In episode 300 of the Elevation Recovery Podcast, Matt Finch interviews Marc R, aka Suffer To Tougher on Youtube. They discuss Marc’s story of drug addiction, overdoses, chasing the high, and how it progressed to needing the drug, not for the high, but to not feel sick.
They also cover Marc’s transformation and inspirational recovery story.
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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 the Elevation Recovery Podcast. I'm Matt Finch, your host, and in today's episode, you're going to be hearing the transformational and inspirational story of a man named Marc, who transcended a very severe addiction. And towards the end of this addiction, Marc was using high dose fentanyl, and after numerous overdoses, visits to detox, visits to treatment, losing his family and other significant negative consequences, Marc eventually developed 100% commitment and resolve to stop half measuring and give it a full measure attempt.
Now it's been several years in recovery and Marc looks like a completely different person, looks way healthier and is helping other people to transcend addiction. Marc has a YouTube channel called Suffer to Tougher, where over the past four months he has been uploading videos on things like addiction, sobriety, acceptance, endorphins, dopamine, depression, addiction, self-respect, discipline, mindset, stoicism, the hell of opiate addiction and more. Marc also has a Facebook page called Suffered to Tougher as well. This was an amazing conversation. I know you're going to get so much value out of it. And with that being said, let's hear from our special guest Marc.
All right, thank you so much, Marc, for coming on the podcast. I'm super stoked to interview you today, and there's a bunch of parallels in our story too regarding opiate addiction, pharmaceutical pills, also getting stuff off the street, near death, overdose, and then surviving from that. The whole chasing the pills thing and getting to the point where you're not even getting that euphoria, that energy, that kind of boost anymore. You're just shoveling pills down your throat and just wasting so much money, not even to feel good anymore, just to prevent getting sick.
I just today watched one of your videos on that whole experience and how Matthew Perry, he's been interviewed lately and has a new book where he's talking about taking over 50 pills a day, and you are taking even more than that. So I'm really excited to hear your story. Where did it all begin with you regarding the pills, regarding if there's any other substances at all, and how did the opiates come into your life?
Marc R: Yeah, opiates came my life, which what's interesting about my story is the fact I'm 48 and I'm going to be sober living a life of recovery now for just about three years. Everything happened to me over the age of 40, and I was an executive in the insurance industry. I was married before children. I really didn't have much of a work-life balance. Exercise was non-existent, even though when I was younger, I did exercise quite a bit and I enjoyed weightlifting when I was younger. But I had gained a lot of weight and I developed a neck and back issue. I never really had any neck and back issues in my life. Started seeing my primary care doctor. He had me do an MRI, and the MRI did not show a pinched nerve. I was still having tremendous pain. He was prescribing me 20 to a 25 Vicodin on a monthly basis while I was going through these tests, nothing really aggressive.
The doctor then had me do something called electromyogram where they stick these needles in their muscles to check like nerve conductivity. I remember the second that they hit me in my one tricep, it did show a pinched nerve. So my primary care doctor referred me to a surgeon, and the surgeon basically said, your worst case scenario, you have two conflicting test results. You have an MRI that shows one thing and an electrogram that shows another. He goes, if you do have a pinched nerve, it's in your C4 to C6 area where your spinal cord connects to your brain stem. He's like, I can't even go in through the back. I got to go into the front of your throat, move your trachea over. With two conflicting test results, he's like, I just don't recommend it. So he referred me to a pain management doctor not too far from where I lived, and I did not have a relationship with this doctor before.
When I first met him, he basically told me what type of treatment we were going to do, but he had introduced me to narcos, which obviously has doubled the strength, and the Vicodin doctor was giving me, but he was prescribing 120 at a time with four refills, along with 90 muscle relaxers with four refills as well. So in the first 10 to 15 minutes that I actually saw that doctor, I mean if you do the math, he prescribed well over 700 pills, and that went on for a couple years, and that's really how the addiction started.
Matt Finch: Whoa. Yeah, that's a lot of pills right there. And when you start getting them, they work so well for the pain. And not only do they kill the physical pain, they can kill emotional pain and mental pain and situational stress, and they can make you more resilient in a better mood. I've talked to so many people that once they started using opioids, they said that, many of these people, became superhuman when it came to work and family, at least at the beginning. When they still didn't have a high tolerance yet, they were like, wow. So with that, where were you working? Were you doing the insurance stuff when you first started taking pills?
Marc R: Yeah. So at that particular time, when he prescribed that medication, I was basically sleeping in a chair sitting up for about six to seven months. I mean, I was in tremendous pain because the way the nerve was affecting me was it felt like somebody was pierced to me in the lung if I laid down on my back or even on my side of my stomach. So I was basically sleeping sitting up. So I remember the first night that I took those pills one to two as prescribed, I was able to sleep in the bed for the first time. And I mean, that was tremendous relief right there. There's no doubt about it. That went out initially probably for the first maybe couple weeks. But yeah, very early on I realized that life got a lot easier if one to two became two to three, and two to three became three to four. I was in management in the insurance industry.
I managed a team of 30 sales representatives. It was a very stressful industry, managing quotas, marketing, things like that. My territory was the south side of Chicago, so I saw a lot of things on the south side of Chicago. They [inaudible 00:07:39] you can probably imagine [inaudible 00:07:42] from an insurance perspective, paying out death claims on drive-by shootings and things like that. These clients do become an extension of your family, so you have feelings there.
In addition to that, I was the sole provider of a family of six. I had four children. I was married. My one daughter got diagnosed with bipolar. She was [inaudible 00:08:01] for a month. She actually had plans to take her own life. So life was happening, stress was happening. And very innocently, one to two became two to three. Two to three became three to four. And then before you're [inaudible 00:08:12] is what comes down to,
Matt Finch: Yeah, that's the story right there. Regardless of who I talked to, it's always some variation of they started to use whatever the substance is, fill in the blank, opioids, alcohol, benzos, methamphetamines, and they started to use it more often because they liked how they felt on it. It gave them benefits like physical pain relief or dopamine activated energy or helping them get to sleep. So then it becomes this resource for their life. It is a resource for making life better. When I started opioids, they were a resource for me to feel more energy, way better mood, took away depression, took away anxiety, gave me this feeling of confidence and euphoria that was so powerful that I could easily talk to females who I was really shy with, otherwise. And I was able to actually get girls to have sexual relations with me and that kind of stuff.
