What This Influencer Wants You To Know About Being A Man In Recovery

Austin Cooper, 29, of Orlando, Florida, is on a mission to help recovering alcoholics and addicts by spreading positive messages to those who need to hear it most as widely as he can.

His social media movement, Sober Evolution, is saturated with motivational quotes and ripe with discussions among those in the recovery community who want to support one another. Right now, he’s gearing up to travel from city to city while documenting stories of those who have achieved success after overcoming problems with alcoholism and addiction. On his rise from rock bottom, he has tried to pay it forward by giving back what was so freely given to him to anyone with access to the Internet and a desire to get clean.

>What was it that finally made you decide to get help?

I came to the realization that I would never live out any of my dreams unless I cut out drugs and alcohol completely. I also saw that I was unable to manage my using. My relationships were strained and I was putting myself in danger quite often. I drank and used drugs to cover up pain, guilt, resentments and responsibilities. I had to move back into my parent’s house at the age of 23 and had dropped out of college twice. I barely made it to work and could hardly afford to eat with the amount of money I was spending on drugs and alcohol. On top of that, my health wasn’t great, and I was barely sleeping due to fear unless I drank myself until I passed out. I was beyond miserable and constantly had suicidal thoughts.

“I drank and used drugs to cover up pain, guilt, resentments and responsibilities.”

>What kind of help or treatment proved to ultimately be most effective for your successful entry into continuous recovery? 

I started out at a treatment center for 22 days and listened closely to those who had what I wanted in life sobriety, happiness, financial security, knowledge and wisdom. I was told to go to AA each day for 90 days which is what I did right out of treatment, and the principles and steps I learned there helped me organize my thoughts. After meeting people in “the rooms” who were able to create the professional and social lives they wanted after getting clean and sober, I realized that I could use those same principles for the most part to build my life in other areas as well and decided that I would become an entrepreneur and live the rest of my life working for myself. So, I clung on to business mentors and coaches, which, in turn, became part of my program. I’m still clinging,

>What’s have the most difficult things to deal with been while living “life on life’s terms?”

I realized that I had to discontinue some of my friendships, which was tough, but I was determined to never pick up again and they still did. Also, whenever anyone made me angry, I’d think, just for an instant, that by drinking, I would, in turn, make them regret making me angry. Fortunately, I can quickly step back and realize how ridiculous that sounds. Lastly, if I’m out on a date and the girl asks me what I want to drink, that can be difficult, but I never come close to picking up. Nothing is worth taking me back to rock bottom.

>What exactly is Sober Evolution and how does it work?

I started Sober Evolution as an Instagram account a little over a year ago in order to share some of the quotes that have helped motivate me to land where I am now. I believe that everything that has happened in life and everything I experience today is a learning experience, not just a problem. I try to use every one of those learning experiences to build a better and a smarter life. That’s where my desire to start Sober Evolution came from—I wanted to share this mindset with others. When it began to grow as a social media movement, I decided to start selling shirts that signified strength within the recovery world.

I want people who are out there struggling with addiction to be able to see that it is ok to reach out for help, and that it is actually a cool thing to be part of such an incredible group of people. I have since started a private Facebook group, which has been helping people grow their support systems with others around the world, and I plan on working with some amazing people towards creating events that can bring in proceeds that will go towards funding treatment scholarships for the many people who don’t have insurance and who can’t afford treatment.

>Where did that initial inspiration to start Sober Evolution come from?

A group called @DoingItSober on Instagram. I saw people having fun and enjoying life within sobriety, which helped me see the cool side of recovery from the viewpoint of an app. I knew I wanted to bring the same thing to others as well. In recovery, I came across a lot of people who were entrepreneurs, and that inspired me to go for my dreams, and pay that forward, too, if I made it. I believe socializing in person is the best way of going about recovery, because of the personal aspects which brings more accountability into play, but social media adds a lot more people and stories into our lives than meeting with people face to face ever could. Social media brings people together from around the world and it allows those who live in more secluded areas to socialize.

“Social media brings people together from around the world and it allows those who live in more secluded areas to socialize.”

>I heard a rumor that even though you’re a social media savvy guy,  you still love the library.

I love that I have the ability to go to the library and figure out how to accomplish anything! If I want to travel the world for the rest of my life, there is a wealth of knowledge within libraries which can tell me a million ways to do so.

