Mike Lindsey joins us today on The SHAIR Podcast. Mike is the founder of AIR Wear Recovery Gear, AIR stands for Addicts In Recovery. Take pride in the accomplishment of overcoming addiction. AIR Wear, get your recovery on.
A little about Mike…
“As you know, everyone has a story. For many people, those stories include chapters of addiction. Fortunately, the same people can also experience chapters of recovery in their lives. I am blessed to be one of the survivors of addiction. I have battled addiction for decades in various forms, from alcohol to gambling to drugs and many more. Each promised me peace and relief from fear and pain. I searched to fill empty voids in my life but any relief was only temporary, at best. Being a functioning addict my entire life I was able to be a chameleon, keep up appearances and switch back and forth between multiple addictions. If one addiction brought too much heat or trouble, I would change to something else. Numbing pain, escaping reality and filling the void was my only agenda.
After years and years of toeing the line with addiction related tragedy and devastation, I had finally met my match. In less than six short months, crystal meth took everything from me…family, house, job, car, all material and sentimental items…I was homeless…out on the streets with only a few items of clothing and a backpack. I was truly introduced to rock bottom. However, it still took me ten additional months of using and living (surviving) on the streets to truly realize this was going to kill me. I knew I could not survive another winter out there. I took steps to reclaim my life.
March 1, 2016 marks the launch of AIR Wear Recovery Gear. It is also my 18th month of clean and sober living in recovery.”
Clean Date: September 1st, 2014
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Omar Pinto: First of all Mike, before we get into your story, let’s talk a little bit about what your daily routine looks like including recovery.
Mike Lindsey: My life today is so much different than it used to be, even before I had my difficulties with addiction. Such amazing things are happening. It’s truly the gifts of recovery are becoming evident in my life in so many ways. My day usually starts about 6:00 AM, got a couple small dogs that’ll lick my face and talk about accountability partners. Just get up, we go for a short walk, get ready for the day, kiss my honey, and off to work by 8:00. I’m a cost estimator by trade, so it’s for a resale packaging company. I just basically do math story problems all day long. I stay connected with recovery almost every day in some form or fashion. Like you mentioned, I am the founder of AIR, Addiction In Recovery, we make AIR Wear Recovery Gear.
The proceeds from those sales go to benefit local and even national recovery programs. I also like to give back directly to the programs that helped me get on my feet. I’ll be talking about those a bit later. AIR believes in the air of dignity, taking pride in your accomplishment of reclaiming your life from addiction. I think the coolest thing I found lately is that customers are telling me how they wear their gear outside, out and about in public, and people will come up to them and use it for an icebreaker to start a conversation about recovery. I think that’s just an amazing gift to be able to open that door for somebody to be able to share the story and the miracles that we can all find in recovery and maybe help that next addict that’s suffering.
I have another shiny new venture, if I may. I’m also founder of Unloaded Comedy, Laugh yourself clean is our tagline. It’s a recovery based stand up comedy showcase that travels around the country. My plan is to bring some local comics with me as we go around to these different cities and we’ll also book talent in each city as well, so it’s some local flair for that community there to help with that connection and draw the local audience. The idea for this is to have a good time, obviously, share some laughs and to really celebrate just how far we’ve all progressed in this journey of recovery. I feel there’s a tremendous therapeutic and healing power associated with laughter.
We want to help share that experience, strength and hope, through comedy by bringing light to dark places and help remove the stigma surrounding addiction, the shame and the guilt, the fear and the loneliness. All that kind of stuff like helping people connect in a positive way. One of the most unique, positive, direct benefits for each community that we’re going to leave an impression with is that Unloaded Comedy is going to provide an opportunity to plant some seeds wherever we go. We’re doing that by raising money, scholarship money for audience members in recovery to attend local comedy classes.
We’ll be having arrangements made in each city with an instructor of a comedy class and have a drawing. The larger the crowd, the more numbers we get the scholarship. The idea is one recovery comic creating another and the power of multiplying that effort over, over, and over branching out. The sooner we get to see that’s planted, we get to see it grow. The benefits on this we think are truly limitless. It offers addicts a method of therapy, a positive way to process their pain. Then, we even filled a pipeline with new recovering comics across the country and gives more to draw from as far as the different people we can book.
Omar Pinto: You’re teaching people how to be comics?
Mike Lindsey: Yes. When I was in early recovery, I took a class with a local comic, his name’s Alex Falcone here in the Portland area. It was a class we took four hours every Sunday for, I can’t remember, six to eight weeks, possibly. We would show up, learn how to write, something I’ve always wanted to do is to become a comic. I realized when I was in that class, it’s almost like the first crack of shame kind of started lifting because he said talk about you. Tell us about things that happened in your life and people are going to connect with that.
If you bring up a topic that is awkward or painful or taboo, the more you talk about that and make light of it, it then gives you permission to just continue having that conversation with these people. It basically turned, for me, it quickly turned into this is a share and I’m not getting cut off. Okay. I have an audience here. This is class. There’s a dozen to 15 of us and I have this audience. I remember we played obviously the icebreaking games and improve type stuff. We played two truths and a lie. One of my truths was that I was a homeless meth addict, and I just ruined the ending, didn’t I?