Before, it was very hard for me without alcohol or pills. So then there was other benefits too. But anyway, so eight years, I was able to use opioids recreationally from time to time without getting addicted to them. But then it was the perfect storm in upstate New York when I was 29 or 30. Tons of stress, really stressful job. I was a new dad and not sleeping much. And now all of a sudden I had a lot of emotional pain and trauma, stress, loneliness, needed energy for work, and all of a sudden I also had all these new dealers that had a constant supply. So then I started using daily, and it was an amazing first two months, It was just amazing. I felt so good all the time. Then I ran out of pills for the first time, didn't think anything of it, couldn't get anymore, but went to work Sunday morning and I started to feel horrible.
Then by Monday morning, oh my goodness, I was thinking I was having the worst panic attack in my entire life, not knowing I was going through opioid withdrawal. So I know from watching your videos, you didn't even know that the pills, the pain medicine your doctor prescribed, you didn't know that they were derived from the same stuff that heroin's derived from. You didn't know that they could be addictive. You didn't know that you could get a physical dependence, physiological dependence, and that if you took them for maybe a month or six weeks or even less and then stop cold turkey, you didn't know you'd go through a cold turkey withdrawal. So you just like me and so many people, the kind of just ignorance, the naiveness about the naivete, not knowing what we're getting into. But anyway, so it went from a resource for you.
Like you said, you weren't sleeping or you were sleeping sitting up in a chair. So all of a sudden now you're sleeping. They're helping you to not only delete or reduce to physical pain, but when that kind of career stuff that you were talking about and developing really tight relationships with your clients and everyone, and having that empathy, having a family with all those children and a wife. That's a lot of stuff to deal with. So not only was it helping you with the physical pain, but it was like, oh, if I take an extra pillar or two over my pain medicine amount, now I have more energy and I can finish the day off strong with work. Or maybe you wake up and you're just feeling horrible. You take the prescribed amount, but now all of a sudden, maybe it's been a month and your tolerance has be gone up.
So now you're realizing, well, hey, wait a second. It's not feeling like it did before. So you take a couple more. Then, come to find out that eventually there's like seems to be this never-ending issue where your tolerance can keep going up and up and up. So then eventually it became an exhausted resource for you. At the beginning, it was a resource. It was giving by far more positive benefits and pleasure, and you didn't hardly any, I'm guessing, negative consequences in pain. So they were giving your life a net surplus, a net increase to your quality of life.
Eventually through your process, it was causing way more negative consequences in pain and way less positive benefits and pleasure. So then there was this huge flipping over, and now it had become a resource that was no longer a resource. It became an exhausted resource and addiction. So describe, if you can, that process of what it looks like going from a resource to an exhausted resource.
Marc R: Yeah. Well, first of all, you said something early on in your comments there, and I can totally relate to your story how you said that you had some anxiety issues, you knew if you took that pill it relieved the anxiety. I did. I would get panic attacks, specifically panic attacks being [inaudible 00:13:16] and being in the executive insurance industry. There were a lot of meetings and there were a lot of times I would've a panic attack and I would battle through that. But honestly, I did not know it as a panic attack. I only found out it was a panic attack once I actually started seeking medical help for everything. I dealt with depression, situational depression. I didn't know it as depression. I really didn't. Then hindsight, looking back at it, I was diagnosed with PTSD. And when the doctor described, or excuse me, diagnosed me with PTSD, my first comment was I wasn't even in the military, I thought that was a military thing.
So I was very naive when it came to the mental health education. There's no doubt about it. And I was very naive when it came to the opiates. I did not know that basically it bound to the receptors and rewires your brain and you can become physically dependent. I remember the first time that I ran through my prescription early and I couldn't get a refill. And I remember feeling just tremendous fatigue. Hindsight, looking back at it, that was a very mild withdrawal, but I didn't know it as a withdrawal. I'm like, man, I can't believe how tired I am, and I'm just dragging. Cause I didn't really have any physical sickness or anything like that, but I remember counting the days till I can get that prescription refilled at the pharmacy. And then as you're running through the prescriptions quicker and you get a longer period of time to get that prescription refilled, and all of a sudden now the withdrawals are getting worse, that's really when the panic says in, and that's when you start finding out where you can go to get them.\.
And again, my territory was the south side of Chicago. You can get them anywhere. You can walk into a tavern right by Midway Airport and there'll be somebody, at least back then, selling them. You can go pretty much on every corner. So I knew exactly where to go. Then once I knew where to go and pretty much had unlimited supply and was making good money, then to have it really escalated to a whole other level. And it happened quick. I mean, we're not talking about a period of four or five years. I mean, my whole story happened in four or five years. I mean, to get out of control really quick where the narcos weren't doing anything. I mean, I would still get my refill from the doctor, but then I was buying stronger stuff on the streets, like Oxycontin and things like that.
I mean, ultimately it got to the point where I was dealing with fentanyl. But I never, in my mind, I never did street drugs. I never did fentanyl off the streets or heroin off the streets. The way my mind worked is the doctor prescribed it by prescribed medications. It's no different than how the doctor was prescribing them to me. Yes, it's a stronger medication, but I need this to be able to get by. I need this to get through a day of work. I need this to be able to provide for my family. And it really felt like I was stuck in a prison. And I'm sure you probably felt the exact same way. I mean, that's exactly how it feels. It feels like you're literally trapped in your own life, in your own body, dependent on a substance, and it's absolutely hell.
