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How Fitting In To A New School Led To 22 Years of Addiction

Updated: May 15, 2020

As I stand at my outdoor locker at Mainland Senior Highschool in Daytona Beach, Florida the swirls of people jostling for position as they head to class is maddening, the loudness of their chattering is overwhelming, the dichotomy of accents, skin and hair colors, the brightness of the clothes - this is more than this small town kid is prepared for.

The differences between this school, in a very diverse city like Daytona, versus the where I had just moved from, Columbus, Indiana - where stark and obvious. I already am feeling like I don't fit in and my 14-year-old brain isn't quite ready for me to have to navigate the hallways and classrooms of this mega-school. I am emotionally immature, like all teenagers, and the choices I am making now, and will continue to make during my time here, will lay down the footpath for the addiction journey I will embark on in the future...


There is no way I can know at 14 that I am going to be an addict for 22 years and that my life will not look anything like this teenager thinks it will. Over 39 months ago, as of this writing, I stepped into my new life. I accepted that I could no longer control the addiction monster inside of me and called upon other resources to guide me to and through the journey of addiction recovery.

As a kid and teenager I consistently felt that I did not fit in. That I was invisible to most and an easy target for bullying to a few. I was the kid that spent time in the library with the other nerds playing chess and reading so the bigger kids couldn't knock me around. This feeling of not fitting in and not having a ton of friends played itself out into my Senior year of high school where I finally found my place in glee club and in theater. Being involved with those groups introduced me to a piece of myself I didn't know existed.

I was out-going, I was sociable, I was interesting to those that had similar interests to mine. With college on the horizon I made the decision to have friends, have a social circle, that would validate me and make me feel good about myself. I didn't know how I would do it but I was determined to do it nonetheless. In the Summer of 1994 my parents divorced right as I was graduating high school back in Columbus, IN and preparing to start my freshman year at Ball State University. That summer I experimented with booze, weed, and acid for the first time.

Up till then I had been a clean kid - but that all changed when the parents were to busy fighting amongst themselves to notice my behavioral shift. I thought I was maturing because of this newfound alcohol and drug use - oh boy, was I wrong. When I arrived at BSU I jumped right into the party scene because, and I say this strongly as a road sign for anyone you may know who is young and doesn't think they "fit in" - the addiction/partying social circle is the easiest group to become a member in. Addiction spares no one, and the isolated feeling so many teens experience is exacerbated when they look around and see people having fun and they are not a part of that.

If booze and drugs is involved, all they need to do to join the party is bring booze and drugs, share it generously, put on an act, and the rest takes care of itself. If one booze circle denies them there is another right next to it happy to bring them on so they can use them. If enough circles deny someone then the isolated person can just keep up-ing the ante of alcohol and drug use until the most desperate of groups are the only ones left to accept them. Within weeks of starting school I joined a fraternity, and dove into the booze/weed/LSD/cocaine scene on campus. Trust me, it is easy to be accepted by strangers when you bring a backpack of goodies to a house party.

I had no off switch. I went from zero to blacked out every weekend. Double shots at pregame into key bumps in the bathroom to acid to even out the dizziness that a pint of liquor into an empty teenagers belly inevitably brings on. Three years of this behavior and BSU had enough of me. Off to Orlando and five years of waitering and life guarding my way through the just emerging rave scene in Central Florida. Let's throw ecstasy and ketamine into the mix, uppers and downers too - and before you know it I am 25 and about to enter the University of Florida.

Another five years of binge drinking and coke use (all the other drugs went away or took a back set because the restaurant culture in Gainesville wasn't down with all that and addiction isn't fun if you're doing it alone, right?!) When I graduated a few months after my 30th birthday I thought my time as a drunked-up coke head was nearing it's end. I was ready to leave college behind and the immaturity that came with that environment with it. The easiest place for addiction to hide is in college because so many people abuse alcohol and drugs there so that behavior often gets a pass because of the youth and immaturity that controls that time in our lives.

Unfortunately, I was not going to leave addiction behind just because I graduated college. In fact, because I was leaving my safe, social circle in favor of a big city like Los Angeles the isolation and lack of friends that ran my emotional life in secondary school was about to come back in full force. Ten years of spiraling down the addiction drain in LA and the choice I had to make the year I turned 40 was obvious. Continue down this path and die before 45, or figure out a different way to live.

I had spent 22 years asking myself, "at what age will I go from having a ton of potential to having wasted a ton of potential?" To me, I was finally at that tipping point. To continue with the drinking, where I would sprint to the blackout 90% of the time I drank (and I was the only one in the race) - I knew it would kill me, it was killing me, and I was not going to die from addiction like my mother and step-dad (the man who raised me) did. I didn't want to die, I just wanted to live differently, and I knew I could find a way if I just looked around and actually tried.

I am now over three years sober. My sister is coming up on her third year too. The changes I have undergone have been so drastic and so amazing I am not sure I could have painted a better picture of how sobriety and recovery would treat me. To go from sobriety, counting days and white-knuckling it when cravings and triggers would inevitably come, to addiction recovery, where I dive deep into my mind, heart, and gut, and discover the anchors in my psyche that led me down the addiction road - this journey is amazing.

I started the "From Sobriety to Recovery" podcast to share with people the growth-mindset strategies that have helped me throughout my recovery. I am extremely blessed that there was a voice in my head that demanded I stop and not die. That voice is my savior because it planted a seed in my head back in my teens that one day I would have to stop using if I was ever going to achieve anything of worth in my life. If I am ever going to fulfill my soul's quest during this lifetime I know that journey will be grounded in sobriety and addiction recovery.

In my quest to reach my highest self I desire to share with anyone who cares to listen how I am achieving what I am in my recovery. There are infinite paths to take in life, there are infinite paths to take toward addiction recovery - just like there are infinite paths that led us all here. No one person's program is better than the other's program.

There is no ego in real, deep, recovery. The way I see it - my ego was in control for my entire life until I walked into that first meeting. Thanks ego, you've had control long enough and you did a damn shitty job - I'll take it from here. There is no one defining sentence or tip or inspirational meme that can sum up what breaking through the addiction cycle and going from sobriety to recovery can do for our lives.

I am blessed to have lived the life I have. To have experienced the ups and downs of my life - for they have become the building blocks that make up this amazing man I am today. I would not take it back, I have come to terms with my past and have accepted myself and all my flaws as they are really my qualities when seen through a growth mindset. If there is one message I'd want everyone new to sobriety to hear and know is is not sobriety that will suck, it is not addiction recovery that will suck - life can be sucky sometimes, that's life, not sobriety and recovery.

There are ebbs and flows to every day - that's life not sobriety. Please don't confuse the two. Don't blame your sobriety when it is a crapass day - that is just a day in the life sometimes. Even the worst day in recovery is better than the best day using because every day is the best day of my life because I wake up sober.

Jesse currently lives in Los Angeles, United States where he is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, life coach and the nation’s #1 bee fan. If you would like to know more about Jesse please visit his website

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