During my last year of active addiction, I knew my Higher Power was watching out for me. He gave me signs along the way — some as far back as 3 years prior to my hitting bottom. I’ve grown to recognize my “left” and “right” brains – my analytical side and my creative side. As such, two of my passions — storytelling and videography — are beginning to mature as I accept them as real. That’s been a journey… But, here is the beginning of my story — of my lifelong journey of recovery.
I think it’s time to update my story and fill you in on where I’ve been since 2010!
Although I’m a white male who had a successful 19+ year career as an ex-pat for Eli Lilly, and come from a traditional middle-class background…the path in life that’s brought me to this moment in time has been far from typical. Even though others who first seem me may assume I’m living unconsciously with my “white privilege,” in my mind I’m not in the majority. Sometimes, I have to remind myself of that disconnect in perceptions. It’s one of the reasons I’m so open and transparent with my life now – to continue to challenge and break the misconceptions, prejudice and natural bias I believe we all have at some level for those who are “different” from ourselves.
I hate labels because they can lead me to lazily define another person using a “standard mold” based on my assumptions and stereotypes. It takes curiosity, energy and time to observe without judging, to ask questions and to listen closely to the richly unique life story that has shaped another individual into who they are today. And hopefully they will continue to learn, grow and change – just as I have across my 46 years on earth.
I’m a college educated engineer, who worked in Corporate America for 19+ years. I’m a former exchange student, and ex-pat – so I’ve lived in several different countries and many states here in the US. I’m a gay man. I am in long-term recovery from addiction, having “hit bottom” in late 2009. As I sought treatment, I was arrested and charged with two felonies related to my use of illegal drugs – which also led to being fired from my job at Lilly. While I didn’t do any jail or prison time, I’ve live with the social stigma and barriers/restrictions that come with a felony criminal record until I can have it expunged from my record. But that’s not until 2019!
After I lost my job, I was unemployed for 13 months which was a learning experience in the patience and perseverance. During that time, I did a lot of volunteer work. I also focused more on a life-long passion of photography and videography, which I continue to do in my spare time. I also started to listen more to a friend and mentor who does work in the community from an asset-based approach – which has fundamentally changed the way in which I view social services and community.
During this time, I also grew in my spirituality. Two authors whose writings complemented my spiritual growth were Chuck C (A New Pair of Glasses) and Mark Nepo (The Book of Awakening and The Exquisite Risk). All of this built on work I had done at Lilly on diversity and inclusion as a Consulting Pair, as well as a practice called Non-Violent or Compassionate Communication.
I finally picked up an entry level position doing software support and training. This introduced me to the breadth of community-based organizations working in the non-profit sector.
When my mom died of untreated alcoholism in 2013, I left that job to start my own non-profit with a mission of “encourage and support the individual in leading a healthy, fulfilling life in community by naming, blessing and connecting gifts, passions and talents.” While we didn’t succeed in our first goal of starting a transitional living house for women coming out of prison, we’ve stayed true to our mission and continue to look for ways to work with people in our neighborhood.