I am a Southerner.
I was raised in Harrison, Georgia, a rural town of about 500 people; median income $18,125 in today’s dollars. I was bused 1.5 hours up and down dirt roads, every day, to go to school in the county seat, Sandersville. The dream of most families was for their kids to work in the kaolin (chalk) mines.
I never felt like I fit in. I didn’t want to hunt. I didn’t want to play football on Thanksgiving. I wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons, ride my skateboard, and play on the computer.
I have two degrees in chemistry from southern universities, Georgia College and the University of Florida. I received amazing educations at both. But I also taught myself how to drink myself to oblivion. Whiskey and college football parties became a way for me to leave behind who I used to be and become who I thought everyone wanted me to be. My need to fit in and please others led me down a path of addiction and sickness over the next 20 years of my life.
I came to Atlanta in my 30s to pursue a career in tech. My alcoholism was very public, my drug addiction hidden in the shadows. I worked night and day improving my coding skills and networking while teaching high school. I was recruited by a startup to be a software developer.
In August 2013, I co-founded The Bitter Southerner with Chuck Reece, Kyle Tibbs-Jones, and Dave Whitling. I had just entered recovery for my drug addiction yet my identity was still bound to drinking whiskey. Seems I still needed to reconcile my own definition of what it meant to be a Southerner.
In March of 2016, I joined Atlanta-based SalesLoft and my life would change forever. Today I am 820 days completely sober and surrounded by the love of friends and coworkers. No booze, no drugs required.
Most Southerners are not as lucky as me. Addiction and substance abuse are tearing this region apart. There are no resources to help or educate. People don’t even know things can be different from what they have always known.
I don’t think it’s just a Southern thing. I think it’s a human thing. But this is where I am from, and this is where I live, and this is where I can make an impact.
I think it has to start with changing hearts and minds.
I will not let the pattern continue.
I believe in a Better South for my niece and nephew.
I hope you’ll consider supporting us at the Bitter Southerner: https://bsgeneralstore.com/pages/membership
Intending on taking a weekend off from drinking, I’d find myself sitting at the bar around 4pm on a Friday. And as much as I’d like to say others convinced me, it was more likely the other way around. The saddest part is that I convinced them because I thought they’d think it was cool I wanted to go start drinking immediately.
Well now my plan to not drink over the weekend was totally shot. So why take Saturday off. I’ll start Monday.
I’ll start reading Monday.
I’ll start eating healthier…Monday.
Monday I’ll take 5 days off from doing drugs.
What’s so special about Mondays? Nothing. It was just my excuse to allow whatever behavior to continue.
If you have a behavior you want to change, the answer isn’t Monday, it’s now. And it doesn’t have to be an extreme outcome.
If you want to start reading more, pick up a book and read two paragraphs — today.
If you think you want to stop drinking, ask a friend to go on a walk with you after work today and tell them.
Action towards a desired outcome will make your brain feel good. It will make your feel more in control of yourself. It will start a new pattern.
I imagine we can all identify with that last statement “feel more in control of yourself.”
But if you aren’t in control of yourself, who or what is? And in that question lies the answers you seek.
For me for my actions were driven by a lack of self worth and physical patterns of addiction etched in my brain.
It took years of professional help and a disciplined yoga practice to unravel and then rebuild the man I am today; to begin to tame my mind and be ok with myself.
My growth didn’t happen in an instance, I had to do the work daily and for a long time.
There are at least 20 years of my life I wish I could reclaim, and that’s why now not Monday is so important for me to remember.
Today I gave my keynote speech at Rainmaker.
In a culture that always tells us we need more, I am constantly amazed that it was the removal, not the addition, of something that has made all the difference.
Joining SalesLoft has made me a better human, and for that I am eternally grateful.
I stared through the window into the bar connected to my hotel in San Francisco.
Everyone was having so much fun. I remembered a time when I could participate. Unfortunately I wasn’t recalling all the pain and hurt my drinking caused.
I thought, “I don’t have to feel his way.” I could just go in. It’s the first time in two years I can remember having a thought like this.
My mind was betraying me. Which is an odd thing to think about since my mind and my body is “me”.
I was — I am — tired and frustrated. On the West Coast my East Coast meetings start at 6am, and my West Coast meetings end late. I used this as a reason not to practice.
I forgot my head medicine and refused to call my doctor for another script. A deep shame haunts me whenever I “mess up.”
I was weak from a cold I powered through the week before.
The trip was easy to blame, but this started a long time before this trip.
An overuse injury from obsessively working on a project and using my phone too much has caused me to modify my practice. I’m embarrassed my practice isn’t as strong as it once was.
It had become harder to wake up in the morning. Easier to just go to evening practice. And easier still to say I just needed to continue working in the afternoons.
Dangerous thoughts creep up. Nothing that would hurt or bother anyone else. Not yet.
The discipline and objectivity I usually enjoy had dissolved. I simply haven’t been doing what I need to take care of myself. And now it seemed like a hill too steep to climb. Better to give up.
Driving to Napa to visit with Taylor and Kory, I spill coffee in my eye. Yes again. Damn cheap ass recycled paper cups. At this point I hate everything about myself and life. I’m a total fuckup.
I arrived and began to feel safe. I was in a space with people who understood me. Here I will start taking care of myself again.
Last night I spoke to a room of yogis about my sobriety. I cried. I am grateful I am sober. I do not want to lose what I have.
I don’t have to feel this way. But the answer is within me, in my daily actions, not outside of me.
The real question is what do I need to do to take care of myself, and why would I let anything get in the way.