>We hear a lot about how recovery presents unique and specific challenges and opportunities for women, but what about men?

I think men may feel less confident in being open about recovery because we fear that we are weak for not being able to handle alcohol or that we are weak for admitting that we had a problem and needed help. The way I see it, though, it takes courage to ask for help.

“I think men may feel less confident in being open about recovery because we fear that we are weak for not being able to handle alcohol or that we are weak for admitting that we had a problem and needed help. ”

>If you could create your own slogan to be used for generations, what would it be? 

Started From The Bottle Now We’re Here.

 

Kicking Addiction To Become A ‘Warrior On Purpose’: An Interview With Kip Shubert

An Interview with the Founder of Warriors On Purpose, a Program to Help Addicts Find Meaning in thier Lives

Kip Shubert, 49, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, lost his car, house, and the respect of almost everyone he knew before the threat of losing his job as a middle school social studies teacher—and custody of his own children—finally pushed him to seek help. At first, he thought he’d just learn to drink normally, but over three years later, he is still completely sober and uses his experience to speak to students in schools around the country and coaches adults about finding meaning in their lives through his organization Warriors On Purpose. Of course, he still remains teachable himself.

>> What were some of the signs that signaled a drinking problem?

I used to run from financial, parental, or relationship responsibilities because I had such a poor self-image. Learning to tackle just monthly bills and a budget without manipulation and procrastination was a mountain I was afraid to climb. I began to miss my kid’s activities, shorten our visits together or cancel them altogether, and my oldest son started having to take care of me instead of the other way around. I’d even call him for rides home.

 Kip Shubert

“I used to run from financial, parental, or relationship responsibilities because I had such a poor self-image.”

>> Where did you go to get help, and what were you expecting when you got there?

I went to Valley Hope in Cushing and knew very little about alcoholism or 12-step recovery. I didn’t think I was going to give up drinking altogether, at first—I thought there would be classes I could take that would teach me how to drink responsibly, or that perhaps there was a magic pill that would do the same. I never imagined I would completely stop, but that changed during my third day at rehab, when I got the news that I had lost custody of my youngest child. I realized that drinking seven days a week had cost me the most important thing in my life. I hit my knees, crying uncontrollably in the chapel, and uttered one word, “help.”

>> What exactly is a “Warrior on Purpose”?

It is a person who learns to overcome life’s adversities while fulfilling their purpose. For me, the biggest battle was saving my family dynamic, and it was something that I fought for daily. I want to use my own struggles to help people see exactly why they’re ‘here’ and how they can find and fulfill their potential. I speak to youth groups, school groups, and recovery groups sharing about the danger of alcohol and drugs, and, sometimes, I talk to these kids about owning their future, taking responsibility for it, and finding their own “why.” At one of these events, a young man raised his hand and said he felt he was here to protect his family and planned to be join the military so he could always keep them safe. That moved me very much.

>> We hear a lot about how recovery presents unique and specific challenges and opportunities for women, but what about men?

There is still that label that men are supposed to be the strong silent type, keeping our emotions inside and showing that tough exterior, which I think may be more prevalent in areas of the country that are more conservative. Becoming vulnerable and completely honest requires us to really open ourselves to self-reflection, and that can be a real challenge. It is not the “cool or manly” thing to do, but our egos are part of what keep us in the addiction mindset, and we learn that we have to totally lose that ego. It’s a difficult thing for any human to do.

>> What would you say keeps you most grounded today, after three years of sobriety?

My number one tool is my morning meditation and reading. I spend at least an hour and a half doing this before I start my day, even though I’d never been a get up early person until recovery came along.

“Drugs and alcohol become a way to survive, not a lifestyle.”

>> Are there any general misconceptions overall about men in recovery that you’d like to clear up once and for all?

That we all get to this point because of something bad we have done. Many times it is childhood trauma or another tragedy that we just did not know how to handle or cope with, and, over time, it develops into a monster inside of us that we can’t tame. Drugs and alcohol become a way to survive, not a lifestyle.

