In this episode, you’ll hear Maurice share his personal story. He started his journey to recovery on February 8th of 2021. You will hear him share how he got started, how his life was as he struggled with addiction for years, and how his life is now after he finally managed to get sober, and, stay sober.
What we discussed during the show:
- 00:00 Intro
- 00:54 Favorite Quote
- 02:12 Why / how he got started with substance abuse
- 18:21 Recovery Journey
- 23:26 Triggers
- 31:15 Hitting Rock Bottom
- 32:55 Happiest Moment of Life
- 35:17: Who he looks up to
- 38:26 What he wished he knew when he was much younger
- 40:00 Rapid Fire round – 5 Questions
- 42:06 Advice to anyone struggling with addiction
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Hello and welcome to SoberSide Chat. I am your host Pranaya Ghimire. Today I am very excited to have Maurice O. as my guest. He is a good friend of mine who is also in recovery. He started his journey to recovery on February 8th of this year and is doing very well now.
Maurice, welcome to the show! Why don’t you get us started by sharing a quote that you find inspiring and what that means to you?
Hi Pranaya! Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. I am very excited to be on the show and a quote I wouldn’t say it’s really a quote but more of a saying and it is very cliche however I love it anyway, it is One day at a time.
Here you go.
Here I go, now why do I love this quote, it inspires me because it helps me to live in a moment and I can’t even break it down to one minute at a time, one second at a time because sometimes you just have to live in a moment.
Thank you for that Maurice. Let’s dive right in. Please tell us about your struggle with substance abuse addiction, how it started, how it progressed, or what was that like?
Struggle, now substance abuse is a big part of my life and it wasn’t always a struggle, it actually did something for me at some point. It solves a lot of my problems, a lot of my internal problems. When I was young about the age of 12 is when I began using it wasn’t an abuse, it actually did something for me I couldn’t do for myself and that made me feel at ease. But the funny thing about my substance abuse is I didn’t know I was not at ease until I used.
It was a normal feeling, a feeling of discontentedness that I didn’t know I had until I didn’t feel it after I picked up a drug. Now at the time, I didn’t know that this was occurring, but after many years of abusing of drugs and alcohol and then trying to stop, I then felt a sense of dis-ease and discomfort that I didn’t know I had until I was without drink or drug and then I couldn’t stop, there lied my problem. I had found something that made me feel comfortable around the opposite sex, around other people, around myself. And I couldn’t unfeel that without a drink or drug.
I then was uncomfortable in my sober skin and I didn’t know why I was doing this. I guess it’s, did I have this problem before I picked up the drink and the drug? I guess I’ll never know. But I guess I have been finding myself.
So I did begin when I was 12 drinking and drugging. Marijuana was my drug of choice. I did drink because it was there. I hated the taste of alcohol but I did it anyway.
Stealing from the parent’s liquor cabinet, mixing concoctions of everything together, of course, it tasted terrible but I didn’t do it because I like the way it tastes, I did it because I like the way it made me feel. It says within a lecture, the AA lecture that I read, that men and women drink because they like the way it makes you feel and It’s really plain and simple. I didn’t do it to escape. I didn’t do it to live in an alternate reality.
I just did it because I like the way it made me feel. Now that makes me think in high n sight, if I am doing this because I like the way it makes me feel that must mean I didn’t like the way I felt sober. I didn’t know that at the time but as I’ve attempted sobriety. I’m not a first-time winner but as the years went on, I am now 37 and being sober for 93 days now, reflecting on my past I definitely had a sense of uncomfortability in my sober skin.
I did not feel right. I did not feel like I fit in. I always felt I was a little different. Now, was I different? I was not.
But this is my mind playing tricks with me and then when I find a drink or drug I was able to feel a sense of comfortability that I never felt before. So what’s the solution to my problem? And my problem was me, my problem was my mind, my problem was I couldn’t connect with other people unless I was under the influence of something.
Yeah, and that proceeded through my teenage years. It was not a problem. It solved all my problems and I am not saying it’s a good thing and for someone that has issues to go and reach for a drink or drug but for me personally it might have saved my life because without it I did not know how to cope. It allowed me to cope.
