life. I take a deep breath in; I let that breath out. The revelations of my connection to my source strengthen.

I breathe (deeply) and (as I exhale) releasing all that I no longer need.

I focus on my breathing … in and out … in and out … allowing my breath to generate love and compassion. I feel clean, refueled, revived.

Today starts now and my journey is a safe one because of the responsible actions that I choose to take.

Here I go, I am embracing this day, holding it tightly yet lose enough to make sure there is enough wiggle room for anything unexpected, which I also welcome. I am ready, I am ready. My day of dream catching begins now.

What does A N G E R mean to you?

Jan 22, 2013

Recently, I had a conversation with someone on the subject of anger, which led me to think about how we each respond differently to the emotion.

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/b6b20a5f00d94865a89e8d3943b7c9991.jpgI have to admit, the conversation provided some lively discussion and reflection on this topic that some want to avoid. During this conversation, the individual who I was speaking with became curious about my own personal views on anger and wanted to know how I have become less reactive to things that I would once find extremely irritating. The discussion was full of opportunities to reflect on each of our own experiences in regards to anger and how we respond to it.

I am certain we both left the conversation even more curious about our thoughts on anger and how we choose to deal with it.

Anger is considered a “secondary emotion”— an emotion that one goes to after being tapped by specific uncomfortable feelings. Reacting to anger, for some, can be a familiar place to live while for foreign to others.

Each person responds to anger differently. Another person I spoke with on this topic shared they used to think they never got angry, but after doing their work, they realized that their anger played out through being depressed. In their family, anger was not an acceptable emotion to express so they suppressed their feelings which left unleashed emotions that morphed into depression. Anger for me today tends to show through frustration more than outright anger; although that always wasn’t the case.

Early in my recovery I began to take a look at the things that I felt were bothersome, annoying, and even maddening to me. I knew I had to look at the situations around me where I felt angst or even the slightest bit irritable. This was important because in my past I would use these uncomfortable feelings as an excuse to use.

Since I was willing to do anything to stop my use of drugs and alcohol, I had to be willing to dig deep and examine all things that would raise my temper. While doing this work, I noticed a common theme in my world which was that all the things that I would get angry over had a certain level of expectation tied to them. When something didn’t go my way or a situation or person did not respond the way I expected them to, boy sometimes I would just want to blow my top – and sometimes I did! But not anymore and I promise you that we can all be grateful for that.

When we have expectations, we have placed our own desired outcome that something will happen or someone will respond a certain way to us. Expecting a desired outcome, especially when it involves another person, is a set-up for failure for all involved.

Once I realized the cause of my blood boiling was unrealistic standards I created for myself, I made the change to become more aware of when I had expectations. I began to focus more and more on allowing others to choose their responses/actions and to go with the flow not placing an expectation on the outcome. Doing this has brought much more peace into my world.

I find myself not reacting inappropriately to anger and that’s very liberating to be able to move freely in a world without reacting and letting anger control my actions. Ironically, it also leaves more room for other emotions to be experienced and other joys to conceive.

How do you respond to anger? How was anger expressed in your family growing up? Do you respond differently depending on the person? If so, do you “expect” more from the person you have a greater reaction to?

These are just a couple of questions to consider when looking at the relationship anger has in your world.

Keep your friends close

Jan 17, 2013

“Friend” can have a lot of interpretations depending on who is using it.

For me, a friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you. I have a few close friends; some who I have more frequent contact with and others who I don’t talk to that often. Yet no matter what, when it comes to my friends, I can pick up the phone and talk to them as if no time has passed and still feel the strong connection we share. It seems that those that I have allowed in my inner circle have one thing in common. They have all been consistent with their unconditional love toward me.

I am grateful to have many friends. A few of them have been lifelong friends and some of my newer friends are quickly becoming staples in my day-to-day communication and life experiences. I lean on all of them at some point, for a sense of connection and a source of help. Friends are truly one of life’s most magnificent gifts.

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/97d57e65ed17441b8af7c4a5d303217b1.jpgRecently, I have been through some challenging times and there have been a few friends in particular that have helped me keep my head above water. I am not sure what course I would have taken if it weren’t for their constant willingness to lend a hand as I make my way through some new unchartered territory. New horizons that I am choosing to travel that if it weren’t for their guidance, I might not have found the strength to forge the new path in which I am paving.

I find myself constantly embracing acquaintances, new potential friendships. The older I get it seems the more I am willing to take a chance on allowing others into my world. And because of this I have flourished both in my personal and professional endeavors. But it wasn’t always that way.

During my active addiction—when I was pushing away all my good friends in an effort to hide my use—I picked up some unhealthy relationships along the way; many unhealthy connections that only contributed to my world becoming completely toxic. I was surrounded by negative energy regularly. I battled negative and abusive thoughts on a daily basis and many times those unhealthy thoughts led to destructive actions. All of this became my “new normal.”

Hanging out with a negative crowd of individuals, who themselves were misguided, brought me much angst. I found myself getting deeper and deeper into my addiction which only led me to more trouble – more problems. Thankfully I became aware of this roller coaster ride into hell and saw that I had to make changes that included people, places and things and especially erase my rolodex of troubled partners and start accumulating new acquaintances. I knew once I did that then my world would change and the battle against my addiction would become easier.

Believe it or not, there is actually some truth to the statement “those who you hang out with you become.” It was important for me to establish new and healthy friendships. So how did I make sure that my new friends would be ones that were a support to my well-being?

Below are 5 guidelines that I use when evaluating a potential comrade. It may seem strange that I have rules when considering a newfound relationship but I found that it is necessary and protects me against any negative energy that could have the potential to introduce havoc into my sound world.

1. Do we have similar interests?I choose friends who are adventurous, have a similar sense of humor and can give me some food for thought. I often choose friends who are supportive and kind. I hope to give these attributes back to my friends and extend to them other qualities as well. What attributes would you like to share in your friendship?

2. Are your friends empowering you?Wow, this one is an important factor for me. I am absolutely more willing to allow a friendship to develop if they are generally upbeat and positive. I find that conversations with these types of individuals are much more rewarding. I am always willing to lend a positive hand to any one of my friends but won’t allow myself to remain in a world of negativity.

3. What can I give to a friend? One thing that comes up for me is my availability to connect with friends. My schedule can be very demanding at times making it difficult to get in touch with me or at the least to get a lot of my time. And my friends know that and accept that about me. It’s important in friendships to not personalize another’s actions and to realize what each can realistically give.

4. Could there be a possible unhealthy motive for this person to want to become my friend?Unfortunately, I find that some people want to come into my world hoping that my professional relationships or my assets can be of value to their own goals. So I stay in tune to what my intuition tells me about a person and often let that guide my decision as to how far I allow them in.

5. Finally, how are they toward others?I have been in a couple relationships where the person who was a kind friend when they were in front of me wasn’t always so kind to others. So I have had to re-evaluate some of my relationships and distance myself from individuals who aren’t generally coming from a place of love with those around them.

So today, embrace your friends. Let them know you appreciate them. And if you struggle to let others in, my challenge to you is to consider opening up and allowing new friends to enter your world. After I started to really pay close attention to the significance of healthy relationships and began surrounding myself with more healthy friends was when I realized for the first time in my life that I am truly not alone in this world.

In closing, to any of my friends who might be reading this,I love you and am so grateful for what we share.

Living by the three C's of life

Jan 08, 2013

Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting some students following a presentation at Goodland High School in Kansas. A few days following my presentation, a student wrote this message on the RSSS Facebook page:

It's important to make changes in your life“The three C's of life. Choices, Chances, Changes. You must make a Choice and then take a Chance or your life will never Change!”

My first thought was this is brilliant! I love how students share their inspiration and insights following a presentation through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. Whether they know it or not, they are supporting and lending credibility to my message indirectly through this type of online feedback. But bigger than that, by sharing their thoughts, teens who some adults believe should just “be quiet and listen to the wisdom of adults” are actually participating in a domino effect influencing change; a teen-driven movement leading to positive change!

From my perspective, that’s awe-inspiring especially from the mouth of young people!

As I was thinking about what to write for this blog, I came across the above quote. This teen is right on. If we always are doing the same things then we will always have the same things in life. This is especially relevant to me currently. For the last few years I have structured my work in such a way that it cannot move forward unless I am willing to make some positive and sometimes drastic changes.

For instance, having the courage to bring on additional staff or reprioritize my current list of daily to do’s. I have seen how I have tomake a choice and take a chance to bring about changeand especially when it’s something that is met with fear or uncomfortable feelings. The alternative if I don’t change, I will feel stuck in my professional life and the thought of that isn’t something that makes me feel very comfortable. As difficult as it is sometimes to face the fear of change, the thought of getting stuck would be more painful to bear. So today I do what is necessary and make those changes.

It’s true what they say aboutinsanity—it’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I can recall the feelings I had the day I realized using drugs was going to keep me in a vicious cycle of never feeling complete. During those early days in recovery, I struggled to face any new action. Something as simple as going to the fridge to pour a glass of milk seemed like it would be too much effort. Each thought that moved through my head felt as if the words were weighted leaving me feeling that each action I needed to take to remain in recovery would be too hard to obtain.

I did because I had to if I wanted the change to live a life sober. It was life or death for me. I knew I had to make changes and in doing so, with constant action, the muscle I developed became stronger and stronger. After a while, getting up to go to the fridge for that glass of milk became something of ease. And those weighted thoughts became lighter.

The opportunity teens possess to inspire change through sharing their wisdom online offers one a chance to look at the dangers of substance abuse or other destructive behaviors. It can even bring out support and the opportunity to see how to move through a challenging life experience. This communication potentially creates an everlasting and positive impact on those who take a moment and reflect upon these social media posts. Instead of Reality TV, this is the “reality” message I’m supporting today!

But what about this student who wrote this message? Did she make changes after seeing my presentation and posting her comment? I sincerely hope so. And if she didn’t, did someone else besides me read her post and decide that now was the time for change in their life? I may never know but one thing is for certain, her post didn’t go unnoticed.

So is there anything in your life that you would like to change? Are you ready to make the choice and take the chance in order to realize that change? If you answer yes and start taking steps toward taking a chance, I can guarantee you, at the very least, you will experience a different outcome than what you have become used to. So I encourage you, make the choice to take a change and embrace the change! Let’s show this young woman the power that is truly in her words!

A recipe for your emotions

Jan 03, 2013

Did you ever notice how easy it is to become sad about something? For me it doesn’t take much work to get upset over something. In fact, the more I dig deeper into the psychology of what makes people act a certain way during times of stress the more I am beginning to see how during most times the sadness or despair isn’t necessary and actually can be disempowering.

Emotions of SadnessMy clarity and awareness to my thinking becomes stronger with each passing day sober. I am now able to see when the stories in my mind aren’t the healthiest ones. In fact I have become so acutely aware of my emotions that I can immediately decipher where they are coming from. Having this ability has opened up a whole new word of empowerment and possibilities.

My life coaching sessions give me an opportunity to help others see that our emotions are something that we go to. They don’t come to us, we run to them. Sometimes we choose empowering ones and sometimes we choose those that can limit us. For example; recently I was talking with someone who was very sad over her weight. She had told me that every time she looks in the mirror she gets depressed. Moreover this has been a pattern for her for years. So much so that she has allowed it to get in the way of her even making an attempt to lose the excess weight. But why does she do this? Why does she run to an emotion of sadness and then allow it to run her life in this way?

The reason is because her sadness, in this particular case, is a crutch. For her it is safer to look into the mirror and feel depressed than it is for her to face and take on the challenge of losing her weight. She dreads the thought of going to the gym and dislikes the thought of eating healthier food for fear that she will no longer find comfort in one of the few things that she knows will always bring her pleasure. Stories like this are very common for individuals and it’s these very unrealistic stories that that are the ones that hold us back from accomplishment in particular areas in our lives.

There is a particular recipe that this person uses to conjure up her feelings of sadness. She’s not unique in this sense. We all have our own recipes that allow us to get to that place of feeling any type of emotion. Each recipe has different ingredients. On the surface this may sound like hogwash, but it’s true.

When I get sad or depressed it is because I have first attached a somewhat gloomy meaning on something. In itself this act is done by means of recipe or chain reaction of occurrences isn’t it? This then of course kicks off a series of linear gloomy thoughts and before you know it, the sob story and depressed feeling is in full swing. It’s not just my thoughts though that has their place in my recipe book for emotions; my physiology plays a part in it as well. A great example would be to close your eyes and imagine a sad and somber person standing in front of you. What do they look like? If you’re like 99 percent of us, you would probably say that their shoulders are slouched, the muscles in their face are slack and/or they may look tired, etc. The body and the mind play a part in our recipes for our various types of emotions.

For example, the other day I realized I was feeling sad. As I sat quietly with no one else around, I started to focus on my non-verbal physical actions. I became aware that I was not smiling; I had my arms crossed and my body felt closed and constricted. Language, both internal and external plays a part in our recipes for emotions as well. During this time, I was aware also of the "chatter" in my mind that was spewing negative phrases that I resort to when I'm heading down that slippery slope into the swamp of uncomfortable emotions.

emotions of happinessAs I continued to pay attention to what I was feeling emotionally and experiencing physically, I was mindful of my breathing, which was shallow. So I closed my eyes and began to just focus on my breathing, taking slow and deep inhalations through my nose, holding my breath for a count of 8-10 and then exhaling slowly. I repeated this until I lost count at 10 breaths which is when I lost awareness of my breathing and went to a place I call "my zone"; a place of peace, relaxation and serenity. When I came back to being aware of my surroundings about 15 minutes had passed! I noticed my body felt more open and alive, the situation I was hanging on to that brought about the emotions of sadness was not easy to recall and I felt at peace. For much of the remainder of the day I would periodically check in with myself, assessing my breathing and body language. I noticed I was able to move beyond the incident that stirred up the emotional space within that was disempowering for me. This is something that I have been able to do over time with practice; sometimes it's easier than others for me, but isn't life really progress not perfection anyway?

Illustrations courtesy of atsoram.

So what are your recipes for your emotions? What type of things do you notice you do when you get excited or happy? What type of things do you say to yourself or do when you’re feeling sad or angry? For the not so great emotions like sadness and or frustration and anger, my guess is that if you really took a moment and wrote down what you’re seeing as the patterns that take you to these places, you can then discover the moments of when you can shift your physiology and be left with more empowering thoughts and emotions. This alone can open up the doors to some new empowering actions you can take to make some positive changes in your life.

New Year = New Opportunities

Dec 24, 2012

January 1, 2013, is only days away which means we are about to embark on the start of yet another year. Are you ready? I sure am!

One of the gifts of being alive and ready to ring in a new year means we are able to make 2013 a year to remember—a year where we realize some of those goals that we have placed in our back pocket or a year where we continue moving toward those dreams we have envisioned for ourselves or even a year where we live more from the place of putting our best self forward in all our affairs. Regardless of where we are at today in our life we have the ability to keep those traits we appreciate about ourselves alive by the choices we make and we also have the opportunity to change those things that we would like to improve upon in our life.

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/1639af02470f49a68ad32ad61fb6ca6b1.jpgI used to think New Year’s resolutions meant that I wasn’t living my life right and that just created more shame for me – which I already had enough of. But then someone told me that life is about progress, not perfection. And once I realized that there is no such thing as “perfect” and that life is a progression of growth from our experiences, it afforded me a chance to look at life through a different lens than I had been viewing life through. Changing my lens of life also gave me the gift of being able to forgive myself for those choices that did not serve me well and this then gave me the ability to move forward with an open heart.

From that place, I began to envision things I wanted to experience in life like recording a CD and writing a book and most importantly living my life sober. I learned that we have the resources we need inside of us or around us to achieve that which we set out to do. It’s about changing our focus or lens and being open to those doors that will guide us to our next experience in life.

You see, my whole world changed when I made the connection about the impact of what we focus on and the subsequent path our life takes. I realized that what we focus on expands. So if I’m focused on solutions or opportunities it changes my view on those things I used to refer to as problems. By realizing this and living life from this perspective, I feel more inspired, positive and able to create newer and better opportunities than ever before.

One tool that works for me is writing, so year-end is a time to journal about those reflections of what the past year has brought to me as well as to explore more deeply where my heart is being guided for the New Year. What helps you get connect with your deeper self? Journaling? Meditating? Reading? Conversing with others? Or something else?  

Take some time for yourself this holiday season to reflect on the past year and let your heart guide you into a New Year – into new opportunities and new experiences.

As Harold Whitman said: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who come alive.”

Here’s to hoping that 2013 finds you spending time doing those things that make you come alive because there is nothing greater than doing something you know you were born to do!

Yet at the foundation of my future choices will be living by my motto:Always love, always encourage and NEVER let despair get in the way.

Forward Momentum

Dec 18, 2012

There is only forward momentum in breaking through layers of things that hold us back. As I find myself seeking the strength within to move beyond yet another layer of old tapes, I also find myself looking forward to moving into a new world of thought. I’m drawing upon all of my resources so I can go to where I have never been. And no, this isn’t an episode of Star Trek but it is real life and I am most certainly going forward to those unchartered territories within.

Seeking what I need to cross into a new word of thought in order to move forward to do the work I’m inspired to do sometimes seem challenging; however it’s not as difficult as the time that I finally crossed over into recovery from my active addiction.

That time in my life was probably the fiercest war within that I will ever have to face. Yet I did find the might within and the resources outside to reach the top of that mountain top, didn’t I? Now I’m embarking on another stride in my world although this time professionally and this time I am looking forward to the bumps in the road because I know that obstacles are truly only opportunities.

You know what is great? Realizing that I rarely see or experience fear in my world now that I am in recovery from drugs and alcohol.

I rarely have any hesitation with regards to boldly going to where I have never been before. For me, this absence of fear much of the time has been one of my greatest gifts. You see, I realized in my journey from active addiction to recovery that FEAR is really only False Expectations Appearing Real. This helps me put things in a perspective to not let fear rule me like it once did.

I am so very appreciative of my ability to just jump into things that at one time I wouldn’t even consider. Things like creating new professional endeavors or exploring things of a spiritual nature. It’s so neat to be in the driver’s seat of life and have enough self-awareness to be guided to where I am meant to be.

Momentum is what keeps me driving this way. I love knowing that taking one small action and then taking another always leads to something. Sometimes it’s not where I intended to go but who cares because as long as I am moving forward in a healthy direction then I find myself right where I am supposed to be. As I keep a healthy perspective on why I got sober in the first place and work on growing beyond the circle of problems the arise, I am now able to more easily overcome and continue preparing for the new opportunities that are undoubtedly on the horizon.

During this holiday season, my hope for you and your family is that you experience in your own world a sense of this forward momentum. That you are taking your own healthy steps forward and never fault yourself for sometimes taking one or two backwards. Because maybe we never really go backwards—maybe the unplanned road actually is the right road to take us to where we are meant to be.

So I look at the backward steps or detour as a necessity to continued forward momentum. As long as we all continue to put one right foot in front of that other one then we will have the blessed opportunity to experience plenty of other reasons for celebration. All of them sober, healthy and full of the joy that exists beyond addiction to drug and alcohol.

The walk from A to B

Dec 11, 2012

We create massive to do lists, identify priorities and set out to tackle our agendas one by one with the goal of getting from A to B. Or at least that’s the intention. Yet most of the time we never see B; get stuck or worse — we give up completely.

So, why is goal setting so difficult for many? Because we let our stories get in the way. All those little bits of information we’ve come to believe over time that when strung together into complex thoughts create a story we believe most times is farther from the truth. I see more and more how these stories we’ve created limit the potential of ever realizing B and to me that’s an absolute shame and waste of a good dream!

Reaching GoalsThis morning I was trying to think of a good analogy of what a person does each day that represents a true account of freedom from the limits we place on ourselves. I wanted to come up with something universal that would paint a clearer picture of what it would look like for someone to have nothing, but a desire to accomplish a goal and show what the goals might look like if we just were to approach it like we do in this universal way. Then I found the analogy I was looking for.

What happens when you get out of bed each morning? You get up and you walk from the originating source which we’ll call A to your destination which we’ll call B. During that walk, not once do you apply self-sabotaging thoughts as to how you’re actually achieving that goal of getting from where you are to where you want to be. You just get up and start walking. There are no stories telling you that you’re not good enough to walk from here to there nor are there outside influences that make you feel like journey might not be a worthy one. You’re not worried about failure or not achieving the specific result. You just get up and walk. And you do so without ever thinking that you can’t get to B. Why can’t all of our goal setting be this easy? Why do we allow so many stories and influences to have such an impact on our goals giving significance to those things that only deter us from getting to where we want to be?

For the most part, today in my life I do approach each goal without creating a story around it. I am grateful that my work in recovery has truly fostered and instilled an incredible amount of self-confidence and belief within me. I tackle each goal without giving a thought to the disempowering beliefs I used to let rule my world. It’s a remarkable place for me to live, at my core, always confident and always willing to take on that next risk.

I got here because I kept trying; kept poking around at the idea of what it would feel like to live a life without destructive stories. And because I kept my focus on getting to the place in my mind where obstacles were opportunities so nothing would stop me in my journey from A to B, guess what? One day I discovered it. I liken it to the process we must have gone through to start walking. It’s not like the moment we were born we started walking right? I am certain we all fell down numerous times until one day we found ourselves no longer falling. Now we just wake up and get from here to there with complete confidence and without stories.

Why can’t all of our goal setting be this way? The answer is that actually it can. It just takes practice and the willingness to trust. And with those two things the walk to your next goal will be brisk and rewarding because you will just get from A to B.

 

Decisions generate direction in our life

Dec 04, 2012

We can literally have or achieve almost anything we want in life. It’s a matter of the actions we choose.   It is within those actions that our destiny is shaped. We create our destiny by our decision to take action or not and that choice either serves us well or it doesn’t.

It is our decisions, not our conditions or our perceived “labels,” that determine our eventual outcome.   It’s also important to understand that our actions are tied to the emotions or thoughts we let prevail.   After all, every decision we make changes the course of our life and sometimes it’s a decision that impacts us forever. Our decisions and their related actions set a direct cause and effect in motion leading us to a certain destination.

Every action has a reactionEven an individual in another part of the country that we may never meet can have a direct impact on our life as a whole and vice versa. Think of our planet as a car and all the parts within that car are little humans working together in the same space. If a part within the engine decides to give out and stop functioning, does it not then affect the rest of the car in some way? Even something as small as running out of windshield wiper fluid can move an entire other set of action into play. This might seem like a silly example but it does paint a picture of the domino effect that we have on one another as a species living together on the same planet. Our decisions have a direct impact on not only us, but potentially everyone, everywhere.

There is a belief that a decision that ends up hurting someone’s feelings, causing friction or angst, is somehow a wrong decision. This is not necessarily always true. It could mean the broader part of your decision helped someone learn or see something that they may not have necessarily been able to see and that led them toward taking action to better their life somehow. Sometimes we can’t see what the outcome of our decision might be, but all the time our actions from our decisions are leading us and others to an ultimate destination.

We are where we are today because of the decisions we—sometimes others—have made. And we may be influenced by another but ultimately our decisions are ours to make. Decisions about what we focus on. Decisions about what we will make a priority in our life. Decisions about what actions to take with those things that we give specific meaning too. When we make any decision we affect movement and hopefully it is something that steers towards our goals and dreams but regardless it will become our destiny.

Making a decision sometimes forces us to grow in areas where we’re not comfortable. The most fearful decisions can often provide the most extreme benefits. So, don’t second guess yourself because of a little discomfort. Discomfort can be followed by growth—growth is a good thing. So even if you’re not seeing an obvious positive result immediately from a decision, don’t worry. It will make sense because your broader intentions led you to make it for a reason.

There is a large distinction between people who make the majority of their decisions consciously and those who merely go with the flow. Our future is shaped by the decisions we are making right now and the life we have today is a result of the decisions we made in our past. It is important to realize that each decision is a building block toward our ultimate goals and destiny. They build upon one another creating a snowball effect on the outcome of our lives.

Do you have areas in your life that you feel stuck because a decision needs to be made? Have you been postponing making that decision? Have you given up on any of your goals because your decision didn’t produce the result you were looking for the first time?

Now is the time to put all of that in the past. What decisions do you need to make for you to achieve that dream that has been on the back burner for a while? Perhaps a skill you have wanted to learn that will be of value toward achieving your goals?

Harnessing the power to make decisions is necessary for you to set forth, conquer your dreams and experience growth in all areas of your life. So, make the decision to start making changes today and you will see the immediate value. Don’t get your head too involved with your decision making process; in your heart you know which ones are the right ones.

How to realize your DREAM!

Nov 27, 2012

Have you ever had a dream? Have you already accomplished one or more of your dreams? Is your dream something that you want to do full time; perhaps create a new career? Become a majestic painter? Maybe live on a houseboat sailing the ocean to places unknown? Or do you want to learn to play guitar or better yet, play guitar on stage with a member of your favorite band?  Whatever your dream is, it’s as real as you can make it. But this can only be achieved if you can first be very clear about what it is you seek.

Identifying your dream is obviously a significant step in the process of obtaining it. But just as important is the psychology, the mental mindset that is needed to obtain what it is that you seek. The thinking that you can turn every single one of those perceived excuses, obstacles and limiting beliefs into little gold nuggets will be key in providing you the fuel you will need to see the eventual solutions to your challenges that you will undoubtedly face you along your journey towards realizing your dream.

How to reach your dreamsHow many times during your life time have you given up on solving a problem or not moving forward with something because you felt the problems within were too difficult to overcome. For most of us, this is a daily reality and so many people have given up on their dreams entirely because of this. What a tragedy to go through life without having experienced the dream within your heart.

So what is the difference between you and someone else who made their dream come true? Their belief within themselves.

I believe our dreams and goals are a compass for our heart at the most fundamental level. Dreams also referred to as thoughts or visions of our future wishes and desires are gifts given to us by our Creator. And my belief is that along with that dream come all the resources we will ever need to make it a reality. Our dreams and all those things we’d like to accomplish are just beyond that gap between where you see yourself today and where you would like to be in the future. Each one of them is unique in their own right. But make no mistake there is a lot of work that comes deep within the gap from where you are now and where your dream awaits.

So how do you get from here to there? What does it take for you to take this thought, wish, or desire and manifest it into your reality? Well, first we must identify very clearly what our dream is!

I relate having a dream or a sense of purpose to that of being in love. When thinking of my dreams, I feel a sense of love or connection to myself. When you are in love, your entire world feels happier and seems brighter, doesn’t it? You wake up feeling excited and delighted to be alive. When you are in love everything seems right with the world. All of life's challenges feel minor and easier to manage. Being in love and having a dream can illicit very similar feelings; pleasure, positivity and fulfillment. These are the feelings that provide the energy and enthusiasm that is needed along the path toward realizing your aspirations. Attaching a dream to fulfilling a deeper purpose for your life can provide a never-ending source of joy and contentment.

So what is your dream? If you don’t know, the following is an easy three step exercise that may be of value to you.

1.      Dream BIG!  Don’t be afraid to dream big. Find a quiet place where you can relax and let your mind connect to your inner voice and see what dream has been placed upon your heart; that aspiration that was meant just for you. If you have the inspiration to visualize a dream then you most certainly have the ability, creativity and the resources to realize it.

2.      Dig Deep!   When you look back on your life what hobbies, jobs, or projects energized you? Can you think of any? If you’re having difficulties then think back to when you were a child or ask someone that knew you when you were younger. As a child we are more open to exploring things, experiencing things and even trying things. Revisit some of the positive experiences of your childhood and make a list of all the things you remember enjoying growing up. Would you enjoy doing any of those activities now? While you are searching, remain completely open to all your possibilities, even if they seem impossible. And if you come to realize it’s truly a dream within your heart, you will find it’s not completely impossible and you will begin to trust the process of achieving that dream.

3.      Do an environmental check!   An environmental check is used to ensure that any changes you start to make while pursuing your dream will be beneficial to you overall. Our drive can take us far. Our intelligence, patience, and savvy are tools for progress and to build momentum. However, our will to succeed is only as good as our ability and environment to sustain it. This is where our environmental check comes into play. Working without the support of your environment is like running up an escalator going down. You can make it to the next level, but it will be exhausting. When you have your environment supporting you, the rest of the world seems to propel you at every step you take moving you at times two steps forward.

Here are two environmental check questions to ask yourself:

·       Does this goal make you a better you?

·       Will your world (environment) support you doing this?

If you answered yes to both of these questions, then your environmental check is complete and your dream won’t be one that you push for, it will be one that you will be pulled toward.

Click here to read more from Super Star

If this answer is no, you might reconsider your goal. Is there something similar that would be satisfying? Are there additional steps you could take first to change your environment to be one that supports your dream?

Identifying your dream is just the first step in a series of steps that you will take as you walk, stride, or run toward your destiny. Make it one that will that will inspire you!

Because actions matter – BAM!

Nov 20, 2012

Actions matterOver the past year-and-a-half I have been speaking to teens at middle and high schools from the east coast to the west coast about destructive behaviors, personal responsibility, and dream catching. What a rewarding and energizing experience it continues to be! I am grateful for the opportunities to speak with teens about things that matter to them and encourage crucial conversations. In each community, teens are eager to talk and want to have adults listen to them.

I speak to students on a variety of topics including drugs/alcohol, peer influences, family stress, bullying and we engage in conversations about what inspires them and what dream(s) they would like to achieve. Through all of my conversations, one thing that has been a constant is realizing the significance of our actions — the way we handle ourselves, present ourselves to others, do things, move, talk, work, play and so on. All those actions move us in one direction or another. Sometimes that direction is good and sometimes it may find us on a path of lessons — sometimes tough lessons.

“BAM!” is a word that I use often in my talks. The phrase came to me one day while I was speaking with students. I was looking for a word to excite and engage them. I found that I began to often use the word BAM! And so it has become my signature so to speak. But I felt something was missing. There needed to be more with BAM! Something that gave it meaning. So I started to pay more attention to the situations when I said BAM! I started thinking more deeply about what BAM! represents.

Ultimately, our actions define our destiny. Our path in life solely depends on the actions we take. Actions guide us in our journey; sometimes to good places and sometimes to not so good places. During my active addiction, my actions were destructive and took me to all the wrong places; some of the darkest and seediest places I have ever seen. Places I most certainly never want to see again. But in recovery, my actions have taken me to great heights and allowed me to climb many mountains celebrating the journey of the climb. This is part of my message to teens - our actions speak volumes and each action we choose matters! That’s when it hit me. BAM! … Because Actions Matter.

The way we treat others and ourselves has a direct impact on our well-being. Doing something as simple as holding the door open for someone or helping someone carry a bag of groceries to their car, as I found myself doing last week, not only made me feel good but led me to having an absolutely incredible rest of the day. We can’t forget those actions we take that enhance our own personal health and well-being. Basically, actions shape our destiny.

So, what actions did you take today that supported you in moving toward your dreams or that left you feeling joy or happiness?

Today I find great value in making my actions matter in a positive way. Putting one foot in front of the other has brought me a joy like none other; sometimes joy just in knowing I’m headed in the right direction!

So remember: BAM!

Because Actions DO Matter!

People, places and things

Nov 13, 2012

Fight Being a RobotOur values are the driving force of the choices we make and the action we take. When we are in conscious contact with what we value, choosing actions based on those values, we live a fulfilled life. Thoughts are a powerful nexus to our actions and the things that we prioritize that matter to us. Without them, we would be like robots; emotionless and living each day driven by the mechanics of life — similar to how many of us lived in our active addiction. Then, our thoughts were very mechanical weren’t they? We’d get up, go get drunk or high and repeat this process day after day; not in contact with our values and not living a fulfilled life either.

During that time in my active addiction, my core values were covered up in a haze and as a result, I was a robot to my addiction. I didn’t care about you or your pet goldfish. No awareness for the truths I now hold so dear. No consideration or compassion for anyone other than myself. Instead of living a life full of love and happiness, I lived a life without meaning or purpose.

We all have values that determine our decisions and guide our lives. Those who value health focus on how they treat their bodies. Those who value trust cannot convince themselves to lie. In recovery, I’ve found those values within me that are the foundation of who I am. Things like honesty, love, personal growth, security, self-respect and spirituality. These have all become important values to me and guide me in my daily actions.

But where do our values come from?

Our values are instilled within us by things that are constant in our environment. Digging deeper, our values come from a variety of our experiences from birth and on. For example, maybe we share a similar value base as our parent(s). Or maybe we have different values because the environment we experienced growing up didn’t connect with us. Growing up I was influenced tremendously by the musical band KISS. I was completely immersed in everything KISS. I paid so much attention to the business behind the band that overtime the creativity became one of my core values.

