- Friends & Family
- Mental Health
Submitted by: Marta Mrotek
How did you find yourself in the recovery community?
I think everybody’s story is both similar and different at the same time. I wasn’t raised on the wrong side of the tracks. I just ended up going that route. Thankfully for me things spun out of control fairly early on so I didn’t end up dragging it out for a really long time. I went to treatment at 17 and again at 18 but I wasn’t really convinced that I was what they said I was so it didn’t stick. All of the things that hadn’t happened to me yet, all of the things they said would happen, like being homeless and going to prison, all happened within the next few years. I wasn’t really in and out over and over again, I was just in and then stayed out for about five years.
It wasn’t that I was ever so afraid of dying, my fear was that I was gonna live like this for a really long time. So I ended up going to prison twice and after the second time I got out I found myself on the most wanted list and hitchhiked my way back to Kerrville where I had been five years prior. I didn’t go back to treatment or anything this time. I just found myself on a buddy’s couch in some shack in the sticks and dove back into the work. I got into recovery and became engaged in the 12 step process and surrendered to that whole thing.
Before I knew it I was dealing with my legal issues and they were getting resolved. I got off probation. I started working at a car wash and washing dishes at a treatment facility. Then I started working as a tech at a treatment facility and teaching Big Book to people. Looking back at the whole process I realize that when I am able to get involved and focus on helping people instead of trying to fix my life to be just the way I want it, things happen the way they’re supposed to. Maybe not right when I want them to, I mean I got fired from one of those jobs first, but I wouldn’t have what I have now had I not gotten fired.
So when I look back at everything, regardless of what you believe in, I can’t look at that and say that it was me. I have to look at it and say that there was something helping me and nudging me. I put in the work but if I had been left to my own devices none of this would’ve happened.
Do you have a sobriety date that you’d like to share? July 15, 2014
Was there a defining moment when you knew that something had to change?
Absolutely. There are a few of those moments. Dr.Harry Tiebout wrote something called the Tiebout Papers.” A lot of the ideas that he incorporated in his work were a lot like the ideas from early AA. There were things in there that help me, like compliance versus surrender, are you doing something because someone says you should do it or you doing it because your life is on the line? One of the things that he talked about was the reconstruction of ego. How the ego is completely smashed and you realize that something has to change but if you don’t act on that moment the window for change will start to close pretty quickly and your ego will rebuild itself and tell you that everything is going to be okay now.
I remember the day, the specific moment, when I woke up in a motel that someone had gotten for me the night before. I had everything I owned in that room with me. I had stolen a bunch of hygiene stuff from the store so I could take a shower and they were calling the room telling me it was check out time. Anybody who’s been there knows that check out time is the worst. What now? I had nowhere to go. They let me hang out in the lobby for a little while using a Wi-Fi phone number to try and figure out what to do next. And it hit me, I mean I’ve never been a suicidal guy, but I didn’t really see any other alternative. It wasn’t like I wanted to kill myself but I didn’t see any other way out. I had made peace with the idea that whatever comes after this would have to be better than what was going on.
So I started texting people trying to get someone to talk me out of it and nobody would. Until one of the least likely people I ever thought would come drove super fast over to that motel and got me. She picked me up and took me to her house. It’s not that she helped get me to treatment or anything, it’s just that she came that day and showed that someone cared about me. That was enough to give me just that little bit of extra time. I needed that time. I needed everything to happen just the way it did. If she hadn’t answered her phone, if it hadn’t been for the warrants that had been put out for my arrest and all the scary, terrible stuff that was going on that seemed so bad at the time, I would have never left, I would have never gotten to Kerrville. None of that would have ever happened the way it did if I had not committed that crime.
All that stuff that was really awful ended up being the very thing that helped to save my life. When I got to Kerrville I didn’t even have the intention of getting sober. I remember hearing a quote once that went something like, “On such a fine strand our destiny hangs.” That really hit me. If just one little thing had gone slightly different I may not have ended up where I did and then all of the things that needed to happen wouldn’t have happened. At first I didn’t even plan to stay there I just wanted to try and save up some money to post my bond. Somehow I just felt kind of backwards into a meeting. It wasn’t even a meeting that I had ever been to. I just started hearing all of the familiar talk and I started crying. It all seemed like it was something I’d heard before from a dream. I started wondering how had it taken me so long?
