Ivan, who is now 30 years old and 11 years clean, takes us through his horrific story of heroin abuse. Ivan at age 16 immediately starts abusing drugs right from the beginning, along with his best friend and high school sweetheart, Ivan is now drinking, dropping acid, and using ecstasy. That same year he falls in love with the girl that introduces him to Heroin for the first time.
Living in New Orleans, during the next 3 years Ivan is reduced to skin and bones, is kicked out of high school, and winds up living in a tiny apartment that is more like a bunker. Desperate to stay afloat he attempts to get a job on the River Boats and join the Navy, but he is rejected from both. The Navy tells him he needs to have 90 days clean before he can re-enlist and Ivan reaches out to his mother for help. That phone call ends up saving his life. Join us now!
SHAIR – Sharing Helps Addicts in Recovery
Here are Ivan B.’s SHAIR Podcast interview highlights and suggestions for the Newcomer:
Clean Date: September 15, 2003
Tell us how your life is today. Your hobbies, what you do for a living. Take us into your normal daily routine including recovery?
Ivan: It’s really great honestly. I live in Los Angeles. I’m in the art capital of the West coast. I make art. I work in the restaurant industry. That’s a lot of fun. I’m living with my girlfriend. First time I’ve lived with a girl in sobriety. We’ve been together for two years now. Got a meditation practice, got regular meetings. That’s my deal.
“O” So listen, I know you have a very interesting meditation practice, tell us a little bit about that?
Ivan: Basically it’s from a book called “The Artist’s Way” but it’s not exactly meditation. There are two components. One is called “the morning pages” and what you do is you write three pages every morning, long hand with no literary intention. Basically you just write what comes up in your mind and what will happen is over a series of weeks, you’ll resolve issues and get out frustrations. You’ll kind of tell yourself in a way what needs to be done or you’ll just get all this negative stuff. For me, I got a lot of worry and anxiety and fear that’s just in me and the practice of writing every morning, it’s almost like clearing a faucet when you run the tap clean.
So that’s the first component of it and then the second part is something called The Artist’s Way, which sounds really corny but so does AA at first. The idea is that you go somewhere with yourself once a week that you enjoy and you don’t bring anyone with you. Basically it’s like your time to have fun. Think of a radio when you’re writing, you’re sending out and then when you’re on the the Artist’s Way you’re receiving so if you do these two things consistently, you’ve got a chance of hearing the divine creator within. It’s very strange. I always think it’s a waste of time. Why am I doing it? I start doing it again and stuff starts to happen. It’s just one of those unexplainable practices. I will say that I try after the morning pages to do some kind of prayer and maybe read out of the 24 hour book just so that I can do a meditation as well because I’m not really sure writing these three pages is actually meditation so I try to do both.
How old were you the first time you drank or used drugs? More importantly, how did it make you feel?
Ivan: I was 16, Jack Daniels and PowerAde, I escaped reality basically. The PowerAde was a means to get the alcohol into my system faster. I could drink more than others and that was just the beginning.
How much clean time do you have and when’s your anniversary date?
Ivan: This is interesting. You might have remembered August 31, 2003. However, I recently changed it to September 15, 2003 and the reason behind this is I did heroin August 31, 2003. That’s for sure because otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten on the plane to go to Costa Rica. Once I got to Costa Rica, I don’t even remember. It’s all foggy. I remember thinking “I’m going to start getting sober now. Let me start marking my days.” No, I was totally out of my mind. When I was in rehab, I picked that day because it was symbolic of the time that I got on the airplane and I made the decision, but I remember checking with some people and I may have even talked to you about it.
Everybody thought it was a good idea, August 31. Then, there’s no real problem with that if you don’t remember so that’s fine. That makes sense. Years later, this little thing started to surface and it’s weird. About half way through ACERPA, the rehab that I went to in Costa Rica, maybe not even totally half way through, maybe in the first couple of days. I went to get whatever they were giving me, some kind of medication and when the nurse turned around, I reached over the counter, opened the drawer, grabbed some pills, put them in my pocket and closed it. When she turned back around I acted like I was all normal and then I went into the bathroom and I took those pills, nothing happened.
I mentioned it to my sponsor and he asked “what was your intention” and I was like “my intention was to get loaded”. I’m already kind of foggy about my actually sobriety date so I just decided September 15, 2003. I don’t have to have a symbolic sobriety day. I can just be like a normal alcoholic. September 15, 2003.
“O” That’s a great story. And trust me; you’re not the first person who’s changed their clean date.
