Athletes Who Share Their Stories Firsthand

Mental toughness is a way of life. It isn’t a helmet you put on when you step on the gridiron or go up to bat. It’s something you build, step by step, that becomes a part of who you are. In the book, Mental Toughness, authors Karl Kuehl, John Kuehl, and Casey Tefertiller give the example of Jackie Robinson. Robinson, like many of you know, broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947. He was far from welcomed. Robinson was abused — both physically and emotionally — during his playing days. Opposing players would purposefully slide in and step on Robinson with their metal spikes while calling him names and spewing hate. Robinson could’ve chosen to physically fight back against the abuse of his opponents, but he chose to keep a calm demeanor and let his playing do the talking. “This is mental toughness,” the Mental Toughness authors explain:

“It is the mind-set to meet a challenge and overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of success. It is the inner strength that creates resolve and dedication, the courage to fight back from failure. It is the understanding that achievement rarely comes without enormous hardships along the way, and that the mentally tough are those who can work their way through the ordeals and persevere to success. It means keeping your head when others around you are losing theirs, and it means having the courage to speak up at the right time — or stay silent, as in the case of Jackie Robinson. The goal for mental toughness is a conscious decision a person makes in order to increase his or her opportunities for success.”

Mental toughness is not physical toughness. You can be the biggest and strongest athlete in the room, but if you do not exhibit the qualities of mental toughness, you are nothing. You cannot have true success without mental toughness. So, what really is mental toughness? Mental Toughness’ authors have got you covered:

“When professional scouts or instructors refer to ‘makeup,’ they mean mental toughness. It’s a collection of values, attitudes, and emotions, a blend of the flexibility to make adjustments with the stubborn perseverance to overcome obstacles. Players who are mentally tough know how to control their emotions to perform in clutch situations; they can say calm when breaks go against them; they avoid becoming intimidated; they don’t give in by changing plans, losing right of goals, or taking the easy way out; they do the work to grow tough physically as well as mentally; they push themselves to become their best, even working through exhaustion; they are disciplines and avoid easy distractions; they bounce back from disappointments and adversity; they are prepared and know how to prepare; they do not make excuses, particularly to themselves; they overcome fear. Mental toughness requires a state of alertness that allows the player to react quickly to changing situations while remaining intensely focused. It is a combination of self-control and discipline that allows quick, intelligent decisions at the most intense moments. Everyone feels fear; the mentally tough learn to execute despite fear.” 

We know this can be a lot to take in. Don’t expect yourself to read this definition once or twice and then be able to change your behavior immediately. Mental toughness takes time, effort, and dedication. It is something that is on-going. You cannot reach the place of mental toughness and then take a break, expecting yourself to be mentally tough forever. Instead, mental toughness is something you’ve got to work toward each and every day.

She Plays is a nonprofit that aims to “encourage, educate and empower female athletes to be confident on and off the field of play.” She Plays has a guide to mental toughness that includes four steps. Citizens In Recovery will review their four steps and include our input about why each of these steps is important. Continue reading to find out more about mental toughness.

Know your "why"

Why do you do what you do? There has got to be a driving force as to why you play a sport, exercise, eat and sleep well, or participate in a hobby. Knowing your “why” is important to mental toughness because your “why” should be the driving force that keeps you moving forward toward your goals. Without a clear reason of why you’re doing what you do, you may feel lost and not have the necessary motivation needed to be great. Knowing your “why” helps drive your mental toughness and keep you moving forward toward success. 

LEARN YOUR HABITS

Everyone has habits, but not everyone’s habits are positive. For athletes, eating well and sleeping well are routines you must have in place. You can’t slack off on these habits, either. You must be committed to your eating patterns and sleeping patterns. You should be setting yourself up for mental toughness success. You cannot be mentally tough if you are not taking care of your mind and body. Seek out habits that will prepare and propel you toward your goals of being a mentally tough athlete.

Control the Controllable

Many people struggle with the idea of control. It’s important to keep in mind that you cannot control what is out of your control. There are so many things that happen at once, and it’s important to remember that not everything is in your control. Try not to waste time and energy trying to control things that you have absolutely no control over, such as other people. Stay focus on yourself and what you can control.

Embrace Your Outcomes

Learn from what happens to you. This is key to being mentally tough. You are a lifetime learner. Whether you win or lose, there are things you can learn from the game you just played. Know that there is always tomorrow to seek out a win, so prepare and work toward that game. You’ve got this!

