riel grew up in a supportive, loving family, but experiences of loss and disconnection led to a dependency on alcohol. After years of struggling with a substance use disorder, his recovery took off through a discovery of how powerful his thoughts could be. According to Uriel, “Things started changing when I realized that I actually had the power to think differently, in the opposite direction of how I used to think. I started feeding myself on the positive aspects of life." Through recovery, Uriel found deeper relationships with family and a passion for psychology and helping others.
New Ways of Thinking
Things started changing when I realized that I actually had the power to think differently, in the opposite direction of how I used to think. I started feeding myself on the positive aspects of life. I started feeding myself with truth, with life-giving thoughts. For the first time, I could distinguish between the negative and positive thoughts. Until then, I thought I had to live in them and with them. That contributed to the alcohol addiction that I struggled with for seventeen years. I have found value, a calling, and new mindsets through recovery.
A Healthy Family But Looking for More
My name is Uriel, and I was born in Los Angeles. I grew up about 20 minutes east from there. I am first generation Mexican-American. My parents came from Mexico in the 1970s. I grew up close to all my uncles and aunts. That type of family closeness is in our culture, and I grew up with a strong, close-knit family. My cousins are, even to this day, like my brothers and sisters. It’s just the way it is. My parents were very loving.
When high school came, I started messing around with drugs and I started drinking because I didn’t know who I was. I struggled to have friends. During lunch, I would walk around by myself hoping the time would end because I didn’t want to look like I looked. I knew my family loved me; they showed me this since I was a child. But I didn’t feel like other people accepted me or loved me. It made me wonder if something was wrong with me.
Struggling with Alcohol Addiction
I began to party more to deal with the pain, but things took a turn when I was 19. My cousin, who was like a brother to me, got in a drunk driving accident, and died. The pain and the loss hit me so hard. I started really drinking, more than ever before. And I got my first DUI. For the next few years, I struggled with addiction, but I was still able to function and work. But in 2006, my girlfriend left me. Even though I wasn’t treating her very well, it really affected me. I felt like I had no purpose. Things were kind of foggy from then on until 2012. I remember shivering in a corner with a bottle of alcohol in my hand, knowing that I was killing myself but at the same time feeling like I had to have it. Every negative thought, from shame to not wanting to live and not believing change was possible, streamed through my mind. I felt like I was dying physically, and that I was killing my family. I could see my family, my mother, and the pain she was in from seeing me struggle. In addiction, your family goes through it too.
One day in 2012, while at my parents’ house, family members started gathering around in the living room, and I remember thinking, “This must be an intervention.” I didn’t know Mexicans had interventions. But apparently we do. So I sat down and listened, and tried to receive it. But I was not in a great place. I just wanted everybody to shut up. I knew I had a problem, but I just wanted them to leave me alone. However, it did contribute to me starting to seek help.
Transformation in Recovery
From 2012 to 2014, I had a lot of ups and downs in my recovery process. But in 2014 I was ready. I put all my chips on the table, so to speak. I ended up going to a recovery program, and committing to be there.
As I finally decided to let go, and embrace the process, I had about a three month span where my paradigm was just completely shifted. It went from death to life in just a matter of months. I found value in myself once I realized what I was created for. I had always looked at myself as an addict. But when I found out that “addict” wasn’t who I am — that what I do doesn’t define who I am — it was life changing. Addicted is not who I was created to be. I have something beautiful to bring. I actually have value that I can give to other people, value that actually positively affect them. There’s nothing like learning that I have value, and that I have the opportunity to share that with others, too.
During this time, I would sit down and read a ton. In this process, I found catchphrases that I could meditate on. They would bring me to tears as I wrote and reflected. I loved just chewing on the fact that I actually had value and purpose. Dreams of the past would come forward, of things that I had forgotten. Being drowned in alcohol for so many years, I have years of my life that I don’t remember. But in this process, it felt like passions and dreams and things that I valued were coming back to life.
Discovering My Passion
One of my passions is running. I love the peace, and I love nature. I love how I can commune with God. And I get to let my thoughts go. I get to dream, and I value that a lot. When I run, I enjoy being in nature, and getting lost in it. Running is one way that I unwind and rest — it’s a form of self-care. I started running more in recovery, and now I can’t get enough.
Currently, I work and go to school at the same time. But I’m grateful to be working towards my passion in life. I’m studying psychology and I’m going for a Master's degree in mental health therapy. I do a lot of homework. But when I sit down in front of my laptop, I remember again how I love every single class. Writing, abnormal psychology, whatever it is. Because now I see life in every single thing.
Finding Connection and Purpose in the Process
I used to be focused on the outcome in life, the thing way off in the future. But when I was, I would never arrive there. Now, I focus so much more on the process. The journey and the process is something I actually look forward to, and embrace. Life is a journey.
I want people to experience what I’m experiencing, on a daily basis, because I didn’t think it was possible for me. But now, I actually have something that I’m going after. So, in my recovery, I don’t have to try to not do something. Instead, I’m saying “yes” to something so much better.
I love serving people, whether it’s at my workplace or through recovery. It doesn’t matter who they are. I love helping people that are struggling in addiction. On a weekly basis, I spend a few hours volunteering with and participating in a recovery community. There’s a lot of hope. They’re my people; it’s where I feel at home. It’s great environment to be in, where I can give and receive. I love drawing the greatness out of people, and seeing them thrive. At work, I look for opportunities to encourage people. What’s beautiful to me is I get to see life now, in me and in my family. A few years ago, I didn't know that any of this could be possible.