Matt Finch: Yeah. It's slavery. It's total slavery. It becomes our higher power. Some people worship God, some people worship Allah, Krishna, whoever it is, whatever it is. When you're that dependent on something psychologically and physically, and you have a busy life, you can't be sick for all that time. So there's just this huge drive to continue to get more of the drug, use, more of the drug, and then when you're noticing you're running out... So it's almost like I was a very functional pill user for quite a while, but when I transitioned to heroin, once I couldn't find pills anymore, I realized that I could not hold a job.
Because with the pills, they'd wear off after a few hours. But with heroin, I had to smoke it every 30 minutes to an hour, otherwise I'd start... I also have a particularly high or fast opioid metabolism. So you did have one rule. You would do all sorts of high doses of these things, but you had a really good rule, especially nowadays. Before when I was addicted in all this stuff, we didn't have the fentanyl epidemic yet. It was pretty much unheard of or very, very small. But then in yours, there's fentanyl everywhere, killing people left. So you probably were buying either the patches or the lollipops or some other stuff, I'm guessing?
Marc R: Buying the patches that they would give the cancer patients that you would put on the body and the patches were supposed to last 72 hours. I'd put those damn things in my mouth and I would chew them like it's a piece of gum. That's what I would do. I'd go through several of them over the course of a day. But I knew my dosage of fentanyl [inaudible 00:18:13] again, still a tremendous amount. I mean, I think it was like 0.25 micrograms, but I mean, that's still a lot of fentanyl that I was putting in my body on a daily basis. You made that comment about you were a functional pill taker. Me too. When people started asking questions was when I started dabbling with the fentanyl stuff. That's when everything got to another level. That's when people saw my behavior really escalate, get bizarre. That's when I started getting questioned at work, questioned by my direct reports, my sales reps that were underneath me, my wife, my kids. I mean everything.
Matt Finch: Yeah. Yeah. I vividly remember, I only did the fentanyl patches. Well, one time, I think the first time I bought one from a buddy of mine, I did put it on my shoulder and I left it on there for the 72 hours, whatever it was. But then the next two times I did it, and I think that's all I ever did, it was three times I did what you're talking about. You slice up the slivers, put them up here like it's a snus, or got some tobacco or some nicotine pouches.
And I got so out of my mind high from just doing one fourth of a strip. I can't remember the microgram. The next time I did, it was a few years later, and I went to a street fair, this is OB street Fair, every summer here in June, and I got a patch or two, and I put maybe two or three strips in my mouth over the span of maybe two hours. Then I got invited over to my buddy's house and he invited me, "Hey, come to my parents' house. We're barbecuing fresh caught yellow tail, and we got all sorts of beer and liquor." And I didn't want to drink because I was so high in the fentanyl, but I went there, and my face was really red. I just was sweating. People noticed. People were like, "Dude, are you all right?" So I'm guessing that's the similar thing with you, because that shit fucks you up so much that it's hard to hide it at that point.
Marc R: I would be in my office. I had a special thermostat in my office. I always did. But I would have that thing cranked as low as it possibly can go. I mean, it was like a cooler. My [inaudible 00:20:36] walk in the office, and I'd be wearing a dress shirt and a tie, and the sweat would be dripping through my dress shirt. And she just looked at me like what the hell is going on? Because she was freezing walking in there and I was sweating profusely.
Matt Finch: Then that anxiety from realizing that other people are noticing. They're saying stuff. So then that increases your anxiety and it increases the... So then your body uses up the fentanyl faster because you need more of it for that acute stress. So then you increase your dose. It's just a shit show. So anyways, eventually you stopped all that. How did that go? Did you have failed detox attempts? How did it all happen?
Marc R: I mean, ultimately I had four visits to treatment, one inpatient, three outpatients. I had two visits to a psychiatric facility, which what they diagnosed was a suicide attempt because they said I had suicide ideologies because the amount of drugs they found in my system. I was involved in a car accident where I went through my windshield, head first, had major head injuries. My head swelled out, thank God, as opposed to swelling in. But I woke up on a ventilator, and this all happened very quick. Like I said, within a very short amount of time. I mean, I did have a number of overdoses. I did have one day where I overdosed twice on the same day. I had bought pills that day, but I bought pills from a guy that I never really bought them from. And I'm almost a hundred percent positive that they probably were laced with fentanyl.
That might have been the early days when they were lacing stuff for fentanyl, because I didn't take nowhere near the amount that I normally would take because I couldn't even get the amount that I normally would get. And I took a few and I overdosed, woke up in the ER, spent the day in the ER, came home, was going to take a shower, went in my room, and I guess when the paramedics took the sweep of the house, they didn't find the bag of pills. So the first thing I thought of was, oh my God, they didn't take my pills. So what do I do? I take a few more pills, take a shower. I don't even remember getting out of the shower. I woke up in the ER and the same nurse that was treating me earlier was literally in my face screaming at me saying, "What the hell are you doing? I just discharged you and now you're back here."
So that happened. That was a crazy story. But ultimately what happened was is I had overdosed, and my sister had found me on my kitchen floor and they called the first responders, the paramedics. The police came. They had a Narcan me a few times. I don't obviously remember any of this stuff. I woke up in intensive care in a local hospital, and they basically told me at that particular time that my kidneys and my liver had sustained some damage and they were going to treat me with some IV and some medication. At that time, they weren't sure exactly if the damage was going to reverse or not, but they basically said that if we see some progress, you're going downstairs to the psychiatric unit, which is my second visit to the hospital, the psychiatric hospital.
And honestly, when I found out that I was going down there against my will, I was a terrible patient. I mean, security was called I don't know how many times. I mean, they were trying to give me shots of Ativan. I was holding my bracelet. I had three guys trying to pull my hands off my bracelet so they couldn't scan it to give me a shot of Ativan to put me down to calm me down. And they couldn't even get my hand off my wrist. I mean, I was terrible. But finally the psychiatrist came in and said, "Listen, with the condition we found you in, no matter what you say, no matter what you do, you're going down there. Your mom signed a form. She's her next of kin at this particular point. So you're going to get the help that you need." I finally, just at that particular point, said, okay, I'm not going to fight it anymore.