And by the age of 18 it became a very big issue because the pain of living sober was greater than the consequences. I was abusing the drug but the consequences started becoming greater than the pain. So I wanted to stop but I could not because I was faced with pain sober, but I also had consequences when I was under the influence, stealing, lying, cheating, not going to school, problems with the law, problems in personal relationships, just problems in general. Now this all occurs when I was under the influence but they also occur in my sober life but I couldn’t deal with them.
I had no idea how to cope with emotion. Which led to the vicious cycle of going back to the drink and the drug. So I was stuck between the rock and a hard place. So I went to rehab at the age of 18, an outpatient.
I learned a lot, I learned there was a disease, but I also learned that I didn’t know what to do about it and I was very young. I also learned that at 18 I thought I knew everything but I did nothing. And I did stay sober for a period of time. I learned that sobriety could be fun but I didn’t practice what I learned and I went back to it.
Now for the next 20 years, I started becoming a weekend warrior. I was able to somewhat control my drinking and drugging not while I was drinking and drugging but I was able, I became like a binge drinking and drugging. So I would work during the week, I got a good job , I worked my way up, I chose to pay off the workforce instead of schooling because I like getting paid. I like getting something for what I am putting in, I am a very selfish and self centered person when it comes down to it.
And then I would be able to drink and do drugs on the weekend when I didn’t work. But I lived on friday, everyday, every moment I was waiting for Friday for about 20 years from 18-35 a little less than 20 years. So was I really living. I don’t know in high n sight you know.
I did build up, I got married, I bought a house but I never developed coping skills because like I had my work and then I had my party and that’s all I did. And these were cocaine, and marijuana and alcohol. You know the drink or drug that I did really doesn’t matter but it does it my story for me personally because it’s a progression. You progress from alcohol, marijuana and then I progress to cocaine and alcohol and marijuana.
And then eventually what happens is you started harder drugs. And crack cocaine is what I started doing at the age of 35. Not because I wanted to smoke crack but because I couldn’t find my drug of choice which was cocaine and the next thing was available. So it’s interesting, my story really just is a progression story, the progression of I can’t stand to be sober and I couldn’t find something.
So I just went on to the next thing and long behold I loved it. Smoking crack cocaine is a spiritual experience for me. It did for me when I couldn’t do it for myself, which calmed me down mentally. I have ADHD which was undiagnosed at that time and using this stimulant actually calmed me down.
I didn’t think I had a problem because I wasn’t living under the bridge. I have a job. I found a wife who loved me and I loved her and we got married. But all my problems were solved by getting out of myself by drinking and drugging and crack cocaine did that for me.
So I lived the secret life for a while hidden behind the drugs and alcohol and this went off for two and half years until I hit my bottom. And I think about it, if I never run out of money would I’ve hit the bottom. Like, say I have like millions of dollars in the bank. Will I still be doing this? I don’t know.
That’s a good question.
Right? Do you ever think about that? It’s a little twisted but you know I never lost anything. I’m one of those low-bottom addicts.
I didn’t lose everything in life, materialize, but I lost everything internally. I got to the point where I did not care if I lived or died. Spending time in crack houses. I abandoned my wife emotionally, therefore abandoned everything I stood for.
They call incomprehensible demoralization. I grew up in a catholic household and I abandoned all these morals that I had just to get my fix. This is when I started abusing drugs, it no longer solved my problem, it became my problem. The thing that saved me in life and made me able to cope with life turned on me and it became my worst enemy, which was myself.
And I was faced with two choices, to go on to the bitter end, losing everything worthwhile. I wouldn’t die, I wouldn’t kill myself because I was too much of a coward. I would just go on like this and lose everything or find a spiritual solution and that solution is found in the book of AA that I found in the treatment. Through my hopelessness, through my addiction came home, because there was no other way to go but now I am 93 days sober and I feel happy, joyous, and free but it’s ___ on my spiritual recovery.
I have to do certain things every day. So long and short of it is that drugs and alcohol aren’t the problems, I am the problem. Drugs and alcohol are symptoms. They are the solution to my problem which is me, so you remove the drugs and alcohol and I am left with what?
I am left with me, I am left with the issue that I have from the beginning which is so sobriety. So I need something to solve the sober problem. I have to treat myself while I am sober and I never realize that. I thought just a period of separation was going to be enough and through trial and error and relapse and sobriety and relapse and sobriety, I learned things that I never knew before.
