elf-Care Empowers Generosity
Self-care is selfless because it positions us to be healthy and whole. I choose recovery, and to invest in my mental and emotional health, so that my mother can have her child back, and my brother and sister can have their little brother back. I used to think seeking help and self-care would seem selfish, but now I see them as a gift I can give to others, because it enables me to give more of my best self. And, today, I’m alive in a way that I wasn’t before, even when I had the things I thought I wanted: a high-paying job, success on the field, the party lifestyle.
My name is Jason, and I’m a son, brother, uncle, dog daddy of two, boyfriend, former professional baseball player, published author, and speaker. I also struggled with addictions to alcohol and drugs for years, and through recovery discovered much about myself.
Always Wanting More
For far too many years my life was a fragile existence dominated by my obsession for always wanting more. Whether it be alcohol, drugs, sex, money, work, or working out, I needed as much as I could get my hands on and I needed it instantly. I became addicted to anything and everything that would give me that high feeling, where reality was numbed, even if only briefly.
I grew up in what many may consider a broken household, though I never would have realized it as such. It was just my family, and normal to me. There were alcoholism and other sources of pain present. Sports became a refuge for me; I even remember practicing baseball in grocery parking lots full of snow. There was pain present internally that I didn’t dig into until I entered recovery.
Addiction Interrupted My Baseball Dreams
My lifelong dream was always to play Major League Baseball. And I was well on my way to achieving my dream, particularly after being named MVP of the Division II College World Series while at the University of Tampa. But my addictions, and other struggles got in the way. I didn’t listen when people pulled me aside to caution me about how I was taking care of myself or how hard I was partying. I couldn’t even stop after getting kicked off the baseball team the next year. I had begun to love my addiction more than my dream.
The next few years were a journey of ups and downs, with each low getting lower. I managed to transfer to another college, Chico State up in northern California, to continue playing college baseball. But there I started getting sucked more into drugs. After that door closed, I decided to try to make money and managed to get a well-paying job with Fidelity. But, again my addictions got in the way. I struggled to continue to put in effort after the initial thrill of the new thing passed. I needed change so I decided to move back home to Boston just as the opioid epidemic was in full flight. I soon found myself struggling with a new more powerful addiction to OxyContin and other opiates for six more years.
It got to the point where my family had pretty much disowned me. I was stealing from my 95-year-old grandmother to sustain my habit. Most nights, I would drive with one of my dogs from neighborhood to neighborhood rummaging through people's trash to collect five-cent cans to buy nips the following morning when the clock struck eight o’clock. I’d go through early phases of seeking help, and trying to get clean, to appease those around me. But, each time I would stumble back into the cynical cycle of life in addiction, without actually getting treatment.
I ended up isolated in my apartment, black shades shut tight, wearing the same clothes day after day. Showering became a chore, and brushing my teeth wasn’t any easier. Every day for seven months my life was consumed with the next way that I would get drunk and high. There was no future to speak of.
Honesty: The Turning Point
I’m grateful for the day that became the turning point in my life. I woke up and something was inexplicably different. I felt a sense of complete calmness come over me, instead of what I normally felt: the need to find the high to crush any chance of withdrawal, desperation at being out of alcohol, and stress at having no money. I wish there were better words to describe this feeling, but all I can say is that Divine Intervention was taking place and I wholeheartedly knew that day would be the end of the nightmare (I’m not a particularly religious person). The following morning, I began what would be the first day of the rest of my life.
A major part of this process was being completely open and candid with my family about everything that was going on -- the addictions, the stealing, and more. They certainly were upset about the increasing list of bad things I had done, but then my brother told me that he was proud of me for finally being honest. That gave me the hope I needed to move forward.
Life in Recovery
I began a thirty-day, publicly-funded detox and transitional program the next day. After my time there, I was very fortunate to find a bed at a six-month treatment program. Counselors, therapists, group meetings, and those around me in the recovery community were all part of my process to address everything going on inside of me. In the midst of this experience, I felt inspired to start writing about my experiences. It was therapy for me. I would walk every day in the heart of the Boston winter to the public library so I could write and express the things that were happening inside of me.
What started as basic journaling became a regular practice and passion of mine. And it led to my first book, Stop Thinking Like That, which has been the #1 national bestseller on Amazon in both its Alcoholism & Drug Dependency lists. I had no idea that my recovery, and my writing, would enable me to reach numerous people struggling with addiction from coast to coast. I didn’t initially write for them. I wrote for myself because it brought me life and gave me joy. I feel extremely blessed to be a (small) part of the personal voyages of others seeking to find the best versions of themselves -- what lies inside of each person that is just waiting to burst out. I write about having to check my ego -- which almost destroyed me -- at the door. In the book, I share about the fortitude, vulnerability, desire, and determination that helped me push through the hard times, pick myself up off hell's dirty rotten floor, and begin to transform my life, one day at a time.
Today, I’ve been able to mend relationships with my family while re-building love for myself at the same time. It’s the little things, like brushing my teeth, spending time with my nieces and nephew, and sitting by a fire and stargazing with my girlfriend and her family that mean the world to me. I have found something that I believe in doing, and I recognize that materialistic things didn’t fill that void. I have found my purpose, and I am so aware and grateful to be connected to family and to be where I am. Being part of something bigger than myself makes my heart come alive, and I’m excited to see where this adventure leads.