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been in literature since Homer wrote about Achilles from Iliad. Achilles described of characteristics post-traumatic stress after killing Hector and dragging his body in front of Troy. Achilles described having nightmares and reoccurring thoughts that were triggered by the traumatic event of losing a close comrade. According to Murray Stein (2012) approximately two to three percent of American citizens have post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the Diagnostic Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders PTSD can result if the person was in danger, witnessed the danger, learned that a family member or close friend was exposed to violent or accidental trauma. Most common causes of PTSD are war, severe childhood emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, neglect, betrayal, experiencing or witnessing violence, rape, catastrophic injuries or illnesses, and natural disasters (Levine, 2008). PTSD contains specific criteria in order to be considered a mental disorder.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been in literature since Homer wrote about Achilles from Iliad. Achilles described of characteristics post-traumatic stress after killing Hector and dragging his body in front of Troy. Achilles described having nightmares and reoccurring thoughts that were triggered by the traumatic event of losing a close comrade. The strongest link between substance use disorder and any other mental health diagnoses is PTSD. So much so, there is a stronger correlation between trauma and substance use disorder than between obesity and diabetes.

Symptoms are congruent among most people with PTSD regardless of the type of trauma they were exposed to. Repeated compulsive and interfering stressful memories of the distressing occurrence is common among those with PTSD (APA, 2012). Repeated nightmares or disturbing dreams that reflect the traumatic event are reported to occur frequently (APA, 2012). Flashbacks or disassociation is often triggered in which the affected person presents as the event was reoccurring (APA, 2012). According to O’Brien (2012), triggers that bring about internal or external cues can startle the individual generate fear and helplessness surrounding the event or qualities of the traumatic event (Bloomberg, 2012).

Because of the occurrence of flashbacks, nightmares, and compulsive memories people with PTSD struggle with day-to-day life. Further symptoms such as anger, hyper arousal, avoidance, guilt, emotional numbing, and dysphoria are all symptoms of PTSD (Bloomberg, 2012). Cognitive irregularities are common with PTSD. The inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic event is the result of way the brain perceives the threat. Beginning with the thalamus the brain decides whether or not the perceived threat is dangerous. If the thalamus determines it is safe, the brain will transfer the perception to the visual cortex to be sorted appropriately. However, if the thalamus decides that the perception is determined to be dangerous the visual cortex will be bypassed and the amygdala will be activated to produce a flight, fight, or freeze response (Bloomberg, 2012). PTSD affects memory, the amygdala, the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus.

The activation of the amygdala will produce an influx of hormones and changes in body that will supersede memory-producing chemicals, which will produce temporary amnesia from specific details about the event. PTSD occurs when the amygdala may respond when it is not needed or responds to the wrong situation e.g. a car backfiring (Bloomberg, 2012). Also, the Medial prefrontal cortex is affected. This is the part of the brain in between the two hemispheres involved in regulating emotions and involved in remembering and learning. The process of extinction doesn’t occur normally with some of the PTSD. Less activation implies difficulty with emotional regulation (Bloomberg, 2012). Ivan Pavlov described this process as fear conditioning which corresponds to classical conditioning (Broomberg, 2003). Fear conditioning is associated to the amygdala. When the amygdala sends signals to the hippocampus, which then creates spatial memory. If this process is bypassed and the hippocampus does not create meaning behind the event then extinction is unable to occur, because the traumatic event then becomes somatic (Bloomberg, 2003).

Hyper-arousal is found in bodily responses when the amygdala is responding when it is not necessary (Hermann, 1997). The bodily responses are an increase in heart rate, sweating, difficulty breathing (rapid, shallow, panting, etc.), cold sweats, tingling, and muscular tension. It can also manifest as a mental process in the form of increased repetitious thoughts, racing mind, and worry (Levine, 2008). Constriction is when the person’s nervous system shuts down to preserve energy and Blood vessels in the skin, extremities, and organs constrict so that more blood is offered to the muscles, which are tensed and equipped to yield protecting action (Levine, 2008). This is often referred to the fight / flight / freeze / submit mechanism of survival. When the body doesn’t have an opportunity to execute the neurological response of flight or flight, physiological saturation of cortisol can have a devastating impact on the individual. Contemporary understanding of PTSD has now begun to validate the claims of psychologists of the nineteenth century.
PTSD is one of the better-understood mental disorders because of the advances in medical imaging. Three tools that are used are functional magnetic residence imaging, PET SCANNING, topography. Treatment for PTSD has found some success in anti-depressants and SSRI’s while placebo is still a factor. Exposure therapy and virtual reality have been used to provide behavioral therapy. Exposure therapy is learning the cues to fear and learning to reframe the brain to induce extinction and resilience. The process of extinction doesn’t occur normally with someone with PTSD (Bloomberg, 2012). Less activation implies difficulty with emotional regulation. They have been proven to be effective treatments for desensitization individuals from external cues and re-strategizing how to manage internal cues. The closer to the traumatic event that the individual receives treatment, the more quickly they are to have reduced symptoms (Herman, 1997).