Spent a couple more days in intensive care. Had some very honest conversations for the first time with my mom and my sister and things like that. And you know what, for the first time, I heard from people that care about me that they're accepting me for the disease that I have. And I think that was important for me to accept that I had a disease. Cause up until that point, everything that was important to me was gone. My job was gone. My wife was gone. My relationship with my kids was gone. And here I am left to my own devices. So to hear that from people that I cared about was important. Went down to the psychiatric unit and kind of was going through the motions for a couple days. Then one day they rounded us all up and said, we're going to hear a presentation from this gentleman.
He was with the National Alliance Mental Illness, NAMI, and the local chapter in the suburbs of Chicago. This gentleman spoke about his journey. Basically he was a heroin addict from the south side of Chicago. He had a lot longer battle with heroin than I did with my opiate battle. Honestly, his story made my story sound like my story was Disney World with his upbringing and all this stuff that he went through, broken household and all that stuff. But here he is speaking to us in recovery. He beat it. He had it going on and he was living a life of service. And I remember thinking to myself, that was the first time I realized that if I put my mind to this, I can actually beat this damn thing. Hearing somebody that had lived a life experience that was as bad or probably worse than where I was, okay, but here he is. He beat it. He's in recovery and he's speaking and he's living a life of service.
I remember speaking to him afterwards and I told him little bit about my story and he told me specific things I had to do. Everything that that gentleman told me that I had to do, I did because he was an inspiration to me and provided hope that I didn't feel at that particular time. From there, I went to rehab for the last time. From rehab, I stayed very active with my recovery, doing support groups at NAMI, originally as basically a client or a patient. Now, I actually helped run support groups at NAMI. I ran one last night, a dual diagnosis support group. Got active in AA. I preferred AA over NAMI. That was just my personal preference. Got really active on that.
Eventually started sharing meetings there and basically just living a life of service, but always putting my recovery first, which is something that I've never really done before. I mean, I had little bits here and there of maybe a short period of time of sobriety or recovery. But eventually you stop doing the little things and then life happens, stress happens, and all of a sudden, boom, you're right back at it.
I look back at it now, I don't think it had to be four visits to rehab or two visits to a psychiatric facility. I think I actually, probably because of my ego, caused some of that. In fact, when I speak, I actually do speak at the hospitals, just like that gentleman spoke to me. I do that once or twice a week just to provide that inspiration and hope. And when I tell them, I tell them, I say I made a lot more difficult than what it needed to be. You got to be proactive. You got to live there one day at a time. When you wake up in the morning, if you're an addict, you got to figure out what I need to do today to stay sober. Then if I got the mental health diagnosis, what do I need to do to have a good mental health day?
Honestly, whatever I have to do, that comes before everything else. I said, there's one area that it's okay to be selfish, and it's okay to be selfish when it comes to your recovery. Because I can't be the best version of me, I can't be the best parent or the best partner or the best spouse or the best employee if I don't have that in check. That's a completely different mindset that I had when I was battling. There was always the reason why I couldn't focus on my recovery. There was always a reason why I couldn't go to an AA meeting when I was battling. There was always a reason why I just couldn't get clean or go through withdrawals this weekend and try to clean myself up because life doesn't stop.
But it was quite the process. I mean, COVID probably helped me, which I know it didn't help a lot of people. Because being in the program pre COVID versus after COVID, it's unbelievable what I'm seeing out there right now in the hospitals, at the meetings and so forth. I mean, attendance is probably in the Chicagoland area up 8 to 10 times what it was pre COVID. [inaudible 00:29:21] it really did help me. I mean, things happened for a reason. My car accident, I couldn't drive for about 14 months because of my head injuries and some of the residual effects, and some of the legal stuff that I had to deal with. So I just couldn't get into a car and drive to the south side. When COVID happened, I just couldn't go and get into a car and drive to a tavern or a bar and get my drugs or my pills. So for me, it actually helped me when I look back at it now. But when you're in it, you don't necessarily look at it as [inaudible 00:29:52] You know what I'm saying?
Matt Finch: Yeah. Once you're through all the hard stuff and you're on the other side, yeah, it's great to look back on it and go, "Wow, look at how all these stars became in alignment for me to do this." But yeah, when you're going through it all, it's not like, "Oh, this is great because this is all going to work out. All these challenges are making us stronger and stronger. Seems like you just needed before you wanted to quit and recover, but you didn't necessarily perhaps have a compelling incentives to do it." But maybe when you heard that guy, the ex heroin addict in recovery talk, just high consciousness, a man of service, the AA program takes people through these steps that elevate their consciousness out of shame, guilt, anger, pride. They get you to courage, to willingness, to acceptance, to unconditional love and forgiveness. Now all of a sudden, you're so much higher consciousness.
And so you probably felt his high consciousness, the vibration he was emanating and also liked what he was saying, that all of a sudden maybe something clicked in your head where now you have this really high incentive. "That sounds great. If he can do it with his gnarly life in addiction, well, mine's not even close to that bad. If he can do it, I can do it." So then the next attempt, unlike the previous ones, you were gung ho, you were fully committed, you had resolve, which was I like, there's nothing going to stop me. I'm done making excuses this.
Luckily it was the perfect timing and everything too. But you could have made excuses like, well, this still isn't the right time. So then you did the work, and then what did that look like? So you did the AA program, obviously. Did you have residual post-acute withdrawal symptoms? Was there times where you had strong cravings and you avoided it? What were some of the core aspects? And along with the program, what were some of the main things, including AA, that really helped you to build this new life that you're now living?