Like, I could know a lot and I do know a lot about sobriety, however, now is not just gonna keep me sober. I need to put certain actions into place and fear is not gonna keep me sober. I have to do things about this fear, I have to get through them, I have to process fear, I have to see what I am scared of and I’m blessed to have found this fellowship of alcoholics anonymous which lays out in this book a plan of action. And I have to be willing, honest and open about it every day, all day long.
I have to incorporate it into my life. Now it sounds like it’s a lot of work but it isn’t. And like I said earlier, I like to work because I got a paycheck because I get something out of it. Now I found that when I put this action into my life, these principles that are set in front of me with alcoholics anonymous I do get something back. I get a sense of freedom, I get a sense of peace and I get to connect with people.
I get way more out of sobriety and living this way than I do from any drink or drug. The drink and the drug is a temporary solution. It became so temporary that it didn’t work anymore. I was chasing happiness through inanimate objects.
Now my solution now is helping other people. And when you asked me to do this podcast, I was like absolutely. Did I wanna do it? No.
I was afraid but I gotta go through that fear and hopefully like I can. If I can help one person with my experience, then my job is done. I am not gonna save everyone but it’s about giving back what was given to me and hopefully, I could do that today. That’s my story, that’s what I am at right now.
Thank you, Maurice, you certainly helped me today. Listening to you share your story I realized how far you have come, even though your journey in sobriety is short, the internal reflections that you have had. I wanna talk to you briefly about your journey so far. I have known you only for a little while and we’ve become good friends and you seem like you have really embraced the program, embraced sobriety, embraced ___ I truly see it as a path forward.
What do you think of your journey in recovery so far? What do you think you’ve accomplished so far and what would you accomplish in the future?
What have I accomplished so far? Now, that is a deep question and I am very happy you asked this because I am gonna tell you. What I have accomplished is I am learning to be present, I’ll keep it. What I have accomplished is through trial and error.
Luckily I was able to come back from a couple of relapses. My length in sobriety this time is short but I did string together six months at one point. I learned a lot but I relapsed and then I strung together for three months and then I relapsed and every relapse was a little shorter than the last. Because my pain threshold is getting shorter.
Now I could just think about it and wonder why is each relapse run the period of time that I was using getting shorter and shorter? Is it because I want more sobriety? Or because I am getting closer to death? I don’t know.
All I know is that my mind is this askew and I cannot fix my problems with my thinking. The problem is my thinking. I need to put in action and my action is laid out in front of me in the book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Now I can’t read the book of Alcoholics Anonymous and figure this out.
I need to go through with the person with a sponsor. That is why they say the sponsor is so important. Another cliche saying is I get drunk, we get sober. I can’t do it on my own and learn to trust another human being and not rely on my own thinking, bounce my thoughts off to somebody else.
Now I also can’t, it’s confusing, I’ve learned that I can’t rely on a human pal but if I open my mind and actually listen and learn and identify through somebody else’s mistakes, that’s not relying on human power, that’s being open-minded to like I see that as a higher power. Now how do I connect to a higher power coz they say the goal is to let go and trust in your God. You need to trust in the God of your understanding. And how do I connect to this God of my understanding?
And I’ve connected, and I do connect in plugin into this power by listening to other human beings. I do not know and I cannot manage my life on my own power, I just can’t. I’ve tried to and I land back in rehab. So through reflection and through listening to others, I connect with a God or I choose to call them God coz it was just easier. I’m still lazy.
I would like to talk to you about something, you mentioned the word action, we have seen so many relapses. Once you spend some time in recovery you get to know people and you get to also know people who relapse right? You get to know people who go back and ___. People we’ve known have either relapsed or even passed away.
We just recently even had a friend, a close friend who just relapsed a few days ago. Let me ask you this, it’s because I know once we are locked into that outstation, nothing can get between our drug of choice and ___. So how often, realistically speaking, how often do you get triggered? How often do you get cravings and what are some of the coping strategies that you have found useful to manage those or overcome here?
Early recovery is very complicated. I’ve been in early recovery multiple times. I have to remain humble and say that I’ve never been out of early recovery however I’ve learned things in kind of imply, like strategy. Now triggers are complicated.