Taking It ‘One Rep At A Time’: An Interview with O.R. Marv

An Interview with the Founder of One Rep at a Time, a Website for Staying Heathy while Recovering

“One Rep” Marv, 31, of San Diego, California says he found his purpose after a decade-long battle with addiction: spreading the message that since addiction affects us mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically, our physical health must be addressed through fitness and proper nutrition. After three years sober, he quit his day job and started his own company, One Rep at a Time, in order to help people figure out how to take the best possible care of their body once they’ve laid down a strong foundation of recovery. And, oftentimes, by then, kick sugar. We chatted with Marv about how he thrives in recovery.

What was it that finally kept you sober after so many failed attempts?

Even as a young child, I felt uncomfortable being me and ran on self-loathing for so long it became my natural state of mind. By the time I reached adulthood, I had developed issues with drugs and alcohol and had tried everything from outpatient rehab to $30,000-a month-inpatient rehab to break it. I had been to psych wards and tried other types of therapy too over the course of eight years, but because I would pick and choose which part of any given program I felt like following, they didn’t work. I just wasn’t entirely convinced I was an alcoholic or addict that needed to follow a 12-step program, and thought things had only gotten so bad with my addiction because certain events happening in my life would cause anyone to drink or use. In June of 2013, it became clear that drugs and alcohol were no longer working like they used to, and I realized the only place left to turn would be to start using drugs intravenously, which would certainly kill me. I came to terms with the fact that if I wanted to stay alive, I had to commit or I’d be dead within a month.

What was it that finally clicked?

I somehow “forgot” I left a painkiller in my jean pocket over at my girlfriend’s house which she confronted me about over the phone after finding it. I got angry and claimed it wasn’t mine, but I knew deep down my run was over. I quit my job, moved out of my house, and put all my possessions in storage. The next day I entered the most challenging treatment program I could find, which ended up being a residential, short term, intense behavior modification program where I stayed for 118 days of inpatient treatment. I then completed six months of outpatient, and graduating from that program did more for me than graduating from college and earning a degree in Kinesiology a few years prior.

What felt different when you left?

I knew I walked out of that program a changed man because for the first time in well over a decade I felt somewhat comfortable in my own skin and while I had not yet learned to love myself, I could admit I was starting to like myself. I learned in that program that because I had zero identity resulting in zero self-esteem, I never allowed myself to have anything positive which explained I self-sabotaged everything good in my life up to that point. Not only that, I finally was starting to taking responsibility for myself and my actions instead of blaming them on other things.

What was your relationship to your body and fitness like before June of 2013?

I used my body, my workouts, and the type of food I ate as a way to assign ‘morality’ to myself. I was either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on how I ‘performed’ in those areas. I am a perfectionist, so combined with the fact I was drinking and using daily, I failed to meet the unrealistic expectations I had set for myself. I would beat myself up mercilessly to the point of panic attacks, nausea, and flat out depression. Fitness became something that controlled me in a negative way and took the joy out of the experience. I was incapable of accepting compliments and focused on my perceived shortcomings instead of giving myself credit for my improvements. I used my outside to define my inside and I was never satisfied with what I saw.

How has that changed?

I discovered that exercise was my favorite form of meditation and self-care. Fitness now empowers me by making me feel like I’m treating myself right and can work through the frustrations of daily life in a healthy way. My workouts used to be angry experiences, but today, they are filled with positive energy, enjoyment, and catharsis. Outside of meetings, daily exercise is the single most important tool I have in regards to maintaining my emotional stability. The whole purpose of starting One Rep at a Time is to share this discovery with others in recovery and spread my message.

Tell me more about your company…

One Rep At A Time is a website that offers fitness through a recovery mindset by negotiating information about fitness and nutrition with challenges faced by those in recovery from some sort of addiction. I have been obsessed with fitness for over ten years, but in the past, my constant need for validation from others caused me to develop body dysmorphic disorder, and I had a very unhealthy relationship with fitness, food, supplements, athletic drugs and other things. Today, I have changed that relationship into something positive and I aim to help others do the same.

People tend to change their diets when they come into recovery. Do you have any advice for them?

