Through the battle of drug addiction I've have only discovered that the battle doesn't end there. The real battle field is in our minds. This blog is made to share my story and hopefully give hope and inspiration to anyone at war with themselves.
"Defeat the enemy within and the enemy outside can do us no harm."
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Interview of the addict
I am not my past, it is only a part of me. A valuable memory, held in my treasury. Many want to hide their past behind the deepest caverns. Eventually if we go back in, and mine our mind, gems you will find. The pressure had turned our rocks into riches. What we had of little value, has now become valuable. We can harbor it or make it available. True joy comes when we make available our value and invite many to the table.
I was asked to interview by a friends daughter for a school project. She asked some good questions about my story and my addiction. What would I say to my son if he began the road I took? What regrets do I have? Am I proud of who I am now?
1. Where are you from?
I am from Lancaster, Ohio.
2. How old are you?
My birthday is May 29, 1984. I am 34 years old.
3. What decisions have you made in your life that you are proud of?
Being the Father of Peyton, my 12 year old son and my daughter Azalea who is 8 months old. I am also proud that I was able to move past my drug addiction and find a job I'm so passionate about.
4. What decisions have you made in your life that you regret?
That's really tough. I mean it would be easy to say I regret all the drugs I did. But then again If I regretted those what would I be saying about all the lessons I learned along that path? My past decisions, failures and successes have all brought me to this life that I'm now addicted to. I love everything about my life today. I'm not saying I'm happy all the time. I've just learned that often the things that are most painful end up being the most meaningful. We just don't understand them in the moment. Life is the toughest teacher because it gives us the test first and the lesson after.
5. How have these decisions affected you?
The major decisions I've made that really put me in a lot of pain are: Overdosing on heroin with my son in the car. Having my first daughter taken from us from the hospital because of our drug addictions. The marriage of drugs, husband and wife. Being homeless in Columbus, Ohio. Being homeless in Tampa Bay, Florida. Long term drug abuse. Falling off a mountain and breaking my femur, ankle and both my hands.
I touched on how they affected me in the previous question. Here I can go into more detail. God has made all the bad decisions in my life my new strengths. The story I have lived through gives me an opportunity to share it with others. Without it I wouldn't have the chance to give others hope, and guidance to a healthier life. I have a wonderful relationship with my son now. The situation allows me to have an unique perspective of influence on him. It has it's challenges, and he knows I am always here for him no matter what.
My daughter is a different story. She got adopted and now lives in Africa with her parents. They are missionaries and started a church there in Zambia. I often think about the day she wants to meet me. This moment whether it happens or not, is a huge motivation for me to make her proud one day. It is one of the biggest, and most exciting amends I get to make.
The tri-marriage of drugs, husband and wife was something I was proud of for a while. I would journal about how amazing it was to have someone to experience this part of life with. All of it. However, it did end up falling apart. The more I went to jail the further we grew apart. Trust had been stretched to its ripping point. As a flower without water, without trust, love can only live so long. This relationship taught me a lot about love. The feeling of love, that massive attraction is amazing, yet it is only part of love. There is love, trust and service. The action of service to one another is like the cream that holds Oreo's together. It is the evidence that allows each to thrive. When love has those three things it can move mountains, it can redirect a river.
My two bouts of homelessness had my head spinning. Well it was the bath salts and meth specifically. The extremes my mind was sent to completely controlled the reality I was in. Being awake for so long would take a toll on a dehydrated and malnutritiond mind. A thought which would enter my brain and normally be written off, would be dwelld upon. Soon these thoughts would form beliefs. Once I believed something to be true, no matter how crazy it was, I would live in that world. Looking back I can see this. There is still doubt to what was real and what wasn't. What I do know is without visiting that extreme I may not have realized the importance of the beliefs we have on the world around us. A simple belief shift can completely change your life. My #1? Everything in life is specifically designed for our improvement. This has allowed me to grow exponentially these past 4 years.
Long term drug use can fall into some of the previous lessons. Though, I'd like to add that I've met many significant people who have guided me on my way here. Judgment can be difficult. There are times when I see people who are where I used to be, and I relate them to myself. There is a mixed feeling of understanding that manifests. I mean, no matter what, I was taken care of. No matter what, I had to make the decision myself. Along with God's grace I still had to take the steps of my recovery incredibly serious. By doing so, and going through jail and rehabs I've found that there is, what I believe, a valuable piece missing from recovery. A guide to passion and structure. A new way of transforming destructive addictions into constructive habits. With out my long term drug use, I'd never of started the organization BA2L Be Addicted to Life. (www.BA2L.org)
Breaking my femur, ankle and both my hands was really important. I was living for myself then and working jobs to make a paycheck. I wasn't contributing back to society the way that would connect to me internally. Breaking my body allowed me time to reflect on my life and look for what the design was trying to improve. I knew I needed to give back. I looked into the peace corps and found AmeriCorps which gave me the opportunity to move to Troy, Ohio where I was lead to my mission. A job where I could be me. Help people become better people.
