Ever since leaving Mountainside, Steve has found that honesty is his best policy. He shares with Spotlight how he overcomes any urges he may have to use again, what advice he would give to his younger self, and the guest list for his ideal dinner party.
Q: What excites you the most now when you get up in the morning?
A: What excites me now the most is being able to begin each day with a clear vision of what the day will bring. It’s so nice not worrying about how many pain meds I need for the day or how I am going to obtain more. Life is much simpler now in recovery.
Q: What is your motto? And what about this motto appeals to you?
A: My motto is to just tell the truth! Life is such a pleasure now that I don’t have to lie and lie more to cover up the original lie. It’s a freeing feeling to know that you can simply tell the truth each day and be happy with that. I spent most of my adult life covering up my addictions with half-truths and lies. Never again!
Q: What has been the best part of recovery for you? Why?
A: Honestly, it’s the ability to simply be truthful with everyone. Life is much more simple now because I can live it with total honesty. Stress levels decrease tremendously when you can call a spade a spade and move forward.
Q: What would you say is the biggest success (professional or personal) you’ve had since leaving Mountainside?
A: Professionally speaking, I started my own painting company, and it has become more successful than I could ever imagine. That was one of my biggest concerns while at Mountainside. I knew that I would be retiring from a wonderful teaching/counseling job, but I also knew that would not be able to sit home idle and not work. This new venture is so far removed from what I used to do, but I find it very fulfilling. When I leave someone’s home and see a completed project, it truly does bring a smile to my face.
Personally speaking, without a doubt, connecting to my family again. For years, I spent my time at home sleeping in preparation for the next day. My time sitting and enjoying the company of my wife and children was at a minimum. Now, I long for family time and enjoy my wife and children like never before.
Q: What has been your biggest hurdle in recovery, and how did you learn to overcome it?
A: The biggest hurdle for me is: I often think of using again, and it’s a struggle. I deal with my urges by attending meetings, calling a friend, or just taking a walk with my three pups. So far, so good.
Q: What was the turning point that led you to get help?
A: My life was a mess! All I could think about is getting high, alleviating the pain that I thought I had in my knee, and my stress level was through roof. I knew that I was on the road to death, but it really didn’t matter to me, as long as I was stress free and pain free. I was willing to die early as long as I was comfortable for the years I had remaining.
Finally, just before going to Mountainside, I knew that something had to change. I wasn’t ready for death just yet.
Q: If you could, what would you tell your younger self?
A: I would tell myself to enjoy life and its simple pleasures. I would say live life to its fullest but have limitations on what you would let yourself get involved with. Be happy with yourself 24/7 and have no regrets looking back. Remember, the experiences you have in your life are who you are. You are a culmination of your own life experiences. Make those experiences into the best you could ever imagine!
Q: What would you like people who are afraid to receive treatment know?
A: I would say that although it’s a very difficult decision and not an easy one to make, once you get through the first 14 days, you will realize it could be the best decision you made for yourself in your life. Getting treatment is difficult, but the reward is life-changing.
Q: What suggestions do you have for the newcomer?
A: I suggest that a newcomer remain open to everything that treatment has to offer. It’s a difficult thing to do when you first arrive into a treatment facility for many of us, if not all of us, for we are questioning why were are there in the first place. Take advantage of all the services offered you because all the staff and programs are offered to support you.
Q: What is the best advice you have been given?
A: The best advice in recovery that was given to me was to take one day at a time. It sounds cliché, but in my life, it’s the way it has to be. There is nothing you can do about yesterday, and tomorrow brings new adventures. Deal with what you have to do today. Be selfish!
Q: What is the one item you can’t do without?
A: That’s a tough one. I would have to say my boat. I have always found that being on the ocean has been my therapy. As crazy as it sounds, even in active addiction, I hardly ever used when on the water. There is something about being in the boat and fishing that has always brought a sense of calm to me.
Q: Would you rather be an inventor or a leader? Why?
A: I would rather be a leader because I would rather lead a group of individuals to a sense of completion of whatever the challenge may be. This is sort of indicative of the teaching profession that I chose, for I had to lead students in learning new concepts.
Q: Who — dead or alive — is on the guest list for your ideal dinner party?
A: Obviously my wife and family, for without them, there would not be happiness in my life. My dad, he was the pillar of my life, and I will miss him forever. My best friend Russ, for although he was my “partner in crime” in addiction, he is still my “partner in crime” in recovery. Robin Williams would also make my guest list, for he, I believe, suffered from the same illness that we do and not only could he provide insight in our disease but also could bring laughter to the party. I would also bring Neil Young, for I love his music.
Q: What’s the one thing people would be pleasantly surprised to know about you?
A: I think people would be surprised to know that I was selected as Teacher of the Year in 2008 in my local school district.
Q: What are you currently reading or what song have you enjoyed recently? What do you love about it?
A: I absolutely dislike to read. I listen to classic rock, and anything that Pink Floyd is playing, I am listening to. Old Man from Neil Young is my absolute favorite turn, for I think of my Dad each time I hear it.