Individuals in recovery will often recognize that stress is one of the strongest indicators of stress. Unless someone addresses childhood their likelihood of relapse is higher. Approximately 67% of individuals that identify as addicts/ alcoholics report some form of trauma. Trauma isn’t limited to physical violence, sexual abuse or natural disasters; trauma is exposure to any condition that overwhelms our coping capacity. Therapies such as equine-assisted therapy, existential adventure therapy, music/ art therapy, therapeutic letters/ journaling, breathwork and trauma eggs have been extremely beneficial for me personally. In addition to exposure and cognitive therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), somatic experiencing (SE) and psychodrama (group work) seem to be the most effective ways of bypassing the psyche’s protective barriers and reaching the subcortical imprints of trauma. Trauma is preverbal, which is indicative more experimental therapies will be more effective in treating trauma as the language center of the brain shuts down (left side) creating disorganized sequences with an inability to interpret feelings into words (Van Der Kolk, 2015). As Judy Crane, co-owner and founder of The Guest House says “ We Are Not Bad People Trying to Be Good, We Are Wounded People Trying to Heal.” Creating a safe space is the first step of recovery for trauma. From there the goal is to acknowledge, experience and normalize the emotions and cognitions associated with the trauma at a pace that is safe and manageable(Luxenberg, Spinazzola, Hildago, Hunt and van der Kolk, 2001). Reconnection and resiliency training allow for post traumatic growth. Survivors of trauma will transition from surviving to thriving.

Going into the innermost cave of trauma can be daunting. You don’t have to go it alone.
References:
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Bloomberg. (2012) Brain series 2: post-traumatic stress disorder. http://www.bloomberg.com/. Retrieved October 13, 2014, from http://www.bloomberg.com/video/brain-series-2-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-gYkw_DaiTDOOYnroPZGATQ.html (Links to an external site.)

Bromberg, Philip M. (2003). “Something wicked this way comes: Trauma, dissociation, and conflict: The space where psychoanalysis, cognitive science, and neuroscience overlap”. Psychoanalytic Psychology20 (3): 558–74. doi:10.1037/0736-9735.20.3.558

Corsini & Wedding, R. J. (Eds.) (2014). Current psychotherapies. (10th ed). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Herman, J. L. (1997). Trauma and recovery (Rev. ed.). New York: BasicBooks.

Garami, J., Valikhani, A., Parkes, D., Haber, P., Mahlberg, J., Misiak, B., … &Moustafa, A. A. (2019). Examining perceived stress, childhood trauma and interpersonal trauma in individuals with drug addiction. Psychological reports, 122(2), 433-450.

Levine, P. A. (2008). Healing trauma: a pioneering program for restoring the wisdom of your body. Boulder, Colo.: Sounds True ;.

Luxenberg, T., Spinazzola, J., Hidalgo, J., Hunt, C., & van der Kolk, B. A. (2001). Complex Trauma and Disorders of Extreme Stress (DESNOS) Diagnosis, Part I: Assessment. Directions in Psychiatry, 21, (395-415).

Minchin, E. (2001). Homer and the resources of memory: some applications of cognitive theory to the Iliad and the Odyssey (p. x). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Van der Kolk, B. A. (2015). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Penguin Books.

Why is Rehab So Expensive?

The increase of individuals struggling with substance use and behavioral health disorders throughout the country has created a dire need for treatment services, and the access to quality services is extremely limited. One of the main reasons is cost, and the impression that families get is that the treatment centers are gouging them, and taking advantage of the system. The families are not necessarily wrong, and they are not completely right. The system of drug and alcohol treatment in the U.S has undergone quite a few significant changes over the last 7-10 years.  Unfortunately, the cost of providing treatment is extremely expensive if a treatment center is going offer a quality service, and the ability to utilize insurance to pay for these services has helped families come up with the resources to get the help they need for their loved one. In addition, this has created the ability for unqualified individuals to open treatment centers without any type of regulatory oversight, and abuse the system for their own financial gain. Finally, with insurance companies cutting back on their reimbursements and the number of corrupt players that have tainted the reputation of the treatment field, families are finding it more difficult to get their loved ones into a facility that they can trust. I will cover the last two issues in my next article, and let’s break this down a little deeper to see how the cost adds up.

