How Recovery Made Me A Published Author

By billymanas 04/01/19

Once I had enough recovery time to take on a service commitment, I began to volunteer to take meetings into our county jail every week. I had never been incarcerated before and it certainly wasn’t any place I felt comfortable being, but it was crucial for my early recovery to take some time to help others and do whatever I could to take the focus off myself for a few minutes each week.

Generally, I would try to find a volunteer speaker to bring, but as this was a jail, I wasn’t always successful. In those instances, I would have to take on the dual role of the meeting leader and the speaker.

Speaking at a jail takes a little finesse. You certainly don’t want to discuss your past or your war stories. Besides the fact that everyone who’s ever used substances has the same stories, it really does nothing to help anyone. I was taught to keep it “in the solution,” and, because of this, most of my speaking was focused on what I was presently doing with my new life.

As I began to speak, I could feel something shifting inside of myself. I always knew when I was tapping into that place of authenticity because after a few awkward moments, the words came easily. I would talk about how I learned to drive a truck and started making the most income I’ve ever made in my life, how I met a woman and fell in love and how we started a beautiful family.

I noticed the guys that attended my meetings would just light up when they saw how happy I was with my new life. In me, they saw themselves. I could tell that I was able to convey that it was entirely possible for any of them to experience the same outcome I did. It was an incredible feeling to know that I was leaving a group of guys in a completely different mood than when I got there.

A lot of these guys were stuck in a broken system. I noticed that many of them went straight from the Special Education programs in public schools to probation for petty offenses. From probation, the next step usually involved failing a drug screen and from there, it just became an incessant revolving door of incarceration and recidivism.

Barring a wholesale change in our country’s penal system, the only hope a lot of these guys had of ever living a decent life was recovery. There was no way around the reality that they needed to keep any and all substances out of their bodies for enough time to get “off paper.” I was able to show up every week and prove that it can work.

One thing I noticed after each meeting, was the amount of questions I would get about how I learned commercial driving, how I paid for it, how long the school took to complete, how available the jobs were and so on.

This made an impression on me and before long, I had the idea to distill my experiences and my story into a non-fiction recovery book. I named it “Rockstar Recovery”, not so much because I was a musician, but because after what I had been through, the fact that I had a job where I was making over $70,000 a year, the fact that I had a new car and was supporting a family—well that made me feel like a rockstar.

It wasn’t all that easy to explain this to my publisher. They thought the title was a bit much and connoted debauchery—which, of course, is the polar opposite of what the book was about. I tried to explain that, much in the way that Jen Sincero’s “Badass” books were not about how to go into saloons and start fights, the word rockstar has evolved into something less sinister, as well.

Presently, I am still not certain that they will allow me to keep my title, but sometimes I feel like it’s neither here nor there. The one thing that is important is that I get out my message to as many people as I possibly can: not only is it absolutely possible to not use substances, but it can lead to the realization of the most fabulous dreams a person can imagine.

The only way recovery has been proven to work is if the “white knuckle” aspect can be removed. The focus needs to be shifted from the deprivation of something to the gift of something. When it is felt that way on a visceral level, a person can stop romanticizing a life that was killing them and begin to feel grateful for a life they can be proud of.

Essentially, my goal was to take that excitement that I would create in that institutional rec room every week and bottle it for large scale consumption. My agent  believed in my vision and, eventually, so did my publisher.


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