A Story of Addiction & the Road to Recovery

In this episode of the Elevation Recovery Podcast, Matt Finch tells a personal story about addiction, starting from the joys of being a child up to where the substance abuse began and continued.

He goes on to talk about the negative effects these substances had on his life and how he overcame the addiction. 

Here are some ways to learn from this episode:

Matt Finch: Things are different. I feel great most of the time, good a lot of the time, and okay some of the time. Very rarely, my energy and mood tank, and during these times, I know what to do to restore health quickly, and I do them. Little things that made me feel good or great, or extraordinary as a kid, are having that same effect on me these days. The magic of life is back, and I don't need to drink, or snort pills, or smoke heroin, or swallow Valium or other benzos to feel good, to feel safe, to feel whole.

Announcer: Thanks for tuning in to the Elevation Recovery podcast, your hub for addiction recovery strategies, hosted by Chris Scott and Matt Finch.

Matt Finch: Welcome to episode 242, this is Matt Finch, and today, we're going to go into a little bit of story time, as I know that people can learn very well through the medium of storytelling, plus I just got back from a vacation in the desert, it was my girlfriend's birthday and also our two-year anniversary, so her and I and our kid Willow went, with both of my parents as well, and we had separate hotel rooms at this great hotel close to Palm Springs in Palm Desert, where they actually have mineral pools and mineral hot tubs that you can soak in, and we went hiking in Palm Springs, and I was cold-plunging in this freezing cold water that was the result of melted snow runoff down the mountain, down to where the hike was in the Indian Canyons.

Matt Finch: And it also just started raining here, so needless to say, it was a really chill vacation, and now we get back, and this weather is dark and cold, and it's just raining and raining, so I really feel kind of creative story mode right now, I don't feel like a step-by-step tutorial. Lot of times, what you get from me is kind of more masculine, charge through, "Here's how to get things done, here's some step-by-step tools," and of course, I can balance it out with more feminine energy recovery tools as well.

Matt Finch: Today, I'm feeling none of that "Go, go, go" stuff, I'm really relaxed, I'm really just chill. This weather, for whatever reason, is seriously affecting me like that, as is the after-effects of that vacation, so we're going to go into story mode, I think you're really going to love this, and without further ado, let's begin.

Matt Finch: When I was a kid, there were so many things that made me feel awesome. Pizza, boogie-boarding, surfing, playing at the beach, amusement parks, rollerskating and rollerblading, picnics, movies, cartoons, shows, sleepovers, church, friends, video games, family vacations, shopping with mom for toys, or even groceries. Listening to music, riding bikes with friends, hide-and-go-seek, Egyptian Rat War, gin rummy and other card games, backgammon, Monopoly, Connect Four and other board games.

Matt Finch: Reading books and magazines, trips to the desert or mountains, snowball fights, nature hikes, beach bonfires, barbecues with family and/or friends, babysitting, lunch, recess, and PE during school, roller coasters and other rides and haunted houses, carnivals, puzzles, art projects, joking around, church youth group and retreats, aikido class, boxing, skateboarding, bean tostadas and bean and cheese burritos with cold cans of Pepsi or Coke from Mexican fast food restaurants, especially Roberto's and Nico's, being in talent shows and musicals, playing guitar, singing, and so much more.

Matt Finch: When I was 15, I started smoking cannabis. That made everything enhanced. Like it was stated in the movie Half Baked, I was an enhancement smoker. When I smoked marijuana, it made surfing, video games, food, listening to music, playing music, watching movies, and most everything else I did much more pleasurable. Eventually I was a daily smoker, and needed cannabis every few hours to feel pleasure.

Matt Finch: Several years after being a self-proclaimed stoner, I stopped enjoying pot when I fractured my scaphoid and pot made my wrist in the cast hurt for some reason. This is at the age of 23, and I replaced my cannabis habit with a brand-new alcohol habit. This alcohol habit started off as alcohol abuse, and quickly escalated to alcohol addiction, and physiological and psychological dependence to alcohol. Here I was, only 24 years old, and if I didn't have alcohol in my system, I couldn't relax, couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, couldn't function or deal with life, couldn't focus or be happy, and at extreme times, I would go through delirium tremens without alcohol, and without knowledge that alcohol withdrawal can actually be fatal.

