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Changing Everything

When I was about 60 days sober and my bones were still vibrating like the Energizer Bunny I remember this long time sober guy telling me “Other than changing everything you don’t have to change a thing,” I didn’t say it out loud, but in my head I had a dialogue that went something along the lines of, “the fucking nerve of this dude, change everything? That’s a bunch of bullshit…I will still have all the same friends and do the same stuff, I just won’t do it with the drugs and the alcohol.”

He had this wise ass look on his face, as I was struggling to figure out this “complex mathematical problem” which to me it was for a moment, that being I have to change everything in my life, and it dawned on me that for the most part all of the people I was hanging out with at the time were junkies and alcoholics so it probably wouldn’t be all that good of an idea for me to be spending quality time with “Bob” or “Jimmy”, I mean what the hell am I gonna do? Help them soak the Oxy’s and crush ‘em up so they can snort them? Or, maybe just refer them to my Cartel cocaine dealer and give them rides back and forth and help them chop up big rat tails of blow and listen to them solve the world’s problems while their lips turn numb until the birds are chirping until 5 am as I drink nine cups of coffee trying to keep up with them?

So, for a split second, my rationale was just maybe a bit insane. The man and I laughed when I actually told him what I was actually thinking, and it took me a while to get through it, because for a while my speech patterns weren’t all that smooth. I stuttered all the time as my brain wiring was finding its way through the fog, it would take months and months for this to settle.

Guys like this guided me through life in my first couple of years of sobriety and still do to this day. I got sober down in south Orange County, and I remember being petrified of even going to Long Beach, I think my first visit there was at about 8 months sober and it was only during the day when I would ever go there. My obsession to drink alcohol was a daily thing, I didn’t want to touch another drug ever again, but the desire to drink was fucking insatiable for quite some time. I would drive by an outdoor patio setting and see an old joint on 2nd Street where I used to rage and see cold beers being consumed, and I would just say to myself, “If I have one of those, it will lead to 15 more, then it’s a half ounce of cocaine and then the pills, and then I am dead.” That’s how I would play out the equation in my mind, when the obsession to drink would kick in I would make phone calls to sober people, hit a meeting, and play out the scenario that “one would lead to many and then the usage of narcotics and then I would die”. So, my fear of dying kept me from drinking for quite a while until the obsession to drink finally left me, which was about 22 months into my recovery.

I deleted all toxic people from my phone within the first month of my recovery, hell, I wasn’t sleeping so that was a good time to do that. I was coached along by a group of awesome sober men, and for a while told me my job was to go to a shit load of meetings and help another alcoholic/drug addict. Not knowing what that meant, I dug in and did just that. I avoided the dark places of my past and eliminated the “dark friends” and acquaintances who were still active in the disease, which I desperately wanted to avoid from taking me down. In a way, some days it was like surviving an hour at a time, minutes a time, and getting to bed without having gotten loaded. I cannot count how many times the best part of my day was the moment I got into bed just knowing I hadn’t relapsed, feeling in some small way I was victorious against a disease that was waiting out there for me…and it’s always there in the waking hours, but what I love about sleep….it’s impossible to relapse and get loaded while you’re sleeping.

Todd Zalkins

Todd Zalkins is the Founder of All In Interventions and a Certified Drug & Alcohol Counselor, he has successfully facilitated hundreds of interventions all over the United States. Todd is a renowned public speaker and author of "Dying For Triplicate". He is also the subject of the award-winning documentary film "The Long Way Back."

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