I drank when I was feeling good. I drank and used it when I was feeling bad. I drank and used it when somebody else offered it. I drank and used because I just wanted to. When it comes down to it, I drink and used all the time.
A trigger can be anything, so in my story, I don’t need something to set me off. I have to know where my disease is. The dis-ease is gonna manifest itself and it manifests itself in my mind. It tells me lies, it tells me that when I wake up and am not handsome enough.
I’m not good enough or I am very handsome and I am really good. So I either want to make myself better because I don’t feel well or I want myself to feel better because I feel too good. So it’s about balance, now how do I find that balance? I used to be aware of the end and vigilant with emotion.
I have to check in with myself every day, now I have to check in with myself every minute sometimes. I like to mention the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous because it actually gives me an outline of what I need to do. Step 1, we came to believe, sorry that’s step two. Step 1 is my foundation, powerlessness, just to keep it simple, powerlessness and unmanageability.
Now what is that? When I am under the influence of a drink or drug, yes I am powerless. I can’t stop. But I have to know what that means.
I have accepted in my life that I am ___ mentally different from my fellows. Not all my fellows, other alcoholics, and addicts will agree that when they start they can’t stop. But then there are people that can just do one and put it down, I am not like that. I have to know and I have to know inside my heart not in my head because my head and my mind is the problem.
I have to feel it, and know that when I pick it up, I am not gonna be able to put it down. That’s powerless, but there are also other kinds of powerlessness. When I do put it down because eventually, I do stop whether I get arrested, whether I fall asleep, whether I’m just so tired because it’s been seven days and I just need to go to bed, I do stop and all of the chaos I created while I was under the influence. All of the consequences that I am facing, my wife is gonna leave me, I didn’t pay the mortgage, I crashed my car, I got arrested, and just got released.
I still think it is a good idea to pick up a drink and drug again after being separated. That is the powerlessness that they talk about. The powerlessness is the insanity that you pick up after you have stopped for some reason and that’s all on your mind. Unmanageability, the unmanageability of my life is apparent when I am under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
I can’t manage my life. All I am worried about is the next one but the unmanageability that I need to pay attention to is how unmanageable my life is after I put down a drink or a drug. During my period of sobriety without a solution like I said drugs and alcohol solve something for me, they solve this restlessness, this unhappiness, this irritability that I have for no reason, they call it a spiritual malady. I have a hole inside that needs to be filled with something, because I cannot manage my life.
Sober, so what do I do? I pick up a drink or drug and I feel at home again and that occurs when I am sober, that feeling, like I said before this disease occurs when I am sober. I need to treat this sober condition. I need to fill the hole and I have to feel the ease and comfort that I feel when I am under the influence sober somehow or I will be going to pick up a drink or drug again.
One of the things Maurice you just said and which was, the hardest thing for me to do was acceptance. Acceptance that the fact that I am different than a lot of other people. And in my journey in recovery so far, talking about emotions, talking about drinking when happy, talking about drinking when sad, I am now trying to understand or begin to understand the fact that our still a being is still complicated their thoughts, their feelings and their actions and thoughts are thoughts, feelings are feelings. Feelings are meant to be felt and we don’t necessarily need to act on those or fix those feelings, they are there to be felt.
That brings us to the second part of the show, Maurice. I would like to ask you a few personal questions to get to know you a little bit better. Is that okay?
What would you consider the absolute rock bottom, the lowest point of your life and how did you overcome it?
This is something I’ve thought about and it has changed as I’ve gone about my recovery. I always thought my rock bottom would be when I lost things. I am always worried about losing things on that ___, the wife, we can’t get pregnant because I am too busy in recovery or relapsing. We wanna ___ sobriety I have no kids yet.
I am getting older so that feels like it’s at the bottom or I lose the car or I get arrested. But when I’ve come to realize, everyone’s bottom is different but my bottom, and what I believe the real bottom is, is when you get to the point where you realize you can’t do it on your own. I need help. When I reached out and said, for me not for my wife, not for my future kids, not for my car, my house, or my wonderful cat that I love.
When I said it for me please, please help me I cannot do it on my own. That was my bottom and it happened, it happened this time and I cannot forget that. I remind myself that every day and that goes with the powerlessness. When I realized I was powerless and I knew that to reach my hand out and say please help me.