I think another one was I went streaking naked through a football game or something like that or whatever, and nobody believed the homeless meth addict things. If you don’t know me, I’m a pretty big guy. I’m pushing 350 plus, six foot. The Seahawks were calling for an offensive lineman, then I’d say I’m kind of busy right now. I use that for my comedy and when I showed up the next week and said here it is, this is me, and I could just start letting that out. Everybody was accepting, nobody left. Nobody scooted their chairs away or hid their cellphones or anything like that. They were all accepting, and so it was really amazing experience for me to let that out and let that be the avenue that I heal myself, that’s self-therapy.
Omar Pinto: Tell us, Mike, how much clean time you have and when is your anniversary date?
Mike Lindsey: Well, today I have 27 months and eight days. That makes my clean date as of September 1, 2014.
Questions For the Newcomers:
Omar Pinto: What was keeping you from getting clean or staying clean when you first got introduced to recovery?
Mike Lindsey: Well, I wasn’t ready. Talked a little bit about the fact that I hadn’t hit a true rock bottom. I wasn’t ready, so I did not grasp the severity of the situation that I was in or the difficult situation I put my family in. For so long, they’d been a safety net in my addiction. I think that can be very subjective for many, just like the definition of rock bottom can be subjective. Everybody has their own. Everybody has their own. Like I mentioned before, I’d get into a pickle with addiction or with money, change addiction, always an out and then somebody helped clean up the mess and I didn’t feel that impact.
When I finally went to actual inpatient treatment center, it was more of a okay I will go, I will do this, and I was, but I didn’t clean out everything inside that I needed to. It wasn’t until I truly committed to removing all these defects with the sex, the gambling, the find a solution for mental health, quit practicing old behaviors of all this negative stuff. I think I changed that from most of my life is like okay, what do I need to do to get by, let’s see where this takes me. I think that I finally made that turn off that path and turned it into I want to do everything possible to go around, to go under, to go through, or just plain remove these obstacles between me and building a new life in recovery.
Omar Pinto: At what point did you have a spiritual awakening that ah-ha moment in recovery when you accepted that you were powerless over drugs and alcohol, for the first had developed the hope that you could recover?
Mike Lindsey: The moment that I realized I was powerless, I had a bout with a resurfacing of gambling while I was at the Oxford House. It was significant enough that I had to make some arrangements as far as paying the house and stuff like that, so it kind of created a little hitch in my get along of my momentum. I realized at that point that this is fragile. This is I am powerless. I end up in front of that machine. I end up at a strip club or I end up at the dope man’s house. I’m powerless. Fortunately, I was able to stay away from some of those places, but the gambling was “safe,” so it really set up a red flag for me. I took steps immediately to correct that issue. I actually sought out free gambling counseling and attended GA meetings and I even set up a good friend to manage my money.
That’s how I felt that I could handle it. All of these things in my mind were very humbling and it was okay. I didn’t fail, but I did stumble and I think that I learned a lot from that. Again, I think it’s just how fragile this really is.
Omar Pinto: What is the best suggestion you have every received?
Mike Lindsey: There’s been a lot. We’ve changed a lot. To narrow it down to one is a short little story. I met this gentleman in the homeless shelter and he happened to bunk right next to me. Over the course of a few days, I was fortunate just to only be there for 10 days. Over the course of that time, I overheard story after story about his pain and misery and multiple failed attempts to quit using, change his life. I could literally see how broken he was, both physically and then through listening to him spiritually. We never spoke. We had a bunk next to each other until the last night I was there. We’re down in the reading room and we’re chatting a little bit about my new opportunity because I was taking a leap to get out of town and start.
Talked about the new opportunity, talked about getting out of the “game,” and how difficult it was. We wrapped up our conversation, I’ll never forget this, he said he wanted to give me something. He said … Well, he reached into his pocket and he pulled out his hand in a closed fist, and then he took my hand and he acted like he put something in it. As he did this, he says “This is your last chance.” He goes “Don’t open your hand, just put it in your pocket, and take it with you.” He goes “My prayer for you is that you’ll never have to see what that last chance looks like.”
Omar Pinto: If you could give a newcomer only one suggestion, what would it be?
Mike Lindsey: The number one thing would be change our playmates, your playgrounds, and your playthings. I found this to be a crucial part of my recovery. I was able to remove myself from the negative surroundings and negative people. By doing so, I really felt that helped me from falling back into old habit. Because one day, it just takes one case of the fuck-its and you know who to call. You know where to go. I know the dope man lives everywhere, but for me, that created one extra level of security, I guess, one more barrier that I have to … It helped prevent me from reaching out to somebody I didn’t even know in a different town.
It also prevented buddies from pressuring me. I moved far enough away that I didn’t have any buddies, until I met my family at the Oxford House.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE NEWCOMER
“ The number one thing would be change our playmates, your playgrounds, and your playthings.”
See you then!
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Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.