What I want most in life today is based entirely upon what I value; family, continued education. Or even things like the type of car or house I want or how much money I’d like to make. Each of these things have a certain level of emotion attached them and my having awareness in knowing what things in my world things create certain kinds of emotions has allowed me to stay in my recovery from drugs and alcohol.

There is this expression: “You are who you hang out with.” I believe this couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’ve experienced that in my own world. I’ve realized that as I associate with others who share similar values as I have, I am more in conscious contact with who I am at my core. And that’s brought me to living a fulfilled life.

There is no doubt that there is a connection between the environment and the types of individuals I surround myself with having a direct impact on my emotional well-being. The values that I connect with from these people, places and things are invisible in physical form but are very much real. And they are the driving force to my continued commitment to sobriety. Knowing this I must remain attentive and aware of the significance of people, places and things and never take any of it for granted again.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbock.

The power of questions and focus

Nov 06, 2012

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/42a66b04c3da4e1e8fe15cfc61e19b441.jpgMy desire to become and stay sober started to surface within me about halfway into my 15-year active addiction. That desire came about through a series of questions I found I kept asking myself. Those questions played a big role in transforming not only how I would seize my desire for sobriety but how I would remain committed to living a life without drugs and alcohol. And sobriety with a commitment and focus was the only way I would be able to achieve my goals and dreams.

Over time, I started to realize that there was a direct correlation between the things that I would focus on and the types of questions I would ask myself. That insight moved me to become more curious about living a sober life. Our mind is generally very active and sometimes we are not even aware of what we are thinking about. We focus on things all the time and for me, how to get my drugs and how I was going to feel under the influence was my only focus for a lot of years. I found that all of my questions and focus during that time were less than desirable. When I made this connection, my world changed!   It required being committed and mindful of my thinking in order to eliminate a focus on those unhealthy things I had become so used to being a part of my life.

I started with an experiment.  I would purposefully spend 5 minutes every day thinking about those things that empowered me to be my best self and then I would choose at least one action step that would take me one step closer to my goal. By doing this I immediately saw the potential in looking at life through a different lens; one that was full of gratitude and sans the toxic voodoo that my addictive thoughts had for years thrived upon. Suddenly I started to notice things that had been there all along waiting for me to discover. I was able to see the true beauty in the world, in other people and especially within myself.  That’s when it all clicked for me. That is when I knew I had to make this new way of looking at life permanent.

I wasn’t able to keep my new focus on life consistent right away but found value in the expression, “Fake it until you make it.” And that’s exactly what I did. I knew that if I didn’t at least try, the consequences for me could eventually become fatal. You see, I was so accustomed to asking the next wrong question, it took time to re-program my brain and remove my old patterns of lusting over my next fix. But over time as I asked myself healthier questions, placed more of a concrete focus on what I really wanted out of life, I found myself making smarter choices and that led me to more clean time free from the mind altering substances.

In order to look outside of ourselves to see what it is we desire from our life, we have to go inside and rework some of our unhealthy thinking first. We have the resources we need inside of us to become successful at what we choose to do. By changing what I focused on in life and by asking more empowering questions, I learned to access those necessary resources within to bring about the out the ultimate outcome—my own sobriety.

Dream catching requires trust

Oct 30, 2012

Oftentimes, dreams are a compass for your goals at the most fundamental level. Dreams also referred to as thoughts or visions can be an acknowledgement from your unconscious mind about the potential direction in your life giving you information about what your heart may be telling you — that gap between where you see yourself today and where you would like to be in the future is a road map to realizing your dream. But, make no mistake. There is a lot of work that comes with the in-between path toward accomplishing a dream. So, how do you get from point A to point B? What does it take for you to take a thought and manifest it into reality?

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/1a34519a93bb49fda935ac49b0f8ec6a1.jpgIn my travels speaking to school students and community members across the country, I have come into contact with people who are at various stages on their path to dream catching. Unfortunately, a lot are in the early stages or have yet to take steps to move onto that path following their dreams. I have identified a type of thinking or psychology of how successful dream catchers are able to accomplish what they set out to do by observing what those that have chosen to stick that dream deep within their back pocket are not doing.

So, what mental capabilities do those possess who are able to turn their dream into something real when yet others are not?  Well, there are many traits that make up the world’s most successful dream catchers but the one trait in particular that I relate directly to my own dream catching path is that of trust.

When I first entered recovery and began to visualize my dreams, I realized I was lacking that ability to trust — lacking the ability to believe that how I envisioned my life could actually happen or trusting I had what it took to make it a reality. That was a major barrier for me to overcome, yet once I did, the path has been easier to ride out. Learning to trust that I would be ok at any given moment without the use of drugs and alcohol wasn’t something easy for me to learn. For me it was a process. The process of how I would deal with all those uncomfortable feelings and the experiences I would discover in recovery led to the realization that it involved trust.  But I had no idea that developing the ability to trust would be what would later lead me to the riches of self-accomplishment both professional and personally.

There are many people that ask me how is it that I seem to always be able to come from a trusting place. I believe that we are all born with the ability to trust.  Yet for a lot of us, life experiences break down our ability to trust so the process of living again fully involves reconnecting with our ability to trust.  Sometimes it takes baby steps or going back to basics to reconnect with trust.  For example, those of us that drive a car trust others who are driving on the same road with us. We trust that the other cars, driven by drivers we don’t even know, will stay on their side of that yellow line. Finding ways in which we embrace trust already can help us build up to more ways that we can trust more fully in our life and those steps will be well worth the effort. 

Recovery can be about trusting that life after drugs and alcohol isn’t as painful as what we may have anticipated it to be while suffering from our active addiction; trusting that no matter what is put in your path can be overcome without the use of any unhealthy substances. 

So as I see it, trust is at the forefront of dream catching.  The benefit in developing this trust as it relates to the process of accomplishing goals that are part of your dream catching journey is worth its weight in gold! So what will you do today to take one more step toward trusting that your dream is really meant for you?

I believe in me

Oct 23, 2012

I believe in me. Those few simple words at one time escaped me. I didn’t fall into the category of an individual who believed in anything but the drugs and alcohol that I once used as fuel to get by each day while running from my emotions. But when that light switch in my head turned on, the belief in myself was there and came rather quickly.

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/a7d05bdaf4e84f67993069c27d9d84d71.jpgWhen I got sober, I was unexpectedly full of desires, hopes and dreams. Today, I am grateful for that experience because I was able to identify my purpose. At its most simplistic level, my purpose on this planet is to give back to society. I do that through a variety of means and am filled with happiness during my purposeful pursuit in giving back. Living my life is a joy and the belief I have within is vibrant. And that is the feeling that drives me each morning as I arise to continue down the path I am creating for myself.

There is a wonderful thing that can happen after working recovery from abusing drugs and alcohol and it comes in the form of clarity. After the fog rises and the smoke clears from the trail of devastation we may have left in our wake, we can see the light that is illuminating our path, sometimes every so faintly but it’s there if we listen to the quiet guidance of our internal compass. This clarity is ours to keep. It’s up to us to decide to do something with it realizing that we were given this clarity, this dream for a reason.

My destiny is shaped by my beliefs and my actions are shaped by my beliefs. There is no doubt that for every action I take, that step leads me toward my destiny. How I perceive all things in life are what I use to determine the answers to all the questions I ask myself daily. Questions like: Would this decision be something I can be proud of? Is this the absolute right thing to do in this instance? How can this action benefit someone other than me? Taking action based upon these types of questions is what has shaped me into the man that I am today. One who used to be referred to as an addict, thief and liar is now a man of character, inspiration and responsible determination.

I believe in me alright, enough to know now that I must never go back to that swamp of self-loathing and denial. I must take a daily inventory so I never chase anything self-destructive ever again. Taking a moment each day to remember the gifts that I have been given and to remain committed to my sobriety will continue to be one of the most beneficial tools I have ever been enlightened, too.

Believing in oneself enough to appreciate the gift of life and opportunity within each breathe is for everyone to enjoy and my hope is that you have found this little gold nugget of believing in yourself. May you live the life that at one time you had only dreamt of just as I am doing now!

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Live outside the box

Oct 16, 2012

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/3909998aadba48a2b37ca526843475311.jpgHow many times have you heard the expression outside the box? I know I have heard this numerous times over the years. Yet, when I hear this now I am immersed in appreciation for having the ability to not only think outside the box but live outside of it, as well.  Learning to adapt to life's challenges by thinking outside of the box to find solutions stems from what I learned during my past drug use. During my active addiction I constantly had to find ways to feed my veins full of things that I had no money at times to pay for. Having to discover new and crafty ways to fuel those self-destructive behaviors became pretty much a full-time job. And you know what they say, practice makes perfect; doing something over and over again can do nothing less than at least make you better at it.

Now of course today I use this personal power for good. I'm always looking at obstacles as opportunities in a creative way. Viewing it from every angle to find the most useful and beneficial solution to forge through the perceived obstacle. And I have found this brings me to a life full of joy. My ability to think in a way that others have sometimes coined as "unreasonable" or "ridiculous," has been the driving force of how I approach every day. For me, that's what thinking or living outside the box is all about!

On my journey spreading my message, I have had the opportunity to speak to countless individuals of various ages across the country and I have found that many express discontent within their life. Oftentimes, sharing that they feel they have become trapped and live in a world where they are boxed in with no way out.

Hearing this has fueled me to continue encouraging others to step out of their day-to-day routine and step into a new way of thinking. One that can lead them beyond their boxed in world to something that they feel was truly meant for them; a world where they know they are living the life they were meant to live.

This got me to thinking how we live in a boxed in world. There are people who wake up and head for that box of cereal first thing in the morning. And then grab their box lunch, slide into their box shaped car and rush to get into their boxed shape cubicle. Following eight hours typing on the box shaped keyboard while staring at the box shaped monitor they then head home to settle in the comfortable recliner and turn on the box shaped TV. And then what's next? They head for their box mattress upstairs to get a good night's sleep so they can repeat this pattern every day for the rest of their lives. While some may find joy in this type of living, I know many have told me that they feel they have lost their connection to their passion.

Do you know how many times I have heard "I can't wait for retirement so I can finally do what I want to do"? What happened to living life now? Seeking those things that bring us joy? Why do we feel we have to "settle" into a life of complacency? Why do we believe we have no other options?

That used to be me, living a life I felt trapped in; a mundane life that only fueled my addiction because I felt I had no other choice! I feel this is a tragic way to spend our days.  One of the greatest gifts of my sobriety besides the fact that I'm sober has been the gift of living my life to the fullest every day. I approach each day like a little boy on Christmas morning. Ever watch that kid that felt limitless, almost fearless? I know I sure was that kid when I was 5 years old. I was always exploring, looking for things to do and never worrying at all how others viewed me or my actions. Today, I'm grateful that I've
reconnected with that desire to explore and get excited about the possibilities that exist within each second of every day so I guess in some ways I again that 5-year-old boy. Albeit, with a little less hair nowadays.

So, if you feel there is something more beyond the current walls of your life, you must first realize the boundaries you've built around you before you can move beyond them. We are never boxed in because we are presented with limitless possibilities every single day. But oftentimes we have boxed ourselves in so well that we can't see all the opportunities right in front of us.

I'd like to share three things that support me in continuing to live a life outside the box:

1) Believe in yourself

2) Trust that there is a reason you've been given that vision

3) Take at least one step each and every day towards realizing your
dream

Today, I'm happy to not be living in a box. Are you?

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Change the meaning

Oct 09, 2012

Life is determined by how we define and perceive things. Because of this, each of us can have a different perception on what the reality of any given moment actually is. This is what makes for so much uncertainty in our world. But uncertainty isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. We all crave having such variety or uncertainty and in fact, I believe our species have thrived because of it.

I must admit that the world without problems to a certain degree would be a pretty boring affair. I do believe, however, that we have a tendency to sometimes to create more problems where they don’t actually need to exist in the first place. For example, how many times have you been in a situation where you imagined a story so unreasonable and despite all logic telling you that your thoughts were completely unreasonable, you felt absolutely certain that what you were thinking just had to be true? And then as the story unfolded, what happened? You discovered that what you were so certain of was only a ridiculous story you created. This has happened to me countless times in my addiction and was one of the things I would do often, which kept me in a place of fear. But in my recovery from drugs and alcohol, I learned to look at things differently; because I have to.

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/168370f5649a4fcb84de225061da11821.jpgYou see, the brain doesn’t experience emotions differently between stories that you create vs. actual reality. For example, if you are thinking of a moment that is fearful, are you not feeling fear at the same time? Or when you are thinking of a moment that would make you ecstatic, are you not experiencing the feeling of happiness? Of course you are because the brain doesn’t see the difference between what is real and what isn’t while you’re in the actual thought. That is why you can experience emotions based upon stories that aren’t even real.

So why do we create stories in our minds that can turn out to be at the minimum slightly exaggerated? I would contribute this to a feeling of uncertainty or unknowing; a feeling of not having control over something. Because of this feeling of lack of control, we create stories in our minds to help feel as if we know what the outcome of any given situation might or can be; thus, giving us a sense of certainty in our lives. At its core, this is a survivor mechanism.

I don’t know about you but for me, these stories don’t often end up productive for me or anyone around me. They can create unnecessary drama and pain and that way of thinking always led me to the darkest places imaginable. That’s why I started to look for other healthier ways to tackle the self-sabotaging stories and take back control over my thinking.

The tool that I found to be the most valuable in those moments of uncertainty is the tool of curiosity. The power in being curious enough to ask more intelligent questions is what now allows me to not only avoid such negative tapes from playing in my head but to thrive on the power of understanding that I alone have complete control over my thoughts and no stories need to be created for me to find healthy resolutions to any struggles or challenges that I may face.

So let me leave you with the question that can change the way you handle your emotions and situations that undoubtedly and thankfully will continue to arise during your lifetime.

“What else could this mean?”

Asking this question has helped me put in perspective the emotions I am experiencing that are tied toward any given situation I am in. If I am feeling any bit of uncertainly, asking this helps me steer closer toward finding a better answer by staying away from complex and colorful stories that my mind creates in its effort to comfort us by creating certainty.

So the next time you start painting that picture inside your head stop and ask yourself,“What else could this mean?” You will find that asking this will lead you to better ways to assess your experience and by doing this you will be rewarded by being able to respond in a more healthy way. After all, life gives you what you ask of it.

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Love, encourage and never let despair take over

Oct 02, 2012

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/65e26554299649fa9700bfe79ee7cf431.jpgI have come to realize that no one is “perfect.” I used to believe the imperfections that I imagined I had made me less of an individual than others. I was constantly judging and comparing myself in relation to others. Today I know that I had no true imperfections. I was just me. All that time I was running away from the only person I was meant to be. Now I know my imperfections were really all just an illusion and contributed to my disease in an effort to convince me that I was less than, not equal to others. I don’t often think about the time and opportunities that I had missed out on not being present with myself, but when I do, I wish I hadn’t run as fast and as far away from myself as I did.

I lost a lot of things while in my active addiction; relationships, trust, money, self-worth. All of these things I gave away to the pursuit of my habit. I gave them away freely. I found the more I lost the more I would use in an effort to numb myself; to avoid feeling the painful reminders of all that I had let go by the wayside. And when I got sober; I thought losses would end. That’s one of the reasons why I chose to stop. I just couldn’t bear the pain of any more loss in my life.

But I guess that was not to be; it was another illusion I had told myself that being sober meant not having to lose anything.

I see that even in recovery I am going to have losses; losses are a part of life that no one can avoid. However, there is a difference with losses in recovery vs. addiction. The differences are significant. My losses during my addiction were masked by the drug use in an attempt to avoid feeling the loss. This only took me deeper into the pit of my addiction. There were a lot of tangible losses during my addiction but there were other things that I thought I had lost that I have ultimately regained for myself like self-respect and self-love. Sobriety has allowed me the power to keep everything I have acquired in recovery; self-worth, confidence, and my belief in myself. They are all here by my side. No one will ever be able to take these things away from me.

I recall a time when I was struggling through some personal issues and realize that there will be times in recovery when it might be tough to accept life on life’s terms — times when despair will feel just a breath away. And I’ll remember that I have been here before. But this time I’ll remember that when I’m feeling that roller coaster ride of emotions and I seem all over the place, that all these emotions will be telling me is that I’m at a place of uncertainty; a place that I have no control over. And even though it might be uncomfortable, I’ll deal with it and I deal with it sober! That’s living life on life’s terms – that’s recovery.

Today, realize that I have myself. I have 100 percent of everything I have gained while in recovery. I haven’t lost me. I am perfect in the way that I am supposed to be. I am beginning to understand with more clarity that with all things lost, some things are gained. This brings me to see my own inner strength and courage I have to move forward despite the unknown.

And even though it’s tough for me to see all this at times, it doesn’t mean I am weak. It just means I am human.

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The power of our influence

Sep 25, 2012

Did you ever find yourself yawning after seeing someone else yawn? Yawning has proved time and time again to be contagious. Compounding the mystery is the odd way in which the contagious power of yawning is largely an unconscious action. Do you ever recall seeing someone yawn and then replicating the yawn yourself; without even thinking about it. Yet other times, we’ve been aware it is happening. So what does this all mean?

For me it paints a picture of how significantly noticed our actions are to others and how others are influenced by these interactions both consciously and unconsciously.

Think of how many things we do each day that potentially influences another. All that we do, all the things we say, the way we interact, perceive and handle things have a direct cause an effect on those that not only surround us but those that surround them. Essentially, this means that we are influencing our culture and the way the world works just by living each day; through others noticing and replicating our actions.

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/a291fa22a91f4fc6a317dc090e240add1.jpgWhen I wake up each morning I ask myself these questions: How will my actions influence another today in a positive way?  What can I do that will directly have a positive impact on someone while also having that potential to create a chain of positive events that can then influence others?

Last week, I spoke at a school in upstate New York and talked with the students about our actions and how these actions can change the course of our futures. In one particular discussion, I talked with these teens about the disease of addiction. I shared with them the statistics that indicate 1 in 10 Americans will become addicted to substances. It will become their reality and worst nightmare. During this crucial conversation with the teens, I expressed the importance of our actions and subsequent interactions with others especially with substances like drugs and alcohol. Basically, if they choose to partake in abusing themselves in this way, how could that directly influence a fellow peer?

I was realistic in our discussion. The facts are clear that not everyone will choose to live a life of sobriety. But for those that choose to abuse themselves in this way, I felt it important to convey a sense that they, despite their destructive behaviors, have a direct responsibility to not pass along their negative influence on to others. Just like the simple act of yawning, their behaviors could be emulated or replicated to those individuals that surround them without them even noticing or having that intent. After all, how do they know that one of their friends aren’t that 1 in 10 of us who become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. The fact is they don’t know, and offering drugs/alcohol to someone is one of the most irresponsible things someone can do to another human being.

So today, I encourage you to not only wake up and do that next right thing but really think about how we can do our best to position that next right action to allow another human being to learn and grow from it; encouraging others to live a full and amazing life. Isn’t that the greatest gift of all to give to someone?

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How will you impact another?

Sep 18, 2012

Some crazy things can happen on the road to recovery. I’ve found that not only do we regain things like our health and emotional well-being when we commit to a life of sobriety, but we also become more aware of our surroundings; more in tune with how our actions impact us and those that surround us.

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/1b4dd9fdabe4493e8faceb4d902f8a6d1.jpgFor example, last week while performing at a show in California, someone approached me and asked if she could have a feather that was attached to the outfit our lead singer was wearing. This woman said she was intrigued by the feathers and felt if she had one she would be able to carry the strength she felt during the performance. She expressed how this tangible item, a feather, would remind her of the feelings of hope she was experiencing during the concert and that would be one more tool she could carry with her to help her continue her focus on her recovery.

So, after getting permission from our lead vocalist, we granted this woman her request and gave her a feather. My hope is that this feather reminds her of her courage and her desire to embrace the gifts of recovery but regardless if she still has this feather one thing is for sure. For that very moment, this woman in early recovery experienced the grace and hope that comes with a life of sobriety and knew that it was within her grasp.

We never know the effect of our actions on another person. Giving someone a feather may not at first appear as a significant event for someone; but we should never miss an opportunity to extend a hand for another because at every moment of every day we have the potential to have an impact on another person.

How many times have we looked back upon an event in our life and only now see its value? There have been many for me during my life time. So many times I didn’t have a clue just how someday a particular action or event would shape my future but in reality, haven’t they all? Haven’t we all been bounced between our actions, like the ball within a pinball machine bouncing between pins, priming us to and moving us closer to fulfilling our destiny?

Last weekend I was asked to participate in the Michigan’s recovery rally and walk in Detroit. I had planned on attending to support the Faces & Voices Hub Event and then was asked to emcee a portion of the entertainment event. I headed out on that seven-hour trek between states to find my way to Detroit to do what I love to do; sharing my story so that others can experience hope and through that hope take action because that’s what I have found to lead one to a life long journey of serenity.

When I arrived in Detroit and took that stage, I saw in the audience someone who seemed so intent on my words. I sensed that this person was there not for the entertainment or the food or even the socialization, but was there to find hope. I did what I do, went into my zone and let the words flow out of me. Afterward she came up to me to express her gratitude for the words I shared. As we hugged she began to cry and said thank you. I told her that I should be the one thanking her. When she asked why, I just smiled and told her, “For the same reason you’re thanking me.”

Our actions and interactions with every person we come into contact with have a direct cause and effect on every single future moment. So it’s important to make them count. By putting the one foot in front of the other each day, we are not only doing the right thing by lending a hand to others, we are giving the gift in helping others to see that life is worth living when giving.  And that's how I choose to impact another today!

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Recovery Happens

Sep 11, 2012

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/New_Picture_(5)2.jpgMyself and the rest of the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT camp are on a mission to rebrand sobriety and we are doing this by taking the RSSS PROJECT band on the road during September for our Rockin’ Recovery Tour. RSSS has linked with SAMHSA as a planning partner for National Recovery Month and the RSSS Rockin’ Recovery Tour is our way to show support. We launched our 2012 celebration for this year’s Recovery Month last week in Sacramento, Calif., sponsored by California Association of Addiction Recovery Resources (CAARR). What an awesome experience celebrating with others who have found the amazing gift of recovery!

The Rockin’ Recovery Tour, a family-friendly sober rock ‘n’ roll musical event, delivers a message of hope to those affected by addiction and mental health issues and celebrates the gifts of recovery! Coming down after the excitement of a ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT performance is challenging to say the least. Performing and then visiting with thousands of screaming fans, most of those them in recovery from addiction, is a thrilling adrenalin rush that cannot be measured against anything else that I have ever experienced. Our concerts have been compared to a freight train; wielding a high octane rush of hope and redemption for those in the light of recovery.

Words cannot describe the intensity of my appreciation and admiration for all those individuals across the country that aren’t afraid to shout at the top of their lungs that they are in recovery. It’s awesome to see all those voices of recovery come out, especially during our travels to events in September during National Recovery Month. It is because of their willingness to overcome publicly the obstacles they’ve encountered that will allow those that are still struggling to leave their darkness behind and ascend upward into a life where miracles do exist.

One of the greatest things for me to witness is another person celebrating their own recovery. I feel it’s important to not allow ourselves to get caught up in all the doom and gloom that sometimes comes from the consequences of our past actions, especially for those early in recovery. A celebration of our triumphs and due diligence to work through our stinkin’ thinkin’ should always be in order and we should make sure we take time to celebrate our lives sober. Discovering the benefit of acknowledging my strengths and not just my weaknesses has helped me at times get to bed another night sober.

When our singer extraordinaire, Veronica Freeman, hit the stage last week during our Rockin’ Recovery Tour stop in Sacramento, I experienced a heightened sense of the significance of being present in the moment and made sure to take part in the celebration of it all. There is something about her grace and presence on the stage that commands your attention. It’s that attention that somehow renewed my spark for life’s most awesome moments. All of which of course cannot be fully appreciated unless you’re sober. Veronica and the rest of the members that make up the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT truly have a remarkable talent to connect and engage others in the message of hope and encourage others to embrace this celebration of life.

If you haven’t seen one of our shows, I truly hope that you can experience one soon. Witnessing the sheer brilliance of a crowd full of individuals celebrating life in recovery is about as inspiring as anything can get. Below is some footage of us doing what we do best. Enjoy!

Veronica Freeman - ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT LIVE!

Benedictum - ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT LIVE!

Rockin’ in recovery

Sep 04, 2012

“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.” Christopher Reeve

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/bbe74adcd78d44e1b2f77b524ae077ec1.jpgMore than four years ago I had an idea to write and record a rock ‘n’ roll CD of music that chronicled my life in addiction and what I was experiencing in recovery. It kind of was a no-brainer! I live for rock ‘n’ roll and I was submerged in recovery which made it a perfect match for me. So I sat down and started to write the lyrics and music. This opened up a path of deeper self-discovery and realizations. Dreams that had been buried deep inside of me were now being awakened.

One of the things I’m passionate in talking about is dream catching. It’s become such a critical topic to me because during my addiction any dreams I had were hidden deep within; not even recognizable to me. It wasn’t until I got sober that I started to reconnect with those things that brought me passion. That’s when the ideas started to flow bringing about visions of things I’d like to achieve.

Dream catching is not always the easy road but it is worth it, kind of like recovery. Staying in my active addiction would’ve been the easier path because it was one I was way too familiar with. Taking the steps to recovery was work – it took a willingness and focus and commitment. Basically, it was about becoming responsible for my choices. That’s like dream catching – it’s a lot of work and takes focus and commitment to stay on the path no matter how long the road seems or how challenging it becomes.

I have been met with a lot of resistance from others over the years encouraging me to give up my dreams and to live a “normal life.” So, when did putting dreams and aspirations on hold become “normal”? The way I see life now, having goals and working toward dreams is living. The other path of putting those dreams on hold is dying and that’s the life I was living when in active addiction for too many years; that got me nowhere good.

The path I’ve been walking since entering recovery continues to evolve. What started with the music CD, Serenity, has now morphed into a full-blown spectacle bringing awareness to substance use disorder and a celebration of recovery, rock ‘n’ roll style with the Rockin’ Recovery Tour!

The Rockin’ Recovery Tour, a family-friendly sober rock ‘n’ roll musical event, delivers a message of hope to those affected by addiction and mental health issues and celebrates the gifts of recovery! The performance includes songs about addiction and recovery including songs from the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT CD,Serenity, and inspiring messages.

Rockin’ Recovery Tour 2012 is kicking off Sept. 5 in Sacramento, Calif.! Guest musicians will join me to perform for the Recovery Month event Recovery Happens 2012 sponsored by California Association of Addiction Recovery Resources (CAARR). Last year, our performances were held in the northeast so I’m excited to bring the Rockin’ Recovery Tour 2012 to the west coast.

As I prepare to leave for Sacramento, I am reminded how life comes together as long as I keep putting one foot in front of the other doing the next right thing. That’s what I call dreams catching and for me that’s rockin’ it out for recovery!

If you are going to be in the Sacramento area on Sept. 5, come on out and join in the celebration of hope.

Click here for more information.

International Overdose Awareness Day

Aug 28, 2012

International Overdose Awareness Day, which began in Melbourne, Australia, in 2001, has been recognized on Aug. 31 each year since.

“Sally Finn, manager of a Salvation Army needle and syringe program, was touched by the sorrow she observed among the friends and families of those who had overdosed. She witnessed their inability to express that sorrow because of the stigma surrounding people who use drugs. Eleven years later, that one event in the back yard of a suburban crisis centre has evolved into International Overdose Awareness Day, which is now celebrated around the world. Its global significance reflects the universality of the human emotions triggered by the tragedy of overdose – a tragedy that’s preventable.” (From:http://www.overdoseday.com/about-us/)

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/e0104b25f1c64551a136cade147c1ee71.jpg

It seems fitting with this day of remembrance approaching that I share part of my story as I myself was one of the lucky ones. I survived an overdose that left me barely clinging on to life.  Here is the story about my overdose experience as written in my book,The First 30 Days to Serenity:

After completing yet another 30 days of treatment in 2006, I stayed clean for 60 more. I took my sobriety very seriously at that time and even made it through a breakup with my then girlfriend, Anna. She had grown tired of my antics and lies for which I could not fault her. A breakup seemed best for both of us but nevertheless dealt me a serious emotional blow. In my eyes, she was the perfect girl and I had traded perfection for drugs.

My recovery was short-lived though, and unbeknownst to me I would soon be on a fast track toward death. During this time both Chicago and Philadelphia were having a very bad epidemic of Fentanyl laced heroin sales on their streets. As many as 100 or more deaths had been attributed to people taking this deadly cocktail. And it wasn’t long before I would have it in my system.

Shortly after my stint in rehab, fortune shined and I landed a great job as a computer consultant. Having lost all my former clientele, my entrepreneurial mind came up with a plan to quickly gather up new ones. The premise was simple—I show my employer’s clients that I can do all of their work better, faster and cheaper. They abandon my “employer” and presto, become clients of mine! Once I had enough clients to call my own, I could re-start my business. Everyone kept saying that I needed to ease slowly back into life and not be too ambitious to recapture what I had lost to my addiction, but of course I didn’t listen.

I had just moved in with a new girlfriend and to get to her house from work I had to drive through a very bad neighborhood—the same one I most often went to in order to purchase my drugs. One particular evening while driving home, I was hit with some major cravings. They were brutal. I will never forget the intensity with which they ripped at my soul. The assault seemed unbearable so I prayed for the strength to make it home safely without relapsing. I suddenly felt weak and can remember thinking that I could beat this craving. I didn’t need to stop the car. I could keep driving all the way home and then I’d be OK. All I had to do was apply what I’d been taught in rehab and use the tools that I had learned there to make it home where I would be safe. Everything would be fine if I could just make it home.

But the temptations proved too great for me. I couldn’t resist this latest urge.

I picked up a girl and loaded up with $500 worth of crack and $500 worth of heroin. We had enough to last the entire night. We drove to a motel, got a room and started our little party. As usual, I headed for the bathroom and I’d come out only as needed for more drugs. I didn’t know people were dropping like flies in Chicago from bad heroin, nor did I know I was about to become one of them.

For the first hour or so, going in and out of that bathroom I smoked crack with the girl I had only known for about that same amount of time. I was so high. My heart was racing a hundred miles an hour and I was drenched in sweat like I was every time I had previously smoked crack. I am sure I wasn’t a pretty sight to look at. But this time I had pushed myself too far. Fear gripped me. It was an “out-of-control” high and I needed to come down quickly. The only way I could come down as quickly as I needed to was to do a downer drug, just one line of the heroin. I needed to do something NOW!

Little did I know, people were dying from this same batch of heroin I was about to ingest.

I pulled out the foil, scooped a line onto the table next to the bed and snorted it. I must have looked ill immediately because right after doing it the girl asked me how I felt. The only memory I have is jumping up on the bed and saying that I felt amazing. The next thing I knew, I was awakened in the hospital by my brother, Marc. He later told me that he, the doctors and my new girlfriend had been attempting to wake me for hours.

I had already been there for almost an entire day.

Later I would find out just how blessed I was to be there and to be alive. Apparently, upon collapsing, the girl I was with went through my pockets and discovered my phone. She was smart enough to call the last person that I had dialed, my brother, Marc. She told him that his brother was not doing so well in a motel room located off Cicero Avenue in the city of Chicago and that he’d better come quickly. After that, she hung up without providing him any more information. To this day, I have no idea how she knew Marc was my brother, but if she hadn’t called, I’d certainly be dead.

After some fast thinking, Marc contacted my girlfriend Tara and she drove from motel to motel in search of my car, finally finding it in the parking lot of one of the seediest motels in Chicago. She searched through the windows until she finally spotted me on the floor, lying naked and face down. The manager refused to let her enter and told her that if she wanted to get into the room, she would have to call the police. Given the times she said this was all happening, I estimate I had been alone and unconscious for approximately 45 minutes before she arrived. My life was hanging in the balance and whether I lived or died depended on how quickly she could get the police and paramedics to that room. Just minutes later, after having placed the call to 911, the paramedics gained entry and immediately gave me five shots of Narcan. To anyone who isn’t aware of how serious five shots of Narcan can be, I would later find out that administering that much at one time was in itself as serious a threat to my health as the overdose had been. I will be forever grateful to Tara and those paramedics for their heroic efforts because according to the doctors, if they had not arrived when they did, I would have been dead within four to five minutes. So, if you are reading this, Tara, thank you.

*****

As you can see, I was fortunate to have survived that dark and rainy night in Chicago and am grateful to be alive following an overdose from drugs. My heart goes out to the many families and friends that today are struggling to face the loss of someone they loved because of drugs.

