Emotional Sobriety Through Forgiveness

In this episode, Jeff B. leads a discussion on his own journey of forgiveness.

Emotional Sobriety Through Forgiveness
Jeff B.

Jeff B. is an alumni of Sierra Tucson.


Prakash Chandran (Host): Forgiveness can be a key aspect in healing after recovery, but for some, it can also be a long and difficult process. Today, we're going to hear one man's story and learn about what emotional sobriety really means. My name is Prakash Chandran and here to talk with us today is Jeff an alumni of Sierra Tucson. Jeff, thank you so much for joining us today. I'd love to start by learning a little bit more about you and your journey.

Jeff: My journey with recovery and that sort of thing started a few years before I went to Sierra Tucson in 2007. Primarily, what got me there was work related. And really just the idea of being in a family business and also trying to find my place where I fit in, you know, with my brother or my father being in a family business for so long, that really what it was is just, you know, trying to find a way to, you know, be able to have my drug addictions, be angry all the time, and be resentful and somehow find a way to be happy. And it just wasn't working. So, that sort of led me to a life of over these last 13 to 14 years recovery and finding a better way to do things.

Host: Now, before we talk about that motivating factor that led you down the journey of forgiveness, I wanted to ask you what told you that you needed to do something when you were in the midst of the addiction? Because I have a lot of friends that have been through recovery and coming to the decision that something needed to be done, is not necessarily easy. So, what did that look like for you?

Jeff: Yeah, that's a really great question. Really, what I think the direct motivation was is I kept trying so many different things to be happy, to be sort of secure, to be self-confident. But everything always included using drugs. My drug of choice was marijuana. And in 2004, 2005, it wasn't believed to be as addictive as it might be today. And so there was a belief that I could continue to use and somehow, or another behave in a, in a way that might be able to help me grow. And I was getting to a point, you know my life with children and marriage and career that I had to start maturing. And no matter what I was able to do, if it always included drugs, I just wasn't able to get there.

And tha really was the thing, I just sort of felt cornered. It felt like I couldn't move and I couldn't really kind of grow anymore. You know, it was one of those things where I felt like really something had to give and something had to change.

Host: Yeah, thank you so much for that clarity. So, one of the things that you mentioned was you trying to find a place in the business between your dad and your brother, and that was the motivational force that caused you to realize something needed to change. However, what took you down the path of forgiving yourself? You know, that is a whole separate thing that is so important for someone to process. What did that look like for you?

Jeff: It was a lot of shame and just not feeling like I was good enough. And no matter what I did in work, I kept looking externally for that input. And really what I think the biggest motivating factor for me had to be this idea that I felt like I could treat everybody, you know, and anyone like I was right all the time. I didn't have to listen to anyone. I didn't have to respect them, that I was who I was. I was very ego-driven and by being very ego-driven, I was alienating a lot of people. Most importantly, my brother and my father, who as much as they were, father family; it was mostly, they were business partners too.

And so that sort of thing just didn't fly in the business world. And it was mostly kind of within the four walls of the business. Externally we could kind of keep it together a little bit, but it just got to the point that after a while something had to give.

Host: Yeah. Now sometimes people that kind of goes through this journey, they have other people in their lives that are watching them go through it that are sometimes facilitating the addiction that they're going through. So, sometimes there's forgiveness to be had for the others that took part in your addiction. So, was that true for you? And if so, how did you begin forgiving those people?

Jeff: The forgiveness around my addiction, it was really all about me. My wife and I were very much in it together in a lot of ways, but for me, it was really separating those two things. It wasn't about blaming anyone anymore. It was for me to really take responsibility and start to do what I needed to do to get better.

And really it was, I was in this very severe sort of victim mentality that everything that went wrong in my life was happening to me and the whole world was out there to sort of get me. So, that process of forgiveness for me was really about first of all, forgiving myself, for making this choice for so long.

But most importantly, is starting to realize that the people that I thought were against me, the people that I thought didn't have my best interests in mind was really just sort of a delusion in my head. A story I kept telling myself that really wasn't what was going on until I cleared my head and started to sort through those feelings and those beliefs that I wasn't going to get any better.

Host: So, you just talked a little bit about the process of forgiveness and in talking with you now, it seems like you have put in a lot of work, but talk to us about the beginning of that journey. Was this something that was instantaneous or did it take some time?

Jeff: It took time, you know, and I think if anybody out there is listening and wishing that this could come to them it's, the important thing of making that decision to forgive, to see things differently, I think is the biggest. I think, for me, my perception was so warped of my life of I thought, what would work for me?