First, let’s look at a very simple breakdown of the minimum amount that it could cost someone to run a treatment center. Of course, this is just a bare-bones look at a center that I would not even send my worst enemy to, but they do exist. To have staff in your residential facility 24 hrs a day just monitoring the clients (usually called Techs, Resident Assistants or Resident Advisors), making sure they are safe, and paying them $13/hr for 8 hr shifts, would cost the owner approximately $9,360 per month on the lowest end. This is considering you only had 3 people covering 7 days per week. However, you usually need more than one person per shift if you are going to have more than five or six patients/clients in the house, and you also need back-ups to ensure you always have staff at the house. These types of employees are also the highest risk because they often don’t stay for very long, they don’t have enough experience to provide actual clinical care, and they are often the hardest to keep happy because they aren’t really making any money. In addition, they are usually looking to expand their career, and if openings are not available at a higher pay grade, they will move on. Turnover wise, these employees are constantly getting other opportunities and many centers end up being shorthanded on good quality staff at this level. While these are usually the lowest paid staff members, they are usually the most critical staff on your team because they are with the clients more than anyone else and can have the biggest impact on their success or failure in treatment. It’s a very fine line, and one of the most challenging aspects of staffing in treatment.

Now that we have these basic staff members, let’s consider some of the other necessary costs to run the facility. Again, we are talking about a facility that is barely decent, but meets the requirements of most states to qualify for licensure. The most critical piece to having a licensed residential treatment center is having a licensed therapist that is willing to put their license on the line for the facility. Usually, this would be your Clinical Director. Depending on the state, the economy and the qualifications of the individual, a facility would pay anywhere from $4K-$10Kper month. The Clinical Director may, or may not be at the facility full time, so the variation in cost can be quite broad. Facility owners decide how much or how little they would like to have Clinical Leadership at the facility. Then, you need to look at having other clinical staff; therapists or counselors (licensed or certified), possibly a doctor and a couple of nurses (RN’s or LVNs). You also need at least one administrative staff member to answer phones and handle paperwork. You also need to have someone that can handle the intakes and discharges of clients. This can be done in many different ways and the quality of these two functions is absolutely critical to the impact of the overall experience of the client. Finally, you often need ancillary staff to offer additional clinical services and facilitators to run groups. These costs will add up depending on the quality of the care you are hoping to provide. The better the quality, the higher the expenses. As you can probably see, this is the bulk of the overhead expenses that really challenge treatment centers in keeping their doors open. We haven’t even discussed the actual facility and other logistical operating expenses.

Let’s look at the cost of running the facility. Rent, utilities, insurance, unemployment, attorney fees, automobiles and the associated expenses that come with that, in addition to other expenses that arise in the day to day operations. Will the facility be providing food for the clients? If so, who is going to prepare the food? What kind of food, snacks, drinks, etc. are you going to be offering? These are just a few of the considerations, only regarding food.

After adding up all of these costs, a minimum cost per month of no less than $70,000 per month, which is on the VERY low end of expenses, would be a very reasonable expectation. For the sake of this article, I am trying to provide the customer with a view of what thebest-case scenario would befor a facility to even get up and running;and the best-case scenario for a facility is usually the worst case for the client, because they typically, would not be receiving quality care. In California, a residential facility is only allowed to have a maximum of 6 beds at one residential address. Of course, there are ways to get additional beds if the facility has room and meets specific requirements (an additional cost). As you can imagine, with the cost of living in CA and the limitations that are put upon facility owners, they need to come up with a large amount of revenue just to cover their expenses. For a 6-bed facility in California, you are usually looking at operating expenses around $100K-$120K per month. With 6 beds filled every month, they would have to charge around $20K just to cover their cost to keep the doors open. This is assuming, of course, that the facility has all 6 beds filled every single month. Of course, every state is different and has different regulations, so that needs to be taken into consideration, as well, but no matter how you look at it, the financial obligation and responsibility is substantial.