So on Aug. 31,  International Overdose Awareness Day, I will take a moment and remember all the beautiful lives of those who have lost their struggle with addiction and I will continue to do whatever I can to educate and inspire others in hopes of preventing this tragic scenario from happening to others.

 

Mistress Insidious

Aug 21, 2012

I was going through a major life transition during the time I was writing the songs and music for the CD, Serenity. That was the time in my life when I had moved from active addiction and into recovery.

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/9c64f6c127f5473688fc825f228076d31.jpgDuring this time, I found myself full of a wide range of feelings that were sometimes too much to comprehend. It had always been hard for me to be comfortable with feelings, let alone be able to express them in a healthy way. Part of building my foundation of recovery meant learning new ways to live, including facing what I was feeling at any given time emotionally. Journaling was the start of helping me to bring out my feelings on paper and then led to realizing that creating music was also a way for me to better understand where I was at emotionally.

At times it was challenging capturing how I felt but I knew I had to bring out the feelings to move beyond the hold they had on me. I also believed there was a message that wanted to get out especially through my music and it was important I stay in touch with the feelings to successfully understand and convey what I wanted to express.

Alcohol and drugs has been intertwined with rock ‘n’ roll for years; oftentimes not in a positive way. The rock ‘n’ roll industry has not gone unscathed from the devastating disease of addiction. Many talented and gifted musicians have lost their life to this insidious disease; some my musical heroes like Jani Lane from Warrant and Randy Rhodes from Ozzy Osbourne.

I knew there were some rock ‘n’ roll songs that brought awareness to this disease of addiction and the destruction it causes. Yet, I felt compelled to write and record a CD in its entirety dedicated to the roller coaster ride of addiction and the serenity found in recovery. Each of the songs written for Serenity had significance about my path from addiction into recovery.

When I sat down to write the song, “Mistress Insidious,” I was filled with resentment toward the grip I saw my destructive thoughts still had on me. In early recovery after I had stopped using I couldn’t understand why my thinking was still messing with my head, trying to coerce me back into that world. I was so full of anger. That’s when I grasped at a deeper level the insidious nature of the disease of addiction and the stinkin’ thinking that is at the core of every addiction. I eventually learned to let go of that anger by realizing that it was part of the disease; a disease that wanted to make me think I was going to the Promised Land when in fact the ONLY place it took me to was to darkness.

What I wanted for those that would eventually hear this song was to grasp how strong that voice was inside my head; the voice that at times seemed to be the guiding force in all of my decisions. So I asked Veronica Freeman from the internationally-known rock band, Benedictum, to help me capture through her amazing voice, the emotion I wanted to connect the listener to when they heard “Mistress Insidious.” Working together, Veronica and I accomplished that goal to convey the intensity of that voice I kept hearing inside my head whispering me back to the wastelands.

Lyrics to “Mistress Insidious”

Step right up, stand in line, I’ll lead you to the great divine

No escaping now’s the time; you’ve got to feed the need

Your life is mine, so take my hand; I’ll take you to the Promised Land

Stick with me and soon you’ll see, you’ll be begging for mercy on your knees

Promises of pleasure, only bring you pain, dark is my forever, you will know my name!

Mistress Insidious, I will tear your soul asunder

Mistress Insidious, can’t escape the spell your under

Let me show you how it’s done

And now your torture has begun; sacrifice yourself to me

You will never ever be, set free!

Promises of pleasure, only bring you pain, dark is my forever, life is not a game!

Mistress Insidious, I will tear your soul asunder

Mistress Insidious, can’t escape the spell your under

Mistress Insidious, hawking to the words I say

Mistress Insidious, my commands you will obey!

Mistress Insidious, Now your soul belongs to me!

“Mistress Insidious” has been one of most requested songs during our Rockin’ Recovery Tour. It’s no surprise to me that others whose worlds have been affected by addiction can feel to the core the meaning behind this intense song. As we prepare to launch Rockin’ Recovery Tour 2012 next month, we are excited to announce that Veronica Freeman will be joining us for the 2012 Tour and will be performing “Mistress Insidious!” It’s going to be a rockin’ great time!

Check out this Mistress Insidious video submitted to Youtube by a fan.

Image courtesy of stock.xchng.com.

Which choice will you make today?

Aug 14, 2012

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/8e1d21e83743498d8e287421f71954b41.jpgAll that we have experienced along the way has helped us get to where we are today – things we learned yesterday, last week, last month and even five years ago. All that we have walked through and sometimes have worked so hard for brought us right smack to the middle of where we are at today.

As we move forward in life we have two choices — either we continue to work hard, learn from our experiences and heal from the things that have at times weighed us down or we become our own dream crusher. As I see it, those are the only two choices we have.

Those are the only two choices we have to choose between every single day.  Moving toward our dreams or moving farther away from them.

Believe me, I could have stayed in that place I was once in, full of excuses and self-doubt and continued to fall apart OR I could fight my way out of the darkness and climb out into the light — ascending upwards one opportunity a time.

As I look around, I see in other people so much potential and then I think, I made many wrong choices because I didn’t realize my own.

I ruined a thriving career, wasted all my hard-earned money on nothing and pushed away so many of my closest friends and family. And at times, I couldn’t stand to look at my own reflection.

Days, months and years go by and things can seem to slip away. We start to realize that we can no longer take some things for granted, like our health, family or our friends. Loss becomes more inevitable because loss is inevitable. But we don’t learn that until we start losing those things that are important to us.

Our success is measured by the opportunities we take and going the distance, toward that finish line.

Timing … No, training to realize that taking those opportunities, is everything.  One half-step too early or too late could forever change your course.

The opportunities we need to succeed are everywhere around us, in every minute, every second, every stretch of every the game.

We must force ourselves to press forward just one more time even when we think we can’t.

We must work harder and work smarter. Sometimes, we must stretch ourselves to the limit, always giving our best with the strongest determination because we know that when we add up all those opportunities. That’s gonna be the difference between the impossible and the possible. That’s gonna make the difference.

In any challenge it’s the person who’s willing to risk it all in order to cross that finish line that will find success.

And I know if I am going to live my life in a way that is true to me, I need to be willing to take that next risk, that next opportunity.That’s what winning the game of life is about, the opportunities that are right there, staring you right in the face because you took those risks.

Look in the mirror, as I did this morning; see your reflection; see that teammate within you who will go that extra mile until you realize each of your dreams.

See that person who knows when it comes down to it that working hard and playing smart are worth it because you are worth it and you do deserve to stake your claim during the victory lap of your choosing.

That’s the team I play for.

And by doing this, we live our dreams, or we live a life without purpose.

That’s it, that’s life.

Which choice will you make today?

Image courtesy of cbenjasuwan/freedigitalphotos.net.

Dealing with Despair in Sobriety

Aug 07, 2012

It’s 4:21 AM. I am wide awake sitting here with feelings that are hard to ignore; feelings of sadness and uncertainty. But despite these feelings, I have gratitude for where I am at this morning. And grateful for having the strength to not do what I used to do to seek what was really only temporary comfort.

For 15 years I’d run to drugs when finding myself experiencing these types of emotions. I’d always find myself in places that I knew I shouldn’t go — cheap motels and hanging with individuals that were stuck as deep as I once was in my addiction. Spending yet again my rent money on drugs and neglecting all the things that I knew I should be doing with my life: saving that money or using it to feed my dog or even taking time to sleep. That was such a horrific time in my life. All I cared about was finding a means to escape my sadness.

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/a609c92472474d8aaf2f1f4b3ccd74b51.jpgBut this morning is different.

Others often see me as someone who is happy all the time. And although I have to admit I am mostly the enthusiastic person that I appear to be, I do not always feel happy. Sometimes, just like the rest of us, I get sad and struggle to let others in.

I suppose for the sake of today’s blog I don’t need to get into what hurts me during this go around of my fighting despair, but instead address how I am finding the wherewithal to overcome it; without the use of drugs or alcohol.

I think my saving grace during times of hurt is in knowing that what I’m going through is just temporary. These moments may appear as a time to give up hope in our quests but the reality is they aren’t. Understanding this has been my key to success in recovery.

There are lessons to learn while feeling down. Lessons and opportunities are there to be discovered — little gold nuggets of growth if properly reflected upon. So I am doing what I know is important. I am sitting with my thoughts and feelings, thinking of things that I could do to steer me closer toward a resolution to my problems. After all, my problems are very minimal, but it used to be tough for me to think otherwise. I used to think I had the world’s biggest problems and no matter what anyone would try to do for me or say, I wallowed in self-pity. Now I know self-pity stemmed from a lack of faith as well as my own self-confidence.

Believing in myself and facing what I am up against while rebuilding my world both personally and professionally is the muscle that I use for fuel. I do believe that I have what it takes to overcome the things that I sometimes see as obstacles. I know now that obstacles aren’t what they appear to be. While they may appear as barriers that would entice us to quit or to attach excuses to, the reality is that they are like bowling alley kiddy bumpers. Obstacles are actually tools to help guide us safely to the outcome that our heart tells us exists. Having faith in a plan that we know MUST exist somewhere and one we’ll someday realize. Today I know I’ll find my way by looking at obstacles as opportunities.

So, instead of a crack house tonight I have chosen a safer place to collect and dissect my thinking. It’s a start to yet another day of opportunities and I can’t imagine proceeding any other way.

Image courtesy of stock.xchng.com.

Dear Addiction

Jul 31, 2012

This year’s upcoming ROCKSTAR SUPERTAR PROJECT Rockin’ Recovery Tour 2012 promises to be yet another celebration of the hope found in recovery from substance use disorder. As we did last year, the members that make up the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR ROJECT, myself included, will use music and interactive performances to carry this message to all those within an ear shot of our performance.

It’s going to be an exciting and emotionally charged time for all!

The time and energy spent putting all this together isn’t all as glamorous as it may appear. While the end result turns out to be a spectacular celebration of hope and inspiration, there is a lot of work that goes into putting things like this tour together. There is work involved in coordinating the play list, creating the performance outline, securing the sound equipment, bringing the band together, scheduling rehearsals, coordinating travel arrangements and more.

Also with the current economic status as it is, funding an operation like this can be challenging and has made it difficult for some organizations that want a tour stop to be able to host one. Yet I keep pressing forward because I believe in the power of our message of hope through music. Things can get stressful coordinating the tour and I find that if I am not aware of where I’m at with my recovery, I can sometimes shift my priorities to things that are less important in the long run for my recovery. So, when I feel this slip happening I know I must take some time to reflect on why I set off to do this work in the first place.

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/fb3b95250b5443b6a258fbeca3bd24d51.jpgReconnecting with my motivation and drive always bring me back to a state of balance and a renewed commitment to my recovery.

When I was writing my book,The First 30 Days to Serenity,I included a letter that I wrote to my addiction. I wrote this letter in early recovery. I will be sharing my letter to the addiction on this year’s Rockin’ Recovery Tour. I find reading this letter grounds me and keeps me in check and my hope is that by sharing with others that it will provide an opportunity to serve as a potential source of fuel for someone else’s commitment or re-commitment toward their own recovery.

Dear Addiction...

I know you hate me. I know you want me to fail at everything I have to offer in life. Fail at everything I try and do. Create havoc everywhere I go. To stop loving and to start hating everyone in my life. But I cannot let this relationship continue. You're selfish and it's been completely all about you from day one. You must understand my perspective.

I love life.

I enjoy happiness.

I enjoy knowing who I am and have finally become comfortable in my own skin.

To look in the mirror and see all my beauty is a gift.

Why would you want to take this from me? I don't think I'll ever understand. Truth be known I've been disappointed in you for quite some time. What started out as fun ended up becoming a nightmare. I believed you when you told me that you would take care of me. I didn't believe anyone that told me otherwise. Now I know all of your promise of ecstasy was an outright lie.

You are a murderer. A whirlwind of doom that wants me dead. I can see this now. How could I have been so naive to think otherwise.

UGH!

I know you will be stalking me. Watching every move I make for the rest of my life but I won't be paying you any more attention. So beat it! So this is our good-bye. It has to be this way. I will not accept any more of your advances or calls. You are pathetic and this whole relationship between us was a waste. It was all about you all the time.

Well not anymore.

It's become about me now, my family, my friends. You are now a thing of my past.

-Super Star

P.S You were never good anyway

I have to work hard and maintain a daily inventory of where I’m at in order to continue to combat the advances of my disease. Writing, recording, touring, speaking are all things I do to keep my eye on the ultimate gift of recovery. It’s a must for me because I want to live while I am alive. Not only live, but exist in harmony with all the beauty that surrounds me each day upon awakening.

I hope to see everyone out there on the road during this year’s tour as we celebrate National Recovery Month! 

For more information on the RSSS Rockin' Recovery Tour, click here. It’s guaranteed to be a rockin’ great time!

7 Principles for Dream Catching

Jul 25, 2012

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/4240a9fc89f343468f29969f2c65f7831.jpgWhen I finally made the choice to stop abusing drugs and alcohol something within started to come alive. It was like an awakening; a sense of being reborn. Passion seemed to spew from my heart and that positive energy became the fuel for my daily actions. I’m still maintaining that sense today and as long as I continue to put my recovery first, I will surely keep my passion alive for tomorrow.

And thank goodness for that!

A funny thing happens when you’re clean. The desire to accomplish prevails and becomes your new passion. At least that’s what happened for me. I found through working a recovery program, I was able to quiet my mind enough to hear the dreams of my heart. Following the steps to “dream catch” has taken me on an amazing journey; not always an easy one but a rewarding one nonetheless.

As I focused on my recovery program I have learned to pay attention to the effect of the emotions that surround me; allowing that energy to guide me every day. I have also found that listening to that quiet voice within can never lead us astray.

As I continue to accomplish my goals and move more toward my dreams, I have learned a few important strategies that I’d like to share with you. These are some of the fundamentals of Dream Catching and are the principals I now live by.

1.  IDENTIFY YOUR DREAM: No goal is too lofty or dreamy. Don’t worry about whether it makes sense to someone else. If you can imagine it and truly believe in it, it can be yours. First make a list of what’s important to you; a list of those things that make you feel alive and with purpose. Do it quickly and without censoring. This will help you to better identify your dream and allow you to develop the goals necessary to take you on that journey to your dream. Next ask yourself “Why do I want to accomplish this dream?” It’s important to determine that your reason for wanting this is to be living a life with purpose.

2.  GET FOCUSED AND STAY FOCUSED: Do something every day that puts focus on your goal. This will increase your odds of success and generate momentum. During the times you feel like you’re at a standstill and nothing is going as planned, remember WHY you have chosen to take on this task in the first place. If your reason outweighs your current discouragement you will find fuel to continue pushing toward what you know in your heart you desire. The mind and heart is a fascinating combination. Almost like a torpedo, if they have a clear and concise target then they will find a way to it. It just what happens.

3.    LET YOUR HEART LEAD: As I have often told those that work alongside me in my own endeavors, it is important to keep integrity, pureness and passion at the core of our operations. These three words stem from the center of my heart and have been applied to all that I have been able to successfully accomplish. The purpose is within the passion and at the core contains the purity of our integrity. If you lead with your heart, you will always find away.

4.  ALWAYS BE OPEN TO CHANGE: I once had dinner with a very successful multiple platinum musician who told me that the vision I have today might not be the one that comes to fruition tomorrow. I can recall him saying this to me and firmly objecting silently to his words. Never did I think I would eventually agree with his statement. But he was right and today what he said makes perfect sense. What we learn along the way during the pursuit of our goals allows us to become wiser. The lessons we absorb while turning obstacles into opportunities ultimately start to clarify our vision. When things don’t always go as we had planned, that becomes an opportunity to learn from it. I have found that every obstacle has had a purpose to me realizing my dream; I just need to remain open to the changes. It’s a no brainer.

5.  DON’T LET FEAR TAKE OVER: When you’re at that new next logical stage and you don’t know how you’re going to take it on, just do it and never look back. Look straight ahead and keep going. Fear is only as strong as how much you feed into it. Sometimes fear is actually “False Expectations Appearing Real” and we just need to plow through anyways because there never was anything that we truly needed to fear.

6.   STAY AWAY FROM THE DREAM CRUSHERS: Dream Crushers are others around you that may be telling you things like you’re crazy, you'll never accomplish that,or you're foolish for trying to do what you have set your mind at accomplishing. Dream Crushers can be those who don’t reply to your email or the seven voice mails you left for them this past month. Dream Crushers can be those that will not help you in any way even though at times they say they want to. At times I believed what some of these Dream Crushers were saying that entered my world only to later realize they didn’t have my back nor did they believe in my dream. That’s when I stopped allowing them to take my power. I now pay closer attention to the energy from others and distance myself from negativity.

7.   BE RELENTLESS IN YOUR PURSUIT: Dream Catching can have plenty of ups and downs and oftentimes more of the latter. Fuel can become scarce during these times of despair but if we are paying close enough attention we will see it as an opportunity to realize that it’s only temporary and take the time to delay, analyze and regroup. That’s when we will find new opportunities for refueling. Never stop trying to find a way to take the next step towards your dream. Patience is an absolute virtue in these instances. I have had instances where I would email and call individuals for one or two years before I eventually made contact. There is beauty in all these types of instances that you may see as hindrances.

These seven basic principles for Dream Catching are essential to follow while going after your goals. They are the key ingredients that helped leverage me into achieving what I have today. My hope is that you will read them, apply them toward your own Dream Catching and march boldly toward realizing a victory.

Image courtesy of stock.xchng.com.

Operation Mindcrime

Jul 16, 2012

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/ID-100689.jpgHow many times have you had this happen to you? You get excited about something, spend some time turning it into reality and then suddenly find yourself, as you near your goal, self-sabotaging your hard work.

I often did this during my years struggling with my addiction. I would spend hundreds of hours developing a new idea, building websites, learning programs and researching industries and then stop doing the work. I would stop because I would let my stinkin' thinkin' take over. My self-doubt and belief would dwindle over time and any sources of fuel that would once fuel me with hope and optimism would be gone.

My diligence with my own recovery as well as my work in the field has brought me to new heights. I have discovered while working on combating my own stinkin' thinkin' that I am my only obstacle. Today I offer no excuses to let myself entertain doubt or let other people's negative talk impact me in any way. After all, why should I? Why should I not soar where many eagles have landed once before? I deserve the ability to live out my own destiny and to conquer my own goals and dreams for myself.

The trick for learning how to embrace my own power was in understanding that I am responsible for my own spiritual, emotional and mental growth. I realized that no one, not even those closest to me could provide it to me long term. Only I have the power, choice and ability to plant my flag where I see fit.

I am powerful and a born champion. I wish I had known this earlier in my life. I believe that if I had, I would have made better decisions and would not have been so self-destructive. But having said this, I know that the lessons of my past have provided the insight and knowledge on how to move beyond all obstacles that stand before me because I have seen that I can; that I am indeed a winner.

People are obstacles. Many that I have encountered during my own professional work have been less than supportive with their encouragement. But it is not just people's negative talk that I have allowed to affect me. You see, I have been my own worst enemy at times. One of the greatest realizations I have made along the way is having the power to turn down and tune out my own negative talk. This chatter is the work of self-doubt. But not anymore!

Today, I approach things with a spirit that flourishes within me. And I realize that I have the right to set out to accomplish even the loftiest goals choosing to do what I have to do to see them through. The only rule I have set for myself is to be respectful to others along the way. Everything else is fair game.

I want others reading this to believe that they too are born with a certain power. That no matter what negative talk is in their head, to understand where it is coming from and then work to muscle their way through our brains operation mindcrime. I have seen too many examples of individuals living unhappy lives because they have chosen, through a series of their own personal stories, to let conformity win.

Conformity doesn't own me. I don't belong in a box and neither should you. Think outside of it, find what makes you happy and seek it for yourself because you deserve the freedom that comes from living a life with your own individual purpose.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Obstacles are Truly Opportunities in Disguise

Jul 10, 2012

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/042e95672af24c0fac25b1b3831a1ad51.jpgI believe perseverance is being able to walk through anything because one believes that all obstacles, no matter how big or small, can be defeated over time. Determination and resilience has been a staple ingredient to accomplishing my own goals and dreams. In fact, it would be difficult for me to think of any widely successful person, business or idea that did not come to fruition without perseverance.

When we run into problems or challenges, we have the option to either give up or to keep going, right? The decision to keep going builds our perseverance and makes us stronger and more capable to handle the next obstacle. I apply this thinking not only to my own professional endeavors but my personal ones as well.

My recovery has been quite the journey of ups and downs, but I have found beyond the valleys of self-doubt, the peaks of absolute clarity lie and those peaks are followed always by feelings of self- fulfillment. I have come to the realization that as long as I stay on the course of self-exploration and maintain a willingness to never stop trying, all of the remainder of my days will be spent sober.

For many years I allowed self-doubt to rob and steal many things including my own excitement from life. When I entertained and allowed this doubt to overtake my life, I was essentially choosing to miss opportunities for growth. The little thief in my mind had a big influence on my actions. Silencing that voice was essential to building a persistent mindset.

So how can you silence doubt?

· Make the Decision - There is a lot of power behind making a decision. When you truly make a decision to pursue what you want, resolve to do whatever you can to make that decision a reality.

· Don’t fear mistakes - We can often be afraid of making mistakes. I know I allowed this fear to rule my world for the better part of my life. That fear prevented me from taking action toward my goals. Mistakes can create awesome learning opportunities that are beneficial if we truly want to advance in our lives.

· Avoid Dream Crushers - Stay away from people who reinforce the doubting voice in your head. Finding people who encourage and support your goals can help quiet your voice of doubt.

· When in doubt, do it – Self-doubt prevents active actions. Action is the key to success. If you come across a situation where you begin to doubt your ability, take action to move beyond the doubt.

There are many different ways to accomplish something. We sometimes allow the little obstacles and excuses to stop us from reaching our destination. Instead of letting those obstacles stop us, find ways to get around those obstacles by using your own determination. My motto is to “turn obstacles into opportunities.”

Perseverance and determination have been key points in my recovery from substance abuse as well as everything else I can think of as an accomplishment. These qualities have led me to determine a path and then follow that path of my own choosing. I am grateful for little handy tools I have developed and hope that you too can forge ahead and never give up on becoming as great as you were meant to become.

Image courtesy of Master isolated images/freedigitalphotos.net.

Ignore the Dream Crushers

Jul 03, 2012

We all know a few Dream Crushers, right? Well, how do we move beyond them and closer toward accomplishing our goals and dreams?

I am a dreamer; someone who sits up at night conjuring up ideas. Sometimes they can be rather lofty and sometimes they can be simple. But all of them are approached the same way. First, I sit with the idea for a few days. Many times I come to the realization that this next greatest big idea I had just thought of isn't for me. Other times, I realize that it's an important one to pursue. I make my decisions to pursue a dream based upon the strategic role it can play toward accomplishing my other future goals.

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/fca5a71941d24b22acf0c452592d4f4e1.jpgDream Catching makes me happy. It gives me something to strive for while at the same time keeps me in a healthy place in my recovery from substance use disorder. I don't hold high expectations while pursuing them because doing so can lead to let down. But I do expect that I at least try to accomplish my aspirations and then be open to however it plays out.

How many times have you thought of a great idea only to have it shut down by someone that you have shared it with? I notice this has happened 99.9 percent of the time for me. Every idea or goal I have ever thought of and told someone about faces the discouraging words of a Dream Crusher. Their words, oftentimes negative, used to hold weight. I would give the Dream Crusher my power by agreeing that perhaps my idea was a bit too much to tackle or that I may not be well suited to take it on but not anymore. Now, Dream Crushers’ disappointing words run off my back like water over a falls.

So, how did I master the art of ignoring gloomy and dispiriting comments from those that I allowed to once rule my world? Simple! I say, "Well I'm gonna." And when I say these words, I mean it. I truly believe in my heart and only look ahead at how wonderful it will feel striving toward fulfilling my next endeavor. Because I have found that the power that comes from the belief in myself leads me to a feeling of confidence and the continued enthusiasm to live my conquests to their fullest.

When I was getting high during my active addiction, my dreams were there, somewhere in the distance. I never put any energy into them. I couldn't. My days were too busy finagling where my next drug was going to come from. But since becoming sober, this time has been expended on chasing my next dream to which I have so far accomplished every single one, despite what the Dream Crushers have said.

I'd like to share with you three things that I have learned along my journey of self-discovery and Dream Catching.

1. I will never stick a dream in my back pocket ever again.
2. I won't ever allow anyone to tell me I can't do something when in my heart I know I can.
3. I will stay away from the Dream Crushers but if one chooses to walk in my path, I won't allow their words to take away any more power from what I know I should be doing.

Try to stay away from the Dream Crushers, you can't change them. The only thing you can change for the better is yourself and if you do that you will change the world for you, for your friends, for others and possibly even for the future of all mankind.

Please enjoy this video presentation I created about this very subject.

Image courtesy of Kenneth Cratty/freedigitalphotos.net.

Saviors Walk Among Us

Jun 26, 2012

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/15a6e2031720467b93d1305db3ef01e31.jpgLast week I attended Canandaigua Middle School’s ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT year-end event and fundraiser in upstate New York. Approximately 30 teens with the support of a handful of school staff, administrators and parents showcased their talent while also raising funds for a student diagnosed with brain cancer. The ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT mission is Inspiring Responsibility and Dream Catching through Music and Art including the Branding, the Business and Community Service. The students at Canandaigua Middle School did just that last Wednesday night!

I had always imagined that the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT would be more than just a band. In fact during the last four years there hasn’t been a day that I did not believe in my heart that it would evolve into what it has today. I have envisioned over the years a type of club or project that unites kids and adults together encouraging students to pursue their dreams while paying it forward through community service. The evolution of the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT in schools has proved to become something that has an everlasting impact on all those who took a chance to participate.

But one thing I hadn’t foreseen happening was the relationships of support that would develop between the students, staff, parents, myself and other RSSS staff.

The school staff and parents involved with the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT at this school were very quick to acknowledge their own enthusiasm toward helping the students. And the adults involved also found the joy that comes from watching others achieve success through dream catching!

There was also a positive outcome we saw with the student/adult relationships through support. Relationship development with teens, at least in my opinion, is developed less through spoken word and more through actions showing a healthy support. I think at first, although enthusiastic, the students were unsure of what the outcome would look like from starting their own ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT in their school. After all, they would be the ones needing to craft and perform during its eventual end-of-the-year performance.

Fast forward one year later; it is show time. I drive to New York to participate in the preparations for this event and to see all that has gone into the planning of this, never imagining what my own end result from participating would be. The night was full of musical acts and artistic performances, self-published books written and illustrated by RSSS students, hand-drawn artwork transferred onto T-shirts sold to support a cause of their choice and parents and peers gleaming with pride for one another’s courage and talent in creative expression.

At the end of the evening I was called to stage to accept a gift from the students as a symbol of thanks for what they gained from the RSSS experience. One by one the students expressed their thoughts and sentiments for what they felt was offered to them during the last eight months leading up to this night. And as they handed me the gift all I could think of was how proud I was of these fine individuals who stood up and took a chance and were able to experience the benefits that come with accomplishing a goal.

I was presented with a one-of-a-kind handmade leather and copper bracelet they had made especially for me. The RSSS students then shared how the design of this bracelet represented what they gained from RSSS. They shared that the front copper plated design was a tree which represented my roots in upstate NY. And how other parts of the bracelet represented hope for achieving dreams, appreciation for believing in them, strength from sobriety. I don’t think these teens realized the ever lasting impact they have had on me as well. I will wear this treasure at every performance and reflect upon my experience with them and how they have inspired me as well.

A few of the students wrote a song for me called “You Came Along” and performed it live at the event. This was the true gem of not only the night but will serve as one of those moments in time that I can look back upon as a source to draw strength from. This was it, the deal clincher confirming to me that I am supposed to be doing this work. That the youth of our communities want to dream catch; they want to live with purpose and that we as adults have a responsibility to encourage, support and inspire them.

I’d like to share with you the lyrics to their song. My hope is that by doing so you too will feel the magic and strength that comes from watching those around us dream catch!

 

You Came Along

You came along when I was falling to pieces

You came along when I needed someone

My past was soon catching up with me

Before it was too late, you breathed life into me

This is our second chance

Life doesn’t have to be, a long-never ending road

Choosing our own destinies

I see stars of hope in your eyes

I am looking for you

Finding you

Somewhere wonderful

Still clenching onto your words that make me stronger

The scars remind me of my past

You have reminded me of what’s great to come

You see stars of hope in my eyes

I am looking for you

Finding you

somewhere wonderful

What we share is eternal

You came along showing me it’s never too late

To break the chains that destroy us

I am not afraid to fall

Saviors walk among us

 

Love Endures All Things

Jun 19, 2012

Sometimes relationships don’t work out the way you want them to. Sometimes no matter how much you see yourself wanting to mutually foster a relationship with someone, that desire is only one-sided. The other person for reasons of their own, don’t become more involved. There can be heartbreak coming to terms with those types of situations.

I sure wish that when I was in my active addiction my drug of choice, which I believed I was very much in love with, would have been like this; opting to not invest in a relationship. But that’s the cunning and baffling foundation of this disease. It can create a false desire for one to crave like none other.

In dealing with the human side of our world we can enter a place where emotions get complex. And sometimes in that place, I find myself not seeing things clearly and my thinking seems off when trying to connect with my own raw emotions. But lately I have been able to attach and understand them on a much deeper level of consciousness. This has helped me come to terms with those individuals in my life that would prefer to keep a distance from those that care about them.

I heard a story recently of a situation that reminded me of this. A woman was in love with a gentleman and for a short time she found herself living in a world of absolute happiness alongside him. But after awhile she backed off and started to become distant from him. Eventually, the day came when she pushed him out of her life almost completely. The gentleman messaged me and asked for some advice on how he could try to re-engage with this woman in an effort to try to relive what once was. In a series of email exchanges it became more apparent that this woman, who he also loved, just couldn’t handle being on the receiving end their love. So he asked me, “Why would someone pull away when everything seemed so perfect?”

Sometimes we come across individuals in our world that only seem to be present with us temporarily to share their love. Sometimes it is just a bad timing issue. Perhaps they have other things that are surrounding them that they think need more focus or maybe it just didn’t feel right for them. Any reasons they choose are to be respected. However, sometimes the issues may go deeper than the obvious.

Perhaps they don’t want to try any longer because they see it as a potential setup for hurt. There could be many reasons for someone to retreat from a seemingly good relationship. My reply to my email acquaintance is that I really didn't have the answer he may be seeking. But I encouraged him to hold onto his memories of their time spent together and remember her for the happiness that they once shared. Above and beyond that, it’s time to move on.

I’m no relationship expert but in hearing his story some emotions arose in me that I believe have been buried since that moment I took that first drug. Purposely, I have chosen to forget about many of the loves of my past. I believe this was a protective measure to avoid the pain of having to relive the moment when you feel you lost someone that may have felt significant. But the more I got to thinking about this story along with my own experiences, the more I realized that love never really goes away entirely. Love may have the illusion of coming and going but true love remains a constant to that source you shared a connection with.

I am grateful that my recovery has connected me to individuals that share their successes, their lessons and their challenges because in those stories I believe lie the things that matter to all of us. Things like love and the importance of a connection to others.

My lesson in this email exchange with this gentleman was realizing that as long as my own heart beats, there is a love remembered in all things experienced and there is a precious feeling that love endures in all things and that will carry me into my future.

Image courtesy of joeymc86/stock.xchng.com.

Trolling For Trout

Jun 12, 2012

When I was younger my father used to take my brother and me out on the weekends to troll Lake Ontario for trout. I can recall begrudgingly going because I would often get sea sick on those 4 to 6 hour boat rides that seemed like it took you to the center of the eternity.

Wave upon wave churning the boat up and down coupled with the hot summer sun and tasteless sandwiches seemed like such a waste of my weekends. Of course today they are reflected upon as some of the fondest memories of time well spent with my father.

Getting up that early on those weekends to do something I didn't care at all about seemed like an absolute waste of time. I am sure I would rather have been allowed to sleep in and do what I had wanted to do later in the day. But now I see that my father wanted more for me, although at the time I thought he was just really overly enthusiastic about fishing.

He never took naps and was always up early, but now I see clearly that he was a man who appreciated all that life had to offer. He just wanted to pass this thinking – the gift of life— down to his children while he had the chance.

Trolling for trout with my father on the weekend did have its moments. Those times when I would hear him yell "fish on" would be exciting for all of us on that boat ride. Would it be my turn to grab the line to reel the beast in from the lake's deep waters? How long would this fight last between fish and boy this go around, and who would be deemed champion because they would catch the bigger fish of the day?