The type of things that I thought really the way things were. And I had this belief that I knew, and I think over time, really what started to change was this belief that I didn't know, that perhaps I might be wrong about the way I was experiencing or seeing things. And that was a process that took a long time, but I think the most important thing for me in that process was starting to see both my father and my brother, differently.

Realizing that if I took responsibility for the way that I behaved, and if I took responsibility for the actions that I took against them and the beliefs that I had, that all of a sudden things could very much start to change for me. And it was a long time that those things happened.

And it was over that amount of time that if I kept very true to myself and true to my beliefs, that I wanted a relationship with my brother. I wanted a relationship with my father, not people in business or other expectations or, you know, sort of things that I demanded from them. Then all of a sudden what I once thought was the truth and what was real, really began to change. And that reinforced my belief that, huh, maybe if I started thinking about this a little bit differently, things could change.

Host: Now, you know, when you started on this journey, which I know that you have mentioned takes a while, what was the first step for you? Was it like a conversation with your brother and your father? Tell us a little bit about the very beginning for you and what steps you took.

Jeff: I came back from Sierra Tucson and I did a lot of self exploration. You know, a lot of work around the shame that I had felt, around the way that I behaved, things that happened to me in my past, whatever abuses or that type of thing and traumas I had been through emotionally, mostly. And then when I got back, I really put myself into the program of alcoholics anonymous and the 12 Steps. I have been seeing a therapist and doing a lot of work for about three to four years prior to going to Sierra Tucson. And it just became a situation where finally, the consultants that were sort of helping with the transition and the succession of our family business, looked at me and said you got to get yourself some help, or you just got to get outta here.

And at that point I had sort of a decision point to make. So, what I decided was is to start getting well, and going to Sierra Tucson was part of that process. But once I got into AA and I started to realize that it wasn't really about alcohol. That nobody in those meetings drank, nobody really cared what my drug of choice was, but everybody was trying to get joyous, happy, and free. That was the goal. That was what the AA Promises promised you. But what was really difficult was is to actually do that work, to get to that point. And so I began to go to a meeting that was really all about forgiveness and the person that ran it, sort of encouraged spiritual experiences.

So, not just this idea of thinking about things differently, but actually going and doing them. And so for me, with my brother and my father, I had gone, I worked the program. I had made my ammends to them, but like six months into it, nothing had changed, you know, because my perception hadn't changed. I really still believe that, oh, hey, I'm sober.

I haven't used drugs or alcohol in over six months. Why isn't everybody changing? And what really needed to change was me. And so by going to meetings and immersing myself with people who had sort of had these not only spiritual experiences, but these great changes around whether it was an exwife, it might've been someone in their life that had done them wrong or whatever it might be, but going to them and continually working to forgive them.

I started to slowly chip away and see the results of that work that proved to me that wow, if I keep doing this, I might actually be able to unhook myself from all these things that I keep thinking that people are doing wrong to me. And really what it was is my desire to sort of fix, manage and control other people.

And when I stopped having these expectations and demands as to how they would behave and started owning the fact that was sort of my perception, construct of how things worked, that all of a sudden they started to change immensely. And that was really the process that I worked on with the two of them.

Host: Yeah. You know, I'd love to talk a little bit more about that. You talked about like the needing to control things and that obviously changed as a result of this forgiveness work you were doing. How else did you change as a result?

Jeff: For me it was, I started letting a lot more stuff go. Things like starting to realize that, you know, the way a person behaves is the way that they behave. I didn't have to take it personally. And when I started to embrace that idea, all of a sudden, you start to see a person's personality and understand that oh, that's how they are.

You know, it might be someone who you text and might not text you back for three days. And when they do, they text you back and they're asking you for something. You know, normally I would spend that three days being resentful or angry, or, but now it's a process of in my head laughing at the fact that well, I don't have an expectation, you know, I didn't ask them anything super critical.

They might be busy, whatever it might be, as opposed to spending those three days creating this incredible resentment or something about them that might make me angry. Those were the kind of behaviors that for me started to really change was not looking at everything as so personal and just letting go of things because you know what, they weren't making me happy.

And when I held on to them, they didn't make me happy either, but when I let go of them and I stopped having opinions about when a person should get back to you via text or grievances about, well, that one time, you know, just not waiting to get to talk to them and say, you didn't return my text for three days, whatever the case may be. All of a sudden, I had a lot more time to be happy and a lot less time to work on that anger and that resentment, which ultimately is sort of a toxic way to go through life.

