From Prison-Bound Alcoholic to Successful Lawyer Sober 16 Years (Advice)

In today's mentor session, we were joined by a special guest, Rich, who talked about his incredible story of dealing with addiction. Being an alcoholic and avid drug user, Rich had 33 convictions growing up. At one point, he couldn't even get a job as a janitor because of his crime filled past. Now sober 16 years, and a successful lawyer, here are the top pieces of advice Rich shared.

  • The biggest gift you can give someone is your time.

  • You are the only person who can change you.

  • When you are at your worse and feel like you can’t go any further, reach out and ask for help.

  • If you change your world by one degree, you will be at a completely different destination at the end.

  • A pendulum swings one way and then comes back the other way. You will find your balance in the middle eventually.

  • Surround yourself with people you want to be like. When you hang out on a barber shop for long enough you end up getting a hair cut.

  • Nobody has ever grown into a target without having a target. Write down who you want to be and what you want to achieve.

  • You attract people who are similar to you. Moving geographically doesn't change anything if you stay the same. Unless you change, nothing changes.

  • We’re all here, living this human experience for one thing: to live with love and compassion.

  • Anger is the bodyguard of fear, it tries to stop you from feeling emotions. Don't let anger control your life, it's a bullshit feeling. Figure out what your fears are, so then you won't need that anger.

  • When making amends, be honest. Say "I’m sorry. I have no idea how to make this right, but I am willing to do whatever you tell me."

  • Second chances are always possible.

  • Sometimes the mundane is better than the pain. Life doesn't have to be all highs and lows, learn to appreciate stability and calmness.

  • We are far more brothers in our defects than we are in our virtues. Learn how to have meaningful, deep conversations with others.

Best of Q&A

Q: How do we influence youth to not fall into a path filled with drugs and alcohol?

A: "It sounds like what you are asking is how can we as a society fix the internal hole in the soul that makes us feel different and separate from our peers? We don't have a drug crisis, but a hope crisis. Where did growing up with hope and dreams go? Alcohol and drugs are a symptom of the problem, they aren’t the problem. Focus on spreading more hope."

Q: How do you stop letting bad news cause you to go back to the addiction to find relief?

A: "You need to have faith and tell yourself 'Im not getting knocked off the beam by the slings and arrows in life.' Concrete yourself on that beam and find something strong enough in you to keep you centered."

Rich used to say to himself 'You can't come up with something better than shoving a beer down your throat to process your emotions?' You can. Find a sponsor to help.

Q: How can you help someone who doesn't see that they have a problem or doesn't want to change?

A: "You can't."

Rich says that no one could have done anything to prevent him from becoming an addict. He had a great family life, was valedictorian, and had a lot going for him, but he was still an addict. No human being has the power to make someone else change. All you can do is love.

"Love them exactly as they are, tell them 'I know I can't change you, but I love you.' They aren't doing it at you, its not because of you, they are just trying to deal with themselves."

Q: How do you survive in an environment where alcohol is the main coping mechanism?

You can't. If you sit in a barbershop long enough, you are going to get a haircut.

What seems normal right now is only because that is your only view of the world. Even if drinking seems to be the obvious go-to thing, it's not. It's an illusion. Go see what else is out there and find better people to surround yourself with.

This post is in relation to Alex Banayan's Third Door Mentor Sessions.

You can find posts on past mentor sessions, as well as sign up to get weekly recaps here.

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