Marc R: Well, what's interesting is, and I think this is pretty common for my work with people that are dealing with alcoholism and addictions, I don't think this is unique to me, but I always tell people I live my life like an oxymoron at the end. I mean, I actually started to work out a little bit, even when I was an active addiction, because at nighttime when I was wasted or going through withdrawals, depending on if I had drugs or not, I would watch videos. I would watch videos about mental health. I would watch videos about addiction. I would watch the AA conference videos and things like that. I mean, I was on this quest. Which is interesting because the people closest to me early on, with the exception of after that conversation around my sister in the hospital, were, don't you want to get better?
How come you're not doing something about it? I always tell people, nobody wants to get better more than the addict themselves, in my opinion. They just don't know how to get out of it. They just don't know the way out of it. Cause I was on this quest. So I actually was learning stuff. Granted, I was higher than a kite, but I was learning stuff about dopamine levels and endorphins and how that works and your diet and what you should be putting in their body that affects your brain chemistry, the serotonin levels and things like that. I was taking that in. I started to do a little working out there at the end as well. So I mean, I actually started doing CrossFit at the end. People that I do CrossFit with, they said, there were days you look good and there were days you looked absolutely terrible and we knew you were on something, even at five o'clock or 5:30 in the morning. They knew I was on something.
But I mean it was very up and down at the end. What did it look like? So AA was important. Support groups were very important. Obviously keeping up with my therapist, taking my medications as prescribed was very important. But really it was all the little things that I had to change as far as my daily habits. I mean, I had to change a lot of different things. Exercise became a huge component of my recovery. And it didn't start with weightlifting. Honestly, you know how it is. Sometimes it's a battle walking around the block, getting yourself out of bed and walking around the block. But also you get to 2000 steps, you want to get to 5,000 steps, maybe I'll download a pedometer on my iPhone and start counting my steps on my app.
Maybe I'll get a Fitbit. I still got the Fitbit now. Okay, I got to 10,000 steps. Maybe I'll start doing some light weight lifting. I wanted to make a cognizant change in my diet. My diet pretty much wreaked of depression. I mean, if I wasn't drinking alcohol, I was drinking tons of Diet Pepsi. I was a high saturated fat diet, high sugar diet because of the opiates. I wasn't eating clean at all. That's all stuff that affects the brain chemistry as well. So my diet has completely changed. My exercise habits have completely changed. My mindset has completely changed. As far as coping mechanisms go, I'm a music guy, music helps me, nature helps me. I like doing walks around the lake, especially after a high stressful day at work, kind of decompress or what have you. Positive affirmations were huge early on to try to train the brain to look at the positive every situation or the positives of every day, because that's really important from a mental health perspective as well.
When you got something going on that is pretty stressful in your life, I mean, I'll give you a perfect example. This past holiday season was the fifth Christmas that I didn't see my children because of everything that went on, I haven't seen them for Christmas since 2017. Yeah, I was feeling down. But at the same time, I'm not going to let it break me.my mind goes too, well yeah, it kind of sucks you haven't seen him for five years in a row, but you know, were there for 20 something Christmases. Let's look back at all the positives there that you did and how those Christmas mornings looked and what type of life you gave your children. My mindset has completely changed in regards to that. I try to always look at the positive of a situation, glass half full versus half empty, which again affects your brain chemistry.
You asked a question about afterwards and cravings and things like that. The withdrawal part, I mean obviously the physical withdrawals were terrible. I said one of my videos, I don't even know how many times I physically got sick. I just know at the end, I mean I literally was drawing a blood. It was terrible. Once I got through that, it was the fatigue. It was months of pretty much chronic fatigue, trying to get out of bed in the morning, like I said, go for a walk around the block and that. I would say probably three to four months, maybe four to five months before I started the feel a little normal, and actually had my energy levels were starting to get up a little bit. But still I would get my butt out of bed and I would still go on those walks and still do some of that weight lifting because I knew I felt better once those endorphins in my brain started kicking in.
As far as cravings go, honestly, the cravings went away a lot quicker than I thought they were going to go away. I've heard from talking to other people, it could take as long as a year. It certainly wasn't a year, maybe six months, maybe seven months tops. But I became very spiritual during that time. I was introduced to a Christian Church. I started participating in a recovery group at the Christian Church. And a lot of times they talk about that spiritual melody, once that's lifted, a lot of times those cravings go away. For me that I see a direct correlation with that. I really did.
Matt Finch: The three Fs, fitness, faith, and family. Oh, those three right there, even on standalone, if you got a really good family support or a really good fitness protocol or really good faith and activity with the church, but you went gangbusters at this man. You went with the 12 step with the therapy, with the medicine, help, with exercise, with eating healthily, with going to church and doing a group there and in service work at AA and just positive affirmations, mindset. I'm sure you did a bunch of reading and stuff too. So you really did it how you needed to do it. So many people don't realize the reason they can't quit is because they're not giving it their all. They're half-assing it, right? Half-ass attempts avail us nothing. You have to give it a full measure, and I think your story is just a great example, inspirational about you were half measuring it and you weren't getting better.
Then finally enough was enough. The stars were in alignment. There was this synchronicity with the guy that you met that had the high consciousness and you said, "Wow, I really think I could do that." You gave it a full measure and then some. You gave this, it reminds me of just total like positive psychology, self-development and stoicism combined with health and fitness, with faith and with positive connections, accountability. I can't think of anything that was missing from your protocol. You had the bio, psycho, social, spiritual stuff all totally filled in. You were filling in your missing links and you were healing and getting better. And that's impressive that you had that serious dopamine deficiency caused exhaustion. That anhedonia.
I've worked with so many people quitting opioids and corresponded with so many people. It seems like those are the two main symptoms of post-acute withdrawal that lead people back to using pills or back to heroin or fentanyl, is exhaustion, can't get any energy. Like you said, hard to walk around the block. Sometimes hard to just take a shower or hard to get out of bed. Just that combination of exhaustion with a low mood too, or even depression, so many people will be like after a week of that or two weeks of that, that's too much. Because on the day to day, a lot of people say that it doesn't feel like they're getting better. They freak out, "Am I ever going to get better?" And they're not noticing any improvements a week, two weeks or a month later. So they said, "I can't live like this." Enough becomes enough. They say, "Screw it," and they get back on opioids.
