This I Believe

Alex - Los Angeles, California
Entered on November 27, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: addiction, change

The shame was unbearable. I was 42 in a drug rehabilitation center. Not allowed to see my 2 year old daughter without a monitor. My addiction was a huge embarrassment to my partners in the computer company I help start 8 years before. I humiliated my wife, who is a licensed therapist and highly respected professional in the drug and alcohol treatment community. Could it get worse?

In 2004, I spent 6 months living in a rehab with a hundred other men and woman whose lives were destroyed by this disease. Many of my fellow addicts were bright, articulate human beings, many from good families, some with advanced degrees of education struggling to overcome the wreckage caused by excessive use of drugs and alcohol. The costs of alcoholism are easily observable from inside a treatment center. Father’s who have financially ruined their families, mothers fighting department of children services for custody of their children and young people barely out of high school with HIV and Hepatitis C.

One morning in rehab, I was reading a report from the National Institute of Drug Abuse comparing Alcoholism and Addiction to Cancer. Alcoholism and Addiction cost the United States approximately $340 Billion a year, Cancer only $170 Billion. Could this be true? How can alcoholism and addiction be more costly than Cancer? Then I looked around the rehab 100 people ages 18 to 60 who don’t work, collecting unemployment, disability or general relief. This must be a huge burden on our economy.

Many people in rehab have criminal records. This makes it harder to find a job. Other people have been cut off from their families and friends and their reputations destroyed. What employer wants to hire a person in rehab? Should a person in rehab lie on their application to get a job or should they tell the potential employer they live in a rehab? Is it a good idea to tell your future employer you’re a drug addict or put down your 12 Step Sponsor as a reference? In the United States, we have 1.5 million people in rehab each year, many who stay 3 to 18 months because they cannot find work to get out.

One morning I saw a solution. I looked around my 12 Step meeting and started to count the number of business owners in the room. Out of the 30 people attending the meeting, 24 people owned their own businesses. Then it came to me. The same bright people I lived with in rehab found it easier and more lucrative to start their own businesses then get a job working for someone else.

My happiness and purpose came that day. I saw an opportunity to give back to my community of addict/alcoholics and help solve one of the biggest problem affecting our society. I can give recovering addicts and alcoholics the gift of entrepreneurship. Addicts and alcoholics hire other recovering addicts and alcoholics. We are taught in our 12 Step programs to be of service. Our recovery is contingent on giving back.

In the last 3 years I have found happiness in service. I have a higher purpose. I have taken entrepreneurship and made it a tool of recovery. I have helped start a very successful and amazing treatment program, our organization teaches classes on entrepreneurship, we are running a social networking site for entrepreneurs and I wake up everyday with purpose

Addicts and alcoholics are both amazing and tragic. What I believe is a life being of service is magical, fulfilling and fun. Just ask my 6 year old daughter.