Cortland Pfeffer joins today us on The SHAIR Podcast.  Cortland is the author of “Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution.”

Cortland spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails, before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. This is a story about recovery that goes inside the mental health and addiction field, revealing the problems and providing a spiritual solution.

Join us now as Cortland takes us through his battle with addiction and his inspirational journey of recovery.

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Listen to Cortland’s story now!

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Below are just a few questions we answered in Cortland’s interview.

Omar: What was keeping you from getting clean or staying clean when you first got introduced to recovery?

Cortland P: Fear. I wanted to feel that connection. I felt like I could talked to people more when I was drinking, I felt more bonded and I thought, I don’t know how I can do this without drugs or alcohol. I wanted that feeling of connections the alcohol gave me.

Omar:  At what point did you have that 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 the hope that you could recover?

Cortland P: I would say when I was holding Maddock and I thought, “Man, how am I going to do this? How am I going to do this? I don’t know but I’m going to try,” and then a tidal wave came through me. It’s like a battle. You know you’re going to take some punches and beatings… words will never do it justice. It’s like you’re outside of yourself and you become pure again.

And then there was another time I was in the hospital, like I said, when I lost everything and I’m supposed to be pissed off and I was like, “Wait a second. I feel free. It’s all the stuff that I thought was making me who I am, that’s the stuff that’s holding me down and making me depressed.” Both times, it was this peace I can’t … like I talked about before about when I did cocaine, I felt this peace. I felt that and I felt it without drugs and I thought, “Oh my god. This is what life is. I want this.”

Omar:  Do you have a favorite book that you could recommend to our newcomers that you read in early recovery?

Cortland P: When I was in early recovery, I was sitting in my parents’ basement in despair, my brother comes over, he says “Here. Look at this book.” It was called, “Fear,” from Thich Nhat Hahn. And the first page it says, “Number one. You will die. Number two. Everything you love and hold dear will eventually be separated from you. Three. You will become ill.” And I thought, “Brian, you’re giving me a book that says this shit when I’m desperate?” But then I thought, “If I think like that, I’m going to cherish every moment.” And I read that book and then I read another of his and another. That book, of course, most of his books started to say the same thing in different ways, but that book “Fear” and “The Four Agreements” from Don Miguel Ruiz, that blew me away.

Omar:  All right. So, number four, what is the best suggestion you have ever received?

Cortland P: I was in an AA meeting once and there was this old retired police officer in there and I just loved listening to him talk for some reason and he said, “You know how I can tell how I’m doing?” And I said, “How?” And he said, “My dog.” And I said, “What are you talking about?” And he said, “Well, a dog is a dog. A dog sits there and acts the same every day, but some days I’m thinking, ‘You stupid dog, what are you doing sitting on the couch, you idiot.’ And some days I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m petting the dog.’ The dog,” he said, “was a barometer as to how I was doing mentally. And I thought, wow. Sometimes I think about that looking on Facebook. Is everything everybody’s saying pissing me off? That means something’s going on with me.

Omar:  If you could give our newcomers only one suggestion, what would that be?

Cortland P: Every recovery is different. I call it a mask we put on and we all have different masks based on our culture, our upbringing, things that happened to us, our traumas, our lives. So every mask needs to be uniquely removed. So, if I were going to go to you and say, “Oh, your recovery needs to be this and this and this and this,” that’s not necessarily true. Every recovery is different. What works for you might not work for me, but there is some similarities in every recovery and I think the one ingredient that has to be there is human connection and the ability to be self-aware. Looking in the mirror and soul searching is hard, but your recovery is your own. Try everything and what works for you works for you. Keep trying. Keep fighting.

I will never lie. If I’m walking through a treatment center and I see somebody saying, “I’m fine. I’m okay.” I’m like, “This is not working.” But if I see somebody slamming their phone, crying at their family, I walk by and I think, “That’s beautiful. It’s working. You’re starting to feel these emotions that you never felt before. You’ve never been willing to feel before. It’s going to be painful. It’s going to suck. You’re going to be lonely. You’re going to feel awful and you’re going to think people who say it’s beautiful are crazy, but if you keep going, when you get to the other side of that bridge, it’s amazing.

Social Media

WebsiteTaking the Mask Off

Twitter – @takemaskoff2014

Facebook Taking the Mask Off

Recommended Books:

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom – by Don Miguel Ruiz

Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm – by Thich Nhat Hanh

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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.