So you had that drive, that passion to do this. You had that commitment. So you got past the withdrawal and you not only rewired your brain, but you really rewired your thinking. That I think is probably the number one thing typically is when you change the way you think, you change everything. And a lot of people don't change the way they think, or they do a little bit, but not... You really have to do a kind of 180 on how you think to not go... Because otherwise, man, like you said, you could get those drugs everywhere. There was no shortage of places. So I mean stress and easy access are two of the main why people relapse. When you've got easy access and you're dealing with stress, very hard to overcome that. But when you change your thinking, then you can have easy access and stress, but if you've changed your thinking around it, you're not going to do those same behaviors. So well done, man. Really impressive.
Marc R: I also think honestly just the 12 step obviously, which is living a life of service that I think that is such a understated step. Because when you're in the trenches, whether it's sponsoring somebody or going to the hospital and seeing people go through detox, or you visit the psych unit and you see where they're at, it's all reminders of where you came from man, and where you don't want to go back to. Those memories, they flowing back. I start my presentation by telling everybody, I sat in these chairs. I mean, I know what it's like. I know how you feel right now. I cannot understate living that life of service and being in those trenches with people and trying to pick them up out of the gutters, dust them off, and trying to make them functional members of society again.
It's very self serving and it's very, very rewarding. I mean, yeah, I do look at myself as a miracle, but honestly I take more pride in the miracles that I've actually seen happen along the way. It's unbelievable some of the stories that I've seen with people that were similar to me and it's just the progress they've made and really a short amount of time. I tell them straight up, just like that gentleman told me, you got to do every... I mean, it's not a dictatorship, but it pretty much is a dictatorship. I know what it's going to take to get out of it. You got to do things exactly how I lay them out to be and you'll be okay. Actually the gentleman who's one of my former sales reps that brought me to my first AA meeting, he actually recognized that I had a problem because he's battled in the past too.
In hindsight to me, it was actually more or less like an intervention. Here I am, cleaned up and sober and he's still out there battling. And I finally told him, I said, "When are you going to check your ego at the door and follow the program exactly how it's supposed to be followed?" I know you want this, but there's always the reason why. "I'm not a morning person," he tells me. Or I got to do this. I can't attend support group or go to AA meeting because something's coming up over here. Which is exactly the same mindset that I had. I told you, you got to put all that stuff first, man. All this stuff has to come first before everything else. He was trying to qualify for a trip at work at the end of the year. I said, "I don't care about the trip at the end of the year. Your marriage is freaking falling apart, you just got married in April, because your addiction's spiraling out controlled again." He's on a yo-yo.
Matt Finch: Yeah, maybe it's something like watching too much TV at night, or maybe quitting smoking a half pack of cigarettes or maybe quitting junk food. Those types of things you can do. You can do kind of a half-ass a lot of the times, or you can do it with a lot less willpower, energy, time investment. But with an addiction that is even mild, especially moderate or severe, drug or alcohol addiction, like I said, you have to throw everything at it. And even then it's still oftentimes a challenge. You really have to give it everything. If it's a substantial addiction, it's got to be, like you said, such a number one priority. Your whole life has to be about doing that. At least for a while. It doesn't need to be like that for everyone, for the whole rest of their lives.
But there needs to be a period of intense, this is a very strategic, not just project, but it's like a disease, a disorder, a brain disorder, whatever somebody wants to call it. It is significant. One thing I wanted to mention too before I forget. A life of service, contribution to where every time you are either serving others or even thinking about other people, even being kind to other people just with a smile, all of that stuff polarizes our consciousness on the service to others' path. There's a bunch of people that are service to self polarizers. They think about themselves. And a lot of the time for me was when I was in my addiction, I was service to sell. I even remember watching that movie Blow with Johnny Depp, and I wanted to be like him.
I wanted to sell lots of drugs and make tons of money and have nice things and women. It wasn't anything about serving other people. Matter of fact, if I would've been selling all those drugs when I did sell drugs in the past, mostly just cannabis. So I was serviced to self-oriented for a lot of my teenage years, which a lot of teenagers are. But even throughout my twenties and even all the way to 32, I was all about me, self-centered, self-seeking, selfish, the world revolved around me. It's just such a shitty way to live.
So then I changed my polarization. Once I overdosed and almost died, spent a week in the hospital, woke up in the hospital and my mom's telling me what I did when I woke up, and I'm like, "Are you serious?" I had an 18-month-old daughter at the time, 18 months old, that I realized... They gave me the Narcan too, a minute or two away from dying. That's what the doctor had said. That kid would've lived her whole life without a dad. And her mom was hooked on heroin too. So I mean, that's what I needed to change my thinking, right? Holy moly, I almost...It was all about me before. And then when I realized that I almost left her without a dad, that was so not cool.
So I had this huge mind shift immediately, basically. It was instant. Everything I've done up until this point has led me to this situation I'm in, almost leaving her without a dad forever. So I said, "I'm going to do things differently. I'm going to get as strong as I can physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, because now I have to be there for this kid. I have to be a strong, resilient, compassionate dad."
I had to find work that I could enjoy doing and make a good living. So then there was this post-traumatic growth. Instead of post-traumatic stress disorder from the addiction, all of a sudden now I had post-traumatic growth. And it really sounds like that's what you had too, because when you're that passionate about change and you're that involved in your own recovery, oftentimes it just sounds like you went through your own version of post-traumatic growth. Then all of a sudden that post-traumatic growth makes it so much easier now, all the cravings, all the fatigue you were talking about for months, you get through that shit, and you're learning and you're helping other people in the process and you're building your recovery capital. So anyways, I'll shut up now.