Matt Finch: I went to a doctor in my mid-20s and was prescribed Valium, five milligrams, three times a day, for alcohol recovery and anxiety management. Within three months, I was totally hooked on Valium, and my tolerance had skyrocketed to where I needed 10 pills a day to feel even close to as good as three pills a day made me feel just a few months prior. Fast-forward a few years, and I was now in a place in life where I had a constant supply of black market Rx painkillers, like Percocet, Norco, Oxycontin, Vicodin, and more.

Matt Finch: Alcohol was super dehydrating, it turned my face red and caused rosacea breakouts, led to blackouts and horrible behavior that caused harm to myself and others, and when I got arrested for my third DUI in two different states, I nearly got three years in prison, but luckily only four days in jail, I knew I had to run my life differently. Soon after this DUI, I switched my habit from alcohol or benzos, depending on my phase, to opioids or the opioid/benzo combination, which was my ultimate favorite.

Matt Finch: Before long, I needed opioids all day, every day just to avoid withdrawal, and my tolerance was so high that although technically they still worked, my income was so low and the price of the black market Rx opioids was so high that I could usually only afford to use enough pills to feel normal and not get sick. Fast-forward a couple of years from this, and I graduated. Pharmaceutical opioids was training wheels for heroin addiction, and that's where I ended up. The last six months of my long history of addiction, I was smoking one to two grams of black tar heroin daily, and I needed it just to feel normal.

Matt Finch: I was using benzos as much as I could get them, and alcohol irregularly, and I wasn't physically dependent on either, just the heroin, and that was plenty, believe me. I quit drinking a little before I quit heroin and other opioids, and a month after quitting opioids, I ended my Valium taper and quit that drug too. For the first time ever, I finally felt hope that I would never return to addiction and that lifestyle of hell.

Matt Finch: The main problem I was having was that things that used to bring me happiness, joy, and feeling generally pretty good, were not doing this anymore, and that's the problem that kept me on the addiction, recovery, relapse, addiction, recovery, relapse, and on and on, merry-go-round for so long. Once I started habitually using drugs and alcohol, they changed my brain chemistry so much that I needed them to feel pleasure and confidence, relaxation, and more.

Matt Finch: I was a master chemist for myself. I experimented on myself and found drugs and combinations of alcohol and drugs, or drugs with other drugs, and learned what I felt best on, and what I could use for specific desires and situations and more. I worshiped, and I repeat, worshiped, drugs and alcohol. They helped me to tolerate life, and sometimes even embrace it. But without drugs and alcohol, I felt naked, I felt like I didn't have protection. I felt raw, I felt inadequate, I felt deficient. I felt different and weird, and that I didn't fit in with society in general. I felt anxious or depressed, or many other unpleasant feeling states, and rarely felt balanced or safe, and never felt whole.

Matt Finch: So how did I get better? Over the span of months, and then years, I rewired my brain to find lots of pleasure and happiness and joy, confidence and relaxation and peace, passion and focus and wholeness, without needing the addiction crutch or the negative consequences that are tied to it. At the beginning of my addiction recovery, I was able to feel pretty darn good within a couple of months after quitting substances, but to keep these good feelings up, I needed to be exercising rigorously four to six times per week, and getting lots of sunshine, eating great foods, taking lots of great supplements and much more. My withdrawal symptoms were gone, but my brain still needed a lot of work. My traumas from childhood and beyond needed to be acknowledged, addressed, and worked on. My anxiety disorder and depression, undiagnosed bipolar two, and other psychological issues were still there, and in addition to these, I had a whole lot more work to work on.

Matt Finch: Being so busy with work, and being a single dad, then eventually starting my own business, I would often burn out and fall into ruts with fitness, diet, healthy sleep, and other recovery habits. This started to happen more and more often. I had a super unhealthy and toxic relationship with a girl that was a great learning lesson, but sent me spiraling into physical and psychological health decline, and it was really difficult to recover from after the relationship ended for good, even though it was my decision.

Matt Finch: At the present day, and for the past several years, however, things are different. I feel great most of the time, good a lot of the time, and okay some of the time. Very rarely, my energy and mood tank, and during these times, I know what to do to restore health quickly, and I do them. Little things that made me feel good or great, or extraordinary as a kid, are having that same effect on me these days. The magic of life is back, and I don't need to drink, or snort pills, or smoke heroin, or swallow Valium or other benzos to feel good, to feel safe, to feel whole. The main thing that I was missing before was consistency and a flourishing family and intimate relationship.

