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.