Marc R: No, You're a hundred percent correct. And what's interesting is, again, because of COVID, I haven't seen some people in quite a long time. Now, I mean just the week between Christmas and New Years, the last time I saw this gentleman, I mean, I was in the depths of hell. I mean, I was recovering from that car accident and active addiction and he hasn't seen me sober. He hasn't seen me since I've cleaned up my diet and started exercising and so forth. And we met for lunch. I swear to God, the first 10 minutes that I was talking to him was almost like he was looking at a ghost.
He was speechless, kind of looking, trying to [inaudible 00:49:50] is this the same guy? I am the same guy. But there's just been that much of a transformation, just the way I talk, the way I carry myself, the subject matter that I bring to table, and then obviously the way I look. Honestly I'm a believer that God put me through what he put me through at the time he put me through it for a specific reason. I really do believe that. I'm a much better human being for what I've gone through, a much better human being from what I've gone through. I feel that God put me through what he put me through really in preparation for what's going on right now, which is the post COVID. Because like I said earlier, what I'm seeing in the meetings and what I'm seeing in the psychiatric unit and what I'm seeing in the detox centers in the hospitals is stuff I've never seen before.
When I was a patient and I was participating in some of that stuff, pre COVID, I mean the numbers and the demographic change and the youth that we're seeing, it's just mind blowing. My words don't even give it justice. Honestly, I'm lost a lot of people along the way too. And I should be dead too. I'm one of the last men standing. Why am I here? I always think about this. Why am I still here? I'm still in the insurance industry, but I don't think that's my purpose. My purpose is basically to show people that I help people, like I said, pick them out of the gutter, dust them off, make functional members of society again, and that's pretty much going to be my focus moving forward.
Matt Finch: The insurance is paying the bills and whatnot, but as far as your life purpose, it's just all addiction, helping people with this. And that's your dharma right there. Once people find, and maybe there's multiple dharmas and life purposes for people, but I felt that same way. Well I was helping people as a drug and alcohol counselor, I went to school for it and everything, and I was working at a outpatient opioid treatment program. At first I was like, this is great. But then I got so burned out. The caseloads were way too big. Anyways, it was just a high stress. I didn't realize how much paperwork it was going to be and everything. So I did it for a few years and I loved it. But my main thing was the place that I worked at, and then the other places around, I was thinking of maybe I'll just switch facilities, but the place I worked at paid me 16 bucks an hour versus all the other places were like $11 or $12 an hour. They looked like the same old thing.
So then I became private practice and started to get clients from blogging and then YouTubeing podcasting. It's so much more creative and everything. So one thing I know for a fact is we need way more people like you that are compassionate, that have gone through this yourself and come out the other side to help the people. So it seems like God initiated you. You had to go through your own initiation and that was your part of the... And then getting healing from that was your part of the hero's journey. Now you're bringing back to the masses, or the people that you work with, and help out. You're bringing back the elixir, all the stuff that you learn and then you're sharing that. So it's just amazing to see. Early on in my recovery, I was very spiritual, but I didn't learn too much about Christianity or anything like that.
But the past few years I've been getting so much into Christianity and Buddhism and Daoism and transpersonal psychology. It's so fun how once you get your second chance at life, you get to continue learning, be a lifelong learner and just study and service and meditation. So it's just amazing. Where can people find you. Right now, anything that you got going on in life that you're really excited about? What are your goals for the future? What's the name of your YouTube channel, and how can people learn more about you and reach out to you?
Marc R: Yeah, no, I appreciate that. So yeah, so I created a Facebook page called Sufferer to Tougher, Okay, S-U-F-F-E-R to Tougher, T-O-U-G-H-E-R. And then I created YouTube channel. Honestly, the YouTube channel really started by accident. I had so many people reaching out to me, asking me for help because I've been pretty transparent on my personal Facebook page about my recovery and so forth. And you know how it is, I mean, once you open up that Pandora's box, you don't realize how prominent addiction is in the world or in the community that you live. People that I haven't talked to in 20, 30 years are coming out of the woodwork calling me about their spouse. They're talking to me about their children. It really has been amazing. So the YouTube channel started honestly by accident.
I had a gentleman I went to high school with 30 years ago, never really talked to him in high school, and he followed me on Facebook and he was in a bad way on a Sunday and I was at a music festival and he reached out to me and I couldn't hear a damn word he was saying. I kind of felt bad and I tried calling him that night and I couldn't hear him, and he didn't answer my phone call that night. I didn't hear from him for a couple days. Eventually I found out what happened. He ended up overdosing and having to go into treatment and so forth. I'm like, "Man, I can't be in this situation again. So if somebody does reach out for help, what can I do?" And again, I'm in the insurance industry, so the insurance industry, we've got all these training videos.
I'm like, maybe I'll record a couple videos and the whole purpose is if I can't talk to them now, I'll just forward a couple videos, tell them my story, and we'll catch up later on. Well, I did that, and everybody's like, "Well, you should start posting them on YouTube because people can learn from that." I'm like, "I don't know if I want to do that." They're like, "No, you really should." So I did. I created a YouTube channel. Same thing. Suffered to Tougher. That YouTube channel is growing and we pretty much just share content. It's stories of my recovery. There's some crazy stories on there as well, but there's also stories about mindset, dopamine, diet, exercise, pretty much everything we talked about, but more structured and more detailed on those videos. So yeah, if people want to like that channel, I really would appreciate it. If they want to follow me on Facebook, Suffer to Tougher, and we can go from there.
Matt Finch: Yeah, I watched two of your videos and they're really easy to watch. I mean, you know this stuff very well. You got a huge heart. You're able to easily, it seems, articulate the topic you want to talk about. There's not a bunch of stalls and ums and ahs and it's just, man, you're really good at talking this language. You can tell, you have so much compassion and wisdom too. You got a good blend of wisdom and love, compassion. A lot of people have a lot of wisdom, but not a lot of compassion, or a lot of compassion, but not a lot of wisdom. So I'm always loving when I meet people and see your content on YouTube, I'm like, "Wow, this is high vibration transmissions you have on there." And I would recommend everyone watching or listening to this podcast right now to go over to the Sufferer to Tougher YouTube channel and check out the video.