Please keep in mind, the current scenario I have laid out is just the first part of the treatment process, the first 30 days. This scenario is also one of many variations to how treatment is structured. Most individuals in our country will leave treatment at this point, having spent everything they’ve got to get help. After 30 days, they are leaving treatment and going back to the very place that sent them to treatment. This is not a substantial amount of time to get the real tools that are needed to live a life of sustainable recovery. Research shows that individuals who are able to stay in treatment, or get the support they need for at least 6 months to a year, have a much higher probability of staying in recovery for at least five years. Unfortunately, with the current treatment system and the cost of running treatment facilities, only 1-2% of our country can afford to make it happen for that period of time. Even many of those families end up tapping all of their resources, too.

As you can see, with the operating costs involved in running a treatment center, it is very clear why the cost for individuals to get treatment is high. So, what are the alternatives to going to treatment? There are other options for individuals to get help if they are highly committed to do what it takes to recover. When starting on this journey, the individual needs to be stabilized. This means going to a hospital, doctor, detox or acute care facility before they embark on the recovery path, to ensure that they are physically capable of getting through the initial phase of recovery without any withdrawl symptoms causing serious damage, or even death. Once that has been handled, community-based recovery is always one of the primary facets to almost all treatment centers. These organizations are usually free, or accept donations. Many individuals can get stabilized and begin attending these meetings, but that only takes up a few hours of someone’s day. If there are clinical issues, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc., that needs to be taken into consideration, as well. It is imperative that the family understands this because drugs and alcohol are often the “medicine” that is helping the individual deal with those issues. Once that is gone, this can leave the person very raw and vulnerable, which is usually part of the underlying reason for the drug and alcohol abuse, in the first place. Depending on the level of containment someone needs, will be what determines whether or not treatment is necessary. That is where it is up to the family and the individual to be rigorously honest about what they are committed to doing. If the financial obligation for treatment is absolutely not possible, options like intensive therapy, coaching and other types of support services can be extremely valuable, and can be utilized over a much longer period of time; but, again, they are all conditional upon the commitment of the individual to their recovery when the services are not being offered, and they are free to do whatever they want.

In closing, take time to research the facilities you are looking to send yourself or a loved one! If you don’t know what to ask, consult with a treatment advocate or professional. Feel free to go to www.citizensinrecovery.com to see the types of services I offer, as well. I am happy to answer questions and help guide families in the best possible direction I can. These viewpoints are completely subjective and part of my experience working in the field. There will be many opinions and, possibly, alternative viewpoints to what I have said. I advise anyone who reads this to gather as much information as possible and assess for themselves what they believe to be true for them. The goal this article was to offer insight to why the cost of treatment can be so expensive, and is only meant to be educational and informative, and is not meant to sway people away from going to an addiction treatment facility. Instead, it should help the readers to make more informed decisions to get the proper help for their loved ones, or themselves. In my next article, I will discuss some of the ways that insurance has helped, and hindered society’s access to addiction treatment. Recovery is possible!

Resilience and the Power of Determination

I am going to be very honest with you, after all that Tiger has endured over the past 12 years, I really didn’t think that he could rise back to the glory that he once achieved. However, I should’ve known better because I have done a lot of the same, just in a different way, and probably on a smaller scale. Although, our experiences are all subjective, and what seems like a mountain to one person, may be a mole hill to another. That is what makes Tigers accomplishment so incredible. If you look at the adversity that he has overcome, most people would not be able to endure the struggle at the level that he did.

First off, the physical pain of Tiger’s back issues, the broken knee and all of the other challenges that he has had to face over the years, on top of aging, would leave most people surrendering to their demise. On top of that, Tiger had to change the way he swung the golf club to mitigate further injury and still allow for the best possible outcome. He truly is a remarkable physical athlete!

Secondly, and more important, the mental and emotional toll of the events in his life, including the physical injuries, were incredibly daunting and significant. Being in the public eye, having to deal with the divorce from the mother of his children, whom he had cheated on, had to have been a powerfully challenging time for Tiger. The emotional toll that it took on him, in combination with his physical limitations, led me to believe that he was in for the competition of his life.  The ostracizing and condemnation that he endured must have been devastating to his soul, his ego and his sense of wellbeing. For Tiger to face these challenges head on, to continue pushing forward, consistently working harder and harder to move ahead, demonstrates the absolute resilience and tenacity of the human spirit that anyone can possess if they dedicate themselves to whatever they are passionate about. Yes, of course there is a bit of luck, talent and skill involved in golf, but the number of failures and number of hours learning from those failures set Tiger up to achieve his ultimate success, thus far. Nobody can deny him that credit.

