Today we have an insane show with my guest Ken Rivord who actually flew down to Costa Rica to record this episode with me to celebrate his 6th year of sobriety. After a typical Tico breakfast, we begin with an account of Ken’s Costa Rican travel nightmare. Everything that could go wrong, did. This was followed by another disaster, the disappearance of the first recording of this interview. Then listen we move into Ken’s harrowing story of child abuse, mental illness, IV drug addiction, prison, relapse, and ultimately, lasting recovery.
This is a wild episode about how the worst of situations can bring beautiful outcomes. Strap in and listen!
CLEAN DATE: 4/20/2012
Listen to Ken’s powerful story!
Here are a few highlights from our interview. To get the full story please join us on the podcast now!
Ken’s simple routine keeps him on the straight and narrow. He makes his bed, drinks his coffee, and packs his lunch if he hasn’t already. Then he goes to the gym and takes out any frustrations he might have on the weights. Ken says his workouts have probably saved a lot of peoples’ lives.
If you can’t get up every morning and make your bed, you’re going to have a really hard time doing anything else in life.
When he gets back from the gym, he sits on his bed and prays. He reads The Promise of a New Day, a book of daily meditations. Then he goes to work every day like a machine whether he likes it or not. Ken says his job is difficult for him, but it’s what keeps him responsible. This is how he sets up his life in order to live in the moment and also make plans for the future.
If prayer is the act of talking to a higher power, then meditation is the act of listening to a higher power. Ken tries to keep a spiritual connection to his higher power all the time by tuning into everything around him. He pays attention to how people react to him. This is the most important gauge of his internal condition.
The process of recovery is a process of removal. A process of coming home.
The First time
Ken was 10 years old when he had his first experience with alcohol. He drank 2 Dixie cups full of green crème de menthe that he chased with a quarter gallon of wine. He kept putting the bottle away because he knew he would get in trouble, but he would turn around and take it right back out again because he wanted more and more. That characterized his addiction. He couldn’t stop no matter what the consequences.
Ken was sexually and physically abused as a child. He remembers being so hungry one time, he drank a toxic amount of Pepto Bismol and had to have his stomach pumped in the emergency room. He was always in a state of fear, anxiety, and anger. He hated himself so much, he would listen to music and punch himself in the face.
As he grew up, Ken walked through his life determined to be the best at everything, including being a drug addict. By 13 years old, he was smoking marijuana every day. By 17, he was drinking every day. By 19, he was shooting dope every chance he could get.
At 17 he committed his first felony, a robbery gone bad. He kicked in a guy’s door and beat him down with a hammer. He was locked up with people who had tied victims to trees and shot them in the head. He had to act tough, but people could tell he was trying too hard. He got beat up a lot.
He wanted to be loved, but he wanted to be feared more, so he armored himself by keeping up with the dangerous lifestyle. When he got out, he used methamphetamines heavily. He made a little meth lab under a bridge. The feds had been watching him, and he got picked up by the police in the middle of a crazed meth-binge.
When I started getting high, it was fun.
He went to a rehab and went through the program with great success. This was because he used during his entire treatment. He had to fess up when it was time for a drug test and was kicked out. The mental ward refused to accept him, and he ended up back in jail facing some huge sentences. Luckily, he ended up with a private attorney who got him out much earlier. He always had help along the way.
So many people in my life saw things inside of me that I couldn’t see myself.
While serving in prison, he started having awakenings. He was 288 pounds, eating, laying around, leeching his family for money. He was an addict without drugs. He found himself thinking, this isn’t so bad. Most guys talked about how they were going to get it together after they got out of prison, but Ken knew he had the opportunity to get a head start on improving himself before getting out.
He made a decision to do something different and he was willing to do whatever it took to change. He took on two jobs making 33 cents an hour. He saved money. He started running every morning and losing wait. He became a grown up. But when he got out of prison, he still lacked the skills he needed to cope with his mental illness and ordinary life. He was more dangerous than when he was using. Ken knows his problem wasn’t the alcohol or drugs. They had been saving him, preventing him from killing someone or committing suicide. Now he had no solution.
My problem is Ken.
Ken succeeded in becoming the hard-assed person he wanted to be, only now he didn’t want to be that person anymore. He went to AA where his sponsor Toby took him through the Big Book for the first time. Ken started confronting his emotional and psychological issues. He started seeing the light, but he had to hit multiple bottoms after his first time working the steps with Toby.
In the end, Toby relapsed and died as an active addict. Ken was devastated and thought he’d end up that way too, but he didn’t give up and he finally started listening. He took all that Toby and the others in the rooms taught him and pushed on. Ken had been existing, and now he needed to start living. That is what he does today and every day, clean and sober.
What kept Ken from getting clean?
Ken blames his patterns of behavior and his thought process. He found more power in the feeling of relief instead of the release than comes from recovery.
That aha moment
His aha moment was the day he was walking around the prison yard thinking, this is not so bad. It was the first time he decided to do something different. He was doing the third step and he didn’t even know it. From that point forward, despite all the pitfalls, he’s never stopped moving forward.
The Big Book
With that book, all other things are possible.
It’s okay to make mistakes, just start making new mistakes.
Suggestion for the newcomers
Give yourself a chance. So often we sit in the room and don’t give ourselves a chance. Addicts are used to getting what they want right now, but recovery takes time.
Put the same effort, or one one-hundredth of the effort into getting sober as you did getting high.
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.