Sometimes it would take an hour to bring in these monsters from the sea. Other times the fish would be victor and get away. But I see those moments today as special gifts. My father's own reward was in capturing those exciting moments with his sons and sharing his life with us. For my brother and me, our reward was seeing those times with our father which brought him happiness.

With each passing day, I am starting to see more and more how life is like trolling for trout.

There are so many different opportunities that await us each day. Some of them are enjoyable to obtain. Sometimes, just like on those sweltering days on that boat, baking in the sun, rushing to the side of the boat to find you sick once again, are life's opportunities and gifts that seem less enjoyable to realize. But they exist and there is no other alternative except to attain them, a gift within itself.

What's important for me and oftentimes serves as fuel to push hard beyond life's difficult ups and downs is knowing that sooner or later I will indeed see when there is again a "fish on" the line and I will reel that bad boy in and celebrate that day as victor.

Image courtesy of stock.xchng.com.

Painted Skies

Jun 05, 2012

As I look out the window this morning, I’m watching two birds nestled in a tree with the vast blue sky painted like their canvas. What a spectacular sight this is. This scene reminds me that there truly is a connection between all things and that we can find personal meaning in any situation if we remain open. 

For me the skies represent the abundance of opportunities that are within anyone’s reach if we just look. The birds have a dual representation the first being the freedom we have to be our true selves and the second being the need to have connection with others to thrive. Finally the tree represents a sense of home and stability with its deep roots planted firmly into the ground. There is a sense of joy I feel in this moment in knowing that we each are born with special and unique traits and our personal responsibility for this gift of life we each have is to give our best self back to the world. 

Both of the birds circled the tree until landing each on separate branches looking at each other and communicating through a series of chirps. Almost as if they are asking one another if this tree is the one that they will be calling home for now. I am fascinated in their exchange. In that moment I reflect on how this relates to my own life.

After 20 minutes, one of the birds flies away leaving the other sitting alone on its branch. She sits there chirping and tweeting relentlessly and I can almost feel her sense of urgency and panic of wanting nothing more than to see her friend return. Where did he go? Did he go look for another tree? Perhaps just left to go scout for food or another opportunity?

Becoming sober has brought me clarity and has opened the door to knowing that I have the strength and confidence to fly in my own painted sky and choose my own branches to land upon. At this very moment I am looking for the best tree to build my nest and will not settle until I know that it is truly where I’m meant to be.

Forty minutes has passed and the bird on the branch is still chirping. Forty-five minutes go by and now 50 minutes. Suddenly her friend returns to the tree. He sits upon a branch and there is silence. I can hear the wind blowing through the screen window and smell the fresh cut grass from the neighbor’s yard. I can see both birds appear to be relaxed and content. It’s a moment of enlightenment for me.

Even at the most basic level of our existence, all earth’s creatures have a desire to experience serenity and to be content in our environment. Humans complicate this with toxic thoughts and destructive thinking. The nonsense chatter that fills the space between our ears is only lies about our perceived inadequacies or deficits that we believe. And that is what steers us off course from our true inner desires and dreams instead giving power to the lies and not our truth. These two stunning birds don’t worry about things like having to use drugs and or alcohol to cover up their emotions. They don’t worry about what other birds think of them. They only care about one another and how they will survive … together.

The lesson in this for me was in the beauty I saw in this morning’s painted sky and these two birds. That the love of soaring to discover opportunities and the strength found in making our own responsible choices is what will lead us to our true destiny while realizing we were already whole and complete.

 
Image courtesy of Brandy Corc/stock.xchng.com.

Addiction = A life of consequences

May 29, 2012

A life of lies, deceit and consequences is the life I lived when I was in my active addiction. Life became insurmountable problems after problems. I stole from people, was arrested and sent to jail, racked up bills from legal problems, hospital visits and accidents and found myself in some very sticky and illegal situations. My thinking and constant need to support my habit led me down the road that I swore as a child I would never travel.

In my teens I didn’t believe it when adults told me that my partying ways could quickly escalate and cause problems for myself. No way did I listen to others when they told me that as a result of my drug use I could someday end up in jail or dependant on using drugs to such extremes. I wish that I would have listened.

During the times that I was abusing drugs, the consequences became tiring rather quickly. The having to say “I am sorry” to others for my actions were all to frequent. After 15 years I was exhausted, broke and pretty much homeless.

So what changed for me?

I knew that life’s ultimate consequence was not too far behind. Death seemed to already be knocking at my door and for this reason I had to make a new choice. I had to get sober and become healthy to give myself a second chance at life. I deserved to live.

Over the years I have run into individuals struggling with their own addiction who say that the problems that were created while they were using were undefeatable— that they might as well continue their downward spiral because there is no way that the pain of resolving their consequences is worth the pain of having to give up drugs or alcohol. Of course this statement is the disease talking, but I do understand what some of them may have meant.

Facing the challenges of fixing what we had broken during our addiction chase is by no means easy. For some, surrendering to recovery may mean initially surrendering to jail. For others, refraining from substance abuse may mean having to go back and admit to others that we did steal their laptop or we did do things that were completely inappropriate and life shattering for some. And although those moments of brutal honesty, sharing with another about our past actions can indeed feel overwhelming, there is something glorious beyond them.

The truth hurts at times. For us as well as those that often times are on the receiving end. But what I have seen play out time and time again is what happens when honesty turns to acceptance or at the very least, an acknowledgment. Truth sets us free from the lies and plays a part into the healing of our consequences. It has a way of repairing what’s been wrong into what’s now right and after time there becomes more peace within every situation that we may have to deal with. And that’s a reflection to become proud of because your heart tried to do the right thing.

Not every problem we try to fix when we become sober may have the outcome that we desire. But every outcome that we desire may have played a part in what led us to have to fix things in the first place.

Rebranding Sobriety, Personal Responsibility & Dream Catching

May 22, 2012

As I travel to schools across the country, I have been enlightened as to the magnificence of our youth. They seem to desire a belief within them to conquer their hopes and dreams. This is the message that we are delivering through our programs and it is clearly needed in many of the communities in which I have had the pleasure of speaking.

http://www.reneweveryday.com/assets/1/7/0d893542c15b471b9eea45c19e887a301.jpgBehaviors including bullying, drug use, not taking care of our bodies, self-mutilation and others are often a result of not feeling connected, aren’t they? We seem to be living in a culture where adults are more in debt, overweight, medicated and addicted than previous generations and many of our youth are struggling to understand what having a true and genuine connection really means. Texts, emails and other forms of communication like social media all lack a personal connection with people and overtime it has become apparent that this has had a direct negative impact on the development on one’s own social skills.

I’m curious about why more and more people are seeking something outside of themselves to fill a void than ever before. I also wonder if the students I speak to really grasp the concept of self-love; realizing what it means to love one’s self. And where has hope gone with our youth? It’s time to take back what is at the core of every human being; the need to be connected and one with our own species.

My presentations include three key points and at the core each point relates to having a strong connection to ourselves and those around us. The first is Rebranding Sobriety. I want to increase one’s understanding that substance use disorder is a progressive disease and that for some there is a higher risk due to a genetic predisposition to addiction. To comprehend that the consequences related to substance abuse come to those that have made the decision to use. I applaud the decisions of those that have decided to stay sober as we really need to celebrate with those that have come to the realization that choosing a healthy and drug/alcohol-free life is the only way to really live. Rebranding Sobriety promotes that “being sober is cool!”

Personal Responsibility is the second key point of my presentation. Taking a stand, combating destructive behaviors is part of accepting responsibility not only for ourselves but for all those that surround us. We get only one life to live and we are each responsible for our own choices. Personal responsibility requires respecting one’s self and others. Taking that next right step with everything that you do is what will pave the way for an honest and fulfilling life.

Finally, I speak about the concept of Dream Catching — encouraging others to find what brings them passion and go after whatever it is within their heart that sings to them. Dream Catching is about having the courage and belief in oneself to turn obstacles into opportunities. After all, the ONLY barrier to not realizing one’s dream is thinking that you cannot!

I want my message to convey that each and every one of us is truly remarkable and unique and we each have gifts to share with the world. And most importantly, that self-love, family and respect for others leads one to the life we were all meant to live.

Achieving Dreams with Less Than a Dollar

May 16, 2012

My recovery from substance abuse has taken a lot of effort; especially in the early days and months. It took effort in the sense of looking at my character defects, finding the strength to face them and make changes. This last time around, I knew I had to confront these things in order to stay clean. Looking at all those things that I felt and knew were unattractive and then learning to change my behavior so I could move on in my life. For example, I knew I no longer wanted to be the manipulator I became in order to support my addiction, so I took a look at that way of thinking and worked, drudgingly at times, to become more sincere, more honest.

But working on these things weren’t the only thing that I found valuable when focusing on maintaining a life of sobriety. What was just as important to me was looking at all of those dreams that I forgot I had once dreamt; of goals and ideas that I wanted to someday see become a reality.

As I forge ahead with my own dream catching and conveying the importance of living a healthy lifestyle to schools and communities this year I am living out yet another dream of mine. Every time I look into the eyes of a stranger and share my story with them we make a connection. They may sense I am extending a hand to them and see that they are not alone on this journey called life — to make them feel at ease about the sometimes uncomfortable subject of destructive behaviors and to provide them with the message that obstacles are truly opportunities in disguise. For me, doing this was once a dream and now it is a reality.

When I started the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT initiatives, financially I was broke. After all, I spent all my money on drugs for the better part of 15 years. But I wanted my sobriety and for me that meant pursuing things with a relentless passion because that brought me a sense of purpose and that I found led to more clean time.

I never saw being so broke as a disadvantage with regards to what I wanted to achieve. I saw it as an opportunity. In fact, I saw it as a character strength builder sort of thing. I knew that it was going to take a lot more work to achieve my goals and dreams and because of this I often had to reach deep, extremely deep, within to lean on my own due diligence and resources. At the same time, doing this allowed me to sometimes work indirectly on my character defects even when I didn’t know it. BAM! Talk about getting the most value out of your work!

Writing my book, The First 30 Days to Serenity: The Essential Guide to Staying Sober, took this kind of heart and willingness to push beyond the uncomfortable and using that time to my advantage toward healing. During that time, I learned a lot about structure and compassion for myself as well as others as I typed each and every word. But when I was done with my writing, all the publishers I sent it to firmly rejected those words. It seemed that no one wanted to invest in my story but that didn’t stop me. My dream was to someday walk into a Barnes & Noble book store and see my book on that store shelf. So, without a dollar, I learned the publishing industry and through a series of opportunities, I published it. And just last week I walked into Barnes & Noble and there was my book sitting on the shelf!

The same relentless pursuit was necessary with the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT Serenity CD, which features members from bands such as Kiss, Heart, The Goo Goo Dolls and more artists. I invested hundreds of hours’ worth of work to finally see its completion and on the store shelves at Hot Topic. From the learning of the programs to creating the artwork, to understanding mastering and producing music, to researching how distribution works and creating websites with code that I just didn’t understand in the beginning and then defining and putting in motion the marketing and promotion of this CD took a lot of courage; not to mention the insurmountable time spent working on videos, crafting emails asking for assistance and time from professionals to help me with the endeavors even though knowing that 99 percent of them would go unanswered. But I never gave up. I never saw anything but the end result within my day-to-day aspirations.

My accomplishments now include far more than creating a book, CD and developing relationships with some of the most prestigious substance abuse related organizations in the country. I am also now a motivational speaker, developed programming for anti-bullying and substance abuse with other professionals in the field, am a life coach for teens and creator of the very successful We Are One 1-4-1 program. This all started with less than a dollar in my pocket.

As the years continue and my days in sobriety increase, I have now become the person I had always felt I would be. Gone are those words that others used to describe me—drug addict, thief, broken man. I’ve replaced those words with recording artists, role model, author and professional. And I did it by avoiding the excuses and jumping into learning and exploration — all without a dollar and all without drugs and alcohol. For me it was the only way.

 

1 in 10

May 08, 2012

Would you agree that our choices determine our future paths? Choices are ours to make; some might refer to those choices as "free will." Our lives are shaped by every single one of our choices. Even those individuals whom are raised under seemingly disadvantaged circumstances ultimately have a decision to make regarding the path toward their future. People who are not happy with their life have a choice to stay on their current path or make different choices that will move them toward a future they desire. Choices are available for us to make every day. Yet depending on the choices we make they can take us far off from a prosperous road of health and happiness or they may lead us to a blissful existence.

Think about when you took that first drag off that cigarette. Or when you found yourself in that convenience store buying another 6-pack having the choice to purchase and consume these unhealthy and toxic substances. Or think about that time you found yourself participating fully in yet another unhealthy behavior, like an argument with your in-laws or family member. These choices shape us and after a while an unhealthy pattern can emerge if we are not aware.

Our patterns are formed by a series of these decisions, whether conscious or not, and can often be extremely challenging to break. After time we build an emotional dependency or familiarity on these patterns or habits and they can eventually begin to be the only thing that bring us comfort and the relief of stress giving us a false sense that the choices we make are providing comfort and stress relief.

One in 10 of us become addicted, which of course all started from that first choice to participate or not. Denial and excuses begin to set in for those of us that become addicted and we begin to tell ourselves that we must have another drink or smoke in order to continue our day. It becomes a means of survival and then the concept of choice? Well, it's gone. Our destructive choices become sane to us in a sick kind of way and our path of destruction becomes more evident.

The Latin root of the word, "addiction," literally means "to surrender." When we are addicted, we have given our lives, our happiness and ourselves over to our destructive choices. Society labels us and we become convinced that there's nothing that can be done to stop ourselves.

Addiction for me is defined as a state in which the body relies on a substance for normal functioning. Addiction is also known to be a psychological condition based on excessive, obsessive and compulsive actions. Once that regular user crosses the line into addiction the primary concern becomes their substance. Life revolves around the getting, using and finding ways and means to get and use more and there is no difference in the substance of choice once the person becomes addicted.

Occasional or rare use of drugs or alcohol appears to only show short-term effects on the brain and does not change its chemical composition. However repetitive or regular and long term use has a much different effect on our brains. The long term use of alcohol and drugs begins to literally change the chemical makeup of the brain and these neurological changes have a major impact on the way the user thinks and acts. What initially begins as a choice ends in an incurable disease of addiction for that 1 in 10 of us.

Once a user crosses the line of being able to control their use the effects that take place within the brain prevent the user from having the ability to control their substance use. It is possible for the brain to recover from the damages caused by long-term abuse, but that requires long-term abstinence from the use of all mind-altering substances. To begin the healing we have to come to terms with the idea of surrender and realize that we each are personally responsible for our own outcomes.

We have to face our habits head-on and discredit all of the excuses we've ever made regarding our use and seek professional help when needed. We need to choose to reroute our path, our thinking and with commitment and continuous consciousness of every decision that we make; we can decide to change our future and reclaim our lives from addiction.

Image courtesy njaj/freedigitalphotos.net.

To Trust or Not to Trust

May 01, 2012

I used to be a person who trusted everyone and anyone. If you said something, no matter how unbelievable it was, I believed it. I had faith in your words. Partially, I think that I was naïve in thinking that all others in the world were like me. That seeing someone hurt, hurts and that those that manipulate were nowhere within my inner circle of acquaintances. But over time I have come to realize that this is not how the real world works.

In recovery I have gained more clarity to the actions of those that surround me. My intuition has become intensely accurate and I seem to be ever aware of the unhealthy intentions of others. It’s often disheartening to see how others try to manipulate other individuals with their actions and words and because of this I have become guarded and evasive to even my closest friends at times.

But I don’t want to be.

So who do you trust and why do you trust them? And for those that you do trust, what would it take to undo that trust? Did the person you trust have to earn it or is your trust with them instinctual? Do you trust your boss to do what he promises? Do you trust your manager to have your back? Do you trust your teammates to share the load and the credit?

Courtesy Eastop/stock.xchng.com

Much of our trust for another is acquired through our experiences with an individual’s behaviors. But taking a deeper look I think our ability to trust another person or even a situation begins with what we have perceived from past experiences. For example, if your mother was reliable and fed you when you were hungry and had a loving touch that would never bring about anxiety or suspicion, you learned to trust those individuals and experiences that may seem similar.

On the other hand, if your mother left you crying in the crib because she preferred your older brother, you learned to not trust that you would be cared for by another. These types of experiences during my own early development surrounding betrayal certainly have shaped my specific expectations and because of this I am often and unfairly at times bent toward trusting someone or not trusting them.

Trust in a person, product or situation is a compilation of information and experiences and this data is squeezed through my emotional filter, invisible to the eye of others yet active in every one of my encounters. Sometimes that filter blinds me from danger; sometimes it protects me from it and since finding recovery from substance abuse I have unfortunately seen that I feel much more comfortable being protected.

But again, I don’t want to have to live my life this way. I don’t want to have my guard up or seem evasive in my answers. I don’t like not sharing as much as I want to at times with those I take an interest in. I don’t like having to wait until I see if they pass my internal tests. But for now, I don’t see any other way around it.

The reality is my recovery comes first. I protect it by being careful with whom I share my personal information with because the reality is that I have at times shared too much and have seen that information passed along to others with malicious intent. Whether it was done for personal gain or out of spite it has happened to me and because of this I often carry a shield of protection around me.

But thankfully today there are some individuals in my life that I feel I can share some of my thinking with. I do have close friends, coworkers and family members that I choose to share many of my intimate stories with and am grateful for their trust.

These individuals have inspired me to keep digging within and to keep working on myself and my recovery.

 

Creating Crucial Conversations at School

Apr 24, 2012

The demands within our educational system are stressed today more than ever. There is so much unpredictability with the economy and in politics that impact school budgets. The amount of teachers losing their jobs and programs being cut is mind-blowing. It seems that the programs   getting cut include those that have been a resource to our kids that need the support to give their best at school. There is talk of combining schools to save districts money. The climate within school districts has changed over the years and some kids now seem to be facing the challenges of increased academic demands and increased outside stressors with fewer resources available for support to move beyond life’s challenges.

School funding issues are affecting education and prevention programs, those very programs that were once a support for kids struggling with substance use disorders and other significant issues. How do we expect that kids will do their best on state tests with fewer resources? Not to mention, these tests’ outcomes have become a major focus within our educational system. Is passing these tests really at the forefront of some of these kids’ mind? Not when they are struggling with their own drug use, or a family member’s drug use, or domestic violence in the home, or depression, or bullying, or poverty in the home, or eating disorders — the list goes on.

These kids that are struggling with real life stressors every day are the reason why we all have to continue our efforts to support and educate our youth about the impact of destructive behaviors and just how far they can take us away from ourselves and our dreams. Our educational system is stressed at the seams and the fall-out comes back on the kids.

The pressure school administrators, teachers and other staff must feel in trying to manage those very things that affect programming and funding must be overwhelming. Realizing their only option is sometimes to cut programs and resources that provide support to kids who really benefit from them and need those supports to do their best in school. What has our society become where we rate our school systems on testing based upon scores without taking into consideration that there are other variables in kids’ lives every day that may impact a test score? I do not envy those working in school’s today with the pressures and limited resources they have to endure while still ensuring our kids are getting a good education.

I heard just recently that a teen passed out from anxiety caused because of the stress in having to memorize information for an upcoming test. And just yesterday I received an email from a parent who was concerned because her son has become so overwhelmed with school that he has started sleepwalking. The more schools I am invited to to share my message comes with even more responses from teens thanking me for sharing my story, for inspiring them, for bringing a message hope. Because of the messages I get after each presentation, I have come to believe that our teens are craving a sense of connection and to experience a sense of hope for their life. That there is a very real need to sometimes put the books and the tests down and create these opportunities for conversations.

I know for me taking state tests when I was in high school was more stressful than productive. It would get to the point that I didn’t care about the testing because I had other things that preoccupied my mind; other things that were way more important to me than some test.

I love going to schools and talking with teens about real life experiences for this very reason. Teensconnect on a personal level to my story because the story is real. Allowing kids an opportunity to connect to a message of finding hope through a storm drives them toward the possibility to see that obstacles are truly opportunities in disguise.

This feedback after each presentation has become a constant source of fuel for me to continue offering thisnot so typicalpresentation format to our youth. I have seen the inspiration and hope that comes from offering a message that targets teens and college age students on issues concerning the practice of personal responsibility and dream catching. They can relate to the stories I share based upon my experience; it’s not facts and figures that I share as much as stories that create dialogue for those crucial conversations and that’s where change happens!

Here is some feedback I received from teens following my presentation. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity to share my experiences, strength and hope to a target population that is starved to find the light towards their destiny.

Thank you for coming to our school and telling us your life stories and showing us some videos. I and a couple of the girls sat there and we were touched. We cried so much because we were touched. It made me realize to help everyone that’s struggling besides the people in your life, help anyone. Your stories were an inspiration to me.

You’ve inspired me to better myself.

Thank you so much for coming to our school and telling us your story. Although you had to experience that, I am glad you are so open to help others and make a difference in communities! I, myself, took every word you said into my heart. You completely changed my ways at life! Thank you so much, and I hope you continue the rest of your life on a wild journey, and god bless you for helping so many people.

Thank you so much for visiting this afternoon. Your stories were really touching. It made me realize that you should always help someone if you see them struggling. Whether it's a major or minor problem. My friends and I were very touched. I appreciate you taking time to visit us and tell us your stories, you really have courage to stand in front of schools and be strong. Thank you for coming!

Thank you Super Star! Your words made such an impact!

Hey Super Star, I just wanted to say good job. I thought your presentation was a lot more real than most presenters we have had in the past. I think you connected with the high school audience much better, too.

I just wanted to say thank you for coming to our school earlier in the week. I really enjoyed it and it was very inspirational and I think it helped a lot of people.

Thank you for coming to our school the other day. The speech you gave was very nice and has penetrated into my heart and was beautiful. Thank you!

Super Star, I can't say I've been through the stuff you have, and I can proudly say that I never will. Many kids in my school can't say the same, because they've succumbed to drugs & addiction. I enjoyed your visit. I will do my best to help anyone who needs it!

 

Why Couldn’t I Just Stop Using Drugs?

Apr 17, 2012

In the next 30 days I will be speaking to thousands of students, families and community members in a series of speaking engagements across the East Coast. These presentations are on self-destructive behaviors that include bullying, substance abuse and self-mutilation. I am looking forward to connecting the dots for many families and to answering many of the usual questions it seems many individuals have concerning these related behaviors.

One of the most common questions I receive is “Why couldn’t you just stop using drugs?” This is a question that many have voiced some very strong opinionated answers to. The answer for me was at first difficult to grasp, but as I continue to educate myself about the disease of addiction I have gained more clarity and find that it does make perfect sense.

When my evolution into addiction began, I turned to drugs and alcohol to solve my problems. It was a temporary solution for me to feel better. I felt while using I could deal with life. But as we know, as soon as we stop using the problems we faced still exist. I just woke up in the same world every day feeling weaker and usually with more problems developed from the previous night’s use. So then cycle continued and I would use drugs again to help me avoid the even greater problems I just created. This developed a pattern and my brain was becoming wired to face problems in this way even though I wasn’t really solving any problems at all.

At this point the need for my drugs became obsessive. The problems I created were now beyond my ability to handle and the reality of every situation and challenge I faced became too much unless I had my drugs to help me cope. I felt trapped. All the problems I had initially that I was trying to solve by using drugs or drinking seemed to fade from memory because all my new and larger problems were more significant. I didn’t care anyway; all I could do now was think about using drugs. I lost the ability to control my usage and completely disregarded the consequences of my actions. I sacrificed all my integrity, my relationships with friends and family, my business, depleted my savings account and lost everything else so I could just take one more hit of something. Drugs were the most important thing in my life.

Saying no may have worked for me in the beginning but once my addiction took over, once that pattern I mentioned above began to take shape, it became nearly impossible for me to stop on will power alone. I needed professional help.

The science behind this manifestation in my body is simple. Drugs entered my body and their effects quickly traveled to my brain. Although short-lived, these effects were something I enjoyed and my brain responded by substituting its own internal reward systems with that of the chemical compounds found in my drugs. Couple this with the by-products of drugs metabolizing in my body; well I now had a very serious problem on my hands. My tissues now contained amental reminder of my drugs and when burned off in my cells through stress, strenuous exercise, etc. they were released right back into the bloodstream and headed straight toward my brain, potentially leading to more cravings.

Over the course of time with my addiction I lost most of my natural abilities to handle life’s problems. The new pattern I developed to solve them were the only way I knew how to face the reality of life. I was re-wired to respond differently to offer solutions. My brain receptors were misfiring on false rewards and without an intervention to my thinking, I wouldn’t stop for anything. I became my own worst enemy.

Treatment and professional guidance was my only solution. I needed to be physically removed from my situations and the environmental factors that made it easier for me to get my drugs. I couldn’t say no any longer by myself without someone else saying no for me. Of course it was up to me to make the decision to get clean, which is a critical component that needs to happen to truly embrace recovery.  And for me as others often find, once that decision has been made to stop using, getting professional help is often a must to help rebuild the foundation of our life.

 

A Cyclops and his Chicken Wings

Apr 10, 2012

There once was a Cyclops who loved chicken wings. He would eat them daily, sometimes more than once a day. His favorite was buffalo and BBQ and if these tasty flavors were available he'd always order an extra few, including extra sauce.

He found that eating his tasty wings made him feel better. But in reality eating chicken wings to the point of over-indulgence was his way to escape from the feelings he experienced when he was around those two-eyed people who would laugh and poke fun at him. He wanted to hide from those people who saw him as different, people who he would feel miserable and alone in their presence. This is why he ate and ate his chicken wings because he could eat away his feelings of self-loathing and disgust, a masking of his emotions so to speak.

Then one day he went to the doctor as he hadn't been feeling good. The doctor came in the examining room and told him he needed to stop eating chicken wings because they were bad for him. So he promised the doctor he would. However once he left the doctor's office the thought of never having another chicken wing brought on many uncomfortable feelings and he wasn't so sure he could give them up for good.

So he continued to eat and eat his chicken wings until he was full from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. "There is nothing that is gonna stop me from eating these chicken wings" said the Cyclops to himself. "I feel better when I eat them because then I don't feel that I'm not good enough or feel that I'm different from others."

The bullying that included constant stares and poking fun of from those that would see him would often make him sad. This is when his eating went from not so good to very, Very, VERY, bad.

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng.

Then one day he woke up and went to the restaurant to order more wings for breakfast. He sat down and ordered his buffalo chicken wings with extra sauce and ate and ate some more. Then he looked over at the table next to him, it was then his fate changed and his jaw dropped to the floor.

You see at this table next to him was a group of Cyclops just like him. But sitting at the table was also some of those two-eyed people. They were sitting together eating, talking and laughing. He was puzzled because he couldn't believe there was "mixed" people sitting at the same table and seeming to get along. He sat and pondered for a second and thought to himself, "If I could just muster up enough courage I'd go over there and see if they would talk to me." Little did our Cyclops know that this is the day he would learn a very valuable lesson.

So he made his way from his chair and walked over to table and said "Why are you all so happy? Don't people stare because you don't all look alike? Don't people pick on you because you're different?" And together, all at the same time, the other Cyclops along with the two-eyed people said, "No, we are unique and special, we love ourselves just as we are and we know we have a special purpose in this world. Do you want to sit down and join us? We could get to know each other."

So the Cyclops sat down with the others and just like that he started to notice something different. He wasn't feeling self-conscious. He wasn't feeling less than. He was feeling that he found a place with others who accepted him. He found himself being a part of the conversation and laughing with his new friends. At one point he realized he was so comfortable that he remembered a dream he had a long time ago. It was a vision he had when he was younger where he wanted to be a drummer. And in that split second he could see himself on stage playing drums to some rockin' tunes. He started to see that he too had a purpose in this world and he wanted to live his dream. This was the gift his new friends gave to him and he was filled with gratitude. And you know what? He wasn't feeling hungry for chicken wings anymore!

This is the mission behind our work at We Are One. To promote a culture where individuality is encouraged and respected and where everyone is empowered to be true to themselves. Wishing each of you that are reading this realizes that you too matter in this world and hoping that you see your unique and special gives so you too can live with purpose!

Blind to the Decline

Apr 03, 2012

In today's society, it seems like almost anything now is permissible. You see it in much of our culture today. Values have changed and hope seems to be lost. Where did we become blind to the decline? Has this shift in values contributed to seeking things outside of one to fill a void, provide a false sense of wholeness?

I can remember when things were different. Libraries were quiet, theaters didn't have to post a notice to not use cell phones during the movie; that was a given and a sign of respect. We didn't disturb others through loud cell phone conversations and chatter. We actually had more direct communication — one-to-one dialogue with another. There wasn't as much public profanity; movies didn't seem as violent, nor was my Halloween candy rigorously checked when I got home with my bag of trick-or-treats. There wasn't a neighborhood watch in my hometown growing up and there weren't security guards or metal detectors at schools. It just seemed like a more tranquil and honest time. Violence, crime and pornography weren’t in our face and the news of it wasn't as easily accessible as it is in today's fast paced information-based society.

Today there is too much sex in the media. More suggestive movements, and poses and let's not forget the sexually-explicit comments and innuendos rampant through the internet, Facebook and other social media sites. What messages are these sending our young people? Sex and sexuality sells or is what matters? That's how we measure a human being?

We've moved into a society where both parents need to work full time; well when there are both parents in the same home. Not that I'm suggesting that one parent shouldn't work; but now it seems that it's not an option — it is a necessity for financial survival. Our ability to live within our means is a challenge. People seem more stressed and less happy in their jobs. I hear people make comments that "it's hard to get good help" and that "service has declined." When did things change around work ethics? While I understand the financial challenges today, it seems that there is less hope and less focus on personal responsibility and more focus on "what can I get." I remember the days when people did things because it was the right thing to do — helping a neighbor, being kind to others, basically not so self-absorbed.

Crimes have become more violent with less remorse. But I wonder, during the Great Depression did we have this much crime on our streets? Criminals seem to have more rights than police have power. Where did the hope go — caring for another person as if they were our own? Why would someone resort to violent crimes? Are they that angry or unhappy or depressed — are feelings of hopeless more prominent today than of hope for a good life. That's sad.

Our schools seem to be having to focus on more than just education today. It's no wonder 41 percent of the teachers Los Angeles wouldn't chose teaching if starting over. Some teachers even fear for their safety in America’s schools. Was it like this for me growing up? I sure don't remember having to go to school fearing the same things that kids fear today. Take a pill and feel better instantly, get Botox or take this and look young forever — the fast lane or nothing. This is the shift I am seeing in the values of our culture today. Who really is responsible for this change?

We used to value getting ahead through hard work, family, teamwork and most importantly hope for a brighter future. What can we do about the decline?

We should talk less about a day's pay and more about a day's work. We should never disparage menial or blue collar work. It's the way many people make an honest living. In school and at home we could teach work habits and ethics that stress personal responsibility.

We can acknowledge where we have played a part in this, take ownership and then model how success is due to instilling and maintaining traditional values in our society.

Our being blind to the decline in our social values has been simply a long, steady slide into darkness. We did it to ourselves because the focus became outside of ourselves which really isn't any different than why an addict uses, trying to fill a void with something outside of oneself.

Personal responsibility will help us regain hope. Reliability, honesty, good faith, fairness, manners, respect for property, authority, elders and ethics are the rules that I'd like to see resurface. Once that is done then we can recapture our innocence and each live with more peace.

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng.com.

 

Overcoming That Monster Called Fear

Mar 27, 2012

Sobriety was something I used to fear. I would find myself worrying about finally coming face-to-face with who I truly was without the drugs. Would I recognize myself? Would I be strong enough to handle life on life’s terms? Would I like what I saw? The chatter within my head would become all-consuming and was followed with worry and anxiety that quickly turned to fear of what I might see. And I would then find myself returning to substances to quiet those fears that I was so afraid to face. I was terrified of feeling my emotions and found myself scared of what might possibly be waiting around that next corner of life for me. Fear is what crippled me. I lacked the skills to move beyond this thinking that fueled my fears and led me into hibernation, into my den of addiction.

That was until I realized that those very thoughts that led to fear were something I could overcome.  It was the stinkin’ thinking I developed that I could break free from and release the chains that the fear had on me. This became crystal clear to me when I finally walked into the path of something I feared immensely — my recovery from substance use disorder. After all, not using drugs meant having to deal with my emotions and this is something I had worked hard to avoid at all costs. Once I saw the high price I was paying in letting fear become my life partner that wouldn’t let go, I realized it was worth everything I had to eliminate fear from controlling my life.

I have found that fear has always been at the core of what limits me; an anxious feeling of dread or anticipation of unbearable pain. A lot of times fear is “False Expectations Appearing Real” and the things we fear never become a reality. However it’s important to decipher between fear that is real and fear that is perceived based upon our thoughts. That is recognizing when fear is truly a “red flag,” a warning that something may not be right in a given situation.