The most common habit that people new to recovery pick up is to “put down the spoon and pick up the fork.” Food can substitute for our addictions of choice and help us to alter our newly discovered feelings. Plus, let’s not forget that quitting certain drugs such as alcohol or opiates will also leave us craving massive amounts of sugar as our body detoxes itself from those substances. I’ve seen people go many ways, but the extremes are this: they immediately work to address any ‘poor’ fitness and nutrition habits, or they basically throw their hands up in disgust and binge eat, avoid exercise or load up on sugar. When someone is a newcomer, I tell them to not worry about their eating habits, even if that does include eating more sugar than what we would normally prefer due to their cravings, and merely focus on creating a foundation in recovery.

And after they’ve put solid sober time together?

Once they’ve laid down a strong foundation in recovery, I address the way they classify food. We are taught to classify everything as “clean” or “healthy” versus “junk” or “dirty.” This unnecessarily brings a connotation of good vs. evil, which can be a very slippery slope. I prefer to use the terms “smart” or “needs to be smarter” and emphasize consistency and moderation as being far more important than strict and perfect adherence to “clean” or “healthy” eating. Doing so takes away the assignment of guilt for ourselves when we inevitably
eat less than ideal foods. Also, we tend to fall into the trap of ignoring portion sizes when we deem something as “clean.” Making those adjustments certainly helps our mindset when it comes to address our daily eating habits and allows us to be easier on ourselves.

What has your biggest challenge been in sobriety so far?

The death of my mother, and I stayed sober not just for me, but to help my entire family. That, and the diagnosis and continued treatment of my girlfriend, who has breast cancer. I didn’t use these challenges as excuses to relapse, but the most challenging daily aspect of “life on life’s terms” is with my mindset. If I am not careful, I will “play the victim” in any given situation. When feel self-pity, it ultimately leads me to feel entitled to do whatever it takes for me to feel better. In the past, this has meant using, drinking, manipulating, stealing, cheating. Today, it can mean lashing out, harboring resentments, and ultimately living a hateful life instead of a grateful life.

What do you do instead?

I typically make a gratitude list, reflect on how the “quality” of my problems have improved significantly since escaping active addiction. I call someone in recovery and tell them what’s going through my head, meditate through exercise, or attend meetings. If none of those things do the trick, I go and volunteer at a local cemetery, caring for forgotten graves in the very back corners of the property. I work on my hands and knees to remove overgrowth and mud covering headstones form as far back as 1923. It’s pretty hard to stay discontent after spending an hour doing that sort of work. The good news is on most days, I have something resembling self-esteem, self-respect, and self-worth. Gaining those gifts changed every single aspect of my life.

Marv is the founder of One Rep At A Time. Visit him on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and check out his recovery and fitness specific Facebook group, Recovery Strong.

What This Former Pastor Wants You To Know About Getting Sober

An Interview with the Creator of Sobriety: A Graphic Novel

Daniel D. Maurer, 45, of Saint Paul, Minnesota might have been serving as an ordained progressive Lutheran pastor in western North Dakota, but his career in “drinking and taking pills,” he says, was more important to him than that job, his own health, and his family. As a self-described secret user and drinker, what began as a way to cope with everyday stress and depression became a chemical obsession that his first inpatient program couldn’t seem to remedy. One third and final try and six years later, he’s since published a series of graphic novels through an imprint of the recovery center that finally helped him heal.> Why did you decide to get help?

The intervention of the law, my family, and the good counselors that worked with me probably functioned just as much as my Higher Power than anything.

At first, I didn’t want sobriety. A life without alcohol or pills—mostly opioids and benzos—didn’t seem worth living. In 2010, daily withdrawals became common and I sought inpatient treatment again in Williston, North Dakota. That time, I wanted it, but it didn’t take either because I thought I could sneak a drink once a week. My addiction snowballed and eventually led to my arrest, first for a DUI, then for felony trespassing while I had been in a blackout. It was exactly the sort of bottom I needed to address the serious nature of my illness.

> What did it take for it to “take”?

I attended the Hazelden in Center City in Minnesota on March 1 of 2011, and met a counselor who helped me address my issues honestly, but also with compassion and empathy. I stayed there for three months. After that, I lived in a sober house in St. Paul for an additional seven months. My wife began attending Al-Anon meetings and I eventually embraced a Twelve Step program of recovery.