6. Are you proud of where you are now?
I am. I mean, it's truly amazing to see God's hand working for me. He is all over the place. So it's kind of weird to say proud because I definitely haven't done this myself. What I have done is try and become the best person I can, while developing a closer relationship to God. Developing virtue, continuously chasing excellence and trying to be the best servant I can for others is the main focus. Everything else just keeps seeming to work itself out.
7. If you could go back to any certain moment and change it, what moment would it be and what would you change?
I couldn't make that choice. This is where I am supposed to be. But hey just for fun? I wonder what would of happened if I never touched a drug or alcohol ever?
8. Do you ever have the urge to get high again and if so, what do you do instead?
Yeah. I get them. It's weird though. Like if I get my blood drawn, or if I go into a public bathroom. Those places are pretty consistent. The best thing I believe anyone can do is to have a noble and life enhancing mission. When we have that, our decisions and time become too important to waste.
9. What advice would you have for other people who are struggle with addictions?
Separating the old you from the new you helps. I changed the spelling of my name to signify I'm not the old me. (Eric to Airek) Other than that:
Step one - Be completely honest with yourself. Step 2 - Decide to go all in. If I tell you to do 100 push ups, say okay and do them 1 by 1 all day if you have to. I believe that is the dedication needed to stay clean. Step 3 - Follow your curiosity, it will lead you to your passion. Step 4 - Continuously work on become a better person for the rest of your life.
10. How and when did you start drugs?
The friends I chose to hang out with drank and began using drugs. Hang out by the pool long enough and you're going to get wet.
11. Who, if anyone, helped you get to where you are now?
SOOO MANY PEOPLE!! God is working behind the scenes always. My Mom raised me perfectly and without the lessons and values she gave me I don't know if I'd made it out alive. My Son who drives me to be a role model for him as long as I live. My Dad who has an uncanny ability to always be there when I need him most. My Grandma and Grandpa who have collectively been the most brutally honest while inspiring me to make them as proud I possibly can. Heather who was by my side though likely the most difficult times of both of our lives. Danny and Jo who have taught me by action what love without judgment can do. Andre who taught me about integrity and servitude. Debbie with hope without dope paid for my ticket and showed up at all my court dates! Sharon McGill whose faith in me brought me to Troy and taught me many indirect service leadership skills. Doug and Erin Brooks who brought me back to church and have blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of their family. Teresa who challenges the way I think. She isn't afraid to keep me grounded. She is teaching me how to communicate effectively, and love differently. Azalea who has shown me a whole new world of Fatherhood. There are so many more. But that is off the top of my head.
12. If in ten years, you found out that a child of yours was beginning to make the mistakes you have made in the past, what would you say to them?
You know that is really tough. What I can say is that I think about that a lot. I think about what lessons I can teach him that will stick. I think about when he faces difficulties in his future, will he hear my voice guiding him. This is where I'm at now.
If I found out he was using, man, I just don't know. I guess I'd just try to be there for him in the beginning. I might take him to some homeless shelters, into some jails or rehabs to meet people who are on that path. I think those environments might make their words more meaningful than mine ever would.
13. How did you get started working as a trainer?
Using my old bad habits. LOL. Give me an inch, I take a mile. I don't work for money, I work for experience. It is more valuable than money is. Besides the better experience you have the more money you make. Doug and Erin asked me one day if I wanted to coach a boxing class. I said yes and worked hard. I did the best I could. I just kept repeating that process. I wasn't afraid to speak up, try something new and work hard for very little money. Eventually the experience built and over time I have been able to make a living here.
14. What were some difficult steps you had to take on your journey to where you are now?
Learning to be patient with myself. I want to have it right now, and it just takes consistent effort and time.
Perfectionism - I want to make everyone proud of me. I want everyone to like me. I know I have to be my own toughest critic. I have been battling depression and doubt for a while. I've developed habits and tactics to help me stop these before they get out of control. I know the stuff is in me if I listen to them. I see the benefits though. Often the blessings we think we have really end up being curses and the curses really end up being our biggest blessings. Recognizing that has helped me utilize the positives of many situations. So with perfection in particular, I know if I don't acknowledge and consistently affirm myself I naturally will get down on myself and think self depreciating thoughts. Which are often irrational anyway.
15. What happened that made you want to change and get better?
Eventually it became clear that I didn't like who I was anymore. I couldn't hide behind the idea that I wanted to get clean with my ex-wife. It was my issue, not our problem. I nearly immediately began to view my life as a book in which a new chapter had started. This idea has helped me realize that I just can't go back. That chapter is over.
16. Is there anything else you would like to add?
The beliefs we have about ourselves, others and the world around us have the power to hold us down, even cripple us. They also have the power to slingshot us to levels as limitless as the expanse of space. Believe you live in a world where people care everywhere. It is true. They do. Believe you live in a world which is awesome. Appreciate being able to move and think. Seriously not everyone has even this opportunity. Believe you live in a world where you can accomplish anything, with enough time and effort you can. You can live in an awesome, caring world where you can do what ever you want. It's here if you believe it.
There is an ancient proverb about heaven and hell. Here is the picture.
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