My Journal

Rap Songs About Recovery

Rap Songs About Recovery

I used to drink every single day at WORK!

10 Long Island Teas. 10 double shots of Grand Marnier.

That is how I would start every day at the office. First thing. Before I could get any work done, I had to down at least a couple of each.

Now, full disclosure, I am a full-time musician. I make money from playing music in bars and restaurants i.e. “The Office.” It may be one of the very few jobs where drinking is actually ENCOURAGED on the job.

Sounds awesome, right?

Not at all. I guess it is at first, but it gets old really fast. Because the more your drink, the more you NEED to drink to have a good time. It got to the point where I was living out one of the famous scenes from The Blues Brother’s movie. I would have to pay more for my bar tab than I was getting paid for my services.

And then afterward, I would spend the rest of my money at Taco Bell.

That is what we call an unsustainable business model. And it was. Both for my pocketbook and my body.

It got to the point where I was drinking at least 20 drinks a night and still not feeling a thing. I would throw up from all the shear intake of liquid, then turn around and keep drinking hoping that eventually I would get a little buzz.

Dude. What a miserable existence.

I knew I had to quit when I ended up the E.R. with severe heart palpitations. That was my rock bottom. And I walked out of that hospital and began my sobriety journey.

The hardest part for me was still playing in bars every night. Just because I wasn’t drinking, that didn’t mean i didn’t have to go to work. I had to sit there and watch everyone party around me.

It really sucked.

I was jealous and pissed a lot. I was probably not a lot of fun to be around either.

But it did get better with time.

Anyhoo, the whole reason I am telling you all of this is because one of the biggest saviors in my recovery has been music. I have been able to put all my struggles into rap songs about recovery. It has given me an outlet to pour all my emotion into. I don’t know what I would do without it. I mean, I would still recover one day at a time, but having music to turn to has been a game changer for me.

One of the first songs I wrote about my recovery was a song called “Pain.” As you might guess, it was a song about just how bad my life had gotten. I was in a lot of physical pain and even more emotional pain. I was struggling to see any hope or any way out. So I sat down and wrote a super honest song about it.

Pain” was really hard to write. I knew if I was going to do this song, I had to be brutally honest. There are a few lines in that song that I still cringe when I hear because it takes me back to that awful place.

Here is one particularly rough part of the song for me to listen to:

“Every day is a battle of wills,
My body versus me and who's got the skills?
Will I get out of bed, able to walk with a high head,
Or will I need a wheelchair instead?
I have to choose if the joy of sitting down is worth the pain of getting up,
Man, writing that down and saying it out loud feels really messed up.”

It was true. I could barely walk and I was headed for a wheelchair for sure. At the age of 40 I was about to need a wheelchair. Not because of any injury or life-threatening disease, but because I couldn’t stop drinking and eating and I had gained so much weight that my body was crumbling beneath me.

One of the first songs I wrote after going to a food recovery retreat and starting to work the 12 steps of Overeaters Anonymous (same as Alcoholics Anonymous), was a song called “The Mess Around.” I wrote this song with my good friend Chela Mancuso.

This was one of the first songs I wrote when I started to see hope again. This was a fun one to write and record. I still enjoy listening to this one because it reminds me of the hope I have found in recovery!

The Mess Around is all about telling my former drinking buddies why I don’t drink anymore. Basically , get off my case, stop asking me to “just have one dude!” because I don’t mess around anymore.

The lyrics in the third verse really sum it all up:

“ I don't mess around anymore 'cuz I am finally free,
I don't need to impress you people, I can let it be,
And I don't need to escape and numb my feelings out,
I'm not afraid anymore, yo, you should check this out,
See there's a reason that you're here, just have to take the time,
Be willing, honest and sure to open up your mind,
And when you do, I think it's safe to say you're gonna find,
It's time to leave that mess behind, and time to shine.”

I am so thankful for all the songs on my Welcome To The Fellowship album. Each song chronicles a different aspect of my recovery. These songs were a way to get the pain out but they were also a way to express my hope and joy that was starting to come back into my life.

I still go back and listen to these songs quite often. They inspire me and remind me that I’m not alone on this journey. I am part of a “distinct entity” of folks in recovery and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this family.

I hope you know that you are never alone. You are surrounded by people who want to love you. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

And when you just don’t know what else to do, please don’t forget that music has the power to change your life. Find the music that speaks to you, turn it on and let it wash over you. