Page 85 of “Alcoholics Anonymous” contains an ominous warning:
“It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”
On July 25, 2011 – two months after celebrating 25 years of sobriety, I was with my wife at pool at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. I had been there many, many times before over the years. But on this beautiful day as I sat lounging in the sun, I couldn’t help but notice the people at the bar by the pool and how much fun they seemed to be having…
I remember thinking; “it’s been 25 years, that’s a long time to be sober. I got sober when I was 22. Everybody drinks when they are that age, in fact that’s your JOB when you are 22 – drink and party! That was a long time ago, maybe I’m not an alcoholic after all. It’s been going so well all these years, I’m successful, I’ve achieved so much in my life, everything is great, it probably wouldn’t hurt to drink, and even if I did get a little out of hand, I know so much about alcoholism and the program I can just stop whenever I want to and get back in the program….”
And, just like it says on page 32 in the Big Book:
“Then he fell victim to a belief which practically every alcoholic has—that his long period of sobriety and self-discipline had qualified him to drink as other men.”
And with that, I got up, walked over to the bar, and ordered a drink “with the most alcohol as possible” as I said to the bartender.
This fateful decision led to 3 years, 9 months, and 27 days of a nightmare relapse that included being hospitalized 4 times for alcohol poisoning, and 3 major surgeries all due to alcohol related accidents, not to mention the near destruction of my family, friendships and career.
“In two months he was in a hospital, puzzled and humiliated. He tried to regulate his drinking for a while, making several trips to the hospital meantime.”
The first 6 months of my drinking was actually fun, I won’t lie. There were many, many new kinds of alcohol and beers that had been invented in the intervening 25 years and I made it my mission to drink them all. First, it started out on the weekends. Then it was Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Then it was Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. You get the picture. Soon, it was every day. Then it was 3PM every day. Then it was noon every day. Then it was as soon as I woke up every day, until I passed out at night.
After a while, I knew I had to stop.
“Then, gathering all his forces, he attempted to stop altogether and found he could not. Every means of solving his problem which money could buy was at his disposal. Every attempt failed.”
Why couldn’t I stop? Because I suffer from a chronic, progressive, fatal brain disease – and I can tell you from experience, the word “progressive” has real meaning. When I was 22 years old, I did not want to stop drinking, but I was able to and stay sober and have a productive and fulfilling life for the next 25 years. At age 53, I desperately wanted to get sober and I could not. That’s how powerful the progression of the disease is. Not to mention the physical toll it was taking on my body. My doctor told me that if I had kept going another 6 months I might not have made it.
“At a certain point in the drinking of every alcoholic, he passes into a state where the most powerful desire to stop drinking is of absolutely no avail.”
I spent almost 2 years going to at least one, if not two meetings a day AND drinking every day. I could not stop. I would cry myself to sleep and pray every day to have this obsession taken away; all to no avail. I would not surrender. Finally, one Friday afternoon, when I was “crushed by a self-imposed crisis I could not postpone or evade”, I took an Uber car over to a detox and checked myself in.
From there, I went to a rehab in Florida where I stayed for 60 days, finally surrendered and threw myself back into the program in a way that I never had before. When I got out, I went to an IOP for 4 months, went to meetings every day and began working in two different step study groups where we take guys through the steps straight by the book (which I still do).
It was during this time that I began to get back into weight training and tennis whereby I use several different apps to track my training progress, diet, etc. I realized that I could really use something similar to help manage my recovery life for all the things that I need to do on a daily basis, like prayer, meditation, meetings, step work, talking to alcoholics/addicts, sponsoring several guys, commitments I have, etc. but there wasn’t really anything out there that did all of those things.
I noticed a ton of different sobriety apps that did variations of these things, all put together by people that had the same “WHY” as I did, but nothing really on an enterprise/big scale level. Since my whole background was in media and television, I thought “why don’t I try and create something just like I would if I was doing what I used to do in my career?” We used to create, launch and manage new TV shows all the time on a big scale, so why not just go through the same process and use my background and relationships to accomplish a different goal?”
And that is what led me to create the Sponsor App and the company to support its mission.
As I write this, I am about 3 weeks away from being (God willing) 2 years sober. In the last year, 4 people close to me have died due to alcoholism and drug addiction; including a great 28 year old sponsee of mine who had his whole life ahead of him.
I truly feel that what I am doing now, I was always meant to do. The horrible relapse that me and my family endured brought me to this point; a point where I am a much better person at 31 years in the program with a 4 year relapse than I would have been if was sober for all 31 of those years. A point where everything I accomplished earlier in my career prepared me to combine that experience, with my recovery experience to create something to help other people.
“PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when all other activities fail.”
I have found this passage to extremely true over the years, and it is one of the guiding principles behind my creation of the app. Before there was any book or the steps, it was simply “one alcoholic talking to another” that kept the early guys sober. That’s how they figured it out. The Sponsor App is intended to facilitate this basic but vital experience to staying sober.
So that’s my story, that’s where I am now. Every day is a gift and every day I am trying to bring to life the vision for the app. But, more importantly, every day I try to spend as much time as possible working with others, as it’s the key to my sobriety and helps to remind me of where I came from so that I don’t ever have to go back.