Hell’s Kitchen District Leader Win: Living Proof Promises Come True

This past Tuesday (September 12, 2017), I was elected the male District Leader for Hell’s Kitchen and parts of Chelsea in midtown Manhattan. My running mate, Marisa Redanty, was elected the female District Leader. The male and female District Leaders act as direct liaisons between constituents and their elected officials and often organize and advocate on local issues along with other elected officials. I was worried that with my history of substance abuse, I would not be able to garner support or otherwise be an unattractive candidate. That turned out to be untrue and all local elected officials ultimately endorsed me. The campaign then began in earnest. Since April of this year, we had been working towards this goal. It was a tumultuous summer as the campaign was hard fought. However, the Twelve Steps and the Spiritual Adrenaline lifestyle helped me get through the chaos of the campaign successfully, but more importantly, with my sobriety intact. I want to share some with you some of the lessons I learned along the way.

Sober community: A number of individuals involved with my campaign came from my home group and other meetings I attend on a regular basis. It meant a lot to me that so many people I had gotten to know “in the rooms” over the last 6½ years came out to support my campaign. Not only did they support my campaign, but they supported me in a healthy and mature way. I noticed that people who take the program seriously have a great serenity, even when confronted by the chaos of a hard fought political campaign. When things got nuts, I was able to have intelligent discussions with these individuals about what course of conduct they recommended. I took their advice, as it was almost always drama free and prudent in light of the circumstances.

I went to the same meetings that I have gone to for years. It was important to stay connected to my support base and the aspects of the program that worked for me all these years. At night, I made sure to do a tenth step inventory and write about how the stressors of the campaign and the aspects of the political world that I found challenging. By doing my tenth step every night, I was able to really focus on challenging issues and come up with “sober” ways to handle them.

The process: It’s been about seven years since I was so actively involved in politics. Back in the old days, I tended to surround myself with folks who drank quite a bit and who also smoked. Back then, I smoked as well. It’s interesting to me how these habits impact our friends and the places were we spend time. Back then most of my campaign days would end at a bar or at home with some beer and maybe a bottle. Usually, I was not alone but lingering into the night with others who were also attracted to ending the day with substances.

This time around, it was completely different. I was successful in sticking to my lifestyle, the same one that I advocate here, and it paid off in ways I hadn’t thought possible. I began my day by reading Just for Today and Daily Reflections and made sure to stick to my early morning workout routine. While working out, I was able to meditate and think through important issues without my judgment being skewed by alcohol and/or drugs. I didn’t wake up hang over or otherwise exhausted and made it a priority to get enough sleep. I shut my cell phone off at 9 p.m. every night and didn’t turn it back on until after my morning workout. This let me sleep in peace without the constant texts, emails and calls coming in until late at night.

I made sure to eat healthy to avoid spiking my blood sugar with simple carbs. I brought healthy snacks on the campaign trail to avoid eating fast food and other junk. I watched my caffeine intake to avoid getting myself hyper and over-stimulated. Lastly, I had no nicotine to add to the stress of the campaign and exhaust me by the end of the day. I took things one day at a time and avoided the traps by my opponent. He often caused chaos, hoping either I or others on my campaign would over-react and take the bait: We didn’t.

I got to enjoy the process, which for me was a wholly new experience.

Remembering everything: Because I was not abusing substances, I remember everything and my recollection is clear-as-day. When I was drinking or doing drugs, I never thought my judgment was impaired, but it was. Even a small amount of alcohol can skew my thought process and take me out of the present. That small amount is never enough and I would be off to the races. Often times not remembering much or have very clouded recollections. Thankfully, I can tell you everything that happened from day one accurately given the complete absence of any substances to alter my judgment and/or recollection. It’s awesome to get through such a high-stress endeavor with relatively no drama, no guilt and no apologies to people for blowing a gasket or otherwise over-reacting.

Speaking to the Recovery Community

Accompanying this text blog post is a short video from my remarks after learning we had won the election. I thought it was important for me to include a brief mention to people out there struggling in active addiction or recovery. Check out our campaign’s page.

I want people to know that although they may presently find themselves down, things get better if they work the Twelve Steps and engage in a program of self-care, such as we recommend at Spiritual Adrenaline.

I am living, breathing proof that if you take recovery seriously, you can come back stronger than you ever thought possible. You just have to believe in yourself and never give up!

If you doubt the Twelve Steps or recovery can turn things around for you, stop doubting and get to work. It’s a program of action, not theory. You have the opportunity to succeed beyond your wildest dreams.

Celebrating 4 Years Smoke Free on Mount Rainer

I recently attempted to summit Mount Rainier in Washington State. I didn’t make it to the 14,500 summit but I did climb to 11,200. I plan to get some experience this winter climbing on ice and will give Rainier another go in 2018. Totally beautiful mountain. Hope you enjoy …

The top video is the edited version, the bottom video is the full version.