I think it's maybe your second to last one, and the cop is in the title too, where the police pulled you over to give you a cell phone ticket or something. And then a year prior, he was the same police that arrived on the scene to help you with the first responders. He was there. You didn't remember him, of course, how would you remember him? And he was just asking these questions, how are you doing? And then you said, "Oh yeah, great. I went to my kid's sports game, or something like this. Someone just sent me a family who sent me a picture, and that's why I was looking at it while I was driving. Sorry, I won't do that again." And he's like, "No, how are you doing? You don't remember me, do you?" So that's the type of stuff that happens when you take a life of service.
Marc R: Yeah. You want to talk about a God thing. So yeah, my nephew had won the championship. My sister sent me a picture, that police officer pulls me over. He actually pulls me over in the same parking lot that I met my wife working at a Jewel when I was 15 years old. Now, I didn't know if I got into that in the story. So I mean, you want to talk about a full circle moment. Yeah, he starts asking me questions about, "How are you doing?" And I'm like, "I'm doing great. I worked today. I went to my nephew's baseball game." He goes, "No, how are you doing?" I go, "I worked today." How are you doing? He goes, "You don't remember me, do you?" I go, "No." He goes, "Well, I can kind of understand why." And he told me straight up that when they actually wheeled me out of the house and put me an ambulance, he really didn't think I was going to make it.
Then for him to see me basically about a year later in the condition I was in, I know it warmed his heart because just like I said earlier with that gentleman that kind of looked at me like he was looking at a ghost, the police officer was kind of looking me up and down, like is this really the same man that I saw on the kitchen floor? But it was cool. And then on top of that, I'm talking to him and who goes driving by, was my mom, because she was leaving the same baseball.
Matt Finch: No way.
Marc R: She actually saw officer talking, but she had no idea it was the same police officer either because she wasn't there when they were working on me that night. But it was just the whole universe came together right there. I think it was within a week of my one-year sobriety when that happened. So it was all around the anniversary of that incident.
Matt Finch: Wow. Yeah. That's tremendous. Additionally, the nurse, I think you said when you overdose twice in one day, you wake up to her screaming at yo. And now all of a sudden, the police officer a year later, this was a different reaction, the nurse sees you twice in a day from overdosing. There's one reaction. The police you overdose. He doesn't know if you're going to make it. He sees you a year later, completely different opposite reaction, I'd say as the nurse. So when we're doing right and fearing not in life. What's doing right, don't harm other people with speech and with our actions and with our thoughts, and try not to harm ourself too.
Kindness, honesty, compassion, non harming, when we're living a life like that, that Jesus taught, that the Buddha, that Krishna taught, that so many of these ancient people and texts have taught about. When people live lives like that it's like, I think you build up so much good positive karma that these types of things happen, these serendipities, these coincidences that aren't coincidences. They're total divine orchestration of... That's living in alignment, living in this healthy, aligned way versus when you're doing fentanyl strips and all this kind of stuff, bad stuff just seems to happen all the time. And it's because maybe God or your guardian angels or whatever it is, is trying to get you to wake up, like okay, well, he's still not getting better. Well, let's get him in a car accident. Oh, he is still not getting better, let's send him to this just boom, boom, boom, that type of stuff.
Marc R: I mean, if you actually think about the Bible, and I'm getting better about studying the Bible myself, obviously, like I said, switching churches and so forth. If you think about it, the Bible's full of stories of God basically taking the broken and making an example of them. A lot of it has to do with basically living a life of service based off the time that particular individual lived, which is interesting. Then I still watch a lot of motivational videos and things like that. I just watched the video a couple days ago and it was a Mike Tyson video, and I love watching his videos because he's funnier than hell, but he's actually got some great words of wisdom.
He made this comment in the video, and it's really, I've repeated this several times over the last couple days. He goes, "You got to learn to love yourself first." He goes, "If you learn to love yourself first," he goes, "The world will come to you." And I thought that was so intriguing and so mindful of him to say that because it really is spot on.
Matt Finch: Yeah, yeah. Well, that reminds me of the Louise Hay from back in the day, decades ago, her mirror exercise where she would teach people every night before bed, you look into the mirror and you gaze into your eyes in the mirror and you say, "I love you," and then your name. So for me, it'd be like, I love you Matthew. I really, really love you and I'm proud of you for this. To do that every night, and then people start losing weight. People start finding the love of their life. People start making more money and get a better job from that one mirror exercise. I love Mike Tyson too.
All right, so great. This has been amazing. I don't want to keep you all night. I know it's almost eight o'clock. But yeah, so anyways, Suffer to Tougher on Facebook. Suffer to Tougher on YouTube. Marc, thank you so much. This has been a great way to spend my evening getting to know you and your story more. Like I said, I highly recommend people to watch your YouTube channel, great stuff.
Chris Scott: Hey everyone, Chris Scott here. If you like the information on today's episode regarding supplementation and empowerment strategies for addiction recovery, then please subscribe to the Elevation Recovery Podcast and leave us a rating and review on iTunes. And if you benefited directly from this information, I'm confident in saying that you'll love the information packed online courses that Matt Finch and I have created. Matt Finch's, ultimate Opiate Detox 4.0 is a six module 30 activity course that contains video lessons, written lessons, PDF downloads, worksheets, audios, and much more. And it has everything you could possibly need to know to conquer opioid addiction in the easiest and most comfortable way possible. My own course, total Alcohol Recovery 2.0 is the most cutting edge resource for anyone who wants to transcend alcohol and build their best lives. To get these courses. To learn more and to read testimonials, simply go to opiateaddictionsupport.com/ultimate. Again, that's opiateaddictionsupport.com/ultimate. For Matt's course or for my course, go to fit-recovery.com/course. Again, that's fit-recovery.com/course. You can also go to elevation recovery.com to see the show notes for this episode.
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