Host: Yeah, absolutely. So, one of the things that I wanted to address is when I look at the people that have gone through recovery in my life, they kind of go through, I mean, for lack of a better comparison, a little bit of an apology tour. And I mean that in a positive way, like they're going through because they feel shame and they feel like they've wronged the people in their lives.

And what's interesting is that after they speak to them, or, you know, in some cases, when my friends came to me, they realized that the damage that they thought that they had done was not actually as bad as what was in their mind. So, in a sense, the process of forgiveness actually gave them more strength and it made them stronger because it turns out that the things that they were most worried about weren't really true at all. Did you find that to be the case for you as well?

Jeff: Absolutely. You know, I think that to me is what's so powerful about the amends process. It's usually a part of everyone's program that they stall or they hold off on. And to me, my sponsor played a pretty funny trick on me. He said, well, who is the, who's the last person on your list? Who's the person you want to go to least, you know, and of course, that was my father.

And he said, all right, great, let's start there. And you know, immediately this warm feeling of fear came over me, but when I sat down with him to go over it and you know, and I had my in this list in my head of, like you said, the stories we tell ourselves, how horrible we were about these things.

You realize that, you know, everybody is capable of love and forgiveness. It's an innate part of them. And when you call upon them in a situation where you're going to sit with them and you're going to kind of share this experience with them, it's hard for that not to come up.

Sure. You might run into some people that have just got a tremendous amount of anger and they can't wait to let it out. But I guess even in that case, you don't know what it is and if they do let it out, that's a very healing process. So, you're exactly right. It's something that it really proved to me that I really don't know the story.

You know, and I think that's, I think the biggest part of recovery in general, is this idea that we know the amount of shame we should feel and how we should punish ourselves and not forgive ourselves, because what we did was absolutely inexcusable in our eyes or in our beliefs. But in that other person that we may have thought we wronged, it's the least important thing.

Most of the stuff they don't even remember. It's not as a big a deal to them. And I think that's an important thing to remember about when it's okay to let yourself off the hook and forgive yourself.

Host: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, there may be someone listening to this that is going through their own journey of emotional forgiveness and you having so much experience with this through all of the lessons that you've learned. If you had one message to share with them, what would that be?

Jeff: I think the message would be is the power of this and to remember that they are someone that is made of pure love and most importantly, is they deserve to forgive and let go of what other wrongs they might feel have been done to them or that they have done. And I think most importantly is, there is a rule that this sort of group that I go to follows is that you forgive everyone for everything no matter what.

And it's such an important rule to follow because there is not one person out there who cannot and should not be forgiven, especially if they are stealing your peace of mind. And when I say peace of mind, I say the one with peace sign, P-E-A-C-E. If you are not at peace, that is the person that you need to go to, to forgive, because that is, and it doesn't have to necessarily be anything other than going to them and just not liking the way that you've been thinking about them lately, and slowly chipping away at that because most people that we need to forgive are in our lives and are all about us or they're in our heads a hundred percent of the time. And again, that is just not something that should be taken lightly.

It should be understood that, you know, to let go, is your freedom, is your peace and whatever work needs to be done, it's not nearly as scary as the story that you're telling has to be done. You can do it.

Host: Well, that is a great message to end on. But before we do Jeff, how are you doing? And where are you on this journey?

Jeff: Where I am now is I have a wonderful relationship with both my father and my brother. Sort of done this work with my brother, he's had three beautiful children and all three of them don't know me as that uncle, you know, who I thought I was a long time ago. They know me as, uncle Jeff and I have this wonderful relationship with them.

My brother, my sister-in-law and my entire family and my children, most importantly don't know me as that addict who was angry. You know, they know me as a loving father and uncle and I feel that I show that way up for my friends and his as well as my friends in recovery, as well is, they want to know how I did it.

They want to be with me. They want to be a part of me. I want to be with them, which I think is the biggest thing is today for me to actually go into any situation, not necessarily wondering how I can help, but how I can make it a little bit better by being a part of it.

Host: Well, Jeff, thank you so much for sharing your story today. I truly appreciate it.

Jeff: And thank you. I appreciate your time.

Host: This has been My Miracle Radio by Sierra Tucson Alumni Relations. For more information, please visit Sierratucson.com. Thank you so much for listening. My name is Prakash Chandran and we'll talk next time.