Addiction: A Matter of Heart

Addiction:  A Matter of Heart

Like so many, I was saddened by the devastating news over the holidays about the deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher.  Both were superstars in their respective fields and both had publicly acknowledged facing the challenge of overcoming addiction.  Both will be missed and their bright stars dimmed way too soon.  I sincerely hope they both rest in peace.

 

When I learned both had died as a result of heart-related problems, it really hit home.   Their deaths should get the attention of everybody in the recovery community.  It’s a wake-up call regarding the damage done to the body in active addiction and the import of self-care in recovery, to enable our body to repair this damage.

Irrespective of a person’s drug of choice, each substance damages the heart in one manner or another.  For sake of brevity, I am omitting the research studies that confirm the link between heart disease and substance abuse.  If anyone cares to see the studies, email me and I am happy to send scores of them.  I recommend folks check out the American Heart Association’s website for more information.

This is an important issue that everyone with a history of addiction needs to be aware of.

 

My Own 5x Increased Risk of Heart Disease

Almost five years ago, and six months after being released from rehab, I had comprehensive blood testing done by Dr. Michael Bedecs, a cutting-edge Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.   Dr. Bedecs sat with me and went over my results, which were not good at all.  Among the truths my blood work told, was that I had a five times increased risk of heart disease.  When I heard that news, I was stunned.  There was other bad news, but to hear I had a five times increased risk of heart disease got me to finally get serious about nutritional lifestyle change.

At that time, I was in “recovery” but smoking a pack-and-a-half a day, drinking coffee from morning until early evening, eating some type of fast food almost daily and my diet included lots of fried foods.   I feel so blessed to have met Dr. Bedecs and to have learned about my compromised health, most notably damage to my heart and my increased risk for heart disease.  Devastating news but not all bad.  Dr. Bedecs told me that with some relatively simple lifestyle changes, almost all of the issues reflected in my blood work could be turned around.   This message was what it took to get me to take my health seriously and prompt me to make self-care my number one priority.

 

From 5x Increased Risk of Heart Disease to “22 Year-Old Ethiopian Marathon Runner”

My recent blood work proves, beyond a doubt, that lifestyle change and self-care can turn around internal damage to our body including,  the most important muscle we have, our heart.  My recent blood work is, according to Dr. Bedecs, equivalent to a “22-year-old Ethiopian Marathon Runner.”   If I could turn it around, quit smoking, change my diet and integrate exercise into my life, anyone can.  I wrote a blog post about all this in February 2016.

Everything you need to design your own self-care program can be found here at Spiritual Adrenaline.  Seize the day and start turning your health around right now!

We must not ignore the message that addiction is a matter of heart.

 

CELEBRATING THREE YEARS SMOKE FREE –  WHAT IT TOOK ME TO QUIT

tom-14-spinning-positions-with-willa-wirth-00_01_20_00-still002On September 27, 2016, I celebrated three years without smoking:  nicotine, and its potently designed delivery system known as the cigarette, which is probably the most evil drug I have ever tried.

I smoked for twenty-four years and never thought I would be able to quit.  Like many people, I started smoking when I was drinking alcohol, in my case in college.  I loved the head rush of smoking one or two cigarettes.  I always said to myself that I would never buy a pack. It’s amazing how powerful addiction truly is, I was buying packs before I ever realized I was buying packs and by the time reason caught up with impulse, I was hooked.   The addiction continued for twenty-four years.

About a year and a half into my sobriety from alcohol and drugs, I was working out regularly, eating right and going to twelve step meetings regularly.  However, I was actually smoking more than I was when I was in active use.

Sharing My Ideas With Others

I started to realize that I wanted to share the exercise and nutrition regimen I had developed in my recovery with others.   I started to call the regimen that I had developed Spiritual Adrenaline.  I felt that the tools that so benefited me could benefit others and wanted to begin the process of writing those ideas down.  The goal was to develop a platform, such as a website and Facebook page, to share my ideas and help others

A Sober Hypocrite?

As I started to write my ideas down, I began to realize that I was chain-smoking as I was writing:  This blew my mind.  Here I was sitting down to memorialize healthy ways to break free of the scourge of addiction and all the while, I was chain-smoking cigarettes. This disgusted me and when I looked at myself in the mirror, I realized that I was a hypocrite. Say one thing, do another.  I figured the world already had enough hypocrites and did not need one more.  I decided that until such time as I was truly sober, i.e., no longer controlled by nicotine that I was not “qualified” to write about a healthy lifestyle one could use to overcome addiction.

The ideas that I have come to call Spiritual Adrenaline, were so important to me that they are focused me on dealing with my smoking once and for all.   I wanted to share these ideas so badly, as I knew they could improve or outright save lives, that I dedicated all my efforts to quitting smoking.  Substances had taken away so many things that I loved and I was determined to mitigate my losses and not allow any substance to control my destiny.

