What is the best way to start the day? |I start everyday pretty much the same way, saying a few short prayers, asking for acceptance, and reminding myself that I am an addict and need to act accordingly. I ask for forgiveness from those I’ve harmed, including myself, for guidance in the day ahead, and I remind myself to do the right thing even when no one is watching.
I do some spiritual reading: “The Thought of Today” out of Twenty-Four Hours a Day and Narcotics Anonymous’ Just for Today: Daily Meditation. I then review my gratitude list reminding myself just how fortunate I am to be clean, sober, and able to enjoy the simple things in life ⎼ peace love, happiness, as well as being kind and considerate of others.
Five days a week, I suit up and show up at my AA home group in Kittery, Maine. On the weekends, I attend a speaker meeting. This daily reprieve allows me to face the reality of today, focused and on track.|What is your motto? And what about this motto appeals to you?|*The Big Book* says, if you put your recovery first in life everything you put second becomes first class. This has proven to be true over and over again. So, I continue to put my recovery first and the things I had lost have been returned many times over.
I am clean and sober, successful and at peace, suiting up and showing up every day for life ⎼ good days or bad days. Reality is a wild ride and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
I no longer question how this all works. I trust my higher power, go to lots of meetings, talk to my sponsor, practice the principles of the steps in all my affairs, pray, and remind myself just how wonderful life is by being grateful and working with new comers. I don’t know which things keep me clean and I am not about to find out. It has worked for a while now, so I think I’ll try it again tomorrow.|What or Who motivates you in your recovery?|I have the gift of desperation and I never want to forget my last days of using. I spent most of the time in my garage with a pile of opiates, a bottle of vodka, and my 9mm handgun not caring which I picked up next. I was spent, broken, and spiritually bankrupt. It’s by the grace of God that I made it to Mountainside.
Another big motivator is bringing the message of recovery to prisons. I am the chairman of corrections for the Granite States AA district 14 and a panel leader for the Granite States chapter of NA Hospitals and Institutions committee. I bring over 30 meetings per month to those unable to make meetings on the outside. I personally host six to eight of these meetings a month and nothing gives me more hope than when I see the beginning of surrender. The welling tears in ones’ eyes and the acceptance of knowing that their best thinking landed them in prison.|What has been the best part of recovery for you? Why?|Peace. My mind is not racing. I can be still and no longer be overwhelmed by my thoughts. It feels great not to have that monkey on my back. I’ve learned to enjoy the simple things: to be kind, consider others, deal with difficulties as they occur, and take them one at a time. Best of all is truly enjoying my wife and three wonderful daughters. I am blessed to have them in my life.|What would you say is the biggest success you’ve had since leaving mountainside?|One of my biggest successes is being able to return to Mountainside and share at Alumni Speaker Nights. I’ve done it a couple of times and always look forward to seeing the staff members. Every single person working at Mountainside played an important part in my recovery ⎼ from the wakeup lady to the lights out security guy and everyone in between. I will always remember Jared (RIP). I made a point to run into him each day during residency. He would always insist on hearing five things that were good about today. He drove me to my massage appointments twice a week and I truly enjoyed listening to his messages of recovery.
I’ve enjoyed too many successes in recovery to mention them all. I believe AA’s “the promises” have come true in my life and most of all, I can suit up and show up for life in its own terms.|What has been your biggest hurdle in recovery and how did you learn to overcome it?|I had difficulty accepting the god, higher power thing. I had tried to get clean on my own and had been to a couple of other rehabs in my journey and could never come to terms. As a child, my mother made us go to church and all I remember is the fear of god. That if I did wrong, I would go to hell. The idea of a loving god wasn’t a message I’d heard. My whole life I had a disconnect and when I lost my best friend, my idol, my brother to this disease of addiction, I lost all hope and sunk to a deep dark space. I though, how could a loving god take such a wonderful loving person from me and his family? I lost all belief.
In Mountainside’s little old chapel, my belief started to change and the spark of acceptance was rekindled. At first, the chapel made me tremble and I spent many days weeping in my seat. After a while, I started to think of all those who came before me, sitting exactly where I sat. And after listening to all the wonderful speakers there, the door of spirituality was cracked open. I couldn’t get enough of the chapel and spent many hours just sitting on its front porch soaking it in.
Prior to my recovery, I saw myself as the judge, jury, and executioner of life, passing judgment to all who came in my path. Early on in my recovery someone said to me, “Jeff who do you think you are? Did you make the stars and the moon? Did you make the sun rise today? Did you make the grass grown? Did you make the flowers bloom? What did you make first, the chicken or the egg?” Those thoughts started to resonate with me and over time, I realized that I am so small.