> What ultimately proved to be most effective for your successful entry into continuous recovery?Although I believe many modalities exist for continuous recovery, the fellowship and spiritual foundation within the Twelve Steps has been the most effective for me. Today, I attend these meetings about twice per week, but sometimes miss a week here and there. When I first began this journey, I attended more frequently . . . maybe four to six times per week. But, life happens! One thing I want people to know is that I didn’t get sober just to make my life all about recovery, recovery, recovery. I believe recovery gives us the tools to deal with life on life’s terms and actually live it.

> What have been the most difficult “life on life’s terms” issue you’ve dealt with?

I still to this day occasionally encounter using dreams. To me, they are simple reminders that my brain has been permanently altered by my abuse of mind-altering chemicals. Beyond simple urges or triggers, dealing with life isn’t always easy. A friend I know believes in the Cherokee Harmony Ethic, which is nothing more than a form of mindfulness and actively “welcoming in” the struggles life inevitably brings. Shitty circumstances are never fun when they come up, but recognizing that I can deal with them—one minute at a time if I have to—makes them all the more bearable, and also ultimately makes me a more empathetic, patient, and caring human being.

> What’s the very best thing about sober life?

Never worrying how much I’ve had to drink or whether I’m able to drive, function at work, or rise to the occasion that life calls.

> How did recovery influence your career path?

When I was arrested and I was standing in the basement jail cell in Williams County North Dakota, I wanted to die. I knew I didn’t want to be a pastor anymore. I didn’t want that life. I’d come to that conclusion years before all of this, but I never could address it—I was too afraid. Later, in a dream, I saw myself creating a graphic novel on the process of recovery. After a lengthy process, Sobriety: A Graphic Novel was published by Hazelden Publishing.

It began my career as a freelance writer, author, speaker, and small business owner. This fall, I will be publishing my fourth book looking at the psychological concept of resilience and how people bounce back after stress or trauma, and its relationship to “spiritual assets” like courage, gratitude, or honesty. The creative life was something I had always sought, but only found fertile ground after I had been through the difficulties addiction afforded me.

> Have you come up against any specific challenges that you feel are unique to you as a man in recovery?

For one, men define their identities very strongly with what they do in their careers. If they feel that a purpose or meaning behind that work is lacking, it’s very easy for them to lose sight of the fact that some work is just work, the stuff you need to simply get through to accomplish a larger goal.

The other challenge for men, I believe, is sexuality. My use of drugs and alcohol often was tied to it. Since I used alone, that led to pornography and obsessing over my image, and when I was married, it led to some relationship difficulties. Jennifer Matesa, a fellow writer and Hazelden author has done some profound work on this subject. It’s definitely a tough road for guys, and a deeper subject than space allows in this interview. One action I take to address this challenge is to attend a men’s only twelve-step meeting, because we can discuss this issue at length.

> If you could create your own program slogan, what would it be?

Your story is not yet finished.

> What are your top three recovery tools?

1) Whatever your program for recovery is—show up. I swear 90% of living in long-term recovery is simply doing what you say you’re going to do.

2) “Play the tape forward” when dealing with urges—recognize real consequences for what they are.

3) Proudly and publicly claim your status as a person in recovery. While this might be anathema to some practitioners of strict anonymity, I have found that standing up as a person who once lived that life, but no longer does, feels great for me and is also a strong testimony to the power of personal transformation.

> Do you feel that the entertainment industry has perpetuated any misconceptions about recovery that you’d like to clear up?

Oh yeah! You’re a rock star for asking this. Can we please stop with the tired—and completely unrealistic—motif of the hard-d
rinkin’, womanizing detective who has fallen off the wagon, and then the next day picks up the badge and gun to save the day? The way addiction is portrayed in movies, television, and even in books is so far off the target. I mean, who goes on a coke binge with liquor chasers for years without any consequences? No one. It’s not reality.

Daniel D. Maurer is a freelance writer, author, speaker, and small business owner. For more info about his work and for other life-transformations, check out his website featuring resilience, life-change, and transformation.

This Yoga Teacher and Recovery Coach Talks Dealing with His Fiancée’s Cancer Diagnosis and Staying Sober

An Interview with David Adam about His Recovery Process

After his using took him everywhere from jail to rehab, David Adam, 32, from Astoria, Queens, has been sober since October 23rd, 2013. Since embracing his concept of a higher power, working a program, becoming a student of several disciplines of yoga and meditation and choosing a life of service and helping others, he has stayed sober through some of the most challenging times of his life, including his fiancée’s recent cancer diagnosis one year before their wedding date. Now a certified yoga teacher and recovery coach currently in school to obtain his CASAC, David spoke with us about what finally caused him to get help, why it stuck, and what we can all learn from the challenges life presents us if we are willing to stay sober through them.

