Living A Full Life In Recovery

"One day it just clicks…You realize what is important and what isn't, you learn to care less about what other people think of you and care more about what you think of yourself. You realize how far you have come and you remember thinking that things were in such a mess they'd never recover and then you smile. You smile because you are truly proud of yourself and the person you have fought to become."

This quote was given to me during my early days of recovery. I remember hoping and praying that someday these words would ring true for myself. Nearly four years later, I can honestly say the above statement rings true for me over and over again.

I was 33 days sober and hours out of treatment when my biggest, most shameful secret was found out by my wife of 20 years. Just days after that news, I was told my employers were fearful of me returning to work "post-rehab." Things were such a mess, indeed. Divorce loomed, I was unemployed, and financial fear became real. All I could do was surround myself in the fellowship and pray to stay away from a drink and a drug a day at a time.  Soon, 33 days turned to 60 days, to 90 days... During this time, I disclosed the news of me being gay and the pending divorce to my daughters, who were 16, 15, and 11 at the time. Needless to say, they were overtaken by confusion, anger, and sadness. My priority of staying sober stayed at the forefront of everything, closely followed by staying connected to my children.

Just after Christmas 2015, I moved out of our family home and into my brother's house. I continued to pound the pavement for work. Work did not materialize for some time. Accounts were drained, family helped out, but there were days where I had to forego picking up my children from school because I could not afford a tank of gas. Through all of this, I was constantly reminded to have faith, practice gratitude, and be humble. I did everything I was told to do. I carried around the AA Promises and read them over and over, day in and day out.

In the Spring of 2017, I took a job as a landscaper in my town of Watch Hill, RI. It was a $15/hour job to weed, mulch, and care for many of the gardens I used to enjoy looking at as a guest at cocktail parties. I practiced humility and stayed in gratitude. There were days when I had no idea how I was going to keep myself and my family afloat. Admittedly, the hourly wage was helping, but it only put a small dent in our fixed expenses. I soon realized a change was in order. I kept banging on the doors for the same job I had for 27 years, but no doors were opening.

I was intrigued by the business of addiction and recovery. How could I use my skills as a marketer and communicator in this field? I began to network. I soon landed a consulting job with O'Connor Professional Group, a concierge behavioral health company. I was tasked with business development in the New York City area. This led to many more introductions, including one to Trey Laird, CEO & Founder of The Lighthouse. As my consulting gig wound down, I called Trey in December 2017 and told him I wanted to work for him. Luckily, he agreed to my proposal and took me on as a consultant. I believe in The Lighthouse model of recovery. I saw tremendous growth potential and the great fortune in working with people in early recovery. As they say, the rest is history. My story continues to unfold.

Today, I write this on a train traveling through Ireland with my 3 beautiful daughters. A day I thought I would never see again. A day I am still sober and being the best, most honest, and authentic father I can be. I do not regret the past, nor do I shut the door on it. Instead, I smile! I smile because I am genuinely proud of myself and the person I have fought to become.


John Makohen