Matt Finch: Two years ago, I started a relationship. For the first time ever, I have a profoundly healthy relationship. Additionally, Ashley loves Papaya, our green-cheeked conure female parrot, just as much as I love her. We live in a cozy third-floor apartment, which we named the tree house, because we're up in the trees and have total privacy up here. Ashley has helped me these past two years to raise Willow from the ages of nine to 11, and soon to be 12. Having a great place to live, a very healthy intimate relationship and family, with lots of love, humor, respect and fun, along with a loving little birdie that lights me up all day, every day, has made such a big difference in my mental health and physical health.

Matt Finch: Along with these, which I call some of my core personal needs for fulfillment, I've also maintained consistency over the past few years. In the past, my diet, exercise, supplements, and other health habits and self-care habits, would start and stop and start and stop ad infinitum, but for the past few years, I've maintained mental and physical health and raised my baseline several times due to the power of consistency, consistently doing well in diet, supplementation, fitness, and many other health habits.

Matt Finch: While I feel lucky and blessed to have such a healthy place to live, such a wonderful family life and business of helping people recover from addiction, all these have truly boosted my ability to feel great and fulfilled, the consistency in my personal habits of self-care, self-discipline, self-compassion, self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, self-honesty, self-inquiry, and more, have made a synergistic effect with the optimized home, family, and professional life.

Matt Finch: A few years ago, I watched an inspirational interview where Tom Bilyeu, host of Impact Theory, had a guest on the show named Doug Bobst, and Doug shared a story of addiction and recovery. Doug was given a few years in prison for possession of drugs for sale, and went to prison out of shape and weak-minded, and flabby and fearful, and more. He had a cellmate that got him into prison-style workouts, and while at first he couldn't even do one single pushup, eventually Doug was in really great shape and had a new body and mindset. The mindset shift came from reading books and faith in God.

Matt Finch: In the interview, Doug said that his core three elements of his addiction recovery were fitness, faith, and family. In my own experience, as well as the people I've coached or corresponded with, it appears that these three Fs are super helpful for helping a person to recover and feel awesome and fulfilled and more. But without consistency at fitness, faith, and family, you can imagine that one can backslide, fall into ruts, and even fall down so low that addiction becomes a present day lifestyle yet again.

Matt Finch: What the heck is my point with all this storytelling? My point is not that you should focus on fitness, faith, and family. It's not to make the point for you to do what I did, or do what Doug did either. Here are a few lessons I'm hoping the story time will embed inside of your conscious and subconscious minds.

Matt Finch: One, love, joy, happiness, humor, fun, and other positive emotions are our God-given birthright. As kids, most of us could feel good or great, or extraordinary, with such little things, like Saturday morning cartoons, going out to a yummy restaurant on a Friday night with our parents, going for a bike ride, or even just playing a card game or board game with our siblings, but stress, the grind, traumas, breakups, divorces, overuse of drugs or alcohol, overuse of comfort foods or the internet, exposure to too many toxins in the environment, and more, change our brains, however.

Matt Finch: And after years of indulgence in these addictions, doing a puzzle, reading a book, riding a bike, or hanging out with a friend, just doesn't spike dopamine and other feel-good chemicals in the brain enough to get us blissful, or even close to it. But neuroplasticity has proven that we can rewire our brains over time, no matter how much we've screwed up our brains indulging in these addictions, even if it has been for decades.

Matt Finch: Two, rewiring the addicted brain takes time, but it can be greatly sped up with things like fitness, supplementation, diet, healthy relationships, family, faith, reading, playing, laughing, and other healthy and adaptive habits for mental, physical, and spiritual health and wellness.

Matt Finch: Three, consistency is something that many people can keep up for weeks or months, but the true power of consistency comes from making it a long-term habit. If you maintain consistency in your self-care or recovery habits for years and years and years and years, this pays off much better than start and stop, start and stop, start and stop efforts with short or medium durations of consistency, that are always ending with a falling apart of your routine and habits, and rituals for your body, mind, spirit, and relationships health. And that concludes today's story and podcast, thanks so much for tuning in, and I look forward to seeing you next time, take care.

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