An example is when you put your hand for the first time on a hot stove. You feel pain, an adrenaline rush, burning, throbbing and the next time you see the stove you feel fear. Your body is reacting to the memory of the past experience. But in learning how to use a stove and not get burned will help to diminish the fear because you practice safety skills in cooking. Yet if it happens again that you touch a hot stove, then it might be “OUCH!” But this time you don’t experience fear, only frustration in realizing you were careless and not aware of your surroundings.

Through understanding and experience we can extinguish fear responses. And we learn to release the hold that fear has on us because for the most part is truly is only our false expectations that we believe to be real. We find that by increasing our skills to face fear we can overcome it.

It’s the same thing that happens when we fear experiences that trigger emotional pain. Do you find yourself in situations that scare you and leave you feeling helpless or hopeless? Do you avoid situations or people because you are afraid of what you might feel? Is your fear rational or is your fear more the reality that you are avoiding facing a certain situation? That’s how fear grips us into flight, fright or freeze, leaving us unable to move beyond it.

Maybe because of things we have witnessed in our lives or things we have learned from the news, the TV or the movies we build scary monsters in our heads. Or we just think so much about something that our minds start to create totally unlikely horror scenarios of what may happen.

I’ve noticed that a large percent of what I worry about never really becomes reality. And when I began to take action against fear, life tended to become easier to face. The once challenging task comes off surprisingly easy if we just step up and take action.

Once we see that fear is fueled by anxiety and worry, it will become easier to see that there are skills, resources and support to help us in learning to live beyond the fear. Stepping out of our comfort zone and building a bigger capacity to feel safety and trust.

So go ahead and build your toolbox of support and resources to face your fear and start living in a world without any of those scary monsters.

Photo courtesy of SXC.com.

When Fear Consumes, Seek Hope

Mar 20, 2012

How often, when we face fear and troubled times, do we find ourselves to be completely overcome by the emotions? The anxiety and the pain and the worry then become the ruler of our lives. This has been a lesson for me personally and I have seen it play out as an ever-increasing cycle of trouble for others.

It seems like the more we worry, the more emphasis we put on our troubles, the more we try to handle all of it ourselves, the worse it appears to get and that only supports the notion that what we focus on expands. We can experience flight, fright or freeze while our fear increases and our worries consume us. For too many years I let them consume me and control me even further to the point where I couldn't sleep. I would toss and turn all night worrying about the tasks that seemed like burdens that I felt I had been given. And then of course I found solace through drugs or at least that's what I thought. My using became a means to escape what I was feeling and before I knew it, every facet of my life seemed out of control.

From the time I was really young, I used to hide from my fears that I let control me. I would seek comfort being under my bed surrounded by my stuffed animals hiding in the darkness and this always seemed to make everything bearable. As I got older, I would run away and escape via my music. If the music wasn't enough for me I would run to the woods behind our house. Or just outside to our backyard where I would cry with my dog. Or I'd sprint down the street to my friend's house. The fear seemed to disappear, at least for the moment. However, it wasn't until years later that I realized the strong connection between my fears and anxiety and my drug use. The anxiety and fears could never really disappear because I didn't have the skills to face them head on and move beyond them. Instead, they would always come back heavier and I'd feel even more scared and then turn to drugs. And then more drugs. That became a vicious cycle for me.

Despair, discouragement, sadness and depression can affect us all, at any time. And it is this affliction that when it is upon us we can struggle to feel that we can face it; we may even feel completely defeated.

So what do we do about it? When we are down and unable to stand; when we are discouraged and despair enters into our lives it can consume us with sadness and depression or even anger. We need to seek hope because that is where strength comes from. We need to trust that we will overcome the obstacles. We need to have faith that support will be brought into our life to help walk us through it. We need to understand that life's battles are merely a challenge to walk through and that with courage and support we will find a way through them.

One thing during my life's journey has been a constant and it is the knowing that love does exist. It can be found in the smile of my dog and in the whisper of the wind between the branches at night. Love embraces me even when I don't feel it and it is as pure as the icy glaciers. So much hope can be reaped from the love I have found within myself and because of that I walk tall knowing that I am now living the life I was born to live.

My fears don't consume me like they once did because I now have tools to face. I have embraced the understanding that the universe has my back and although I may not know where I am going at times I know that I am on a steady course to fulfilling the destiny that I was born to fulfill.

Photo courtesty of SXC.com

The Known and Unknown Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana

Mar 16, 2012

Synthetic marijuana has been available on the market for years now. I recall seeing this synthetic makeup of pot available for purchase behind the counter of smoke shops, gas and convenient stores and online sites around the time of my heroin overdose in late 2006. By 2011, more and more teens and adults were being identified as using this substance, which has been documented in increased ER visits throughout the country.

This product has multiple names, including K2, Spice, Black Mamba, Blaze and Red X Dawn. These were just some of the names I’ve found it to be sold under. And despite teens and adults all across America suffering seizures, paranoid hallucinations, tremors and other side effects of this very dangerous substance, it is still as legal as purchasing a Diet Coke. But just as the prescription drug epidemic has shown, legal doesn’t equal safe.
 
Many states have banned the chemicals to be found in synthetic marijuana, however, the makers of these types of products then find a way to craft the chemical composition to once again make it legal under another name. Synthetic marijuana is a topic you hear about frequently now. I see the subject appear on news shows and in blogs and articles often. This is significant to me because it shows that there is a serious concern over this product.
 
Marketed as tea, incense, or herbs, these products are sprayed with chemicals that mimic the properties of THC. Unlike marijuana though, fake pot cannot be combined with alcohol without making the person extremely sick. I don’t think this is something a lot of individuals know but as I have been researching, are finding out the hard way.
 
So what’s going to happen to those individuals who are smoking this synthetic drug long-term, I wonder? Since this is a fairly new marketed substance, the long-term side effects have not been well-studied or documented. This is problematic for me to even comprehend. I’d hate to find out later that there were complications that could have been avoided if others had just chosen to love their bodies and not allow it to be compromised by unknown toxins.
 
We are, however, already aware of some side effects of synthetic marijuana and none of them are good. They can range anywhere from breathing trouble, heart palpitations, panic attacks, hallucinations, vomiting, seizures, and in some cases, death. I’ve had teens share with me that they choose to use this substance instead of marijuana because they could get a similar desired effect and also avoid the risk of a positive marijuana toxicology screen result if they were required to take a test by probation or their parent.
 
So now we have a new battle on our hands--an addiction to synthetic marijuana.
I would like to hear comments, experiences or anything you have to say concerning synthetic marijuana. Leave a comment or a question and I’ll be sure to respond.
 
 

How Family Can Help

Mar 16, 2012

Because of a family history, Bobbi Kristina Brown was born with a greater risk for a genetic predisposition to substance use disorder. Her parents have had well-known battles with substance abuse and subsequently Bobbi herself has reported a history of substance use. Now the question that everyone’s asking … will the tragic loss of her mom serve as a trigger to further fuel her partying escapades?

I recently saw photos of Bobbi Kristina Brown smoking weed and sipping cocktails with her friends at a house party in the hills of Los Angeles. To see these pictures broke my heart. I see a long and troubled road ahead for her. The pictures tell a tale full of people who lack positive role models and are living without vocation. For many of them it’s all about the next party. I know this because I was at many of those parties in the hills myself; gatherings where complete and utter irresponsibility occur.
 
Of course it is not unreasonable to say that some part of her current situation with abusing drugs and alcohol, as the media speculates, can be attributed to her genetic predisposition to addiction. However, a genetic predisposition is not the only risk factor that can lead one into addiction. One must not forget that environment also plays a major role and in her case is evidenced by photographs of her with her friends smoking marijuana. Even if someone has all the ‘right stuff’ in their genetic code to develop an addiction, if they never start using drugs or alcohol, they cannot possibly become addicted. Unfortunately though for Bobbi, she has already chosen to pick up and use.
 
I bet most people don’t know their family history of addiction very well. Growing up, I sure didn’t. Addiction was not the sort of thing that we talked about around the dinner table. In fact my guess is that most do not. We’ll talk openly about family medical history or vocational history or relationship history but talking about substance abuse history is taboo. When in truth talking about all family history is worth talking about.
 
Once someone stops using and starts working a recovery program, it’s an opportunity for family and loved ones to start healing too. And for some, it’s a chance to tell their own story; one that maybe they have kept hidden.
 
Bobbi was not oblivious to her parent’s partying ways and for me it’s tragic that even her mom’s death may not be reason enough to get clean.
 
I see this as another opportunity for family and friends of those who suffer from substance use disorder to understand addiction better. To educate oneself so that they can identify and face their own enabling behaviors that inadvertently allows the disease to progress. It’s important to become educated about addiction because oftentimes those things a family member or loved one does out of sheer intention to support causes more damage than good; it becomes a shared dance with death. Most support groups for family members and friends of addicts, such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon are very useful for gaining understanding and insight that will help us make better choices for ourselves and ultimately our loved ones.
 
Do you have a friend who seems to enjoy partying a little bit too much? So many of us can relate to knowing someone who shows signs of substance use disorder. Learning how to support others in a healthy way either during an active addiction or in recovery is the best gift you can give another. That’s what some of my family members demonstrated for me and that was one of the defining revelations that I now reflect on to overcome my daily battle with addiction.
 
My hope for Bobbi is that her friends become her true friends and along with her dad, help her to see that the path she has chosen for herself could have the same tragic ending as her mom.

Why I’m Called Super Star

Mar 16, 2012

kris_on_stageWhy did I legally change my name to Super Star? I changed my name because I wanted more opportunity to make an initial connection with kids; to get their attention to listen to my message. I was willing to do anything I could to spark someone’s interest concerning substance use disorder, bullying, self-mutilation and dream catching. And well, it’s working.

To change your name, there are forms that need to be filled out followed by an appearance in front of a judge to state your reason for wanting to change your name. I can recall going to court to ask the judge in Santa Monica, Calif. permission for this name change. He asked me why I wanted the name Super Star. I told him I wanted it because I wanted to help others feel empowered to overcome the obstacles they might face each day and I thought this might be a great way to do that. After a moment, a grin appeared on his face and he looked at me and said, “I’ll accept that, Super Star.” So there I was with a new name. As everyone in the court room started to applaud, I couldn’t help but think it was my time to do what I could to inspire change not only within others but also inside myself.
 
The war on drugs at our borders and the fight against alcohol abuse amongst teens would not exist if we would focus on winning the war at our kitchen tables. That’s where these crucial conversations should be taking place. Parents can decrease the risk of their children using drugs by talking to them. Open communication, role modeling, responsible behavior and recognizing if problems are developing are key points necessary to create opportunities for those crucial conversations. This is the sole reason I changed my name to Super Star. I have been able to connect the dots for so many teens, parents and community leaders and have helped open up the doors to many crucial conversations about these important subjects and more.
 
The name change was an angle. I always work the angles just as my addiction used to work on me. I set up as many pit falls for my disease as possible. I hit the meetings; talk out loud about my problems. Tell on myself and extend a hand to others who need help as often as I can. That’s the story behind Super Star and that is the mark I would like others to follow.
 
So the next time you hear the name Super Star, don’t think of me. Think of yourself. Think of all that you are proud of; all that you want to change for yourself. Becoming empowered starts within—in believing that we have what it takes to move forward. Start taking the steps necessary to initiate change and then set your path in motion. What is your first or next step? Who should you be hanging out with? What research do you need to do to allow you to live your life responsibly from this point forward and accomplish all that you desire? Remember, we are all born with everything we need to become who we are supposed to be and if you want to become a Super Star, painter, poet or baseball player, you can. Just remember to always love, always encourage and never let despair get in the way.
 
 

 

The Voice Stolen by a Vice

Mar 16, 2012

Anyone who knows me knows that music is one of my passions. While I never bought any of her music and probably never saw any of her videos, the truth is that Whitney Houston had a voice unlike any I have ever heard. I truly admired this woman for her talent each time a song of hers came on the radio. The spirit in her voice was so alive, so happy. But for all of us who suffer from substance use disorder, perceived happiness is often not the reality.

Whitney Houston had a golden voice and shared it so that millions could enjoy. But just like me, she also had a vice. Her voice was beyond moving, beyond captivating. Her vice was her struggle to fill the emptiness inside with things that never truly fill anything, things that only mask one’s spirit. Her appearance was beyond striking. But her demons were tricking her into believing that all the good within her was never enough.
 
Yet, she still had a certain charm didn’t she? It made her seem relatable, and for those who have had an opportunity to be within her circle, approachable.
 
In 2000, there were reports that Whitney started missing performances. And reports that this woman with the amazing voice struggled to perform at concerts. The public started putting pieces together with reports that her behavior was fueled by an addiction, that those things once important to her were being pushed away by something else. That’s what addiction does. It replaces the things we love with lies, deceit and just plain ugliness. And then the truth was revealed by Whitney herself that she battled an addiction. She struggled to let go of self-destructive behaviors and unhealthy relationships.
 
I imagine it must be hard to be a public figure and struggle with the chains of addiction or any challenging situation when you’re in the midst of it. You’re vulnerable in public eyes, scrutinized by others who have not walked in your shoes; who will never truly understand, yet talk as if they do. People offering their thoughts and their judgments as if there is a clear and easy answer.
 
Whitney Houston’s lasting legacy will soon obliterate memories of her decline. She’ll be remembered for her amazing music that connects soul to soul. And for her skillful grace behind the microphone and in the spotlight that made her the queen of center stage. This is how Whitney will be remembered after the dust of her addiction clears. But she will also leave a startling message. Addiction can wreak havoc on anyone; there is no discrimination. Its only mission is to destroy. Taking a shot at everyone who lets denial tell them they are okay.
 
Whitney won over 400 music awards, sold over 200 million albums, had seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Top 100 hits, starred in multiple movies and has been called a hero in the eyes of many of today’s greatest voices, yet her voice has now been silenced by the chains of addiction. And the comeback that we had all hoped for is gone forever.
 
I will choose to remember Whitney Elizabeth Houston for the gift that she was blessed with, her voice. I am reminded with her passing of the gift I’ve found through my recovery. I will embrace my recovery as an opportunity to use my voice to educate others about the disease of addiction and through my story, inspire hope that there is a way out of the darkness.

Beefing Up Recovery with Exercise

Mar 16, 2012

kris_2Exercise can be crucial for recovery. Exercising daily has not only strengthened my body and given me confidence, but by adding a vigorous activity to my daily routine, it has also served as a valuable tool to release my mind from destructive thoughts. For me, exercise can mean many different things. Hiking, biking, walking, bowling, taking the dogs to the park or anything else that involves an activity where I am in motion is especially critical for me to maintain a healthy form of recovery.

While in rehab, we were shuttled to the gym five days a week. There is something magical and powerful about having healthy endorphins—which drugs could never provide—rush through your body as you strengthen and sculpt your muscles and work out your mind. The fact that the treatment center provided every opportunity for us to heal and thrive only proved to me that someone somewhere must have done some sort of study proving the benefits of exercise toward a lasting recovery.
 
Boredom is a very powerful stressor and stress is what often led me to drug use. Working out changed all that. I have found the gym to be a healthy and social environment. Social interaction is crucial for me. The gym is where I build relationships without the help of drugs or alcohol.
 
I had to separate from so many of my previous friends because they fueled my addiction. I was conditioned in a way that whenever I would see the people I used to use with, my brain seemed to release an endorphin that brought on an intense desire to use drugs. But at the gym, it is a whole different ball game. Being surrounded by health-conscious people is a supportive environment for my recovery and has become a very valuable tool in maintaining my recovery to this day.
 
Exercise provides an emotional sense of enjoyment for me; a personal satisfaction. I have gained a sense of self-worth and a better self-image that is reinforced by team encouragement and leadership while working and training with others. Exercise unites the mind, body and spirit by activating my will-power, motivation, desire, self-reliance and self-awareness. Gaining coordination over my thoughts, emotions and body generates a rewarding sense of self-satisfaction and mental strength. These are all the things needed to strengthen the foundations of my recovery.
 
I wish I had known earlier on in my life how fun and rewarding working out could be. How exercising and moving not only makes me smile and stay fit but can extend my life as well. I had no clue that so many of my life’s struggles could have been avoided had I just followed the lead of other healthier individuals. I chose not to because I thought I was invincible. But I guess that was to be my lesson. My body is not one to be challenged any further with toxic substance use. My mind is no longer to be wasted within clouds of smoke. Life is to be celebrated. My body represents life and my life is definitely worth living.

Escape the Depression-Addiction Double Trouble

Mar 16, 2012

happyIt’s hard to stay sober when you’re depressed. At least that’s what I found during my long struggle with depression.

Depression is something I had always struggled with. At an early age I was thrown into the world of treating my chemical imbalance through medications legally prescribed by a doctor. Eventually I learned the technique of self-medicating my depression symptoms and unfortunately this course led me down the path to an even darker depression. I lost interest in everything, even the things I had once enjoyed. Low energy, appetite changes and difficulty in concentrating became normal.
 
There is a part of the equation of substance abuse and depression that I couldn’t identify during my years of active addiction. That part is that my alcohol and drug use added to my depression. The chemical compounds that make up these substances are actually depressants. So at first, my use had me believe that I felt better emotionally. However, what it actually did was to make me feel even more depressed. This turned into a vicious circle, leading to more use. I was hooked onto the hamster wheel, trying to reach what I thought would make me feel better—yet never actually feeling better. I spiraled further into addiction and depression.
 
I have realized that it does not matter one bit whether the alcoholism or drug abuse came first for me or if it was depression. The bottom line is that I needed to treat both problems in order to recover.
 
I will always have to work on my addictive thinking. My stinkin’ thinking usually rears its head when I am feeling less than at times. These moments for me are often very brief and stem from uncertainties I sometimes face in my life. But what I have seen develop as a pattern is my willingness to look directly at some of my life’s problems and tackle them without procrastination.
 
After all, I did not know how to deal with my problems and that lead me to drugs, which of course led to more depression. It’s always the littlest of life’s problems that have always been the biggest challenges for me to handle. Things like paying a bill or the organization of work-related issues, such as finding an email because I didn’t categorize it properly. These are the things that sometimes seem hard for me. It’s these insignificant little things that I allowed to paint my picture of depression for me. But not any longer.
 
I have learned to look at my depression and addiction through the same lens. One directly relates to another: the same thoughts, the same negative thinking, the same tapes playing in my head telling me that I am no longer capable to live in reality with the rest of the world and that I should go into exclusion.
 
But through my willingness to look at these thoughts I have begun to master the technique to combat both. I now have the tools to understand that only I should be painting my picture for myself, and not a few stray thoughts that come from a place I no longer allow me to be a part of. The place where I stand today is one of hope and determination. There is no room for sadness or despair to cultivate depression. Sure, it’ll pop up once in a while—but now, it’s an option I’ll never take.
 
If you can find it within yourself to always love, always encourage and never let despair get in the way, then both your depression and addiction don’t stand a chance.
 
Image courtesy of Ohmega1982/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Heroes Never Die

Mar 16, 2012

markThere are so many heroes amongst us. Some are living, some have moved beyond. But all of them have inspired someone in some way. When I think of heroes I think of teachers, a great parent, someone who has left a positive and everlasting impact on someone else.

 
Recently the rock world lost a hero of its own. Riot guitarist Mark Reale passed away on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at the age of 56 from complications of Crohn’s disease. He was a fine example of such a hero: A man whose music inspired generations of musicians; a man who helped me find my way home multiple times when I needed direction.
 
Both my brother Rock Star and I are Riot fans. I recall the time when I first saw one of their videos on MTV. I couldn’t stop watching it. I loved the look, the music, the attitude. Then one day my brother took a trip to the mall and came back with one of their CDs. Their music seemed masterful and the fire that it created within me was always one to inspire.
 
Mark’s passing really hit home for me. Here we had a guy, who had battled Crohn’s for most of his life, working and performing while enduring almost constant pain and the side effects of treatment for his illness. Yet he always seemed to have a smile on his face. He didn’t sell a trillion albums and didn’t seem to care if he did. His passion was one for music. That’s all he cared about and that’s why we cared so much for him. There is a huge and obvious lesson in his story.
 
Living is doing something that you love. I am doing it now. That is something that Mark did. How he led his life has been an example of how I want to spend the rest of mine—working with others, to extend a hand and offering encouragement when needed and hope to inspire. I can only do this by following the heroes who have come before us. Mark is a hero and his legacy will continue through those who are willing to do what he had the courage to fight for—his own happiness. Seeing how he kept it until the end will inspire me to do the same.
 
I didn’t know Mark personally but I did have plans to contact him in the next few weeks to ask for his involvement with the next Rockstar Superstar Project CD. It’s sad to me that I can’t have him perform on it but beautiful to know that I would have never come this far if I hadn’t finally gotten sober to follow his example.
 
As I go to schools and talk to kids about the dangers of substance use, my message is about waking up every day and doing the next right thing. I tell them that’s how heroes are born. Eyes are always watching for the next individual to rise up and make a change for the better. There will be many more heroes born into this world, but there will only be one Mark Reale.
 
Shine On!
 

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Don’t Switch Off the Lights

Mar 16, 2012

When all hope seems lost, look around for inspiration.

lanterns
I am certainly not the first person to use this tool as a source of fuel for myself. During the course of my work with the Rockstar Superstar Project there have been several times when I felt like giving up because the obstacles seemed so great. But I never did seriously consider giving up my fight to spread the gift of sobriety to as many people as I can.
 
I believe the 15 years I spent fighting for my life during my active addiction had a purpose and I must pursue the vision that I was given—to inspire others through my own journey and encourage them to seek the limitless possibilities of life. I can’t stop; I need to forge ahead and overcome.
 
Sometimes my work comes at a cost. A lot of time is spent building the foundation of my dream, reaching out to connect and coordinate with organizations, contacting others because I believe there is potential for collaboration and sometimes feeling that others don’t see the value in what I’m doing. I realize that funding is oftentimes an issue. Politics may be another. Yet I continue extending a hand and reaching out. It wouldn’t be fair for me to stop trying just because I’ve been met with an obstacle.
 
The cost of giving up on my dream could be costing someone else their life. That’s the reality of addiction. That’s the reality of my pursuit to encourage others to love and never let despair get in the way.
 
I am in a place of transition right now. At first I saw it as an obstacle. But now I see it as another opportunity to land on my feet and eventually find peace at a place I can call home. My change won’t be easy but I must because the end result is worth it.
 
There are so many individuals who have beaten the odds because they stood firm in their quest just one more day. In talking with some of these people I have seen a common thread develop. They all seemed to have the same thought that if they gave up fighting for their dream, how they would have known that they wouldn’t have won the game tomorrow. None of us really knows, but those of us who think like that have all the reason in the world to continue.
 
This is for anyone trying to accomplish a goal; a business endeavor, a campaign, or a personal goal like getting an education, losing weight, learning a new hobby or starting a workout program. I’ll never give up hope because I believe I am doing the right thing; I know that I am.
 
I love looking to others’ stories of success as a source of inspiration. I enjoy hearing how they overcame the odds because they believed in themselves and the goals they set for themselves. How the importance of changing someone else’s life meant so much to them that they carried on despite their own feelings of hopelessness at times. I admire these individuals and am looking at some of them now for my own refueling.
 
When you fall over and get hurt, you get up again. And it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve fallen--it matters that you finish the game you started. If you stop after one defeat, ten defeats, or a million, you’ll never know how close you were to breaking through that barrier.
 
When all hope seems lost, everything seems dark and meaningless. Don’t allow yourself to enter that swamp. Don’t switch off the lights. Instead, turn them on and then turn them on again if necessary, and again. That’s when the shift will happen.
 
So for me it’s time to carry on, forge ahead and keep believing in myself because tomorrow could be the day.
 
Image credit: piyato/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The gift of giving

Mar 16, 2012

I can recall going to treatment almost four years ago for my addiction. I had been brought there wearing the same clothes that I had been wearing for a week. As you can imagine, this didn’t make me feel very good about myself. However, all that changed when my brother, Rock Star, offered me one of his brand-new t-shirts to wear while in treatment. That gesture gave me hope and made me feel clean, renewed and refreshed. It turned out to be a turning point for me. That was the day I realized that little things in life could be important in my recovery.

Recovery_tshirtI recruited past and current members from bands, such as Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Kiss, Heart and the Goo Goo Dolls, to help me spread this hope during the recording of the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT Serenity CD. The message within the music is about finding the strength and the courage to overcome obstacles and support those who may need the encouragement. The journey of creating project, and the music through it, has been one of constant giving from all involved.
 
I have seen how the gift of giving plays out in all facets of my life today. Those around me who donate their time to listen or to assist someone toward accomplishing a goal seem happy. When I give time toward community work, I seem happy. It’s a realization for me that giving something away truly does give one happiness and it’s this happiness that leads me to more clean time.
 
Recently, I thought of a new way of giving back--just as my brother did for me when I was in treatment. I believe that providing those in residential treatment with a branded recovery t-shirt would be meaningful, especially during the holidays. They’d know that others were sending them hope as they embark on the sometimes challenging, yet awe-inspiring journey of recovery – that they are not alone. So I am doing this during the holiday season this year and will do so every year during this time; to remind me of my struggle back then. So I will never forget the significance of the little things and how these small gestures and acts of kindness can lead to big things for others.
 
I am always grateful for my sobriety but am especially so during the holidays. To see friends and families come together to celebrate peace and love is a beautiful thing. I can see this now, thanks to the weight and value of my recovery. I thank my brother for helping me see the bigger picture.
 
So what are some other great ways to involve your friends and family in giving back to the community and helping inspire others? I’m always looking for new ideas! Ideas could range from small acts of kindness to larger family or business missions: whether it is sending care packages to soldiers, visiting the elderly or volunteering at a community center. Leave a comment and let me know I'd love to add more ideas to this list!

Excerpt from 'The First 30 Days...'

Nov 29, 2011
The-First-30-daysThe following is an excerpt from the book I wrote titled, The First 30 Days to Serenity. It is a look at the feelings and emotions that one can experience, especially in the early stage of recovery. It was difficult to write, yet healing at the same time. And I am hoping that by sharing my vulnerabilities and experiences during those moments, someone else will find strength to conquer another day sober.

It was also written for those struggling to understand addiction so that they can better possibly have insight into this disease that is fueled by stinkin' thinkin’. As much as alcohol and drug addiction is a disease that affects the mind and body, it also is a disease that affects the whole family.

One family member with drinking or drug problems means the whole family can suffer. So for those who think addiction is contained to the individual, with the family playing merely a support role, it should be made clear that addiction is a family problem. It impacts the stability of the home, the family's unity, metal health, physical health and overall family dynamic. And the family dynamic will gradually unravel unless its members get the help and support they each need.

For You, for Me and as a Goodbye to Dependence on Drugs and Alcohol
Day 2

It's almost 1 p.m. when I wake. Last night's late arrival made a great excuse for me to sleep in. I open my eyes to see my girlfriend. She is still tired from waiting up for me. I get up and decide the first thing I need to do is call my brother to assess yesterday's damage. I need to know how he's feeling. I want to know what transpired after I left. This call holds nothing but sheer misery for me, but I can't go forward until I know where I stand.

I'm banking on him not answering. He is probably still upset. I know I am. How could I have done this? I already miss him. I'm so very remorseful. I pick up the phone to call, and I was right.

He doesn't answer.

It's doubtful that it's because he's still sleeping. It's a choice; the same one I'd most

 

Like all addicts, I'm crafty when I need to be 

likely make if I were him and he were me. I don't leave a voice mail. I'll just send him a text, wait it out, and hope for some sort of reply. I'm hanging on to any shred of hope that perhaps he's not as upset as I am thinking he is. Let's be honest, this way I can see if I can manipulate my way back to California.

I don't know how I can do that, but like all addicts, I'm crafty when I need to be and my only hope is for him to call back soon. I have questions that I feel need to be answered. No, I actually demand that they be answered. If they're not, I'll allow them to ruin my day, because that's what I always do. My self-pity is a game that has to stop, but it's easier said than done. As much as I have the desire and willingness to take responsibility for my actions, I still find it difficult. It's just so much easier to place the blame elsewhere. My addictive personality drives me straight here because of the damage my poor brain has endured from the drugs. I'm fine-tuned now to always search for the easy way out, an escape route that leaves me the possibility that I could go out and do more drugs.

Shit, I know this, and in a few weeks I'll hopefully be back to that place where my thoughts can be handled differently and effectively. I'm struggling, and with it comes the distracting thinking that allows room for nothing other than wondering what the hell my brother must be thinking at this very moment.

And that isn't good.

As much as I need to be reviewing and pondering the whirlwind of doom that I just created for myself and others, I also need to be fighting the grip of this addiction. Being this way always pulls me back and into a downward spiral, straight into another relapse. It's a fine line to walk. I know it's necessary to feel this remorse, but it's also important that I stay positive and in the moment. It's in this moment, right now, that I can begin the rebuilding process. If I concentrate and remain too much in the past, I'll never get to that place I need to be. This sobriety is a horse, and it's essential that I once again learn how to ride it.

But right now, in this moment, I'm not that strong. My thinking goes back to the many questions: Can this damage I have caused ever be undone? How long will I be here? I know Cindi said it would just be for a few days, but now 24 hours down the line, is this still what she is thinking? Would she want me to stay here longer? And if she does, do I have the right to demand my clothes be shipped to me?

God damn it! Why didn't my brother answer the phone? I want my questions answered now. Trust me, I am aware of how amazingly selfish I am being, but I don't even care. This is how I always feel the day after I relapse—poor me and screw everyone else. My moment of clarity has been lost. Can't anyone see that I'm the victim here? The grip from the drugs is far too powerful for me to escape at this weak and weary moment. I'm knee deep in my illusions, thinking that placing the blame on anyone else right now is completely acceptable. It's this poor me attitude that clearly proves my disease is looking for any way out right now. Any excuse I can find to go back out and use will be taken seriously. My disease seems to whisper, "It can't get any worse right now anyway." However, something makes me stop.

Reality-check time.

I snap back into the moment. Thank God I am aware that it can get worse and it surely will if I decide to pick up that crack pipe again, just like it has gotten worse each and every time I've lost a hand against this formidable opponent. I have to get up and out of bed, stomp out these feelings of selfishness and somehow shake my woe is me attitude. I have to focus on today, right now, in this moment. My brother will call later. If he doesn't, he'll call tomorrow.

And if he doesn't, of course I know I have the ability to call him.

My girlfriend works for her dad almost every day. She tells me that she has no choice but to go to work this evening and I instantly feel the fear creep in. Is she really going

 

The hardest moments for an addict are always this darkness that blocks the way of the dawn

to allow me to stay home alone right now? I know she's not my keeper, but couldn't she put off work for one day to make sure I'm all right and hug and console me when I need hugs and consoling? I don't expect her to miss work, but it's beyond difficult to maneuver the early days after a relapse all alone. I feel so badly about myself. So horrible. So worthless. The hardest moments for an addict are always this darkness that blocks the way of the dawn.

I know Amanda wants nothing more than to help me. At the same time I know that from her perspective, showing even the slightest ounce of co-dependency or enabling on her part would be more detrimental to me and my recovery in the long run, so it's best that she goes to work. My past experiences have shown me that I would use this for malicious and manipulating purposes anyway which just leads back to that grueling, gripping place scattered with relapse and addiction.

However, a hug before she leaves would sure be nice.

I'll be okay. I'll use this time to reach out and make some phone calls to my friends back in California because even their long distance connection will help right now. But in a flash my feelings change. They always do. I'm an addict and like most addicts we can change the way we feel in an instant. It's a warped and twisted coping mechanism but even so I suddenly look forward to this evening alone. I feel strong in the fact that I've had no cravings this afternoon and even if I did, I'd have no way to leave the house. Amanda has the car and let's not forget that I gave her the money in my wallet last night and I'm damn glad that I did.

In an odd way I feel blessed. The other night's relapse hadn't happened in order for me to fulfill any cravings that I may have been having, because in reality I hadn't had any in quite some time. I got high just for the sake of getting high; that gnarled desire to get fucked up. I didn't want to be sober; it was so hard to be sober. I wanted to cope the easy way, the way that would get me through the day and through whatever feelings I was trying to cover. I'm never sure what feelings and emotions I'm running away from, but ultimately, that's the essence of why I do drugs, therefore it has to be for that reason and that reason alone.