I heard rumors about Tiger and the help he was receiving, and I don’t know what truth any of them hold, but I do know that the kind of help he was supposedly receiving was substantial. I say this because many peoplein our society don’t know or understand what it is like to get psychological care or treatment, because they don’t believe in it or they have some sort of bias about it, based on the abhorrible stigma of mental health and addictions that is entrenched in our culture. Even if the rumors are false, I guarantee you that Tiger Woods works with a psychological coach to help him in his mental and emotional game.

I spent many years cheering against Tiger because I always cheered for the underdog, which does say a lot about me. Watching Tiger rise back to the top after what looked to be the end of an era, has made me a huge fan of the best, and striving to be the best, ALL OF THE TIME!  Congrats to Tiger, and congrats to those who strive to succeed after failing horribly or stumbling along the road of your path to success!

Getting Sober

When I first got sober, I was living in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, in the Beverly Apartments, up above Homeboy Liquors, on O’Farrell St and Jones. I had a studio apartment with hardwood floors and a view of the alley behind the building. At the time, I thought I was doing alright for myself and it could have been much worse, and that was true…it could have been worse. I was done, though. I had gone as far down as I could go, and I had done everything I could do to try and numb or kill the pain that was inside of me. I had no other choice but to get sober, kill myself or just continue on with the misery I had created for myself, and that was not an option anymore.

One day, I took the bus down to the beach to go surfing. It was a beautiful day and I had just come off a run where I was up for 4 days, having done a bunch of speed while I was out with some people I worked with at Charlie Brown’s Restaurant, on Fisherman’s Wharf. The loneliness and despair I felt inside of me was so evident in my appearance and behavior. I had nothing to do and the only thing that gave me any relief was surfing. I had fun surfing that daybut I didn’t stay out there very long. As I changed out of my wetsuit, I thought I might try and hit someone up for a ride back to “the Loin”. I saw a guy who had just gotten out of the water and asked him if he was going that way, and he said yes.  On the way home, this guy, Kelly, started telling me about his life and what kind of work he did. Then, out of nowhere, he threw it out there that he didn’t drink. I told him how I had been trying to get sober for the last 5 years, on and off. At that very second, I knew that he was put there to save me. I told him that I couldn’t find people that were my age who were sober. Kelly said, “Oh, man, you gotta come to this meeting with me tonight in the Haight! There are so many young people at this meeting, and you would fit right in!” That was a little quick for me to go that night, but I knew deep down that it was the right thing to do. So, I went to the Haight-Waller St meeting, that night, and I found my new home. I met about 15 people that were all around my age, some had 7 or 8 years of sobriety already, and some were new, just like me. We went for coffee after the meeting and I got know some of them a little more, and my journey of recovery was starting to take off. The next weekend I went to Canada to visit my mother, who was graduating from college at the age of 50. She went to treatment, had been sober for a couple of years, and I was so excited to tell her what I was doing and that I had found a meeting in SF. She was going to be so proud of me, I thought to myself.

When I got to Calgary, I was still in a pretty horrible state of mind, feeling extremely depressed about my life and how I was a complete failure. I was really hoping that my mom would impart some of her wisdom about being sober and help me on my new path. When we got to her house she poured a glass of wine for herself and noticed the shock on my face when I saw it. We went into the other room and sat down to talk about it. She explained to me that she was just celebrating her accomplishment and it wouldn’t be a normal thing for her, moving forward, but I was devastated! I saw no point in staying sober for the weekend if she was going to be drinking, and there was a one-gallon jug of Jim Beam in the other room that I noticed, the second we walked in the house. The rest of that trip was pure chaos and drunkenness. I came home defeated, hopeless and hung over. If my mother decided sobriety was not a priority, how could I do it?

Although that weekend sent me spiraling into deeper depression, anxiety and heavier drinking, I remembered that meeting. I went on drinking for another month, and on November 2nd,the Wednesday following Halloween in 1994, I went back to that meeting and I raised my hand as a newcomer. A lot of those same people were there from the first time I went to that meeting, and they welcomed me back. That was the true beginning of my recovery, and I am still connected to some of those people to this day. I am eternally grateful for the life I have been given as a result of 12-step meetings, the people that have come and gone throughout my recovery and the work that I have had to do in order to sustain this life in recovery. I truly believe there are no coincidences and the universe has a way of putting people in your life that can actually alter and transform it forever. Kelly was at that next meeting and we became good friends. We surfed and snowboarded together, went to parties, went to concerts, and had so much sober fun. Kelly had some challenges later on, and I don’t know where he is now, but I hope he has found new recovery and I would want him to know that I will never forget him, and that day we met at Ocean Beach.