Being a hunter, sitting in the deep woods, I’ve watched the raptors soar, huge bears quietly walk through the woods, and the fox stalk its prey. As a fisherman, I witnessed massive whales that breath air yet feed thousands of feet below water. I’ve seen fish that fly and watched giant Frigate birds who spend most of their lives over water but never land on it. It is these things that made me realize that I am an insignificant speck in this great universe and that I really have nothing to do with anything. I’ve come to believe that there must be this power greater than myself, this great spirit that’s in charge. But I don’t obsess with these thoughts. I only accept that I am not god, not even close.|What was the turning point that led you to get help?|I started drinking and drugging in 1968 and continued in one form or another, until November of 2015. I only had two or three brief months of total abstinence and my drug of choice seemed to change by the decade. I spent about 47 years chasing the high I once had.
Alcohol and drugs became my lover. I put their use ahead of everything: my family, work, good time, and bad times. I couldn’t imagine life without using even though they stopped working a long, long time ago. I could not stop no matter what promises I made myself.
In the end, the pitiful, incomprehensible demoralization that plagued me, the self-pity, and impending doom lurked within. In my drug use, I was always a snorter, and the end came with a choice: either head to a shooting gallery or give recovery another try. Broken and with effort from my angels, my wife and daughters, I went to Mountainside. And it’s been the absolute best thing I ever did.|What would you like people who are afraid of treatment to know?|That their life is waiting for them beyond their wildest dreams, that there is a way out, to let it go. To surrender and to know that they’re worth it. We are not on this earth to be shackled to addiction and that to continue using no doubt will absolutely end in jail, intuition or death and that I’d remind them that, at least for me, recovery is a spiritual non religious program and to give yourself a break. Get involved in an AA or NA program and get a home group, get a sponsor, ask for help, do the steps, start getting on your knees and pray out loud and always find something you’re grateful for. Help others!|What is the best advice you’ve been given?|It’s short and sweet: Get over yourself. Let go without reservations, loose all contact with those that are using, stick with the winners and take life one day at a time. |What brings you the most happiness? What makes you laugh the most?|Happiness starts when I wake up knowing where I am ⎼ not covered in sweat, not having the dry heaves, not shaking, and my mind isn’t racing, wondering what I did or thinking about getting high. I spend most days happy because I make the conscious choice to be happy. Every minute I spend angry or discontent is a time taken away from being gracious and at peace.
It’s the simple things that make me happy. We have this little dog that can’t get enough of my attention that is always excited to see me and to be held by me. Happiness is my wife’s eyes and my relationship with my three daughters. It’s the newcomer at my AA and NA home groups that come in with apprehension, confusion, and a look of desperation. Happiness is telling the newcomer to hang on, hang in there, and to come back. It’s giving them my phone number and telling them to call me before they pick up. And above all, happiness is being honest with myself and others. That makes me smile inside.|What is something you are looking forward to in the next few months?|I am looking forward to more of the same, being clean, sober, and content. And since spring is around the corner, I guess I’ll dust off my Harley this year and get some wind in my face. Also, we have a cottage on a lake up north that I’m looking forward to since my family enjoys spending time there the most.|Who, dead or living is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party.|I lost my brother to this disease. I always remember him, and spending our days on the ocean fishing and pulling lobster traps. I guess ideally it would be him and I with our wives sitting together enjoying a bunch of boiled lobsters and a pile of fried fish. The four of us together laughing our asses off. (I am weeping while I am writing, as I miss him so.)
One of the benefits of Mountainside is that I was encouraged to write my brother a letter, walk the labyrinth, and burn it at the middle. I did it one morning, at the crack of dawn while all was quiet. I spent a good hour there and for reasons I cannot explain, the sadness and sorrow I’d always hung onto started to lift. With many one on ones with Mountainside’s pastor I began the process of letting him go in peace and accepting the loss. I do still think of my brother. However, I can usually crack a smile thinking of some of the knucklehead things we did together.|What would you name your autobiography and why?|*You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover*. From early on, and throughout most of my life, I was preconceived as a tough guy and played the part. My ego got in the way of my decency, and even though deep down I cared for others, my upbringing taught me to never show weakness. So I kept that tough guy persona up. Since getting clean and sober and working the steps, I’ve been able to show my true feelings and true colors. I practice kindness, consideration, love, understanding, and generosity. I give rather than take. I accept things I can’t change, and I share my recovery. |What song best sums you up?|I’m not a big music guy but I guess, “Let it be” by The Beatles sums things up. Each morning on my way to a meeting I play “I’ll take care of you” by Joe Bonamassa and Beth Hart. I guess you could say that is my recovery song.|What’s the one thing that people would be pleasantly surprised to know about you? |I used to be skinny and had a full head of hair.