Think of a moment in the past that you’d consider one of the happiest moments of your life. A snapshot, what comes to mind?
There are two, I have two happiest moments of my life. The moment I ___ the altar with my wife was one of the happiest moments of my life. However, there is something a little happier than that and maybe because it’s fresh, I don’t wanna seem selfish but let’s face it I’m a little selfish sometimes.
What does the word forgiveness mean to you?
I always felt like I was able to forgive others, but forgiveness has to come from within. I have to forgive myself first for what I’ve done to other people before I can actually forgive them or vice versa. I mean it may go both ways, someone opened my mind to that and he said “Maurice before you can forgive yourself maybe you should try to forgive someone else” so it could go both ways. But I think of the prayer of St. Francis when someone asked me about forgiveness or love which I think is both.
It is better to forgive than to receive forgiveness or to love rather than receive love. Now if you give it you’ll get I believe that too.
Who is someone you look up to and why?
Groundbreaking, I never thought about that. I’ve always looked up to myself, which has been my downfall. To honestly say, I looked up to my father, and to actually say that, I’ve never said that out loud and I’ve never believed it. I’ve always held resentment against the man because he wanted me to be something that I didn’t wanna be.
But I’ve come to realize that everything my father wanted me to be is everything I am becoming now. So I look up to that man.
I am sure that he is very proud of you today. What is one thing that you are trying to learn or grow and take up into right now besides your recovery?
I am trying to be a person that lives in the present. Now I’ve been pursuing things my whole life and I’ve been pursuing happiness, pursuing people, pursue my wife, pursue relationships. But I have come to realize that if you’re pursuing something you’re never living in the moment. My attention has been on something in the future and if I am always looking to the future, I can never just be.
And I’ve had trouble with love because I believe love exists in the present. So if I am presuming something, I can’t be in love so that’s what I am trying to just be.
Mau, what is something people often get wrong about you?
Often get wrong about me? That’s a deep question because I don’t like to know what people are thinking about me. I am always thinking about what people are thinking about me but I don’t wanna know. Because I am always thinking about me.
The problem that I am trying to solve. I would say, I don’t have any answer to that. I really don’t.
Fair enough, let me ask you this. What is something you wish you knew when you are much younger around 18, 19?
I wish I knew that feelings weren’t facts. This is something that I’ve just recently, people have been telling me it for years and definitely this past year but to actually know that I am supposed to identify and feel a feeling and not worry about why I feel it but then I’m feeling it and that’s okay. Would have made life a lot easier over the past 20 years, but it’s been a journey. I don’t live in regret because finding that out right now and being able to experience it on a daily basis is worth it.
Mau, we have now reached the next segment of our show which I called the rapid-fire round. I would like you to answer these questions in one word or sentence. Ready?
What is your favorite meal?
What is your favorite recovery-related book or tool or resource?
The Alcoholics Anonymous book.
How many hours of sleep do you get every night?
Between six and eight.
Very precise. A TV show you recently binge and entirely enjoyed?
I have major commitments with tv shows.
One thing you’re truly grateful for today?
I’m grateful to be able to be grateful.
Thank you Mau. That brings us to my last question. What advice would you give to someone who is currently struggling with addiction, who is listening to us right now, who wants to quit alcohol, who wants to quit drugs but it’s lost and confused?
The thing that saved me was finding out what my problem was and thinking that I could find the solution without knowing what. To know that there is no failure as long as you keep coming back just keep trying. It takes what it takes, shame and guilt are natural feelings but know that guilt is a normal feeling. If you feel guilt it means you have a conscience but do not shame yourself.
Do not label yourself because of that guilt. Know that shame and guilt are two different things. Shame is a label that you put on yourself by actions but we are not our actions. Just because we do things that we don’t agree with, doesn’t mean we’re bad people, we are not bad people trying to be good, we are sick people trying to be well.
That brings us to the end of the show. Maurice I would like to acknowledge you for taking the ownership of this addiction and facing it head on, for setting an example for others and most importantly, bringing a message of love, kindness and hope to others who are still struggling and suffering. I am truly grateful for your time today and thank you.
Thank you Pranaya, I appreciate it. `