 

Smoking Is Not Sober Behavior

I decided to stop writing things down and developing the website and platform for Spiritual Adrenaline until I could quit smoking.   That decision firmly committed me on the path of quitting once and for all.  As they say at twelve-step meetings, half measures will avail us of nothing.  By recognizing that I had to give up smoking in order to grow as a person and realize true sobriety, the light bulb in my head finally went off.

I was honest with myself that my smoking was not sober and by recognizing this, the behavior became no longer acceptable to my long-term goals and success.

My last cigarette was on September 26, 2013.  My lungs feel amazing, I have vastly more energy, am less anxious, and feel wonderful that I can be in the office, airport or wherever and not be stressing about needing a smoke.   It’s a completely different way to live.

The tools I used to quit can be found on the pages of the Spiritual Adrenaline website: www.spiritualadrenaline.me.   I hope that at least some of the tools that helped me can also help you or someone else you love.

We would love your feedback on this and other blog posts.  Email us or shoot us a short video at blog@spiritualadrenaline.me.

 

Why Nicotine Substitution is Not An Effective Way To Stop Smoking

I know there will be lots of folks out there who disagree with the recommendations in this blog:  That is understandable.   I look forward to a respectful discussion on our blog about quitting smoking, on the contents of this blog and what worked for you.

I hope you enjoyed the video! We would love your feedback on this and other blogs. Please shoot us an email or short video at: blog@spiritualadrenaline.me.

Are You Smoking Cigarettes or Are They Smoking You?

Today I speak with native New Yorker David Skeist, a North American representative for Allen Carr‘s Easyway To Stop Smoking, a book which has sold over 13 million copies worldwide.

Allen and Tom discuss how invasive smoking is for those who are addicted to it. It dominates every aspect of your life, explains David, who goes on to describe how smoking ends up smoking us and not vice versa.

Pulling Yourself From The Grasp of Nicotine Addiction

tom pic 2I smoked for twenty-four years and never thought I would be able to quit.  Like most people, I started smoking when I was drinking alcohol.  In my case, I started in college.  I loved the head rush of smoking one or two cigarettes.  I always said to myself that I would never buy a pack.  It’s amazing how powerful addiction truly is, I was buying packs before I ever realized I was buying packs and by the time reason could catch up with impulse, I was hooked.   The addiction continued for twenty-four years.

When I was trying to quit something that I found incredibly helpful was attending Nicotine Anonymous (“NA”) meetings.     Before attending NA meetings I ordered the “big book” and other literature published by the organization.  The literature was incredibly powerful to read.  I had never really read anything before that touched me so profoundly as some of the stories I read in NA literature.  I had no idea that others had struggled so deeply with their addiction to nicotine.  Drugs and alcohol yes, but nicotine no.   Finally, I found other people who were as serious as I was to quit smoking and to put it in their past.

After reading the material, I attended meetings in New York City.   I was blown away by the  deep sharing at these meetings and the intensity with which others were battling their addiction.   Some were successful and had quit long-term, others were back and forth between smoking and quitting, and others were simply unable to quit.   A gentleman who I befriended attended with his oxygen tank given he had advanced COPD.   Irrespective, he was unable to quit.  It was that powerful an addiction for him.  It is completely surreal to sit next to someone whose clothes smell like smoke, goes everywhere with his oxygen tank, gets completely winded with even the most minimal physical activity and is STILL unable to quit smoking.  The good news is he started doing very light cardio under the careful watch of medical professionals and the last time I saw him he had many months free of smoking.

It was seeing others succeed and hearing their stories that lead me to the conclusion that my enemy could be defeated.    It laid an optimistic foundation for me to build upon, to eradicate the scourge of cigarettes from my life.

I highly recommend Nicotine Anonymous literature and attending meetings as part of an overall battle plan to quit.  The good thing about Nicotine Anonymous is that they have telephone and online meetings for folks who are too sick to attend in person and/or for places where in-person meetings are not available.

For more information, visit their website at:  www.nicotine-anonymous.org

By the way, after smoking for twenty-four years, I had my last cigarette on September 26, 2013.

 

We would love your feedback on this and other blog posts.  Email us or shoot us a short video at blog@spiritualadrenaline.me.

What is the Easy Way to Stop Smoking

Today I speak with native New Yorker David Skeist, a North American representative for Allen Carr‘s Easyway To Stop Smoking, a book which has sold over 13 million copies worldwide.

David talks about his struggles and some of the main principles that enabled him to stop smoking that are key principles in the book.

I hope you find great value from the video and, as always, please let me know what you learned, any experiences you have had or may be having, and how I can help!

Have a great day and remember to live a life powered by YOU! – Tom