My name is Dylan, and I’m an individual in long-term recovery from addiction. This is meaningful in many ways, but the most important is that I am no longer enslaved to the incessant obsession of a substance use disorder.
My addiction didn’t start until college, although I can remember feeling “off” from an early age. No one talked about feeling this way, so I assumed it was normal to feel deeply uncomfortable in my own skin. I believe this feeling was a result of trauma at an early age and a predisposition to avoiding reality, or perhaps a low tolerance for pain.
Looking back, I can see that I was eager to find a way to deal with this discomfort. One of my earliest memories was getting tipsy off of Juicy Juice (I know…. I know…but it’s true, and how interesting that out of all the memories of childhood, this one sticks out). It would be years before I picked up a drink or drug; however, I can see that sugar was my first drug, and I LOVED it because it helped me deal with this discomfort, which was becoming more intense as I grew older.
My addiction was a way of dealing with pain and coping with life, albeit ineffectively.
I didn’t have healthy coping mechanisms, so I used substances: good days, bad days, it didn’t matter. Addiction was my life force, or so I thought. Unfortunately, it was slowly draining me, and leading me to harm those who cared about me the most.
A big part of recovery from addiction is learning to accept the present moment.
For many years, I ran from the pain and discomfort I found in the present moment. The problem with this is it didn’t really work. Addiction is progressive and we always need more to try and get the same effect. Within a few years after my first drink, I progressed to crack cocaine, which led me to a list of felonies. During the same period, my mental health challenges were exacerbated as well: I began cutting myself and landed in a psych ward after a suicide attempt.
It was only a few years after being voted the male scholar-athlete of my high school, that I was being arrested for possession of crack-cocaine.
So, what happened?
What happened was I learned how to wrestle, how to get good grades, how to hustle and fill the void within myself…but I never learned how to deal with insecurity, how to deal with the feeling of not being enough, or how to deal with trauma – like the aftereffects of being bullied. I wasn’t taught how to deal with depression or anxiety. I wasn’t even told that these are things people might experience. I was left to come up with my own interpretations and my own tools. My assessment: I’m innately defective. My tools: self-harm and substance use.
I think this is a good time to pause and stress the importance of educating and supporting individuals struggling with these challenges, especially our youth!
My recovery journey began in 2004, when the pain of my behavior and the overall insanity of my life brought me to a place of such desperation, that I was willing to do just about anything.
As uncomfortable as it was, I consider this ‘gift of willingness’ to be grace.
My recovery journey included many different elements; most notably participation in a 12-step fellowship, beginning to look at spirituality, and self-care practices, like yoga and meditation. I was also deeply supported by men’s groups, leadership trainings, and trauma therapy.
I found, throughout this process, common elements of healing. Taking an honest look at myself, and having the feedback and support to do so in a realistic and compassionate way, was crucial. By clearly seeing how I had been showing up for my life (or not showing up), gave me the humility to acknowledge my faulty assumptions and destructive (life-long) behaviors. This was the beginning of moving forward in a meaningful way, one that brought freedom from addiction and true peace of mind.
As the changes within me started to happen, life changed externally as well. When I was invited to my first men’s retreat in 2005, I was introduced to my friend Jonathan, who was a spoken word artist. I didn’t know anything about spoken word poetry, but I was inspired by it. He encouraged me to try it out, and I did. It turned out to be something I really enjoyed and today, I participate in spoken word poetry readings regularly!
As I grew in my recovery, my life expanded. It wasn’t always great, but it was much better than being in active addiction. Now that I had tools and a healthier sense of self, I could discern when I needed to rest, or reach out to somebody, etc. I was no longer completely “in the dark” when it came to managing life.
I also learned the importance of feeling my feelings. So much of addiction has to do with running from feelings. Today, I give myself permission to feel and to express those feelings. If I’m sad and tears want to come, I give myself time and space for that. If I’m angry, then when my schedule allows, I might scream into a pillow. I don’t have to suppress things today. I have tools that make the human experience manageable and enjoyable.
Lastly, one of the coolest things about this journey of recovery is the restoration of relationships. During my recovery, I put my parents through hell, and just recently, my Mom and I went for a hike on the Appalachian Trail. It’s moments like this when it feels like my addiction was a lifetime ago. I’m so blessed to be a power of example today, and I believe that to be the direct result of connecting to a Higher Power, a Bigger Purpose.
For anyone out there who is struggling, please don’t wait to get help. It’s not as hard as you think and there are plenty of people out there willing to support. All you have to do is ask. You’re worth it – and there is a whole other life waiting for you!
If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction or mental health concern, it can be challenging to manage treatment and recovery options on your own. At Feinberg Consulting, our team of highly trained professionals is here to help you find the proper treatment and recovery resources. Contact us today to learn more at 877.538.5425
Certified Recovery Coach
I am a TEDx Speaker and Addiction Recovery Advocate. My mission is to work with individuals and organizations to increase engagement in the addiction recovery process and improve long-term outcomes. I have been in recovery since 2004. During this time, I have been professionally involved in the addiction treatment industry offering various holistic modalities and solution-oriented strategies. In addition, I am a Nationally Certified Recovery Coach and Food Addictions Coach.