I grew up in a little part of Columbus, Ohio called Worthington. I consider my upbringing to be incredibly blessed. I have two great parents and an amazing younger sister. I was brought up to be grateful for everything I have in life. I truly despised drugs and alcohol, believe it or not. How could I possibly become a resentful, drug and alcohol fueled individual later on in life?
I am going to back track a few years before I ever used a mind altering substance. There were two negative instances that I believe led me towards using and drinking. Around late elementary school, I was grabbing lunch with a few friends. Some of the girls were commenting that a guy friend of mine was “buff”. I stepped in saying that I was buff too since that’s of course what my mom told me. That followed with laughter and everyone telling me that I wasn’t buff, but that I was fat. I remember that crushing me. My confidence in life was immediately drained.
The next life changing moment happened in middle school. I remember a teacher asking everyone to write down what they wanted to be when they grew up. I wrote down, “astronaut” as I have always been fascinated by outer space. The question reached someone whose answer was, “President of the U.S.” Laughter followed, from everyone including the teacher. I immediately scratched out my answer and wrote down “engineer” expecting everyone to consider that answer to be realistic. In that moment, my dreams were crushed.
I then entered high school which is where the pressures of figuring out my future and fitting in began.
One day when I was 15 years old, a friend invited me and a couple of buddies over to drink some alcohol over at his parent’s house. I thought, “Hey, let’s find out what all the hype was about, just this once!” I remember stealing some liquor out of my dad’s cabinet and heading over to my friends place. Soon after, I noticed our conversations were hilarious and I felt this huge boost of confidence! This was my elixir for my confidence issues. I was hooked right then and there.
I started attending every party I could. I was able to talk to any girl I wanted to with this magical solution. My popularity rose as I became a funny guy worth having a drunken conversation with. I felt invincible. School mattered less as my priorities started revolving around alcohol and drugs.
Eventually college came and then…freedom! I soon realized that no one was going to call my parents if I didn’t attend class. My grades were struggling but I was hanging on. Out of nowhere, my dad offered me an opportunity to interview with a friend of his who owned a civil engineering firm. I knew in my heart that I had no interest in becoming an engineer, but this was an incredible interning opportunity early on in college.
A couple of years into my job, I dropped out of school due to my grades. Soon after though, I joined Franklin University but once again dropped out of that too. I constantly lied to my employer, telling him I was still attending school. Deep inside I felt incredibly guilty and ashamed, which is where my fun party days turned into drinking and using to forget about that shame and all of my responsibilities. I would spend my entire paycheck on drugs and alcohol almost immediately. I went through a bad breakup right around that time which added to the pain I was feeling. I couldn’t afford rent due to my spending habits. With my head hanging low, I moved back in with my parents whom I felt were disappointed every time they looked at me. I lived in their basement avoiding them at all costs. I drank myself to sleep, I stole opiates, smoked myself stupid, sold heirlooms to pay for drugs and alcohol. I did anything I could to forget about my responsibilities in life and at that point I felt suicidal. That for me was rock bottom.
After having many embarrassing and dangerous instances, my family would continuously have the good old “sit down talks.” I was always told everything that I was doing wrong and how I was destroying my life. I was told to find new friends, to stop drinking, stop going to bars. I always felt attacked so I would get angry and storm back into my room to drink and forget about those conversations.
Around that time, I saw an old dealer of mine go to rehab and be open about his recovery on Facebook. I was fascinated by this for some reason or another so I made sure to pay attention to his progress. I saw his post about his life transformation and was able to see him start accomplishing his goals. It got me thinking that maybe I too could accomplish my dreams if I were able to get help myself. The problem was, I didn’t yet have the courage to ask for it.
A couple of months later, I was asked to go to a work meeting with my boss. As the door cracked open to what I originally thought was a work meeting, I saw my mother sitting there with tears in her eyes. For some reason or another, I knew that this was an intervention. In that instance, I knew that I had two choices, either get help and give myself opportunities to accomplish my dreams, or deny help and keep going on the downward spiral of my life. I listened to my family, and this time noticed that they weren’t attacking me. Instead, they were asking me to work as a team. I became ready to take advantage of this opportunity.
Of course I was full of fear, but I was also excited to have a second chance at life. I immersed myself into the treatment program immediately. I even brought a notepad and pen to each meeting during my time there. I began learning new philosophies and tools. I spent 22 days in rehab and soaked up as much as I could. I made friends with completely different backgrounds, realizing that we all had a common bond and compassion for one another. I was finally part of something. I soon became proud to be myself for once in a long time.
Right out of treatment, I did what I was tasked with, 90 meetings in 90 days, got a sponsor and worked the steps. I also began networking with people who were entrepreneurs outside of AA which is where life began getting exciting. Soon after that realization, I went to a local college of business for three weeks to get my certifications to become a real estate agent. I passed the tests and accomplished a huge goal of mine by becoming a real estate agent. I continued networking and eventually joined a marketing team that focused hard on personal development. I started reading the personal development books suggested and started applying what they were teaching. Through the process I learned to love myself, learned more about my potential, my passions and my purpose in life. Personal development and entrepreneurship became my program.
I always make sure that I’m growing, day in and day out. I look at what is holding me back, I assess the situation and I work towards eliminating those things from my life. I associate myself with others who are building their lives as well. I read personal development books consistently and I research information that is helpful to building onto what I already have. My understanding of the fact that no matter where we are in life, we can truly accomplish anything.
I’ve been able to accomplish more than what I could have imagined before going to treatment. I got sober and became a real estate agent in 2013, won a trophy for athletics in 2014, joined a marketing team in 2015, started Sober Evolution in 2016 which has by far been the most fulfilling thing in my life thus far. I also started a business called Priority Lab Services with a few others here in 2017.
Why would I even think to drink and use again? I’m too excited to see what else I can accomplish in life to even have the thought of drinking.
And to add on, here’s a fun fact; certain companies will start having commercial space flights within the next few years. All I have to do is to figure out how to afford a ticket and my dream of becoming an astronaut will come true as well.
If I could give one piece of advice to someone on this journey, it would be to dream big and to get rid of all that is holding you back. Recovery isn’t just about not picking up, but it is about building your life above and beyond.
Thank you for reading my story, I hope this can help someone out there!
Author Austin Cooper, Founder and CEO of Sober-Evolution LLC. Sober-Evolution is an online resource page for those seeking to improve their lives and step away from substance and alcohol abuse. Austin has been in recovery from alcohol and substance abuse since April 10th 2013. He is passionate about helping others throughout their own recovery and has turned helping others into a career.