Ivan: People hold onto shit that’s unbelievable. Five days man, it makes a difference. Here’s the thing, if you’ve got something that you’re holding onto that you feel like it’s getting in the way of you being honest and truthful, you’ve got to do something about it. August 31 or September 15, it might be like who cares, but this program is very mysterious and it says honesty quite a lot. I just want to be on board. It’s just a matter of joining and being as authentic as I can.
“O” What’s the name of your current home group?
Ivan: Roxbury Men’s Stag in Beverly Hills…A drug addict from New Orleans and now my home group is in Beverly Hills.
What was keeping you from getting clean or staying clean when you first got introduced to recovery?
Ivan: My ideas about it. Basically I didn’t think I had a problem. I kept thinking that I could control it and I could manage it. I switched drugs. I got off that other one and now I’m doing this one. I can do it. I can quit anything. That was my idea of quitting something, switching it to something else or having bad luck or it’s a money thing. I’m going to go join the Navy. Even my plan for the Navy that was me trying to control. I’m trying to exert some kind of control on the situation. I had to just let go. Put my hands up and surrender. Once you do that, you’re good. Let go of the control.
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, but for the first time had developed the hope that you could recover?
Ivan: I think it was Rogers place. I think that was when I really started realizing that I couldn’t live like that. I felt really, really good and I wasn’t taking drugs and I wasn’t drinking. I started just imagining. I remember just being blown away. My mom sent me a box of some stuff from my apartment and one of the things was my journal and I remember I wrote a journal entry right when I arrived. I was like “guess what motherfucker? I’m sober now”. I had this kind of immature vernacular because I was writing all about drinking and doing drugs and stuff and it was cool because I got the journal and it was like an old friend had arrived and I wanted to tell him “you’re not going to fucking believe this. I’m sober”. That’s what I put in my journal. It was like miraculous.
“O” – You mentioned a bunch of books in the beginning. Do you have a favorite book or books you read in the beginning that you could recommend to a new comer, when you first got into recovery?
Ivan: Probably my favorite Carl Jung book is called “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”. It’s interesting because it’s a book he didn’t even want to write, but he had a dream that convinced him that he should write it. It’s like an autobiography. He wanted to be very scientific, even though he’s writing about spiritual matters. Basically this is a book that’s very accessible to somebody who doesn’t understand all the technical terms of psychiatry and psychology. It’s also a very personal book where he talks about his childhood and about his memories.
That book opened the door for me. Check this out, I had no idea he was involved in AA. Nevertheless I really, really got into Carl Jung and I really started identifying with him. I went to a meeting in San Francisco and somebody wrote their phone number down on a piece of paper and later on in my room I see Carl Jung’s name one the back of the paper and it gave me goose bumps. I was like “what is this crazy thing in my room right now” and it was the piece of paper the guy wrote his phone number on was an excerpt from some grapevine and then it was highlighting the correspondence between Carl Jung and Bill W. I still have that. I’ll never get rid of that.
“O” – I love it. You had no idea who he was before you started reading it?
Ivan: I never knew he was related to AA. I got rid of a lot of things. I got rid of a lot of books because I had to move and everything, but I’ve got that. I’m trying to think of what else helped me with my recovery. That’s probably the main one.
What is the best suggestion you have ever received?
SUGGESTION’S FOR THE NEWCOMER!
Ivan: Stop thinking. Know why that’s the best one? Because I never think about that, that never comes to mind. I never think. You just need to stop thinking right now dude.
If you could give a new comer only one suggestion, what would it be?
Ivan: Don’t worry about what you think and let’s worry about what you’re doing.
Of all the meetings you’ve attended anywhere in the world, which group is your favorite and where is it located?
Ivan: It’s got to be the Vigilance Club in Costa Rica.
“O” – What about in the states?
Ivan: In the states, there’s a place in San Francisco called Alamo Square. There are all these Edwardian mansions. One of them is a recovery house for priests and they turned it into a spot where meetings take place and it’s called Serenity House.
You look out the windows and you see the park, the golden sunlight and I remember the guy who runs that place. He’s like “we’ve been in a lot of dark places. It’s good we have a nice room. Let’s just enjoy this”. They make cookies. It was cool. It’s got a cool vibe. There’s a chapel connected to the room, a small chapel inside a house and you can actually go in there and do your fourth step with somebody. Alamo Square, Serenity House. Go check it out. They’d love to have you.
Thanks again for your SHAIR Ivan!
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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.