> Why did you decide to get help?

While I was in jail, a corrections officer asked me if I was scared. I said I was. He said, “I don’t know if you believe in anything but you better start praying.” I prayed. I turned to God— a concept that I still believe is far beyond what my limited consciousness can comprehend—because even while trying my hardest and with all of my best effort, I knew I would still get high. That was the pattern, and I was desperate enough to be willing to try anything. God doesn’t come to everyone as suddenly as God came to me, but I believe I experienced a miracle. The obsession and compulsion to use against my will was removed. I was still in jail, but was confident that wherever I was going, there would be the 12-step meetings that I already knew existed. I had been to rehab many times, and the only people I knew who stayed clean were involved in some sort of 12-step program. I made up my mind to start attending as soon as possible.

> What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to to deal with in sobriety? 

When my fiancé was diagnosed with cancer, we both kept a positive attitude, at least at first. After some time, though, I realized I had acquired a resentment. I love my fiancé and I love how alive she makes me feel. Thinking about how the chemo would drain her, I was afraid that the joy and excitement would get sucked out of our lives. I was resentful that I might have to take care of her, that she might not be able to be there for me, or that I wouldn’t be able to focus on myself. Essentially, I was being selfish. My behavior started to slip, and I noticed myself doing petty dishonest things and becoming irritable. One night, I was driving, and the thought just came: “It would be nice to go out and party and feel alive and free.”

> What happened after that?

Because I work the steps, I had the clarity to recognize that what we refer to as character defects had cut me off from my conception of God. I was terrified, so I started praying, but I was still irritable, so I called my sponsor, who confirmed what I already knew. So, I redoubled my spiritual efforts with more meetings, prayer, meditation and service. The thought to use went away very quickly, but the fear stayed with me for weeks until I was reminded of a promise in our recovery literature, “If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame.” God had never abandoned me. God had my back the whole time. Cancer is difficult, and I am making it a point to be helpful. It may sound strange, but my fiancée and I are both are grateful for this experience. It is making us better people despite the pain.

> What’s the very best thing about life in sobriety?

Being truly connected with my higher power actually makes me feel high on life. More often than not, I actually feel mildly high naturally. I always thought that drugs and alcohol where cheap chemical shortcuts to places we could get naturally, but I didn’t know how to get there. The steps got me there. I am a free man. I do not live in fear constantly trying to plan and control things to avoid disaster. I learned to love and give. I have my family back and a career underway.

> Do you feel that, as a male in recovery, you come up against any stereotypes or specific challenges that women in recovery don’t?

Sometimes it feels like everyone here is or was a “tough guy.” Sometimes, in meetings, I feel like less of a man because I was never really a gangster or a thug. Don’t get me wrong—I was a criminal. But, truthfully, I was just a weak, manipulative coward. My behavior was petty and shameful, not sensational. But writing that out, I suppose that’s pretty typical. I think it’s all in my head.

> What about in the way the media portrays these groups?

TV shows and movies will often make two mistakes depicting 12-step recovery. First, they’ll make it seem like we are weak people who can’t function without running every little thing by a sponsor or talking about it in a group. This is so false. The 12-steps teach dependence on God, not people. My dependence on God makes me less and less dependent on people every day. This is not an anti-social thing. I love people, but I don’t have unhealthy dependencies on them,

Second, the media tends to focus on the drama. Yes, there are unhealthy people in the rooms. Yes, some people take advantage of others. But, in my experience, this has been the exception to the rule. Overall, the people I have met are so good and decent that it would probably make for bad television.

> If you could create your own program slogan, what would it be?

Give yourself a chance.

