Today we have Christopher Velona on the show. He is a sober father, philanthropist, CBD advocate, and Gene Therapy enthusiast, and Founder Project Sebastian. Project Sebastian is a charity that is racing for a cure to Batten Disease, a fatal and degenerative neurological disorder that is taking his son’s life bit by bit each day.
Chris is a grateful recovering alcoholic. He grew up in a wealthy family in California and fell into heavy drinking early on in life. He was able to skirt the consequences because he was well-connected. The party did not stop until he destroyed all his relationships and his parents disowned him. Finally, he knew he had to end the insanity and went to Alcoholics Anonymous. Now Chris believes his purpose in life is to help other humans.
CLEAN DATE: September 28th, 1996
Listen to Chris’s story!
Here are a few highlights from our interview. To get the full story please join us on the podcast now!
Chris was a dorky, overweight kid and the youngest of four. He grew up watching his siblings throw parties in their parents’ million-dollar home. When he got older, he decided to do the same thing. He’d throw parties and let kids get crazy. He wanted to make friendships and be the cool kid, and it would make him popular for the weekend. Drinking was also an act of rebellion, as his parents were recovering alcoholics. Chris saluted his parents’ sober birthdays by going out and getting drunk.
The more I drank, the more parties I had, the more popular I became.
The pivot point was in college when his older brother Dave, a Marine, sent him his ID in the mail so Chris could drink underage. Chris became a full-time party boy. He learned to like beer because it was 25-cent drafts and 2-dollar pitchers. The alcohol helped him to get along with strangers, but everything was a mask.
He joined a fraternity Senior year at the age of twenty and got everything he imagined he wanted. Booze and girls and zero responsibility. He was so addicted to his party life, he stayed in school an extra year and a half. When he made it to class, he’d end up puking in it. He’d wake up in strangers’ beds and start fist fights, always on the losing end.
In Dec 1993, Chris finally graduated. He enjoyed college to the fullest on somebody’s else’s dime.
He had gotten away with so much, he thought he was invincible. His dad promised him a job if he’d come home, but it never panned out. Chris had no experience or credentials. He began working as a production assistant, but he got blackballed from Warner Brothers for being drunk. He just didn’t stop. He didn’t care. He lived from paycheck to paycheck, couch to couch. His parents gave him a bit of money here and there. When they didn’t give him enough, he started stealing it.
I spent it all on booze.
Looking back, Chris marvels that he survived. He didn’t know where to go. He had hit bottom, but he didn’t know how to stop. He knew he had one more con left in him. He went to his dad to ask for help. With a tear in his eye, his dad refused, his mom crying in the background. Chris knew he could appeal to them if he asked about AA. Even though he didn’t intend to get sober at the moment, he knew it would buy him some time.
His dad agreed to let Chris stay if he went to a meeting every day for 30 days. He also connected Chris with some of his sober friends who wouldn’t take one ounce of nonsense from his son. He was told to shut up and sit on his hands.
A funny thing happens when you get sober and actually take this shit seriously.
Chris was able to apologize and really mean it. He was able to establish relationships with his family again. He was able to get a job and finally keep it. He was able to extend his hand and help somebody. He eventually started multiple businesses. Now he believes he is here to help other humans.
If I was not sober today, I would either be dead, in jail, or in an insane asylum.
Chris also got married and started a family, but tragedy struck when his first son Sebastian had a seizure. Doctors diagnosed him with epilepsy, but eventually they discovered that Sebastian suffers from a fatal genetic disease called Batten syndrome.
Most children with the disease don’t live past 8 or 9 years old.
Chris admits that he has wanted to drink heavily for the past ten years, and he did come close. But he stays connected to his friends in sobriety. He focuses on helping others, and he holds onto the hope that a cure will be found for his son’s disease before it’s too late.
What kept Chris from getting clean?
Chris says he was a “one and done.” There was no keeping him away from alcohol, and he didn’t think he was one of “them.” He hated AA and the people in it. The last thing he was going to do was admit he was an alcoholic and eat his own words.
It was ego, plain and simple
The aha moment
Chris’s dad gave him his first sobriety cake during a Saturday meeting. When Chris blew out his candle, his dad said, “You made it.”
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Chris thanked his parents and his first sponsor.
It’s an inside job, but we can’t do it alone.
He didn’t want that feeling to leave. It became his life.
At one point, Chris was full of vengeance and wanted to teach a certain person a lesson. He wanted to cause chaos and violense. Then a very wise man said to him:
Stay the f*ck out of the results. God has got it.
Suggestion for Newcomer
“Stop exactly what you’re thinking about right now and go to a meeting. In that meeting there’s someone there who is feeling worse than you, having a worse time and feeling so hopeless. When you find that one person, and you look at your shitty life, you will feel so small.
If you follow the principles of the program and extend your hand and say, “I understand.” It’s amazing how you will feel. Get to a meeting and listen for the similarities and say, “hi.” Because the newcomer is scared as f*ck.”
Stop thinking that it’s the end. Get into action and help another alcoholic.
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.