Doing drugs is no longer for fun or recreation. It's my medicine and the other night I needed it. But what kind of moron takes medicine that can kill you in an instant? An addicted one, that's who. Despite the fact that I recently stopped working as a computer consultant (a job I never enjoyed) to start new ventures that I did enjoy and was living in Malibu, California, which I adore, I still found myself running away from something. But what? My rent was paid, my food bought for me and my designer clothes were given to me for free by my brother. Success in whatever I was ultimately going to end up doing for a living was eminent. After all, I was living in the entertainment capital of the world. What else could someone ask for?

We know we're going to get caught sooner or later. We want to be caught. We want help.

As obvious as it sounds, I now know that money does not buy happiness. What it does do is give an addict the ability to buy more drugs. All the good things that had filled my life were taken from me by the worst of thieves - myself. This is how strong the allure of my drug of choice is to me. What makes me even more disgusted and humiliated is the fact that I didn't understand that I was, without question, going to get caught. Oh, I knew it, but only on a subconscious level; not a conscious one. We know we're going to get caught sooner or later. We want to be caught. We want help. I knew I'd eventually lose everything I'd worked so hard to gain and truly cherished. It was just a matter of when. This alone demonstrates the sheer, raw power of my addiction. Everything I just mentioned easily fit into my crack pipe, and with one exhale, was blown out into a cloud of smoke. Now I am here, in Chicago, paying the price with this all-consuming unhappiness. Gone is the magnificent sound of the ocean and present is the sound of the train picking up people to take them to work with the dawn of a new day.

My brother calls. Apparently in order to get away he's flown to Alabama and is now at the racetrack with his future father-in-law. He doesn't want to talk to me and tells me so right off the bat. I know he's disgusted with me and hearing this in his voice is painful, and I can't take a whole lot more pain. Just a few seconds into this conversation I tell him that it's me who doesn't feel like talking. I am sickened with myself and I am sick of feeling this awful disgust that's way too familiar. I feel gross and the only good is that maybe, somehow, this will serve as the last time and I'll never be here, this low, again.

I am still too ashamed to make contact with Cindi. I don't want to think about what is going on in her head and my thinking is imbalanced. The few hits of crack from the other night have robbed me of logic. I'm in and I'm out. My feelings of resentment toward Marc and Cindi for sending me away are of course unwarranted. They had every right to banish me from their well-ordered life, but I know it's my addiction doing the thinking for me. After all, every ounce is my fault and it's very important to keep telling myself this. I have to, because the moment I stop remembering who got me here, it becomes someone else's fault
.
Amanda decides that she doesn't want any part of me today. I spend the day on the patio, wallowing in self-pity, reviewing and wondering where exactly it was that I went so wrong. Hours go by and I attempt to escape by renting a movie; a light one that will pick me up so I once again know what it feels like to crack a smile. I choose a comedy; a lousy one. How fitting, even though there probably isn't a movie on the planet that could make me laugh right now. Chicago has never been good for my mood and I am in Chicago—in a basement, away from my twin brother, unsure of how long I'll have to remain. I am an ungrateful, whiny bitch right now, and it's every single person's fault except my own.

I go to bed alone.

I don't know where Amanda is.

I don't care.

Three feeling check-in: angry, remorseful and disgusted.

One-year-later Reflections

Stinkin' Thinkin’
  • I am fully aware that I didn't want to be in Chicago and would do whatever I could to get back to California. I even stated that I wanted to manipulate my brother into allowing me back if that opportunity presented itself. Manipulation is what we addicts do best. It's how we survive in the world. If you find yourself trying to manipulate anyone for any reason, a relapse could be close behind.
  • It's crazy to think that just 24 hours prior I was in a better place mentally than during this day. Why do I feel entitled to have my questions answered today when just yesterday I was willing to do anything to appease everyone around me? In this question lies the answer. It's obvious that my sobriety is not yet for myself. It needs to be in order for me to find success, but it's obvious that during this moment my disease was looking to play "the blame game".
  • I went to bed angry and ungrateful blaming others. Anger and self-judgment have always been a reason for me to go out and use. Know what your emotional triggers are. Recognizing them as triggers is the starting point toward better understanding them and processing them so that they no longer fuel your addiction. It's important to utilize resources to learn different ways to cope with emotional triggers.

Sober Thinking
  • Although I own up to being responsible for the damage I caused, it's hard for me not to feel bad for myself without using that as a tool for manipulation. If people think I'm sad they will feel bad for me, and I will use that power for malicious purposes. It's great that I acknowledge that the self-pity has to stop. It's always easier said than done, but at least I'm thinking in that direction.
  • It's good that I recognize that as much as I want to fix things and understand what's going on in my brother's head, I MUST stay in the moment and focus on staying sober. I go in and out of being able to do this today, but I am aware of its importance and that's a start.
  • I realized that asking Amanda to stay home when I was not having a craving would've been selfish. Do not expect anyone to be your babysitter. Babysitting an addict would be a form of enabling. It's so important to know that if you're in the midst of a craving, tell someone in any way you can. If one person won't listen, then the next will. If they need to stay with you until the moment passes, this is not a form of babysitting. This is saving your life. It's a fine line, but there is a difference between the two. Don't be afraid to ask for the help.
  • I'm still too ashamed to call Cindi or to talk to my brother when he finally does call. Don't let shame turn into depression. Just feel ashamed. Feel dirty and feel the remorse. As soon as you appreciate it for what it is and understand that it won't last, you will find you're already rebuilding your relationship and your own self-respect.
» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here
 

 

I Am an Addict ...

Nov 22, 2011
An addict is someone who cannot control or stop an activity despite experiencing adverse consequences from the activity. And in seeing how my drug addiction was directly related to my stinkin’ thinkin’, I have been able to see that all addiction is related to thinking. The key to recovery for me was in addressing my biggest issue…my thinking. I used to think that being addicted only meant to drugs or alcohol. Since finding recovery, however, I have seen that addiction comes in many forms.

While I was addicted to the chemicals that made up my drugs, I have also seen that I was addicted to the behaviors around getting and using them—sometimes that was more of the chase than the actual use. While I am no longer ingesting any mind-altering substances, I see where the addictive thoughts, or stinking thinking, displays the same symptoms as my past abuse of drugs and alcohol through other behaviors—presenting consequences and sometimes lots of them!

Addiction Has Many Faces
Addiction presents itself through many faces. Like, for instance gambling. Most people who engage in gambling do it for fun. They are able to set limits so they don’t over spend or become preoccupied with it. But for others, gambling becomes more of a way to seek thrills or as a means to escape, exhibiting consequences like increased time away from family or loved ones, financial debt and more.

I find I always have to work on my behavior around this type of addiction. For example, I have observed my addiction to food to be something of an issue.

We all eat to live. Some people however, live to eat.

They crave and eat even when they are not hungry and oftentimes eat more food than what they need when they are depressed or, as in my case, even when I become excited about something. I just eat because it gives me pleasure. The problem, though, is this pleasure can lead to obesity, heart disease and/or other serious health issues.

Relationships can become another form of addiction. Seeking out others' presence in our, life thinking we’ll feel better or be complete. And this can be coupled with co-dependency by placing the other person before our own needs. This is something I have become aware of throughout my teen and adult life and chosen to do some work around. The payoff is that becoming aware and working on this issue has brought healthier relationships into my life.

Too Much Work Can Be Unhealthy, Too
I've been called a “workaholic.” My passion and work ethic for all things ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT-related has been considered by some as an addiction in itself. Although this may seem like a good and healthy outlet in life, becoming a workaholic can lead to serious consequences. I often have to be mindful of my workload and realize if I let my work become unhealthy, it can present consequences, too.

Many people know I love to exercise. But even something that’s considered healthy can become unhealthy if you find yourself doing it compulsively. Overtraining is something I have to be mindful of. It can be easy for me to justify going to the gym twice a day but doing so would not be healthy for me. Excessive training can lead to fatigue, malnourishment and over-exertion on limbs and muscles, making them prone for injury.

And then there is video-game addiction, computer addiction, shopping addiction and more. All have the potential to lead to some detrimental consequences as the other forms of addiction mentioned above.

Understanding that one’s behavior can cause serious consequences, and becoming aware of them as they unfold, is the first way to combat the stinkin’ thinkin’ and move towards healthier thinking, which goes hand in hand with healthy behaviors.

So if you think you, or a family member, might be addicted to a substance, activity, object or behavior, please talk to someone—your physician, a counselor, a friend who has healthy boundaries—or seek out a support group for the problem. And do it today!

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here.
 

What Choice Will Your Teenager Make?

Nov 15, 2011
So why do underage students drink? Well the list of reasons can be plentiful. Maybe it’s the lack of self-esteem. Perhaps it is the lack of understanding that drinking alcohol isn’t a game and can be life-threatening. Another reason might be described as peer influence, but of course that might not be 100 percent accurate. If a person refuses to drink, they’re probably not going to be forced by anyone. Instead, their fellow drinking friends will probably feel “there’s more for me anyway.”

In many instances, students start to drink because their friends are doing it and they might not want to feel left out. Or they might feel they’re missing out on something by not getting drunk with their friends. That’s what I am hearing from teens as I travel the country speaking at schools on this issue. It’s probably a combination of reasons, really, but the reality is once someone has taken their first drink, chances are it won’t be their last and for that unfortunate one in 10 of them; the risk of becoming addicted becomes a reality.

Alcohol itself isn’t the issue. The abuse of alcohol is the problem. Teaching about

We must educate our teens about the danger of substance abuse early to prepare them for the day when they are legally able to consume an alcoholic beverage responsibly

substance abuse and responsible use does not require that a student actually consume an alcoholic beverage any more than teaching students world geography requires them to visit Asia or teaching them politics requiring that they run for public office.

We must educate our teens about the danger of substance abuse early to prepare them for the day when they are legally able to consume an alcoholic beverage responsibly. Because either drinking in moderation or not drinking at all is an equally acceptable option for adults, and we must prepare our youth for either choice. To do otherwise is both irresponsible and ineffective and can lead to even more individuals suffering from this ever-increasing epidemic.

When I talk to students, I focus on responsibility because I feel that no-use messages can be less effective in getting the teens to actually hear the message. Responsibility is waiting until you are of age to consume an alcoholic beverage. Responsibility is not taking or handing your underage friend a beer because you don’t know what Pandora’s Box you might be opening up for them if you do. Responsibility is paying attention to the warning signs of a potential problem. This of course would include dependence issues, drinking and driving, mental and physical abuse to others as well as self, and other serious behavior changes, decisions and consequences.

Our youth are too important and the stakes are too high to not engage these students in a crucial conversation on the importance of drug and alcohol abuse and dependence. To ignore it or sweep the issue under the rug and pretend that it doesn’t exist will not only lead to more young lives lost but more young lives to face an absolutely unnecessary struggle to regain their life back years later.

So if a friend of your teenager offers them something to drink at a party what decision do you think they will make? You have influence, so help keep your kid above it.

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here.
 

It's How You Say It

Nov 08, 2011
 It’s not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it!

It’s important to be open to talking about things, even those things that bring up concerns or an uncomfortable feeling for you. Sometimes situations can feel off in regards to a personal, or even a business, issue. But just because something may seem off doesn’t necessarily mean that what you’re feeling or sensing is accurate.

Having resentment build is something I would have used in the past as an excuse to make irresponsible choices in my life

Keep in mind that it’s not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it! I notice this happens for me. I say something and all of a sudden I find out that it is interpreted completely different than how I meant it. This then has put me in a defensive mode where sometimes utter chaos erupts for no reason at all.

Open communication is effective communication and is essential for my well-being today.

Resentment
I am not a fan of resentment. Having resentment build is something I would have used in the past as an excuse to make irresponsible choices in my life; from drug and alcohol abuse to lying or being manipulative. Many of my most resentful moments were created from stories by me based on a perception that I later found wasn’t reality. I imagine this happens for many others as well.

With people who are close to me both professionally and personally, I have learned how important effective and open communication is. It not only can stop the stories and resentment about things and situations in our lives that may not be absolute truth but it can also strengthen the relationships in the process. That’s how I have currently seen the power of communication—and just plain, old talking—play out in my world.

So make time to talk to those individuals that surround you about the things or emotions you are struggling to understand. And don’t assume anything! It’s impossible to know what the other party has on his or her mind without actually hearing them say it.

Address Concerns In Person
And if what you heard is said in a manner that raises a red flag, then address this concern immediately in person and not through email or text. These other forms of communication have the potential to leave room for a message to be misconstrued. It’s better to just ask while you are in the moment. Asking helps to eliminate wrong guesses or false impressions and prevents you from taking up time focusing on things that aren’t reality when you could be spending time moving forward.

Remember, it’s not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it! So be aware of your tone or motive. Pay attention to where your words might be coming from as it pertains to a situation. Speak clearly and approach topics using examples that can better help the listener understand your intentions. And then follow through with actions that match your words so that in the future these occurrences of misinterpreted messages will become less frequent.  You’ll find that over time these misunderstandings will become a thing of the past!

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here.

 

Obstacles: Opportunities in Disguise

Nov 01, 2011
I never would have imagined that someday I would see that obstacles are really opportunities in disguise. That’s because I had been conditioned at an early age to see them mostly as walls or dead-ends. In school I wasn’t really trained to work the angles, and at home and in my community, all I had been exposed to were stories of "woe is me" and self-pity. Because of this, I was often the first to throw in the towel if a problem were to present itself.

However, today when I go to schools I talk about this with the students and its
 
 It starts with a dream.
relevance towards goal setting. I convey to them that all goals are achievable and that the only person standing in anyone’s way would be themselves. It’s important to develop an adapt-and-overcome attitude to achieve desired goals and, if they haven’t already, to consider changing their perspective on obstacles and view them as only favorable circumstances. That’s the way I view them and for me has been one of the many rewards found in my sobriety.

Creating the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT was much more than thinking of a name. It had to have a story—it had to be our story. And after the story was recorded, it had to have tangible things to serve as vehicles for our story to be shared. That’s where the CD "Serenity," the book The First 30 Days to Serenity, and the Rock Star and Super Star apparel came in. It was not an easy task taking these ideas, and others that we have brainstormed over time, and bringing them into fruition. Especially considering most of what has been created needed to be done without money because we had none. Zero. Zilch.

But this didn’t stop us.

Many of the musicians for our "Serenity" CD came on board without taking a dime of money. They believed in our mission and did it for the same reasons my brother and I wanted to—to share the importance to sobriety and responsibility to the masses.

I Found a Way To Make It Happen
I did not personally know any of the childhood hero musicians that came on board for this project, or have any specific ties to them, but I wanted them for our CD. I wanted those musicians bad enough and found a way to make it happen. I was relentless in my own pursuit of contacting them, worked hard to share our story with them and learned to work all the angles to obtain the goal of working with each one of them mainly through email and phone calls. There were no excuses. I had a dream and was going to achieve it at all responsible costs.

The same story would unfold during the writing of my book. There was a Foreword to be written and there were quotes I needed for the back cover of the book. I had certain people who I knew were highly respected in the field of addiction, and others who had a high regard in their chosen field. These were the people who I wanted to share their thoughts and impressions.

It was the same passion, same relentless pursuit and same outcome as with the CD. And because of my willingness to push open any door that seemed untouchable, I was able to receive the support and accolades from these people.

The ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT camp has a series of initiatives now. Each one of them started with an idea. Everything we do, what we are and what we have are all a result of what we think and our ideas.

I have seen this truth play out over and over again in my life. I dream big. And thanks to my recovery, today I have confidence. I now go after what I want and because of hard work and determination, it appears in my life. I will dream big dreams and be the ultimate believer that if I do everything I am supposed to do, the dreams will eventually come true.

All because I learned the philosophy to adapt and overcome and look at each obstacle as an opportunity for success.

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here.

 

Rebranding Sobriety, Responsibility, Dreamcatching

Oct 25, 2011
 
These are the three initiatives that the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT has been working hard at conveying to students across America via our Skype and school presentations. So what are they and how do they relate to a long, healthy and prosperous life?

Let's take a look at Rebranding Sobriety first. The ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT is sending a message to everyone that "sobriety is cool." To let our students know that drug use always starts out as a choice but for some of these young adults the progression moves into addiction. It's quick and brutal for some, like it was for me, and for others it can creep in slow and almost unnoticeable. But for everyone, the consequences are the same and they are life changing. And we want those of you who have already made the choice to not use drugs and alcohol that you are, by far, cooler than any rock star or super star could ever be!

Responsibility.
It means taking responsibility for your own life. Don't wait for someone else to make your life happen. If you're struggling with something, reach out to others—find an adult or friend that you trust. If you're being picked on or bullied, you tell someone; if you see someone being bullied, you tell someone; if you are a bully, you tell someone you're sorry and then go to a teacher, parent or someone else who you trust and seek help.

Don't ever let anyone else define you. It means working hard even when you don't feel like it! To never give up hope! Understand that each step you take—as long as you are focused on doing the next right thing—will help you in achieving your goal. If you are a teen who is bored, find something that excites you about life or learn something new. Develop your craft and work toward fulfilling your dreams, just as my brother Rock Star and I were able to do for ourselves.

Dreamcatching. Dreams do come true. That's what the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT wants our youth to believe. We want them to have pride in knowing that they are already somebody remarkable and that they are someone unique who has special gifts to share with the world, someone who deserves to be loved by the one person that really matters - themselves. Find those things that spark passion for living each day . maybe someone wants to be a singer or a painter or a poet or an athlete . the choices are limitless. Find what is enjoyable and pursue it with a relentless passion and never ever give up hope because dreams are there waiting to be embraced!

 
I appreciate the kids that I have had the gift of visiting at the schools I've presented at. They encourage and inspire me to wake up every day and follow my heart towards my own dreams. They give me strength when I need refueling and extend me hope so that I can keep moving forward towards my next goal.

If you are a young adult I have a message for you. By helping support our message to rebrand sobriety, by making responsible choices and by dreamcatching you will have an amazing life ahead of you. Don't let drugs change that. Don't let bullies change that. Don't let anyone else change the way you think, act or talk. Remember ... whoever you are is who you were born to be. Be yourself, love yourself and I promise you, you too can be a Rock Star or Super Star if that's your dream.

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here.
 

Taking the "War" to a New Level

Oct 18, 2011
 
When the dust cleared from this year’s Rockin’ Recovery Tour, all that was left were those left standing in a cloud of hope and inspiration. That’s what seems to be the general consensus of those who witnessed the sheer spectacle of the 2011 Rockin’ Recovery Tour.

Playing in front of an approximate 20,000-plus people at our various shows, the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT delivered nothing less than what it promised—an awe- inspiring journey breaking through addiction and celebrating the hope and redemption that comes with recovery.

My brother and I along, with the rest of the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT team, worked furiously and relentlessly to put together this year’s Rockin Recovery Tour. It was the first of its kind and will become a staple during National Recovery Month.

Our final show was aboard the mighty Intrepid in New York City at the Behavioral Health Recognition Month event hosted by Talk Therapy TV. We boarded proudly to rock the metallic beast to make a statement: That we were here to inspire and encourage others to be responsible in their life’s choices and to live dreams to the fullest extent.

The ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT has always conveyed the importance of dream catching in direct relation to responsibility and sobriety. In fact, that’s what we just did
 
with this year’s tour. When we started to paint this picture of what this tour would look like, many of us brought to the table some lofty ideas. But it was these lofty ideas that inspired us to go build them into a reality that has helped me stay straight, sober and focused on an accomplishment.

My end goal is always to go to sleep another night sober. Because of this, I have put forth the effort to earn, and then enjoy, some of life’s greatest treasures. One of them was helping to take lofty ideas and turning them into a concert that not only brought the importance of our mission to the forefront but also brought families to the front of the stage to celebrate overcoming addiction as well.

My brother and I do intend on taking the war on drugs to a whole new level by sharing our story with anyone within an earshot of our high-decibel and drug-free beat. The war on drugs at our borders would not exist if we would just focus on winning the war at our kitchen tables. Our mission to use any opportunity to create crucial conversations at home concerning the use of drugs and alcohol is one that we are indeed continuing.

 
All of us deserve to be educated; we must continue to utilize our teachers, police, counselors, parents, friends and everyone else as resources to help us to realize what sobriety really means and to protect us with the tools we need to maintain a life of it.

The ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT calls it rebranding sobriety and we are on a mission to destroy the enemy and take our war on drugs to a whole new level!

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here.

 

Nikki Sixx Helped Me Change My Life

Oct 11, 2011
My love for Nikki and Motley Crue has been consistent since 1983. I had their first album, "Too Fast for Love," at the age of 8 or 9 and got the second one, "Shout at the Devil," in 1984. I was 10 years old.

Growing up in the era of Motley Crue’s music was a blessing. It was a privilege that many of us can reflect back on and recall as a time of decadence and over-indulgence. But I was 10; I didn’t even know what these words meant. But what I did know is that
 

Although we may never meet, we will have what we were supposed to have all along

 
my other heroes from a band called KISS finally had some real competition. The fearsome foursome of rock that became the band Motley Crue was iconic from the beginning and, to this day, has not wavered from their historical place in rock-and-roll history and its future.

I stared smoking cigarettes at the age of 15. My usage quickly spiraled out of control to drinking and my whirlwind of doom was off to the races. At such an early age, I became addicted to cocaine, then crack, then heroin; as well as everything else in between.

Today after battling nearly a 15-year struggle with addiction, I am clean and sober. Today I am 37.

While still a teenager, I woke up one day and didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. Ultimately it was this lack of self-love that led me to find a way to alter my mood. That’s where the drugs came in. That’s where Nikki Sixx came in also.

Even during the progression of my disease I had moments of clarity. I had times where I thought I wanted to become sober and during one of these moments I picked up the Heroin Diaries. This book written by one of rock and roll’s most important legends was brilliant, real and intense. It gave me something to look forward to when I finally would become strong enough to accept defeat from my substance use disorder. His story may not have been the same as mine but there were similarities and this is what I connected to.

Nikki was there for me as a child. He was there to see me during my struggles through addiction. And now he is there to see me embrace full-blown recovery. He wasn’t there physically, but his story has been constant and is eerily similar to mine. His enthusiastic and wherewithal to push his iconic band to the forefront of rock, and whatever lies beyond, is contagious and his intense demand to put his recovery before all of this is inspiring. His public story with his struggle is very real and his moments of weaknesses have often become a source of strength for me. The Heroin Diaries is sitting next to me as I type this.

I am following Nikki differently now than I used to. Before it was all about Motley Crue’s music and brand, now I am following Nikki’s lead.

Nothing will ever come before my sobriety. The ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT is a success today because I am doing exactly as Nikki does. Putting it all out there; doing what I need to do and waking up doing it all over again. Day after day, one day at a time.

Thanks, Nikki, for all your support and although we may never meet, we will have what we were supposed to have all along. We’ll have our freedom from drugs and alcohol—all thanks to your willingness to spread the message of hope and the importance of dream catching.

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here.
Photo by Christopher Peterson [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
 

Rebranding Sobriety

Oct 04, 2011
To many people, especially young adults, sobriety seems to be a word that is synonymous with boring. I would imagine the concept of rebranding sobriety is a turn off for those who are used to living a party lifestyle. I believe this because I was one of them.

When the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT declared its mission to rebrand sobriety, we
 
knew we had to give this effort our all. After all, changing the way something may be perceived can be a daunting and challenging task. But what are our other options? To stay on course continuing to have others associate responsibility and sobriety with a boring and not-so-exciting life so that they can then use that as yet another excuse to party? Doesn’t sound like an option to me and it isn’t an option to the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT, either.

So we are changing it, because collectively we can.

This year’s first ever Rockin’ Recovery Tour has been an amazing success. With the support of the organizations PRO-ACT, FOR-NY, ASAP, NCADD and Talk Therapy TV, we have brought communities together to embrace the importance of recovery from substance abuse and have connected individuals to various support systems so that they can find the necessary help to overcome their struggles. We have helped others see that friends, family and even a rock concert can be fun and can be enjoyed without the use of drugs and/or alcohol.

My twin brother, Rock Star, and I tell a story with two sides. Both sides are significant, and both to be respected. Both sides are about the healing process that stems from the
 
disease of addiction. For both the addict and the individuals that surround an addict, the story of addiction is brutal and it is one that needs to be heard. That’s why we are getting our story out there and we are doing it with the assistance of some fine and powerful Marshall Amplifiers.

Our story of Serenity is told on stage in front of the masses. We do this by engaging the audience with our music and interactive dialog. And we have seen it hit home for many in the audience. For all of us who have been affected by this disease, we each share a piece of this story. And it’s a story that we should not be ashamed to talk about.

The Rockin’ Recovery Tour is an energetic performance that has captured the hearts of many and brought us together in an embrace in which I have never before experienced. The ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT is here to stay and to support the belief that treatment works, that not abusing drugs or alcohol can be cool and that doing the next right thing will always lead you to that next right place.

We invite you to join us this Sunday, October 9th for the Talk Therapy TV Rockin’ Recovery Tour stop on board the Intrepid in New York City. It’s a sober event filled with inspiration and hope—one that will change your perception of what a life without the use of drugs and alcohol can be like.

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here.
 

Rave Reviews for the Rockin' Recovery Tour

Sep 27, 2011
 
 RSSS Project on stage in Philly at the Pro-Act event.
Our first-of-its kind interactive musical tour—which is to be a yearly event each September in celebration of Recovery Month—couldn’t have been more of a success!
 
The ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT is now on the road and is dedicated to conveying an inspiring message about the redemption that comes with recovery. Alongside us, we have some internationally known rock musicians who are taking us through a musical journey that, at times, is as fast and furious as our addictions may have been and at other times is soft and melodic, like the serenity I have been blessed to have found in my recovery.

That’s what the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT is all about—a beacon of light for all to realize that we must always love, always encourage and never let despair get in the way. The RSSS Project is on a mission to re-brand sobriety and we are doing it. We are actually doing it.

There are thousands of individuals who have now seen what we are all about. They are taking the conversations concerning substance use disorder into their homes and communities and that’s exactly what we wanted. That’s part of the RSSS Project’s mission: To encourage others to walk through that door into recovery and to embrace its gifts.
 
While I was in my addiction, the claws were deep inside me, so much so that I couldn’t
 
 Rock Star (left) and me in Albany.
see the most beautiful thing I had—my own reflection that showed there was a person of value staring back. That’s what it felt like then. I couldn’t face myself in the mirror, let alone look at the pain that it was causing my family and friends.

Today I know what those claws represented for me. They were things that I needed to rediscover about myself: confidence, self-love, hope and courage. Those are the things that made the man that is now being seen on stage during this tour. Those are the things that allowed for me to take back yesterday and forge my path for a brand new day tomorrow.

No longer am I willing to be bound by the chains of that beast. No longer am I willing to lie on behalf of it any more. No longer am I willing to steal for it any more. No longer am I willing to put my life, or anyone else’s life, in jeopardy to feed my habit. I have seen the gift from watching in silence; not giving power to those things that once led me to using.
 
Today I'm moving on and I will hold all those things that mean the most to me, close to me, one day at a time and every year this performance will encourage others to do the same.

You can catch us at our last two tour stops:
  • Rochester, N.Y. hosted by National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-Rochester Area on Wednesday, September 28th at 7:30 p.m. at the School of the Arts, 45 Prince Street, Rochester. Tickets are $10. For more information, please call or e-mail Elaine Alvarado at (585) 719-3481 or ealvarado@depaul.org.
  • RSSS wages the war against drugs on board the Intrepid in New York City  at the Behavioral Health Recognition Month event hosted by Talk Therapy TV on Sunday, October 9 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For more information go to: www.talktherapytv.org/bhrm.html.
» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here.
 

Heavy Metal Hamster in My House

Sep 20, 2011
We are just a few hours away from the start of something big, something magical—the 2011 Rockin’ Recovery Tour!

Well, almost the start….

In just a few hours the guys who will be performing under the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT moniker will be here. Some of
 
 Zak Stevens
the members are legends of rock, and one of them just so happens to be Zak Stevens. If you recognize the name it’s because he fronted the band Savatage during its heyday in the Nineties. Savatage is now known as the hugely popular Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

The preparation for this year’s Rockin’ Recovery Tour has been excruciating, yet exciting, on so many levels. Each day for months we have worked hard at putting this tour together. And it hasn’t helped that we didn’t know a thing about booking such performances. But we remained true to following our passion of creating venues to deliver our message and that work has led us to tonight, finally awaiting the arrival of the beasts of rock.

The lodging is arranged. The food menu is planned out for the next few weeks. The rehearsal studio is ready. And we are set to start rehearsal tomorrow in preparation to launch our first round of shows next weekend. Am I nervous? You betcha!

But four years ago I was holed up in a crack house. I was not planning a tour that would become a staple during National Recovery Month. I was looking underneath a door for the intruders that I swore up and down were there. But they weren’t. It was all just my imagination mixed with the hallucinations caused by my excessive use of drugs. I was a different person then. Only working for my habit. I was on a downward spiral to hell. Little did I know I would be the one who would eventually find the strength to pull myself up from the depths and find the courage that would bring me to face a night such as this.

I am nervous to embark on what I have set sail long ago to do. My mission to bring the message of sobriety to the masses is in full swing. I am filled with a humbling gratitude and a pride that I can say I maintained my relentless pursuit of my vision … I did this!

Tonight the heavy metal hamsters unite. We will come together to re-brand sobriety and we will do it in the only way we know that works: from a place of gratitude, honesty and love. Tonight when they arrive, we will feast and bask in the light of this vision.

Okay, the doorbell is ringing, gotta get this!

You can join the RSSS Rockin’ Recovery Tour at one of the following stops for 2011:
  • Penn’s Landing - Philadelphia, Penn., hosted by PRO-ACT on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 9:00 a.m. Be a participant in the walk, or organize a team for the walk, and then join RSSS for an awe-inspiring performance. For more information go to: www.recoverywalks.org.
  • Riverfront Park at the Corning Preserve in Albany, N.Y., hosted by Friends of Recovery-New York on Sunday, Sept. 25 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For more information, go to: www.for-ny.org/events.php
  • School of the Arts in Rochester, N.Y. hosted by National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-Rochester Area on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the School of the Arts, 45 Prince Street, Rochester. Tickets are $10 each; discount rates available. For more information, please call or e-mail Elaine Alvarado at (585) 719-3481 or ealvarado@depaul.org. Pre-registration is required by 9/21/11 due to limited seating.
  • The Intrepid in New York City — RSSS wages a war against drugs on board the Intrepid iat the Behavioral Health Recognition Month event hosted by Talk Therapy TV on Sunday, Oct. 9 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For more information go to: www.talktherapytv.org/bhrm.html
» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here.

Self-love may sound cheesy, but we need it

Sep 13, 2011
"Abuse Me" is one of the songs featured on our upcoming Rockin’ Recovery Tour.  

Growing up, no one ever took the time to turn off the television and pick up a conversation with me on the importance of substance abuse. I wish they would have. I wish I would have known how beautiful my own reflection really was but, when I was younger, I couldn’t stand to look at myself.

When I was a teenager, I wish I would have had the self-love that it seemed so many others had but I didn’t. Two of the cheesiest words I can think of: self-love—yet so crucial for living a happy and healthy life. No one ever told me when I was growing up that self-love would provide me the confidence I would need to make responsible choices. And no one told me I needed to treat my body with respect, not to abuse it. I was a teenager. I was invincible, after all. If someone did try to talk to me about these things, then their conversations fell on deaf ears.

When my twin brother Rock Star and I sat down to write the songs about my addiction alongside our childhood rock-star heroes, I thought it was important to capture this lack of self-love I had for myself in the very first song. It is appropriately titled "Abuse Me." Capturing this in a song was important to me because a lack of self-love was what led my addiction into a downward spiral to hell. And for me this spiral towards addiction happened long before I picked up that first drug. For me it happened when my stinkin’ thinkin' took over and became destructive enough for me to stop caring about myself and others. I abused myself at every turn and corner. That’s what all of us who suffer from substance use disorder do.

Abuse Me

I see your darkness, I know your pain

Wastelands of broken dreams and my scattered remains

I do what you tell me, I do what you need

My soul is blackened, for you I bleed

Don’t know what I would do without you by my side

Without you, could I go on and on and survive?

It’s not the way you use and abuse me,

It’s the way you make me feel worthless,

It’s not the way you use and abuse me,

And everything that I know

You hold me close, just like I hold you near

I can’t escape, from you, you’re always here

You’re bad for me, and I can’t see

But without you, I can’t seem to be free

Featuring Zak Stevens, (Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra), Bruce Kulick, (Kiss, Michael Bolton) Adam Pettit, Rock Star and Super Star.

The lyrics for "Abuse Me" are to the left. These words were transcribed to paper from the core of my addictive thinking. As you read these words, feel the power behind their destructive energy. These are the thoughts that would race through my mind during those moments that I no longer cared about my mother, my father, my twin brother, or anyone else for that matter. The only thing I cared about was my drugs—chasing that next fix—which led me to the darkest places imaginable. I would stop at nothing to stay out of the light.