It turns out the guy who is my first grand sponsor, who never went to this meeting, happened to be there. He got up and gave me a hug and made me come outside and we said a third step prayer right there. But you know somehow I thought I could still have things my way. When I told him that I still wanted to smoke weed, that was the big moment, he said “That’s fine man, I love you. I don’t care, my friendship is not contingent on your sobriety.” I know not everyone would give that kind of answer but if he had answered any other way I would not have called him the next week. But he said what he said and I did call him and we started to do the work. When he moved I got the sponsor that I have today. And the thing that he really taught me is that what’s important is what I do when nobody is looking. When it all comes down to it, when it comes down to doing all of these things, the 12-step calls at two in the morning, getting up early to meditate and pray, inventory, all of it, is to ensure that I can be of maximum service to the next guy.
Sacrifice is not convenient, sometimes it’s even painful, but thank God I have been surrounded with enough people who taught me that being in the trenches is where what’s important happens. Living in recovery is more than just sitting in the meetings. I don’t ever want to carry myself in a way that makes anyone feel like they can’t call me. I don’t ever want someone to think that I won’t answer my phone or be willing to help. Regardless of what I do in this industry I am first and foremost in recovery. I’ve already buried several people in this last few years since I’ve been sober. They told me that would happen, and it sucks. But that one out of 10 people that stays sober makes everything I do worth it, even if I never know that I helped that doesn’t matter. The outcomes aren’t up to me, my job is just to hold out a hand and hopefully somebody decides to take it, but that’s up to them. The book says we’re here to play the role that God assigns, and I guess that’s my role now. I just have to make sure that I keep doing the work.
How is your life different now?
Everything about my life is different now. I have a little girl who just turned a-year-old and I can actually be present and be a daddy for her. The fact that everything got out of control as quickly as it did it turned into a huge blessing. My family has been able to sit back and watch what I’ve said happening. It’s not my words but the actions and the things that they see transpiring that makes the difference. That’s what really means the most to me, that my family gets the opportunity to watch me do as well as they had always wanted me to do. Instead of continuing to put money on my commissary or come visit me in prison they can watch me succeed. They don’t have to take care of my child as if they were her parents, I get to do it. I didn’t have some “old life” that I wanted to get back. Don’t get me wrong it’s great to have my relationship with family but I wasn’t the best person even before all this started. This life isn’t one that I would have chosen.
If I had it my way I’d be off playing professional baseball somewhere, I had scholarship opportunities that I flushed down the drain but I’ve been able to step back and see that when I said that third step prayer for God to take away my difficulties so that I can bear witness and I offer myself fully then my life is no longer my own. Everything is different now. I didn’t get back my old life. I got a whole brand new life. Obviously all of the externals are completely different, I have a car, I have a house, I have a cool job. You know I wasn’t very old when I got sober, just 22, and it’s the coolest thing to grow up in sobriety and show other people that just because you get young sober doesn’t mean you have to be boring. I refuse to not have fun. I go to shows, I go to conventions, I can have a great time staying up all night with my friends and I can do all that sober because I do the work. The best part is I can take people with me. That’s the stuff that matters. I do everything I can to help other people without any motive for profit. I’m still selfish sometimes, even when I help somebody else I like the feeling that I get. What’s crazy is this is the same stuff that my parents and grandparents tried to teach me as a kid. Especially my grandfather had all these great stories and at the end he would say “it’s not what you do for yourself that counts, it’s what you do for other people.”
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is still out there suffering in early and recovery what would it be?
Remain teachable. Don’t ever think that you suddenly know it all. The people that I look up to who have 30, 40 years of sobriety still have sponsors, they still go through the work themselves, and they’re still teachable. Sometimes they even take advice from me about something that they don’t have so much to experience around. So don’t ever let yourself become unteachable. That’s the best piece of advice I can give. If you can remain teachable, honest and transparent at all times you will find the help you need when you need it. My ability to be honest and open is directly correlated with my ability to stay sane and see things as they actually are. That’s important, because things will still get hard sometimes, you’ll get sad, it’s a human experience with human emotions, you will get angry, you’ll get upset, but now we have the tools to deal with it.