Real Recovery Success Story
For this weeks Real Recovery Success Story we spoke with Carlos D, New Life House Alumni who is starting his own business at three years sober. We spent some time talking to him about prior attempts at recovery and what changed this time.
New Life House: Was New Life House the first time you tried to get sober?
Carlos: No, I had gone to one other program before.
NLH: What was that like?
Carlos: It was a 30 day treatment, and I wasn’t really trying to get sober at that point. We did a work book and I just copied the step work and it wasn’t something I was serious about doing so I got high around 42 days.
NLH: What was the catalyst for you coming in the house?
Carlos: I was at Delancy Street, which I got kicked out of since I had a huge court case over my head. I got in touch with a lawyer who had 2 kids go through the house and he helped get me in the house.
NLH: What was that court case all about?
Carlos: I got picked up for armed robbery and attempted armed robberies.
NLH: Were the robberies a method to pay for your addiction?
Carlos: Yeah, definitely.
NLH: Did the courts mandate you to get sober?
Carlos: Yes, It wasn’t like I was going to go anywhere, and since I wasn’t interested in going to prison I stayed; but by month two I jumped in and decided it was something I wanted to do for myself. I saw guys who were sober and happy, which I wasn’t before I got sober, so I decided to do the deal.
NLH: What were your biggest struggles in the house?
Carlos: Basically, my biggest struggles were listening to people that were younger than I was. I was the oldest guy at that point and very set in my ways. It was tough to break that shell and listen to guys who were younger than me, and it was a further challenge to open up to the guys.
NLH: How do the decisions you made before the house effect you today?
Carlos: I’m still on probation – I actually saw my probation officer today and it went well. There are fines and fees I still have to pay back. It hasn’t effected me so far in the work place, and I’ve been able to get good jobs. I’ve heard you’re unemployable with a record like mine but with the career path I’ve taken, I haven’t had my background check that tough.
NLH: What is the career path you’ve taken?
Carlos: Sales, and I’m now a business owner.
NLH: What was it like going from working in the house, to now owning your own business?
Carlos: I mean prior to me getting sober, I didn’t have a job for 8 years, and my first job was pretty eye-opening. I have been fired from every job I ever had before the house, and since I started working around 5 months in the house I have been back in the rhythm. I like to work, but I didn’t even know how to send an email at first, so I asked the guys around me and they showed me how to use the computer. I excelled at my first job, and was able to move up to S2 at Park View Credit. I was a valued employee but I resigned after I got to the top and realized it wasn’t something I wanted to do long term. I went on to something different, which was business financing and we dealt with operating capital and business leasing, But I resigned after 6 months, and didn’t get fired like all my previous jobs. A few months later I was talking to my sponsor and he encouraged me to open up my own thing. My business partners are both sober and its pretty exciting for someone like myself, with no college education, to do what I do now, compared to me being heavily involved in crime, and its extremely exciting to go this route. I never dreamt of owning my own business, and thought I’d be working at McDonalds because of my record. Things have really fallen into place.
NLH: What kind of business is it?
Carlos: It is a credit repair business.
NLH: What kind of hoops did you have to jump through to start your own business?
Carlos: I had some excellent help, and one of my business partners owned a business previous, and has been a wealth of knowledge to know what needs to get done. The other partner is very good with the computer. The struggles so far have been answering the unknown, I didn’t expect it to be this much work to get it up and running. This is an experience that a lot of people don’t get to experience because they’re not willing to take the risk.
NLH: You said your business partners were sober – did you meet them through the house?
Carlos: Yes, one guy I met in the house and the other guy is actually my sponsor who went through the house.
NLH: Do you have any advice for people who’d like to start their own business?
Carlos: Yeah, there is a lot of research to do. The sky’s the limit and we shouldn’t limit ourselves to the norm; just because of your past and you have struggled with addiction in the past it doesn’t mean you should limit yourself. Like I said, I never dreamed of getting this far and never thought I’d be fully self-supporting and it’s amazing that I’m able to take care of what I need to take care of. I’ve really grown up in sobriety – yeah I’m older and lived on my own, but I’ve never had insurance and taken care of my responsibilities and I’m able to do that today.
NLH: What challenges have you had to face “growing up” in sobriety at the age of 35?
Carlos: A big challenge of mine has been taking advice from other people, and like they say I ran on my own will for so long that I was very set in my ways. I allow people to make suggestions and hold me accountable and I apply what they suggest to me today. I stay open and honest with my core group and I don’t hang onto things like I used to. When problems arise, I’ve learned to take care of it immediately. I used to hide from my problems or run from them, and not choose to take a look at them, but now when things come up I handle them.
NLH: In what ways did New Life set you up for success?
Carlos: The house really ingrained in me a level of work ethic and scheduling that I didn’t have before. I schedule out my day and follow through with good work ethic. We were very regimented in the house as far as the schedule goes, and I learned how to be accountable to a schedule, one that I put in place for myself for each day. I’ve learned how to stand up for myself too and this is essential to working in business, I’m not willing to be a door mat and if its not right I’ve learned how to stand up for myself in an appropriate way. I also learned how to hold myself accountable and keep myself in gear. In general too, I really learned how to take care of things, like calling people to get health / car insurance, buying my first car in sobriety and I learned how to budget my money too. I used to blow all my money with drugs or partying and I have really learned how to keep to a tight budget so far in sobriety, and I learned this in the house.
NLH: Was there anything particularly important about the structure of New Life house to help you obtain long-term sobriety?
Carlos: Definitely, the amount of meetings, the graduate meetings, and I’m not someone to go through many sober livings, but going to set meetings set me up for long-term sobriety because everything we did was recovery based, and the only people I hang out with today are in recovery; my best friends today are guys I went through the house with. I got a group of friends in sobriety because of the house that I’ve put a lot of work in and this was the biggest take away for me because these guys are my best friends today.
NLH: What was it like graduating, moving out of the house, and what’s it like now that you’ve been out of the house for 2 years?
Carlos: I graduated at 14 months, and moved out at 15 months. I moved out into a house with guys that had a year or 2 more of sobriety of me. It was a pretty smooth transition and I did all of the same exact things I did in the house once I moved out, and that’d be my advice to continue what you did in the house even outside of it.
NLH: You’ve been in the relationship for a while now, what’s it like dating in sobriety?
Carlos: Dating in sobriety has been really good to me, I was lucky to meet a woman in sobriety who I really enjoy and is pursuing her masters degree and very involved in the program. We don’t argue over petty things and we are able to hash things out in a healthy way. I am able to listen to my girlfriend now, and this is a major contrast to the way I used to use women in my past. Our relationship is a two way street and I’m able to listen to her expectations and apply them which was something I was never able to do and vise versa.
NLH: What is your involvement with the house like now?
Carlos: I have a sponsee in the house currently, and have had a few that have gone through the house. I still go back to take rides and come by for the big house meeting on Tuesday when I can.
NLH: How much time sober do you have?
Carlos: 3 years and 4 months sober and a little over 2 years out of the house.
NLH: Do you have any advice for the guys in the house, their parents, and people in AA?
Carlos: Don’t put limitations on yourself, just because you’re sober and have a rough past doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your dreams in life.
NLH: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Carlos: I wouldn’t take back my past because it has gotten me to the point that I am at now. My past is part of what has made me who I am today, which is an honest, reliable, hard working, and driven individual.
Thanks for your time Carlos!