Today, my love affair with drugs is over. The love that I have found for myself has now taken over and continues to blossom with each breath. It grows with each step I take at maintaining my recovery.

My advice is to turn off that television, put down that drink or drug, basically, do whatever you need to do to pick up a conversation with a child today. Doing so may just end up saving their life and save them from abusing the most beautiful thing that they have. Themselves.

Always love, always encourage and never let despair get in the way.


 

 

9/6/2011: Make It Yours

Sep 06, 2011
 
Each morning that I arise I am grateful for the chance to make another day one that I can be proud of. I see new days as beginnings and another chance for me to shed even more of my undesired characteristics. I love beginnings and I love today.

The expression "one day at a time" is an important one for a few reasons, and I stress its importance often. For starters, many who suffer from substance use disorder find early on in recovery that they cannot yet grasp the belief that some day, if they choose to do the work, they will have years of sobriety under their belt. And early on it’s not uncommon that it’s a second-to-second battle to get to the next minute. "One day at a time" is an important reminder to breathe, to relax and to stay present in the moment of the day. To stay willing and open to the offerings, and in tune to the various frequencies that surrounds us each moment of every day.

It wasn’t always this way for me. For 15 years I missed many days like today. I was too busy numbing myself with drugs and alcohol. I was abusing substances because I that’s how I had learned to cope through life’s difficulties. Many of my days were dark and weren’t at all like that of today. That was until I saw there was hope and help for those of us who suffer from substance use disorder and it was mine if I wanted it badly enough. Today I possess the tools I need to enjoy each day and I am making sure to share as many of them as I can so that others like myself can regain the value and the importance of today: 9/6/2011.

Overwhelmed With Awe and Gratitude
Yesterday when I was walking my dog, Doro, through a field I became overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude. During that moment I was in awe. How did we get so lucky to have this thing called life? To look, to feel, to smell and to love? It’s an incredible achievement that took millions of years. All of these years that led to us to develop as a species led to my evolution as an incredibly unique individual. And now here I am, walking my dog in a field, feeling her happiness, smelling the freshly cut grass and loving that I have this right now, in this moment, today. And realizing this is my happiness to experience and it’s for me whenever I am open to it.

Today I want to stay sober so I can experience more of these moments. More of these reminders that the gift of life is something that I have the opportunity to unwrap and to enjoy every day, if I choose to. I want more moments chasing my dog in that field. I want the chance to continue extending a hand to others to help them and I want more opportunities to enjoy the company of myself as well as others.

I am starting off today as I do each day—with a huge glass of optimism and an appreciation for the unknown of tomorrow. I am blessed with today because right now I have the opportunity to make it whatever I want it to be.

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here.

Photo by By Dori (own work) [GFDL  or CC-BY-SA-3.0-us], via Wikimedia Commons

 

The Monster and Its Foul Stench

Aug 23, 2011
"So innocent, but ready to lose control. Crying for an escape, the Monster creeps slowly but so sneaky into your body. He makes you happy, on top of the world. Until your world comes tumbling down."

Hard to imagine these are the words of a 14-year-old girl but they are. She sees the monster as it rears its ugly head, often to those close to her. What a shame this beast even exists and how dare it reveal himself to such pure eyes.

The monster reigned supreme and ravaged my body for 15 years. It cherished its power over me and drooled at the thought I’d eventually give it what it wanted; not only my soul but my life.

One night I almost did. But I lived through it to tell the tale.

The streets of my past are paved with stories of monsters like this one. It was always there; always waiting for me to lose strength so that it could easily manipulate my thoughts into self-destructive ones. I hated carrying it around. Its foul stench slithered itself around my body and wrapped itself in place around me; squeezing as much life as it could.

I would beg for it to leave but it wouldn’t and I would scream for help when I was certain no one could hear me.

The monster made me ashamed. I felt weak and full of despair.

It took away time from my life, took away trust from my family and trust from within. It took away the reality and purity of who I once was.

My monster did give me one thing though; an illusion. It gave me the illusion that I was in control. That I was happy and going to be OK as long as I gave it power. It did this each time it reared its head. For this reason I gave it all of my attention and was completely infatuated with it. I adored it and never wanted to let it go. The reality is my monster was trying to kill me but at the time I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it because it was that strong; strong enough to make me blind even though I had perfect vision.

I don’t think I had the wisdom at 14 years of age like this young girl. I wish I did. I wish I could have seen at such a young age what she is able to see in front of her. My guess is that if I did I would have thwarted this monster’s advances towards me. I would have succumbed to its pressures and picked up that first cigarette which would later lead me to a crack pipe and 15 years of misery for me and my family. This person is the hope against the beast. She is smart, quick, wise and more intelligent than it. She is a warrior and if she continues her life seeing through those eyes, she stands a chance against addiction

The wisdom from the words of this 14 year old is why I believe so much in our initiatives at ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT. The children of our communities need opportunities for these crucial conversations to educate themselves about the dangers of substance use because it doesn’t take someone to be addicted to die from this monster. RSSS appreciates those youth who serve as guest bloggers to bring a youth voice to our blog site!

To read the rest of her blog click here.

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here.
 

Bringing the Message to the Intrepid

Aug 16, 2011

We couldn’t have planned it any better. The ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT is taking the war on drugs to a whole new level by performing our Rockin’ Recovery Tour on the Intrepid in New York City.

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is one of America’s leading historic, cultural and educational institutions. Opened in 1982, the museum has welcomed more than 10 million visitors. It is based on the aircraft carrier Intrepid (CVS-11), one of the most successful ships in U.S. history, and now a national historic landmark and one of the most unique attractions in NYC. This gargantuan ship was commissioned in World War II and went on to serve as one of the primary recovery vessels for NASA, had three tours of duty off Vietnam, and performed submarine surveillance in the North Atlantic during the Cold War.

The ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT is proud to have an opportunity to perform on this vessel of courage. Courage is what has led us to continue our efforts in recovery and we will do our best to pay tribute to so many of the courageous souls that proudly serve, and have served, on our behalf in each of our branches of service.

National Anthem 2.0 is one of the songs we will be playing during our tour. NA 2.0 is a testament to our country’s values, paying respect to our police officers, firefighters and military personnel who are serving us and protecting our freedom at home and around the world. To play this song on this ship, and in their honor, is a prime example of the strength and courage it takes for those like me to get and remain sober and we will make it a testament to those who serve this country.

National Anthem 2.0 

(Featuring Zak Stevens, Chris Caffery, Joe Babick, Rock Star and Super Star)

You can be who you want to be in the home of the free
You can fly and touch the sky in the home of the brave and a dream
Can you see us in America, O- Say can you see?
The rockets’ red glare is in the air and our flag is flying there
Get up, stand up for the USA, believe in your heart and what you can say
Get up; stand up it’s the right thing to do
Fight for your right and the Red White and Blue
We’re flying high now
We’re united and strong
All of us in America – We are One
Our Nation stands tall
All of us in America
You can say what you want to say right here in the USA
Hand and hand across this land, its united we stand
Can you see us in America, O-Say can you see?
The rockets’ red glare is in the air and our flag is flying there
Get up, stand up for the USA, believe in your heart and what you can say
Get up; stand up it’s the right thing to do
Fight for your right and the Red White and Blue
Say it loud now
We’re united and strong
All of us in America – We are One
Our Nation stands tall
All of us in America
We’re united and strong
And we will not fall – We are One
Our Nation stands tall
All of us in America
Our Nation Stands Tall
And we will not fall

The pride that I feel for my recovery is what helps me continue my path in recovery. It’s a feeling of strength and self-love. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. I will fight the enemy of addiction always and the war that it has waged against me, I will win.

I would like to personally say thank you to all those of our past, current, and future service men and women. This great Country’s history is proof that battles of all types can be won. NA 2.0 was written for you!

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here.

 

The Song of "Serenity"

Aug 09, 2011
There is a beautiful word in our vocabulary that for me means self-love. It also means perseverance and peace. It’s comforting and gentle and reminds me of how fragile life really is. That word is Serenity.

When my brother, Rock Star, and I sat down to capture the importance of this word in a song, we knew it would come easy if we allowed the love between us to flow without interruption, just like the water flows over Niagara Falls. To feel our way through the evolution of this song without second-guessing our direction would allow us to accomplish our goal of creating a song that would speak a language that everyone could understand and appreciate; the language of love between others—between siblings, parents and children, to boyfriends or girlfriends, wives or husbands.

Love and serenity go hand in hand—just as we do with others with whom we walk through our lives—don’t they?

For years, my brother, who wrote and arranged the music to this song, had wanted to record it for something big. I can recall him playing it on the piano for others often.  And for all of us listening, we knew it was going to be something special. Yet he never had any words to go with the beautiful sound. It was a melody we believed held special meaning, although it was a song that had no name. The song captured the emotions within us, and those of us who had heard it in its infancy had our own words for it.

While creating the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT Serenity CD, a glorious
 
I wrote as the waves crashed below me.
achievement for us, my brother handed me his song and asked me to pen the lyrics and craft a melody for his song. He told me to sit with it for a night. This is where the request for our uninterrupted flow of love needed to begin for us in regards to the completion of Serenity, our song of love to one another. For him it meant to trust me with something he considered so personal. For me it meant to dig deep within my soul and connect to those words that were meant just for this tune. So I recorded him playing and took the sound of the piano with me to the upstairs of the house I was at in Malibu. And as I listened to the oceans waves crash below me I began to write …

There was a time not very long ago
I didn’t know who I was meant to be
Nothing but despair, I was on my own
Nothing in this life seemed right for you or me
I never knew it could be this way
I never thought we could have it this way
But that changed when I learned to let go
When I learned to be with you, instead of all alone
Now I’m by your side, just as you’re at mine
To find serenity and have it all the time
I never knew it could be this way
I never thought we could have it this way
It’s the way it was meant to be
Just you and me and serenity
It’s the way it was meant to be
Together now and serenity
I never thought that this could be
Just you and me and serenity
Here we are standing hand in hand
You know we have come so far
Just you and me is how it’s meant to be
Serenity is all I dream for you and me


It only took me 15 minutes to come up with these words and the eventual melody to

 

"Serenity." For me the song captured everything that I believed the word meant—love, peace, trust and tranquility. These words are all captured in this song.

I  found so much peace with my brother’s trust with his music that night. This was one of the most beautiful moments that I will ever be grateful for. I hope that when you listen to the song "Serenity" that it reminds you of the importance of each moment we are here to experience and that during all of those moments, love will lead the way if you let it.

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here.

 

Rockin’ Recovery Tour Set List, Part I

Aug 02, 2011
There are many songs that we intend to perform during our Rockin’ Recovery Tour this year. All of them are important and have been chosen help paint a picture of hope during the challenging struggle that I faced during my 15 year addiction to drugs. Most of the songs to be performed are ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT songs, but some of the songs chosen are from other artists.

When crafting what this tour would look like, the team at RSSS Worldwide was very strategic in our approach. After all, this isn’t just a rock concert. It’s an event that must
 
 The logo for Rockin’ Recovery Tour 2011
appeal to the masses; a theatrical rock show that must contain all the elements that  will make it a memorable time for all those in attendance. And it must be story of hope and achievement, an event worth repeating year after year because of the many stories of recovery that we know will come from it. As we get closer to our first date, the excitement for our tour seems to be contagious  as we are already looking to book dates of future tours into 2013.

When I sat down to write our songs "Claws" and "Abuse Me" that appear on our 2010 Serenity release, I was in an unhappy and unfamiliar place. My early recovery was a dark time, and my stinkin’ thinkin’ was frequent. I can recall often not being able to see but a few hours of clarity ahead of me. I had to constantly stay in the moment to get beyond my cravings. These moments seemed full of despair.

That’s why "Claws" and "Abuse Me" are somewhat aggressive. They were written from a place within my mind that was still waging a war against my addict-like thoughts. And what came from this heaven-and-hell battle between my good and evil thoughts were two of my favorite songs on the "Serenity" CD. That’s why we have chosen to include these two songs within our set list this year. They will help us tell the story of this struggle in a way that will connect to those that can identify. This struggle is important to convey and will allow us to set the stage for what’s next in everyone’s story of recovery: the hope!

The Rockin’ Recovery Tour is shaping up to be an awesome spectacle of the sheer brilliance of recovery. It will be a show that embraces hope and love and where strength and willingness can overcome our ill thoughts and actions if that is what we desire. Other songs will help us communicate the importance of responsibility, family, self-love and, if necessary, a life of sobriety.

As we get closer to our first tour date, I will shed some light on the other songs we have chosen and why we are going to be including them in our set list. It is my hope that through the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT’s efforts on our Rockin’ Recovery Tour that you too will be inspired by our enthusiasm for this event and that you will help us use this tour as a vehicle into the hearts and minds of all those who will rock with us.

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the "Serenity" CD here.

 

A Hopeless Dreamer, I Am Not

Jul 26, 2011
When I was younger, I wanted to become a stunt car driver, a rock star or a NFL quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. I didn't have a preference, really. I just knew I wanted to soar to greatness in one of these fields. But then the dreaming stopped.
Drugs and my stinkin' thinkin' soon got in the way of my hopes of becoming anyone.

For 15 years, I struggled to define myself. Drugs were the only thing I cared about. That's what happens to individuals like me who suffer from substance use disorder. My daily regimen was all about the fix. No longer did I care about becoming that rock star, football player or stunt-car driver. All I cared about was chasing my next hit. That was a horrible time in my life.

Before I got sober, I used to think that I had to act a certain way. I thought I had to do what I saw everyone else doing. My neighbors were a living example of the movie "Groundhog Day."



Getting up each day and doing the daily grind that later in the day they would complain about. Countless times I have heard many co-workers think only about only their weekends—the two days out of their lives every week that they look forward to. That ideal about life found me feeling hopelessness about life. I didn't want to conform to what I observed in society, but I felt I had to in order to fit in. And that's when my drug use began to escalate.

I had to break free, I had to be myself.

When I finally did get sober, I realized that my feelings towards having to always believe that I needed to fit was one of the key reasons I ran to drugs in the first place.

I ignore beliefs that are false fo r me. They don't define me. I define me.

Working so hard and always failing to find happiness in what I thought was expected of me from our society often brought me to my knees in despair. Why couldn't I just do what I saw everyone else doing? Why couldn't I just settle down and be happy with what I saw as the norm?

I am at my core a dreamer. Many have called me a hopeless dreamer: A person who lives in fantasy, ignoring the real world and its expectations. Those are the words that I would once dwell over. My thoughts surrounding them took me to the darkest places imaginable. Today I have become stronger and I am capable of ignoring these beliefs that are false for me. They don't define me. I define me. They are only the reflections of those that speak them.

My time in this world is valuable. It is no longer to be spent getting high in an effort to conceal my identity. It is to be spent working on myself and towards my goals and dreams. I know this now. And not just on the weekends either but 24 hours a day and seven days a week. To approach everyday as a wonderful opportunity to adapt and overcome and to achieve only the expectations I set for myself. I am no longer in hiding from myself and no longer willingly carrying around my key chain of unhappiness.

Today it's all about self-love and respect for myself. That is why I am sober today and as long as I can remain comfortable in my own skin, I will remain sober tomorrow.

My dream for myself is to keep trying to achieve them all.

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the Serenity CD here.
 

We ROCK; Therefore I Am Sober

Jul 19, 2011
The stigma of drugs associated with Rock & Roll has existed since the early days of this type of music. Many sober musicians from the Fifties to the present day have been though of as drug addicts simply due to their affiliation with the world of Rock. That’s unfortunate because there are many world-class musicians that who have been successful in staying away from the substances that have wreaked havoc on the lives
 
 Gene Simmons: Never been drunk
and dreams of many of their peers.

Take the band Kiss for example. It’s well known that Ace Frehley and Peter Criss were heavily intoxicated during most of their career with Kiss. What is not as well known, however, is that Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons were not involved in this lifestyle. In fact, Gene Simmons claims to have never been drunk a day in his life. That’s sure not what my mother used to think as she tore down all my Kiss posters while proclaiming that all the members were nothing but drug addicts.

While my brother and I were putting together the music for our CD "Serenity," which features many of these world class musicians, we were able to see firsthand that many of our musical heroes were indeed living a life of responsibility and, for some, a life of sobriety. To hear their stories of what really happens out on the road helped us paint a clearer picture as to why these legends of Rock were our heroes in the first place. They were not only musicians we adored; they became our inspiration for our continued commitment to the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT efforts. Many of them shared with us how they had to find the strength to become triumphant against substance abuse on the road and, for my brother and me, their aw0 inspiring efforts became our fuel during the recording process.

There have been many rock stars, however, who have fallen to the disease of addiction. They have disappeared and are no longer able to provide us with the great music they once were able to contribute. Think of how much more music Elvis or Michael Jackson could have created if they hadn’t used drugs to quiet their minds. It’s very sad to think of all the losses we have endured in the world of music over the years due to drug abuse. Even sadder knowing it could have all been prevented.

The Rockin’ Recovery Tour
That is why the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT is doing what we can do to prevent anymore unnecessary tragedies in the world of rock and roll in which we live. This September and October we are taking the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT and some of our musical icons out on the road for our Rockin’ Recovery Tour. The Rockin’ Recovery Tour is our way of fighting the stigma associated with the disease of addiction and to spread awareness that with appropriate services and supports, anyone struggling with substance use disorder and/or mental health concerns can live a healthy, rewarding life. Even the rock and rollers—although I’m still not so sure our mother would approve.

Want to know where the Rockin’ Recovery Tour will be this fall?  Check us out on Facebook @ Rock Star Super Star Project or @ Rockin’ Recovery Tour or on the web.

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the Serenity CD here.

Photo: CC by Flickr user Wok
 

You Know You're Addicted When ...

Jul 12, 2011
 
I used drugs to escape my world of despair and to forget about the pain that I seemed to feel at every turn. My addiction had convinced me that the sadness would never end. I was often lonely and felt forgotten by the rest of the world. For me, drugs took those moments of despair and pain away. At least that’s what it felt like while I was doing them. However, the moment I stopped using the despair and pain would reappear. And so the cycle of my drug use began.

It’s not that I didn’t try to stop as often as I started again. Once, after just scoring a few bags of crack cocaine on the mean streets of Chicago, I can vividly remember saying to myself, as I drove away, that this would be my last trip out to purchase drugs. But as soon as I finished those few bags, I found myself returning the next day for more. It was an empty promise made to myself countless times. Each time, I failed miserably trying to uphold it.

I bandaged myself in assurances that I was not really an addict; I didn’t really have a problem. Addicts had holes in their arms caused by infections from dirty needles or were people who roamed the streets at night—stealing, killing and destroying lives in
Need Help?

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) is a resource available to assist in providing substance use disorder information to people and to assist in identifying local resources available in your community.

For information on what support is available—for you or someone else—call 1-800-NCA-CALL (622-2255) or identify the NCADD affiliate in your community by clicking here.
order to get another five-dollars’ worth. Addicts were ruthless, toothless and homeless. I wasn’t one of those guys. I was a self-employed computer consultant, I managed my own employees, had a girlfriend and my own house. I couldn’t let myself admit that I was slowly drifting from the security and rewards of a settled life to one found on the street. My addiction was turning into a necessary comfort and was constantly calling my name. And that is when, deep down, I knew I had a problem. Yet I still couldn’t admit it to myself.

I’ve seen addiction in my family. I have seen loved ones drink until they were no longer coherent. I have been with friends who were pretending to be normal when I knew they were really hurting and abusing drugs. Addiction takes on many forms but one thing, I think, remains constant: It's the turning point from something that seems like fun at first to a full-blown dependence. The time when we cross that line into addiction and can think of almost nothing but feeding its hand. For some of us this process is fast and painfully obvious. For others, though, this progression can be slow and brutal.

You know you are addicted when you can’t stop using. When just one more becomes another just one more. When you swear to yourself you can stop but realize you cannot. You know you’re addicted when the drugs take over your body and your mind. When you make promises to yourself and others you cannot keep. That’s when the consequences start kicking in. That is when you’ve crossed over that line. That is when you are addicted. And that is when it’s time to reach out before it’s too late.

Hope Stays Alive
As long as there is still breath, there is still hope. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with an addiction, find support to help you through it. For the one with an addiction the promises of recovery are just a step away; all you have to do is open that door and walk through. For the loved one, support is essential for you as well. We cannot change anyone’s behaviors, but we can change how we face the situation. There are supports available in a variety of ways—Twelve Step programs, treatment centers, support groups, private therapy, attending church. For a lot of people it’s a combination of resources. Just find what works for you and work it! Recovery brought redemption and serenity into my life and it can for anyone else that wants it too.

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the Serenity CD here.

 

Practicing Presence

Jul 05, 2011
I can recall the earlier days of my sobriety. They were difficult. The challenges of staying sober for me were almost unbearable. But I saw that others had it so why couldn’t I? They were able to stay sober for more than a day. They were human and, the last time I checked, so was I. I wanted what these other individuals seemed to have. I wanted a life of recovery from substance abuse. I wanted to stay sober and make it past my constant cravings for drugs just as they had done for themselves.

Cravings during my first year were horrendous. I remember times when I would literally sit in the middle of the kitchen floor pleading with myself not to get up; not to succumb to my disease. I would sweat. I would cry. Sitting there on my hands in an effort to stay grounded and not get up and lose all the days that I had accumulated clean were challenging. These struggles were awful for me then. Never do I want to go through the first days of sobriety and experience that type of pain.

I Felt Like I Was Fighting a Losing Battle

Others used to tell me that my cravings for drugs and alcohol would dissipate over time, but this didn’t help me while I was fighting those moments. That’s because I couldn’t think that far in advance. I wanted to but I just couldn’t grasp that someday the chains that surrounded me would be gone. Most times it felt like I was fighting a losing battle. But that’s when I started to pay attention to what didn’t work for me and learn from that. My thinking needed to shift and

I needed to start working on staying within each moment so I could make it to the next

. I learned that I needed to use all my strength to combat my cravings while I was experiencing them, and for me this meant not thinking too far ahead in my future.

And then it happened. What everyone told me came true. My cravings have all but disappeared. Today they are actually almost null and obsolete. This has been very freeing for me to experience and I no longer have to sit in the middle of that kitchen floor begging for my addiction to spare me from continued agony.

Why? Practicing presence!

Staying in the Moment Can Beat Cravings

Living a clean and sober life has become easier by getting more and more days under my belt being sober. As each day passes I have become stronger and more focused and it’s this very observation that I feel I must share with others as the most important lesson of all. Practicing presence, working on staying in each moment without thinking too far ahead, has been what worked for me and it can work for you.

Cravings are one of the most successful tactics our addiction uses against us. They win more wars than lose them. I have lost this battle against my addiction hundreds of times while trying to become sober. Cravings had a perfect season for 15 years. Now I know this is because I never focused all my might where and when I needed to. I should have used my weapon of practicing presence at the times I needed, but I couldn’t because I wasn’t aware of its existence. But now I do and now you do also.

Practicing presence is the exercise of staying within each moment. Strategizing and mapping out a campaign to conquer each passing second by staying sober makes it a lot easier to win the war against cravings. My campaign today is to always be in the moment. Approach each task by thinking only about the task at hand. If you can do this you stand a much better chance of laying your head down tonight clean and sober.

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the Serenity CD here.
 

I Never Thought That…

Jun 28, 2011
I truly never thought that I would be that guy who would turn to drugs to quiet my mind. I never thought I would be that guy who would turn into a monster to feed his addiction. Yet I became that guy.

But I also remember a time during my active addiction when I never thought that I would be that guy I am today. One who lives a life clean and sober and one who now only chases after his dreams instead of his drug of choice. So here I stand, reflecting on all I have accomplished since finding peace through recovery.

Recovery is a lot of work. But so was feeding my addiction. I have learned throughout my trials that my addiction can only win if I allow it. Today I am aware that it is still lurking behind the shadows. Wanting to grow larger and stronger and waiting for me to succumb to its desire to overcome me if I let it. It’s there, I feel it. I must never forget this.

I Have Found My Purpose

The time during my active addiction was painful. The moment I was gripped by its chains forever changed my life. Being an addict in recovery is the most difficult thing I have ever had to understand and deal with. Learning to live a life without the use of drugs is not easy and my pursuit to stay clean is something I wish upon no other human being. But that’s the beauty of recovery. This is where I find strength. I did it! And though doing it, I have found my passion—that purpose that fuels my soul and enriches my life.

I love speaking professionally to groups of individuals and serving as a source of inspiration through my story and message. This too helps feed my sobriety today. Each time I present an event I feel that I am winning my battle against the beast of addiction; pushing it deeper into a corner. It’s very freeing and beautiful to experience.

When I speak to students at schools and parents at community events it is a magical experience and I know it is where I belong. Here's a promotional video we've recently posted on YouTube that will give you a better feel for what our presentations look and feel like.



Sharing my story of hope and inspiration is what I was meant to be doing. I know this because I feel it so strongly with each word I speak. I see it in the eyes of those that are listening and I read it in the written words from others that have shared their feedback after a presentation. I cannot imagine doing anything else other than sharing my experiences, strength and hope with others.

Self-confidence, strength, wisdom and self-love are all mine today. These were not traits I grew up with. Yet I found them through the desire to be healthy. They came from a place of wanting more out of life. I have worked hard to earn this place I am at in my life and thanks to my recovery I am creating the life that I truly desire. I am climbing to the top of my mountain and I look forward to those that I will meet along the way as we journey to realizing each of our dreams!


» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the Serenity CD here.
 

Alive and Well, but Where Am I?

Jun 21, 2011
Every day I wake up I wonder where I am in this thing called life. Am I doing what I should be doing? Could I have done more to help others cope through their struggles with addiction? These are questions that are usually the first I ask myself upon awakening. But then calm always seems to settle in and I realize quickly that where I am in my life is right where I am meant to be. I am here because I choose to be here. I made the decision to be sober and present today and I know that I must continue to maintain my sobriety, just for today, so that I may be here when tomorrow arrives.
 
I think these types of questions come from a place of worry and concern. From being scared that I have bitten off more than I can chew by taking on the responsibility of something as large as the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT. It’s almost as if I am self-sabotaging myself by allowing these thoughts to creep in. But it’s not just my work with RSSS that keeps me on my toes with the fear of the unknown. It’s also not always being able to have an answer as to where I am going in the first place! I feel sometimes it’s as if I have blinders on during my days and nights. But through it all, I have noticed one thing that has remained consistent: I have always been able to feel I am heading in the right direction. It’s this intuition that I use as my fuel to continue.
 
My sobriety is the fuel for my gas tank to realizing my dreams. I look at it as an entity, a shell that surrounds my ambitions, desires and dreams. Staying sober has provided me with an opportunity to foster all those aspirations that had never left my side during my active addiction and I use them as reasons to stay sober.
 
There are times, however, that my tank runs on fumes. It’s during these moments I stop, identify my stinkin’ thinking and refuel. I do this a lot today through my work. I set goals and reach my milestones. I often don’t do it alone, though. I have set up a support system around me of others that I can lean on in times of need. I view these people like little gas station attendants! I don’t absolutely depend on them, but if I desire any assistance, they accept my hand.
 
No one ever said that becoming sober was going to be easy. No one ever told me that facing my days without drugs and alcohol would not be challenging. I knew I was going to have to fight this thing called addiction with all my might and for the rest of my life. But this is the path I have chosen for myself. And although sometimes I don’t have the answers as to where my recovery is taking me, I can always be sure of one thing. I will not allow it to take me away from myself. Today my gas tank is full and I am going to run this puppy as far as she will take me!
 

 

Lies Do Not Equal Serenity ...

Jun 14, 2011
When I started thinking about becoming sober I needed as many reasons as I could to stay straight. I knew the more reasons I could list, the less of an opportunity my addict mind would have to try to convince me to go back to using. So I took on the task of writing down the reasons that were important for me to start my new life in recovery.

One of the bullet points on this list was lying. It was something that I did all the time to maintain my nasty habit and one of the many traits I wanted to no longer do. I wanted so bad to stop all the lies because telling lie after lie made me feel dirty. It was also a lot of work trying to keep my lies in order. Lying became such a constant for me that the difference between reality and my lies often were a blur. And I actually started to believe that my lies were truths!

I spent 15 years lying about everything I could just so I could get my hands on more and more drugs. I hurt many people with the stories I created, all in an effort to stay high as long as possible. I would have to think long and hard before I opened up my mouth to others because I didn’t want to screw up the façade that I created with them. That took a lot of energy to maintain. It was nuts! The way I lied about everything was truly a form of insanity. Lying took me further into a dark world and that is a world I do not ever want to return to.

Lying isn’t just a trait of addiction. There are people daily who engage in lies for a variety of reasons. They rationalize the lies, telling themselves that they’ll be worse off telling the truth. Some think it’s okay to lie because they’ll be better off financially, or they’ll avoid being punished, or others will view them in a better light, or they won’t have to face the feelings and consequences from being truthful or they fear the reaction from another person. We see lies in various forms every day from prestigious people trying to get out of a sticky situation right down to the little “white lies.” Basically, to me, lying of any form is a disgusting habit so why do we do it? There is always an underlying reason why someone would tell a lie. It’s sad that people feel the need to lie so much—to cover up their truth and ultimately deny their true self.

Deceit Is Hard to Escape
It’s hard to escape the liars and the cheaters of today’s world even when it’s not about using drugs. Deceit from others has found a way to weasel its way into my life even today. The lies no longer come from me but from others that surround me. Seeing this has been difficult at times for me to experience. Although it has provided a mirror for me to reflect on the times I wasn’t honest and how that brought hurt and pain to the person(s) involved as well as to me.

Today I have done my work to clean up my side of the street. Thankfully, through my recovery I have found a way to get through life’s obstacles without having to fib every tale. and to embrace honesty in my relationships. My main priority at all times is to protect my sobriety. I have sought to set up healthy boundaries around me to safeguard myself from lies so my world can be honest and pure as much as I can make it, but once in a while a “liar” sneaks in.

It's Important To Practice Compassion
This is where the ever important practice of having compassion for others is something that I must practice daily. Understanding that some people will never change is something that I have had to learn to accept. I cannot change anyone other than myself. If someone is broken I cannot fix them. I can however continue to identify and work on my own character defects and this is something that I must always be willing to do.

The Serenity Prayer reads: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” I know I have changed what I could. I turned my lies into truths and although sometimes they are uncomfortable truths, I have serenity in my life today because the lies are gone. This is my hope for others out there struggling with being honest. Take it from me there is so much freedom and joy in knowing I’m true to my word today. I’m grateful I was able to make the change!
 

 

What If We Could Package a Moment?

Jun 07, 2011
What if we could package the moments that are most important to us?
 
Recently I had a conversation with an enlightened soul who seems to have so much clarity in her life that no toxic energy appears to surround her. This is something she credits to setting healthy boundaries with those she allows in her world.

I think that’s an admirable trait that I intend to follow from this point forward.

During one of our recent conversations, she talked about a night she had experienced while visiting her horse. It was a night that seemed to be connecting everything around her. The wind, the sounds, smells and her feelings about her furry friend; together, all  seemed perfect. What she described must have been truly a beautiful moment to her.

She then said, “I wish I could have packaged that night so I can have it anytime I want.”

That sentence put the concept of being awake for, and embracing the truly beautiful moments in life, in a deeper perspective for me. I am grateful that she shared one of her precious moments with me. Realizing even more deeply that each moment is meant to be experienced just for what it is—that is a gift of life and a gift freely attainable through sobriety.

Thanks to that conversation, today I was able to notice when I was in my own whirlwind frenzy and I suddenly became aware. It happened to me; I experienced a moment of electric hope, inspiration and appreciation for the tiniest of things life has to offer. A moment that I wish I could package and revisit during times I feel despair setting in.

It happened this afternoon while I was at Home Depot. I was standing outside watching a thunderstorm that was fast approaching. The strong wind was blowing across my ears and I felt anticipation of the rain that was about to wash the sun away. The thunder was getting louder as the seconds passed by. Watching this affect me, and the dozens of others rushing to get inside, was an extraordinary moment. As the rain started to drizzle, I found myself eager for it to rain harder. I waited outside in the rain so that I could catch each drop on my shoulders. It was a beautiful moment! It was something I wish that I could share with others. It was my moment, my package to remind me of life’s most precious moments.

I am thankful to that friend who was been kind enough to share her wisdom and story with me. It was another gold nugget that reminded me of how lucky I am and that I have must always have gratitude for each breath I take. This is what my recovery has given to me. An insight into my immortality; that my life is precious and must be lived as each day could be my last.

