Getting a job with a criminal record wasn't easy. When I was released from prison I thought things would be easier. I had been attending the AA/NA meetings, and I couldn't wait to feel like my life had a purpose. I had a new sense of responsibility, and I just wanted find a job and live a straight life. But having a criminal record made it very hard for me to get hired anywhere. I struggled for months to find a job, and when I finally did, I relapsed. Shortly after I was fired. Life seemed unbearable and that is why I check into a rehabilitation facility in Idaho.
Being broke and depressed after rehab, I had no better choice than to move back to California where I found a job selling knock-off cologne on the street. It was a multi-level marketing company that gave you the merchandise on consignment, you’d have to go out and sell the perfume, pay for the merchandise or return it in good shape. It was a good thing for me at the beginning. I needed to focus my energy in something that wasn't drugs or alcohol, so I worked crazy hours seven days a week. I would get in my car, pick-up my coworkers and head to shopping center parking lots, gas stations, flea markets, etc to sell our perfume.
During the first months I learned how to approach and pitch my product to strangers, how to have the right attitude, how to overcome objections and how to dismiss rejection. With my new set of skills and the business I was growing I felt great. I had decided that I was going to become the best salesman I could be.
A year later I had a team of about 30 people that I was training and had expanded to other beauty products. I had become a person of high value in the company because my team and I were pushing more products than anyone else nationwide. I was still sober, but I didn’t look it. I was 10 pounds lighter, I looked tired and stressed, I had no friends and I barely spoke to my parents.
In 2007, during one of those rare visits at my parents’ house, a cousin introduced me to a book that helped change my life: Jeffery Combs’ Psychologically Unemployable (Jeffery is also a recovering addict). One of the most important things that he says in his book is that you should never confuse obsession with passion. After reading the entire book I realized I had traded my drug and alcohol addiction for work. Reach Out Recovery has recently published a great article about brain changes to behavioral addiction.
I needed to recover from my obsession with the business, therefore, I sold the business and moved back in with my parents. I wanted to take it slow and get a job that wouldn't stress me as much, so I got hired as a marketing assistant for a bankruptcy lawyer in Newport Beach. I was helping my parents pay the bills, but I wasn't feeling challenged and I was very unmotivated. Luckily I had tapped into a great AA/NA community closeby, and I acquired a really good sponsor.
My sponsor gave me the task of enrolling in a community college course. I was less than pleased with this task, I felt too old to be trying to go to school, and I didn't see what was the point on doing it. I forced myself to go to the local community college campus and enroll in the only class that really caught my attention. It was a course called Introduction to Website Development (HTML). I liked computers and websites, so I thought, why not give it a shot?
After a few weeks I was completely passionate about something again and it made me happy. I found myself at the computer for hours, coding, creating, learning. Finally, one day I thought to myself that it would be great if I could make a business out of my new acquired skill. I spent a lot of time marketing and building a team of website developers.
Now I have been in business and sober for nine years. I co-own a great digital marketing agency. I have a great team and we are based in Medellin, Colombia, which means my life has a complete 360 degree. 30 years ago my parents and I left Colombia in search of a better life, now I am back with that better life.
If you ever feel like life it's too much to handle, and things don't seem to be getting better, trust me, being sober is something you will get used to with time. Just stay focused and keep attending meetings. It's hard at the beginning but after a while it become part of your life. For example, going out to those birthday parties with Colombian friends and turning down the alcohol seemed like something impossible years ago, and now I do it without any problem.
Sobriety, just like building a business, does not happen overnight, one has to commit to it and work hard. Sometimes you just want to give up. But you just need to take a deep breath and push through. For me the most difficult part was finding balance: how to be passionate without loosing myself in work.
It’s Not All About You
Recovery in its early stages seems to be all about you and in a sense it is. Every step that take, every meeting you attend, every story you share, every task your sponsor makes you do is all about you and your recovery. But after a while you realize that staying sober is not just about your well-being or your own psychological state. It's about becoming a better version of yourself and helping others, whether it’s through sponsorship in AA or NA, doing awesome work at a job you love or like me building a business that employs deserving people that depend on you, your sobriety is bigger than you. It may not seem so clear right now, but every action and step you take in this process brings you closer to your personal success. Good luck and thank you for reading my story.
Reach Out Recovery Exclusive by: Andy Smith
Beautiful image of Medelin Colombia by Joel Duncan http://www.joelduncanphotography.com