How This Thriving Entrepreneur Got Sober, Deals with Social Pressures, and Enjoys Life in Recovery

An Interview with William Hopkins, A Successful and Sober Entrepeneur

William Hopkins, 24, lives in New York City and has been sober for eight years. As an entrepreneur, he loves to travel the world, help other people achieve their dreams, and vape. He really, really likes to vape. After a damaging experience at a rehab facility that has since been shut down, he continues to hold tight to his sobriety and made it out on the other side. Currently the owner of Tradition Vapes, INC, his own consulting business, he traded his past life for a new beginning and the desire to help others create theirs, too. Here’s how he did it.

> Why did you decide to get help, and where did you go?

I was 15 years old and I was sent to multiple programs against my will. I spent two years living in a “therapeutic living community for at risk teens,” just one of several programs that were emotionally abusive, manipulative, and harsh in their approach to recovery. I’ve actually had to go to therapy to cope with some of the stuff that happened there.

> But you didn’t give up….

No, when I got out, I learned about AA and started going to young peoples’ meetings, and they saved my life.

> What was it that ultimately proved to be the most effective road to continuous recovery after such a prolonged traumatic introduction?

Without question, an honest working of the Twelve Steps with a sponsor through the program and time spent in fellowship with others who had also been through hard times. These are some of the only things that have helped me manage my addiction. Doing service for others has also been a huge part of my life and gives me the opportunity to give back what has been so freely given to me: a newfound sense of peace and happiness.

> When has dealing with “life on life’s terms” been the most difficult over the past eight years?

The death of close friends, breakups, and life not working out the way I want it to—in that order. Physically burying my good friend Jesse and throwing dirt on his coffin with a shovel as part of Jewish tradition was a heavy one. I also had the opportunity to speak at a sponsee’s funeral, a man I had seen two days before his death and two days after, when he was cremated. It’s important for me to understand that my higher power will not throw anything at me that I can’t handle… but, this doesn’t make things easy, just tolerable.

> What’s the very best thing about life in sobriety?

I wake up in the morning and I don’t want to die. I feel accepted and loved and I’m able to reciprocate those feelings of acceptance and love. I have peace of mind, food in my stomach, and a roof over my head. I used to walk around the city and wish I could switch lives with any random person I saw. Now, I can say that if all my peers stood in a circle and put all their problems in the middle, I would fight to the death to get mine back. Today, my “problems” are more like amazing choices. “What college do I want to transfer too?” “What internships should I apply for?” “Where am I going to eat?” I would’ve never imagined being a person with these choices eight years ago while blacked out somewhere.

> We hear a lot about how recovery presents unique and specific challenges and opportunities for women, but what about men? Do you feel there are male-specific challenges to face?

Our problems are not worse or better, they’re just different.

In the rooms, there’s a certain stigma about dating, around men who date “younger” women. They’re sometimes labeled as creepy or taking advantage of the opposite sex. I understand why this might be, but I also feel like we’re not giving women enough credit in their ability to judge the character of a man they wish to date.

Some social gender roles come into play in the “real world” as well. I’ve experienced this in my professional career, especially overseas. It’s very common in business to drink after making arrangements, and I’ve dodged these occurrences within an inch of my life, so to speak. This is not to say that it doesn’t happen with women, of course it does, most likely just as frequently, however, there’s a certain pressure men feel, this idea that they would be less masculine if they don’t drink. I don’t let this bother me. In fact, after making a toast one night, I tactfully threw my champagne flute off the roof of a nightclub in London.

> Do you feel there are any general misconceptions about recovery that you’d like to clear up once and for all?

We do not wear trench coats and hang out in church basements. Well, okay, sometimes we might, if it’s raining. But we don’t sit in a circle and commiserate about how shitty our lives are. It’s actually quite the opposite. Some, if not most, of the amazing people I know in my life are people that I’ve met at meetings. You also can’t “graduate” the program. It’s an ongoing thing, it gets easier.

> Has your recovery influenced your career path at all?

Because I’m sober, I’m now emotionally and spiritually “fit” enough to handle things like opening and operating not one, but two businesses. I’m also studying business, and I may either go deeper into finance or law; I haven’t decided yet, but the fact I have a choice is enough for me.

> Any advice for the newcomers?

No major changes in your first year. Don’t get into a relationship, don’t get a pet, and don’t feel pressured to quit smoking yet. The time will come. Focus on yourself first, so you can better handle your externals. Take suggestions, and be open to the fact that you don’t have all the answers.

You can check out Will’s Documented Travels on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/user/WillyHops47