I wonder how many moments like these I missed while in my active addiction. How many of these packages did I miss while I was out there in a cheap motel doing anything I could to maintain my fix? I suppose I will never know.

But what I do know is how much I am going to hold onto this moment that I experienced. One thing is for sure, I am never letting another moment like this escape me again!

What was a moment that you cherish the most? Was it something like I experienced or something entirely different? I invite you to leave a comment so I can also share in your beautiful moment.
 
 

 

Talk To a Child

May 31, 2011
Long before I touched drugs I had developed the thinking that led me to the wastelands of drug abuse. After all, it is this thinking that plays such a huge role in why we use drugs in the first place. You know that stinkin’ thinking that rears its ugly head when there is a lack of self- worth? Those are the thoughts that would wander in my mind and convince me that I needed to run as far away from the most beautiful thing I had—my own reflection.

I often wonder why me? Why did I become that “one” from the statistics of 1 in 10 people who would become addicted to drugs? Where did I learn to seek something outside of myself to quiet my thoughts? The disease of addiction ran in my family, yet that certainly was no excuse. Having a history of addiction in my family didn’t necessarily mean I would become addicted to everything that I touched, but it certainly did not help either.

I can trace my evolution into addiction to around the 8th grade. When that breakup hurt a little too much for me, when being picked last for gym class became unbearable, when the bullying became something I could no longer handle. That’s when my evolution into addiction spiraled. I had no idea that the lack of self-love that I had developed during my teen years would play such a huge role into my destructive thoughts and actions later in life. At the time no one saw it coming; absolutely no one, not even me.

Self-Love: Cheesy—Yet Crucial—Words
I wish I had known how important the concept of self-love was when I was a teenager. Two of the cheesiest words I can think of; yet so crucial for living a happy and healthy life. No one ever told me that growing up I needed to have this self-love as it would provide me the self-confidence I would need to make responsible choices. And no one told me that growing up I needed to not abuse my body. I was a teenager. I thought I was invincible. And finally no one ever told me that I should have respect for not only myself but for others as well. If someone did then their message fell on deaf ears.

Today I breathe in those words of self-love with every breath. I not only have it for myself but share as much as I can with those whom need it. Initially finding it and holding onto it myself for as long as I could allowed me to foster it and then share it appropriately with others. That’s where I find my serenity today and this is what allows me to make it through each day sober.

Conversations Would Have Made a Difference
My evolution into addiction could have been avoided. It could have been avoided if those around me would have made an attempt to have those crucial conversations with me at an early age. It could have been avoided if I had reached out to a teacher, a parent or a community member and talked with them about the stinkin’ thinking that clouded my mind.

My love for myself continues to blossom with each breath. It grows with each step I take at maintaining my recovery and I am alive today because of these words.

My advice is to turn off that television, put down that drink or drug and pick up a conversation with a child today. Doing so may just end up saving his or her life and an evolution into addiction.

Always Love, always Encourage and never let Despair get in the way.
 

 

Inspiring Others Inspires Me To Stay Sober

May 24, 2011
Early on I found that I needed to work every single angle I could to maintain my sobriety. That’s why my brother, Rock Star, and I created the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT; to inspire others to dream catch and make responsible choices. And to also understand that those responsible choices you make can play an important part in the decision to stay sober.

Last week I was invited to speak at a number of schools in upstate New York about the importance of responsibility, dream catching and sobriety. Conveying this message to all those who were within earshot was important not only for those listening but for me as well, although I don’t think all those students who were in attendance knew this. Those beautiful faces had no clue that they were helping me stay sober by just letting me talk openly and honestly about my experiences with drugs and alcohol.

Here is some feedback below from some of these presentations. It’s these words from students that reminded me again this week that not only do dreams come true, but also they can only come true when living a healthy and happy life in recovery from substance abuse.

I think your speech was very hopeful and it will make people think twice before they are offered drugs or alcohol. I liked how you told everybody stories about your life and your old addiction. I think it shows people what they can have if they stay sober. Just because some people choose to do drugs it doesn’t make them a bad person. It just means they choose to do the wrong thing and some of them don’t notice that those drugs can take over your life and kill you. I recently had a friend who died from a drug overdose and he was at a young age of 21. What you have said has made me realize how bad drugs can be even though they affect people differently. I think your presentation has reached out to a lot of us students. I have a family who has recently quit drinking because a disease he has got from alcohol and a bad diet. Even if somebody in your family has an addictive trait doesn’t mean you have to do what they do.
***
I think Super Star’s presentation was well spoken. His speech inspired me to give an effort to not do drugs. I think it’s a good thing that he used to do drugs and other bad things so later in his life, when he realizes it was a very bad thing to do, he could tell everyone else not to do drugs and why it’s bad.
***
I think Super Star spoke well on stage yesterday. I am inspired to make the effort to not do drugs.
***
I thought your speech and videos were inspiring. I always thought drugs could be okay if you just try them once, but now thanks to you I know that you could die from the first time. A friend of mine you might know says a lot of good things about you. I also find it great that you’d help anyone with their problems. Thank you Super Star.
***
I liked the assembly because he gave some good points on why not to do drugs. Also people have the rest of their lives to worry about and that people shouldn’t live their lives doing drugs just because they are not happy or are depressed. Get out and do something that you enjoy doing like hiking, riding a bike, going camping. Learn from other people’s mistake so you know not to make those choices. I like what you and your brother are doing helping others get better and yourselves.
***
I feel strongly about the Rockstar and Superstar Project in a positive manner. I feel that Super Star actually coming my school instead of Skyping us again shows that he really does care about our community. Also it shows outstandingly that it is not about the number of sales of their CDs, only the number of lives that they can save from drugs. They could easily make different music but they are deeply dedicated in making positive choices as adults because they are a large role model to everyone. I also enjoy Rock and Super Star’s music because it is easy to listen to.
***
Dear Super Star …What you have gone through must be hard. I know it is. I have dyslexia so it is hard for me to read and write and on top of that my dad was addicted to crack. He left my family and drank and did drugs for one year. It would be so bad he would not come and see me and my two brothers. His mom was a drunk and she did not care and he never knew his dad. After that year he went and got help. He went to rehab and we called every night and it was a long year.
***
I thought the presentation (movie, speaker, etc.) was very, very motivational. Super Star was a very good speaker because he used to use drugs and knew how it felt.
***
I thought this was a moving experience. Super Star was a cool dude and he taught me not to do drugs. I think it taught me a bunch of cool stuff and I’m glad I saw it.
Accountability for me is the name of the game. I cannot turn back now. Life in recovery really can happen for those that want it bad enough. I had to work all the angles because my disease told me that if I didn’t, it would find a way out of the chains that I had set it in.


This last week I heard not a peep from my addiction. It was quiet because of all those students that inspired me to continue on my path and live the life for myself that only sobriety can bring to me.

My message in this blog is simple. Work the angles. Set up as many pitfalls for your disease as possible. Hit the meetings; talk out loud about your addiction. Tell on yourself and whenever possible, extend a hand to others that need help. Your inspiration to others will lead you to inspire your own recovery—just as I did this last week for myself.

Always love, always encourage and never let despair get in the way!
 
 

 

Chasing Dreams Beats Chasing Highs

May 17, 2011
I remember waking up every single day and chasing my next fix—that next hit that was going to take me into oblivion and take me away from all the problems I didn’t want to deal with. I was a zombie. Always out there searching for it. Sleep, food—basically all the necessities that we as humans need, I could care less about. All I wanted was my drugs.

But during those rare times when I did sleep, during those rare moments in-between the hunt for drugs, I would drift into my dreams. Dreams that I had aspired to when I was younger. Dreams that I had before I took that first hit of weed. And they were big dreams! They were magnificent, and if I could just figure out a way to achieve them I wouldn’t need drugs would I?

Never did I realize that my evolution into addiction started way before I took that first hit off that cigarette. It started when I lost value of myself and I lacked the self-love that it seemed so many others had.

The Key: Self-Love
Self-love. I never thought those two words could be so cool and important. Never did I think that it was those two words that would be so significant in being able to achieve anything that I wanted.

But they were…

Over the years, during those brief moments of clarity, I began to work on this thing called self-love. My intuition told me that if I could just work on myself then I could become all that I wanted to be.

It took a lot of time—hundreds of hours of self-work involving discovery and learning to look hard at my reflection to find what I was looking for. That feeling of self-respect. That feeling of hope. These were all things that came to me because I chose to do the work and I chose to face my demons head on and diminish the power I once gave to them.

You know what I found when I did beat them?

My dreams. My dreams of becoming a Super Star. For me that simply meant finding my purpose in life after my 15-year struggle with my addiction. Today I can stand to look at my own reflection and each time I do I love myself even more. Not for what’s outside but for all the beauty that I have inside. That’s where my value was hiding.

More Metaphorical Mountains To Climb
As you read this I am working hard at fulfilling more of my dreams. My self-confidence that I have regained is helping me achieve this. The trust that I have found within myself has allowed me to break free from the chains of addiction and has now enabled me to carry a mighty flag of victory to even higher mountains than ever before.

I’ll never give up the fight. Sure it’s a struggle everyday, but as I get closer to the top of my next mountain I am inspired to start mapping out my next endeavor. But one thing is for certain; I will always look down and remember how hard this climb to the top for me was. And while I am up here, it is my intention to help those that are beginning their climb find a way up to where I am standing now.

It’s beautiful up here. Care to join me?
 

My Disease Wants Me Dead, But I Don't

May 10, 2011

Sometimes I wonder why I am still here. Why, after all those years of abuse am I still breathing when so many others aren’t because of this disease?  Just this week I heard news of a 21-year-old from my hometown dying after finally giving sobriety a chance!  That’s the Russian roulette of addiction; one never knows if this disease will take your life or not.

Truth be known, I am afraid of death. I am afraid of it because it’s an unknown. My belief is that there is something magnificently beautiful beyond but right now it’s not anything I’m eager to experience.

I woke up today just as I do every day with gratitude—gratitude that I’m alive and I’m sober. I have been given a gift of life; a second chance to see my dreams come true. I never gave my dreams much of a thought when I was using, but now I see so much that I want to accomplish. The CD Serenity that Rock Star and I wrote and recorded was released last fall and my book, The First 30 Days to Serenity is scheduled for printing this week. In one week, I’ll be presenting to schools in upstate New York, sharing my message of redemption and hope. I never saw those visions during my addiction, let alone believe that I had a purpose in life. But I do now! Yes, I do!

My passion for living is now reinforced by the fact that I don’t want to be remembered as a drug addict, or as a junkie, as I was once referred to as.

I Want to Be Remembered for My Enthusiasm
I want to live my life so I’ll be remembered for my enthusiasm. My lust for recovery and my passion for convincing others that sobriety is something that anyone can have. I want to be remembered as a person who wasn’t afraid to fall in love with himself when he finally realized he wasn’t such a bad guy after all. And finally, I want to be remembered as a man who was able to find redemption when so many others told me it would never be accessible to someone like me, a drug addict.

There is a lot to be done while I am alive and I’m excited today to live the rest of my life!  To see more of my dreams become a reality. Another CD. Another book. Taking the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR Project message out to the youth and parents of our communities. Rockin’ it out in September during the Rockin’ Recovery Tour!Those are the things I choose to focus on today in my life. I have gratitude and appreciation for this chance I’ve been given; this chance that some never get.  

Always love, always encourage and never let despair get in the way.

The Journey of Serenity

May 03, 2011
Recently I’ve blogged about my relentless pursuit to reach for my dreams and how that led to working with the musical heroes from my childhood, the creation of the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT, Serenity CD and our upcoming Rockin’ Recovery Tour to support National Recovery Month in September, 2011. None of these things would have happened if I didn’t find the courage to get sober. After finding sobriety I tapped into my creativity and with perseverance I achieved a dream! As I look back now it’s been an awesome ride that was well worth the ups and downs and twists and curves of living life on life’s terms!

Recently, I was reading some journal writings from the time Rock Star and I spent in the studio recording Serenity. I thought it might be interesting to share some excerpts to give you a glimpse at how Serenity became a reality.

Day 1 in the Studio
First day of recording with the legendary Bob Kulick alongside with his partner Brett Chassen. Bob is a Grammy award-winning artist and producer and was carefully hand selected by Rock and I to produce and polish what will be our first CD release. We will also be tapping Chris Caffery (TSO, Savatage) for a role as producer on a few select songs. We are excited to have him!

Today’s first day was fun. I laid down the tracks for the first two songs we are working on. The first is called ‘Do it for you” and the second is called “Don’t give up.” It is unclear who will be singing on these yet but hey, at least we got the drums down. I had to play to a click track for the first time ever and I was able to find its groove quickly. By the time the session ended, I found myself missing the “click click click” in my head!

We go back Thursday and Friday for another beating. Forgive the pun. On Thursday, we will be laying down the tracks for “Such a Bitch” and “Stronger Now.” I am sure the “Stronger” title will change. I am not feeling it. I will also be telling Brett I want to re-record the drumming to the bridge section of “Do it for you” to include the ride cymbal. I hope he’s not mad! All in all, this is an amazing and super experience.

Day 10 in the Studio
Oh crap! Bruce is coming in. Bruce Kulick! How cool is that we got Bruce Kulick to play on “Do it for you” and “Abuse Me?"  Okay, so Bruce walks in, we make the introductions and are beside ourselves that we are going to be working with him. As if all this wasn’t enough, he then whips out the guitar, a 1953 Les Paul, that his brother had used on the studio side of Kiss Alive 2 for such songs as “Rocking in the USA” and “Larger than Life.”  It was also used on some songs for Paul Stanley’s 1978 Solo album. He plugs it in and immediately begins crafting a solo for “Do it for you.”

When the dust settled and all was said and done, the result was amazing. It was so eerie to hear that tone from the guitar that was featured on so many of those classic Kiss tunes now being played on our track. We got some pictures of it and some great video as well. God, it came out so amazing!

The next track was called “Abuse Me.”  It is a weird song. It’s very Kiss-like up front but then eventually settles into a Beatles type bridge section, only to go right back in a Kiss type arrangement for the chorus. It is a delicate beast. The song is about my love affair with drugs, so it takes you through a wide array of emotions. We set it up this way to be able to communicate the message about the dangers of drugs. I have to say, thank god we chose Bruce to play on this track as well. He nailed it, note for note and he thought of a few things that never even crossed our minds. That is the difference between a pro and someone who just plays for fun. From his years of playing, Bruce just has this vast array of tools that he is able to pick and choose from and is able to use these tools and ideas to best compliment a song like this.

Day 13 in the Studio
So we went in Monday and nailed out a track called “We Are One.” It’s odd, this track was supposed to be a song called “I am sorry” but ultimately ended up being too upbeat. So, since I am responsible for all the melodies and lyrics for this project, I felt I needed to make best use of the emotion that I was feeling while listening back to the track. Something was pulling me towards having it be a song that celebrates a community of recovering addicts. And so it hit me, why not be a song named “We Are One." The irony to this story is that this is the track that I worked on with some young recovering addicts while in Chicago. How appropriate is that! So cool!



The song was developed from an acoustic tune that my brother handed to me some time ago. It was this track that I let the kid’s rock along with, put their “vibe” on it, and is now what I regard as my  favorite track on the CD. Although I must say, I have yet to write any of the lyrics yet, but I do have some great ideas for the melodies!

Wow! It’s been quite the journey thinking back on those days when the CD was just a vision. Putting my sobriety first, a lot of hard work and keeping focused on my vision led to the evolution of Serenity!  And now to see that copies of the CD are selling at Hot Topic Stores across the country is beyond my wildest dreams!  To listen to some clips of songs on Serenity, click here.
 

 

Do It for You or Do It for Me?

Apr 26, 2011
My first thoughts about becoming sober were always for the wrong reason. I was looking to clean myself up for others and not for myself. That’s why I had so many failed attempts at sobriety. I totally didn’t get it.
 
One of the worst things for me to experience during my active addiction was having to say "I am sorry" to everyone around me. Sorry for the constant let downs and lies. I cringe just thinking about it. Today there is no more I’m sorry. That’s because today I do it for me.
 
When my twin brother, Rock Star, and I sat down to write our song “Do it for you,” we wanted to capture how important it was for someone who might be struggling to think about this very lesson. Why are they trying to get sober? Is it for them or someone else? We also wanted to seize how important continued encouragement from a loved one is to an addict during their fight to combat their disease. Encouragement with boundaries was a necessity for me. It was important to have someone cheering me on at the sidelines, and it was also important for me to know that they would not be sticking around if I chose to keep using.   
 
I believe writing songs about my addiction alongside my brother served as a tremendous opportunity for healing. Just sitting there at rehearsal and having to come up with the raw emotions about why we were writing this song helped spark even more communication between the two of us. That was a magical time for me. I will forever cherish how important that was towards my emotional growth and towards healing my relationship with my brother.
 
When we did finally have a chance to sit in the studio with legendary producer Bob Kulick, it was this song that we felt inspired to record first. That’s how important this message was for me to convey. I wanted to tackle "Do t for You" quickly so my brother and I could successfully capture the emotion and importance of staying sober for you and not for anyone else.

After my brother and I laid down our talents to "Do it for you," we asked Todd La Torre (Crimson Glory) to lay down the perfect vocals for it. His contribution was even more than I had hoped for. Mark Slaughter (Slaughter) came in at a later time and lent his splendid voice for the backing vocals, and the end result was perfection. Eventually we recruited Bruce Kulick (Kiss) to record the guitar solo for “Do it for you.” I remember Bruce walking in the studio - Rock Star and I were beside ourselves having the chance to work with someone whose pictures we had on our bedroom walls. All these musicians were heroes to us growing up and here we both were—together thanks to my sobriety—working besides them. All thanks to my doing it for me.
 
Every morning when I wake up, I make it a point to remember just why I got sober in the first place. I make it a point to be just as selfish in my recovery as I was during my addictive addiction. When I was out using and abusing, I wanted my drugs for me and only me. Today my energy is spent directing that selfishness towards my sobriety. I do it for myself and for no other reason beyond that.
 
I can hear my brother saying, “Come on Super Star, Do it for you!” Well brother Rock Star, I sure am, sure am and I will continue to do it for me.
 
So here it is, our song "Do it for you." Crank it, enjoy it and live the message loud and proud!


 

Surrounding Ourselves With Sobriety

Apr 19, 2011
When I finally chose to get sober, I knew that surrounding myself with sobriety would be key. I realized that when I didn’t immerse myself in my recovery, unhealthy thoughts would rear their ugly head more often than not. That’s why people who are sober go to meetings and have friends who are also in recovery. It is surrounding oneself with healthy people, places and things that keep us on the right path; the path where we rediscover ourselves and realize our true gifts and passion in life.

This has been a key for me to stay clean and that’s why I relentlessly work hard to bring our message to the masses.

Every September, there is a national observance to educate the public across America about the fact that treatment works! To make people aware that, with appropriate services and supports, people struggling with substance use disorder and/or mental health concerns can live a healthy and rewarding life. ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT’s main objective is to get this message out in any way it can. For some a more subdued and subtle message will suffice; but for others an ear-crushing decibel beat is a necessity! That’s where the Rockin’ Recovery Tour comes in!

The ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT is taking our very own Rockin’ Recovery Tour on the road during the month of September, 2011 for National Recovery Month and we want to come to your town to rock out to the message of sobriety. The Rockin’ Recovery Tour is another way for the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT to bring awareness to the disease of addiction and celebrate recovery; a rockin’ sober event that spreads HOPE to all those that have been or are affected by the disease of addiction!

There will be guest musicians from our CD Serenity along with others performing songs and brief skits or readings symbolizing addiction and recovery including music from Serenity. This performance is appropriate for all ages and for good reason: No age is too early to learn about the importance of sobriety and responsibility!

This concert is for families, parents, kids, friends and anyone else to enjoy. It is our hope that people will celebrate the road to recovery and be inspired to engage in those necessary conversations with others helping to increase awareness and decrease the social stigma still associated with addiction. Together we make a difference!

And from the songs on our CD, we’ll be rocking to the message that "We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place" and finally let go of the "Claws" of "Mistress Insidious."




As long as "We Don’t Give" up, "One Day at a Time" we will find our "Serenity" because together "We Are One!"

So we hope to see you out on the road in September 2011 as this amazing spectacle rocks out the importance of sobriety!  If you would like more information on how to bring the Rockin’ Recovery Tour to your community, email me.

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the Serenity CD here.
 

How To Rock Your World, As I Did Mine

Apr 12, 2011
Want to work with your favorite Rock Star? Here’s how I made this dream come true.

When I was young, I was obsessed with my music. Not just the music but the icons of rock who were responsible for writing my favorite tunes. From Kiss to Motley Crue, I was infatuated with all the great bands of the day. Posters of them were everywhere I was. My room and my locker at school were places I felt I could showcase this talent. I had all the magazine articles, wore all the t-shirts and knew everything about the musicians that I listened to. These musicians were my heroes. They kept my mind occupied and my ears happy. My thoughts were always racing with the hopes of someday becoming one of them.

But then I discovered drugs and those bands eventually fell by the wayside to my new infatuation—getting high. My drug use
 
Recording the Serenity CD: a dream made true by persistence and sobriety.
quickly took over and was enough to convince me that I no longer needed heroes. That all I needed were my drugs. The drugs took my dreams of becoming a rock star away from me because I chose to. But at the time I didn’t understand that it was a choice. Like everyone who succumbs to an addiction, I felt I could continue using and stop whenever I wanted to. Boy was I wrong!

When I did get sober, I found myself dreaming like a kid again, listening again to the songs that used to bring me so much happiness and peace. It was during this time that I decided to send my addiction a message. My message to it was that no matter how hard it tried to kill all my hopes and dreams that I just wouldn’t let it.

My brother Rock Star and I had always wanted to start a band. But not just any other band. We wanted our band to come out of the gate strong and be a bombastic rock-and-roll spectacle to the ears. An onslaught to the senses. We knew we couldn’t do it by ourselves either. We had to dream big to make it happen. Our dream? To work with those bands we grew up admiring. To make those posters come to life and not only work with those heroes but become heroes ourselves. So how did we do it?

To kick this project off, we needed to open a door. We knew we were facing an uphill battle so it had to be smart and creative. Our idea had to also be appealing. So then my brother had a thought. Why not approach one of these masters of metal with a proposition? One that would be so rewarding they couldn’t possibly ignore our advance. The idea was not at all glamorous but it was an idea that we knew someone would appreciate and, most importantly, someone would need. But first we had to decide who we wanted to do this for. Once we could identify this person we knew we were on our way.

It Didn't Matter That We Didn't Know How
The idea was to build a website for someone that we thought had one that was less than desirable. We didn’t even know how to build websites and couldn’t even spell HTML at the time but we didn’t let that thwart our desires. All that it would take was a couple hundred hours to learn how to build a website and the time and a willingness to achieve was something we had plenty of. We eventually found our candidate and reached out to him without success. Not even an acknowledgment to our emails. Maybe this person was too busy? Perhaps he didn’t care to associate with two looney-tune fans who wanted to befriend him by offering to build his website. We didn’t know but we didn’t care either. We knew we had to keep trying and that is what we did.

After countless attempts via email we finally received a response: “Got your emails, out on the road will email when I return stateside.” It was hard enough digging up this person’s email address but it was going to be even harder pitching him a well- thought-out design for a website that we didn’t even know how to build!

When this person did return home, he kept his word and emailed my brother a time for a quick call. We were so excited to talk with him. Just having him respond to our email was amazing but waiting for his call was a priceless moment in time. The call eventually did take place and after some time a wonderful friendship ensued. His website was built and released to some very positive fanfare. We were on our way and, through this first musician, we were able to access many more over time.

Three words come to mind that were necessary for us to accomplish our goal. In order they are as follows.

1. Sobriety
2. Creativity
3. Perseverance

Without sobriety I would have not been able to accomplish what most would see as very challenging. Sobriety has brought me the gift of realizing my intelligence and the willingness to work. It allows me to tap into my creative sense and not ever let despair get in the way. I promise you, achieving my childhood dreams could not have come true unless I were first sober.

We had found that we needed to be creative with every person who we wanted to work with. Creativity was needed from the very moment we had our vision. You have to be creative at every turn. Creative to find contact information, creative with your pitch, creative with everything you do so that your dream can be crafted just how you envisioned it. For it to be your idea and not turn into anyone else’s. It is about working the angles and adapting to the next one if the first one doesn’t seem to work out the way that you had hoped.

Calls Ignored; Meetings Blown Off
Our perseverance is a constant. It has to be. There are so many walls that we needed to break down and so many others that wanted us to conform to what they wanted us to be. For every hundred emails that left our outbox, only one might have been replied to. Most of our calls were ignored, meetings were blown off. Everything seemed to be in our way at times but we never gave up. We were always persistent and we were perseverant. We always saw the light at the end of the tunnel and never gave up looking in its direction.

Recovery for me has been seeing that I can accomplish whatever I set out to accomplish. Whatever I desire for myself can be mine and will be provided if I have my sobriety and keep creativity and perseverance in mind. Because of my actions and optimism, I have now become a person that I am proud of. I have now become one of my own heroes. My very own Super Star—and you can, too!

» Read about Super Star, follow his posts and buy the Serenity CD here.

 

Rock and Rolling My Way To Recovery

Apr 05, 2011
We all have dreams. Dreams have inspired many to accomplish the unfathomable, from walks on the moon to unimaginable inventions. Everything that we, as a civilization, have created for ourselves first was a thought; a dream in someone’s mind.

I, too, have had dreams, just like everybody else. Dreams of hope beyond my addiction. Thoughts of things I thought would be unobtainable. And they were while I was out there in my active addiction. But I had never forgotten about them. Even while I was out there using it was these dreams that would inspire me to keep trying. To keep reaching for the stars and to try, and try again, at accomplishing some of them.

It was one of the dreams that I was able to accomplish when finally surrendering to my addiction. A dream seen by others as so unrealistic that many would tell me that I was nuts for even trying. Even many more would tell me that it would never happen. But I didn’t listen to any of them. My dreams were what I leaned on for encouragement. They were what I used as a beacon to lead me out of the darkness of addiction and into the light of recovery.

 
 Smitten from the first KISS song.
Growing up, I had always had a vision. That vision was to be a rock star. I had admired rock stars since I heard my first KISS song. The image, the sound, the attitude of what they were able to create was something that I wanted. Frequently I would imagine I was one of these iconic heroes. Little did I know that someday I would be one.

First, I started the ROCKSTAR SUPERSTAR PROJECT alongside my twin brother, Rock Star.  We created the RSSS Project in an effort to raise awareness among those who suffer from substance use disorder. We knew we had to do something spectacular with RSSS. But what?

So, after legally changing our names to Rock Star and Super Star, we dared to accomplish one of our dreams. The dream was to work alongside our childhood heroes to help us further our quest. That’s exactly what we did. With my brother’s help, we were successful in recruiting many of those iconic poster pin-ups we had grown up admiring. This was done for the purpose of helping others through one of life’s most challenging times. The difficult time I am referring to is addiction to drugs and/or alcohol.

Overcoming such a powerful disease takes every ounce of one’s willingness. But it’s not just willingness. It’s everything else. Every dose of encouragement, every single fiber of inspiration and a lot of work. All these things tie into successfully combating the illness that many have conquered.

In my next blog, I will be sharing how I made this happen. How I turned my dreams into reality in the name of sobriety and to extend a helping rock-and-roll hand to all those that want to accomplish their own dreams.

» Read about Super Star and follow his posts here.
Photo CC-By Alberto Cabello from Vitoria Gasteiz  
 

The glorious gifts of recovery

Mar 29, 2011
Before I chose to get sober, I would hear from others that being in recovery from substance abuse would bear gifts of an unfathomable level. It was almost impossible for me to think that someday I could have many of them for myself. I didn’t know what kind of gifts these people were talking about but I knew that whatever they were must be better than what I was not achieving in my life while out there abusing drugs. 

When I was out using, I was a monster. I only cared about one thing and that was feeding my addiction by any means possible. When I look back it is crazy for me to think of myself as that person I once was. But it did happen. The devil in the addiction really does exist. I was that person who would do anything to get my next fix. It didn’t matter what it was, I would just do it. That’s who I was and what I was about when overpowered by my disease.

But occasionally the real me would
peek outside my dark and thick outer layer and get a glimpse towards the light of hope called recovery. Were those people right about there being gifts in recovery? And if so, what did that even mean? Did they mean if I found sobriety I would get presents for it or did they mean something else? I wasn’t sure but what I was certain about was my desire to give sobriety a chance. And that’s what I did three years ago.

Today I can finally identify some of those gifts that I used to hear others talk about. Some of them are universal and I imagine are meant for everyone who embarks on this spiritual journey. For example, I don’t have to be in charge of everything anymore! What a relief this has been for me to realize. I know now that it is okay to turn things over to a higher power and, when I do, things always have a way of turning out for the best. Now I can accept my life journey as it is and find strength and courage to trust in a power greater than myself. I have regained the trust that I had once lost from family members, friends, and peers. I have self-confidence and a renewed sense of who I am. I am content with my reflection, strong in my wisdom and today I am firm in my recovery. I am working it because I am worth it.

But there is more….  So much more….

Gifts in recovery are available to everyone. And I believe some of gifts are personal and individualized. For me I have been gifted with the opportunity to convey the importance of sobriety to kids across the country via our Skype presentations and school assemblies. This has been a remarkably rewarding gift and one that I cherish the most. Another has been finding the strength and courage to pull together my childhood hero musicians for our Serenity project. To work with such a talented group of musicians could not have happened if I had first not gotten sober. Finally, tapping even deeper into my dream book to take our Rockin’ Recovery Tour out on the road as another way to bring awareness to the disease of addiction and celebrate recovery, spreading HOPE for all those affected by addiction!

As long as I stay sober and continue to put the right foot in front of the other every day, my gifts will be plentiful. I will always have the pleasure to unwrap them one at a time, exposing the treasure of life that lies within each package.

 

 

Rediscovered Feelings Strengthen Recovery

Mar 22, 2011
Something that helps me stay sober and focused on my recovery is remembering how I felt when I was in my active addiction. Not just how I felt about myself but how I thought others perceived me and my drug use. This offers a lot of insight for me when I look back now at what I was really feeling in my addiction through the eyes of sobriety. Seeing more clearly how my drug use was actually covering up those feelings I didn’t want to face; especially those feelings of shame and guilt.

Recently I had an interesting experience when I had the opportunity to drive someone to an inpatient rehab center in the Midwest. During the check in process I observed others looking at me as if I was the patient being admitted. I found myself feeling uncomfortable with the way the staff and visitors were looking at me, even feeling shameful. I was carrying this person’s duffle bag which might have indicated I was in fact, the patient. At that moment, I realized that I had just been taken back in my memory to the time when I experienced walking through this process of entering rehab. A process that I can vividly recall feeling embarrassed about. All the drama, judging and negative energy that I felt was directed at me when entering rehab through a simple glance from another was suddenly facing me again even though I was not the one there for help. There I was; sober and clean for nearly three years but at that moment it was like I hadn’t been sober at all.


So I got to thinking, what could this mean?


My Disease Wants Me Dead
Here is what I think it means. It means my disease wants me dead. It is waiting for an opportunity to suck me back into its whirlwind of doom. Its tactic is to use shame against me. The shame from my drug use was at one time so overwhelming that I would run back to my drugs for comfort at every turn. I couldn’t face my feelings. If I really allowed myself to feel them they would be too painful and I didn’t have the tools to move through that pain. And, I certainly did not see hope in feeling any of those feelings. During that time using drugs was the only thing that would help me forget how dirty I felt because of my addiction.

For me being in recovery means a lot more than just being sober; it also means having the ability to deal with my emotions. Most of my feelings were covered up with substances for so long that I had almost forgotten that some of them existed. When I chose to get sober I was finally faced with having to embrace my feelings enough to understand them and then deal with them. I now understand where the feelings were coming from that day I took that patient to rehab. They were coming from a monster within that I must never let control me again which is why it is so important for me to be in touch with my feelings.


Today I’m grateful because things have changed for me. Shame and guilt don’t lead me back to my addiction.  Today they are just feelings; something for me to be aware of and see what they are telling me about myself.  I make it a point to remember how disgusting drugs made me feel today. Not to feel bad about myself but to remember that I never want my addiction to rob me of my life and my dreams again. This latest experience is a reminder of just how powerful this disease can be. It’s a disease so strong that it is always trying to work its way back into stinkin’ thinking. This is why it’s so important for me to constantly be aware of my thoughts because I know it’s my thinking that my disease will use to destroy me.


Read more about Super Star and the RockStar SuperStar Project here.

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