Today we have JR Hamel joining us on The SHAIR Podcast, the founder of Hope and Addiction, a blog where JR shares his experience, strength and hope. JR is married with three wonderful children. He has been struggling with Addiction and Mental Health problems for 23 years. He has undergone intense In-Patient treatment, Out Patient treatment and one on one therapy. JR himself has worked in the Mental Health field for 14 years before resigning to focus on his own recovery. He is now a stay at home father who has a new purpose in life, to share his story with anyone who will take the time to read them on his WordPress Blog Hope and Addiction and maybe give others Hope with their own struggles in life.
Clean Date: January 21, 2015
This episode was brought to you by Sober Nation.
Omar: So JR let’s dive right in. Tell us about how your life is today, your hobbies, exercise. Take us into your normal daily routine, including recovery and tell us a little bit about Hope and Addiction.
JR: Well, when I got clean I had taken some time off work and decided to be a stay-at-home dad with my three kids so I’ve been doing that sort of the past three months here.
Omar: That’ll keep you busy!
JR: Keeps me very busy! So I do that and then I got this idea that I have such a powerful story and I speak at various inpatients and so I’ve had so many people tell me that I’m inspirational so I got this idea “why don’t I blog about it” so I decided to get this blog thing going and I’m like “I have to call it something” and I said “what are the two things that you need”. You need hope so I figured name it hope and throw addiction in there because that’s what you need hope with. I kind of just ran with that. So during the day I try to get in on my blog time and check my sites and all that stuff. Usually with my kids, my real work beings at 4 when my wife gets home. That’s when I get to retreat to my office and do work, but I attend AA. I’m an alumni member.
I’m actually their founder of my inpatient. I was actually the first patient they’ve ever had. They opened on a Monday and I was there on Tuesday and that was my first and only treatment inpatient. I’m the founding guy for the alumni association and we have a huge turnout now. I go back there regularly. I speak there. I’m actually speaking there on Monday. I’m very involved with that. I mentor some people, some friends of mine that I’ve known through the years that kind of need extra help. I take them to meetings with me. It’s really all about using my negative experiences that I’ve had through my life. I’ve battled with alcoholism for 23 years. My parents owned a bar growing up. Both my parents were alcoholics. They were kind of happy drunks. My mom took the place of the alcoholic after my dad died. My dad died when I was 18 in ’98 so mom took over from there so it’s always been a constant thing in my life. It’s always been acceptable. Happy-drink, sad-drink, Tuesday-drink. That’s all I’ve ever known.
Omar: Absolutely, but before we dive into your story because we’re gonna get into that, today currently, how do you maintain your spiritual condition, that conscious contact with a higher power?
JR: I maintain it, but I get up every morning and I kind of have my own little ritual that I go through. I have my meditation book, my daily meditation that I kind of breeze through and then I have my own little sayings that I say to my higher power that kind of get me through the day. I stay in contact. My wife is a tremendous support for me daily. If I’m having kind of an off day, I just kind of talk to her about it and we kind of breeze through the situations. That’s why I haven’t had any triggers or anything in a long time, but in the times that I did, I felt comfortable enough to say “man today is just really tough” and she supported me and kind of got me through it and I’ll go through the big book and really going to meetings. She goes to Al-Anon when I go to AA and so it shoots support there. Other family and friends, they’re very supportive of me. It helps a lot.
Omar: It’s wonderful. That’s exactly the way you do it. So tell us JR, how much clean time do you have and when is your anniversary date?
JR: My anniversary date is today, the 21st and I am nine months.
Omar: Awesome man! Congratulations!
JR: That’s the longest I have ever had my entire life.
Omar: Twenty-three years battling alcoholism is brutal bro so nine months, first time after 23 years, that’s huge!
JR: It is. I’ll be 100% honest when I say I have never, ever felt better. I feel like I finally found me. I found who I am. I got to know me.
Omar: That’s what happens man.
JR: I know. It’s weird! I’m sure everybody has that same thing, never thought you’d get to this place and seeing that it was so far down the line and now that I’m sitting here, I’m like “wow, why didn’t I do this sooner”.
Omar: So what month was it?
JR: It was January.
Omar: Okay so January 21.
Omar: Outstanding. I love it. Okay so tell us a little bit about that time, well as much as you can remember. How old were you the first time you drank or used drugs and more importantly, how did it make you feel?
JR: I was 12 years old. I stole a bottle of Southern Comfort out of my parents bar and a buddy of mine, we drank the whole thing to ourselves and that time from what I remember, it wasn’t the greatest feeling, but I didn’t get sick, which was really bizarre and it probably should have been a red flag there, but I didn’t get terribly sick or nothing. I mean I thought that I was kind of handling it, but I’m sure I looked like an absolute buffoon.
Omar: Especially with Southern Comfort. I haven’t heard Southern Comfort in like 20 years.
JR: I know, I know.
Omar: That stuff is intense.
JR: Especially at that age!
Omar: Oh dude. Twelve years old, knocking back Southern Comfort and not throwing up. That’s pretty strong.
JR: Yeah and that kind of sent me from there and I kind of dabbled her and there and then when I got to about like 14 is when I really started to go get a beer for dad from the garage and I’d take two in my pocket for me and then I’d kind of pull them all in the front of the case so he wouldn’t see them missing from the back and then hopefully he’d forget how many he had and that went on for quite some time, for a few years until I was about 17 and they decided to clean my room and they found my stash of empty liquor bottles.
Omar: What was keeping you from getting clean or staying clean when you first got introduced to recovery?
JR: Well, for me my first trip to recovery I made it through, but the couple times that I guess that I tried to be clean, pride got in the way. It was pride and ego. I thought that I was better and that I could do it.
Omar: Absolutely and it resonates with so many of us. Beautiful. So number two, at what point did you have a spiritual awakening, that ‘aha’ moment in recovery when you accepted that you were powerless over drugs and alcohol, but for the first time had developed a hope that you could recover?
JR: When I woke up in the hospital and I thought I was dead.
Omar: Yeah man. I mean it doesn’t get more real than that. I hear you. Okay, so JR do you have a favorite book that you would recommend to a newcomer that you read in early recovery?
JR: I can’t remember the name of it, but there is one that’s called “The Red Road to Sobriety.” I believe it was written for Native Americans. I got a lot out of it. I kind of liked it and then there’s a Buddhist author by the name of Thich Nhat Hanh and anything he puts out it’s huge. His philosophy’s is about life, our wellness coordinator used to read the passages out of the book before yoga.
The Red Road to Sobriety – Native American Sobriety Movement
The Red Road to Wellbriety – in the Native American Way Study Guide and Work Book
Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life – Thich Nhat Hanh
Omar: Perfect. I love it. And so tell us, number four, what is the best suggestion you have ever received?
JR: The best suggestion? Never go inside your head without a flashlight and a friend.
Omar: A first here on The SHAIR Podcast. That is fantastic! I got this great visualization. It’s beautiful!
JR: Probably the same one I got too.
Omar: It’s a light bulb moment for sure. JR, if you could give our newcomers only one suggestion, what would that be?
JR: Trust yourself.
SUGGESTION’S FOR THE NEWCOMER!
Thanks again for your SHAIR, JR!
See you then!
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.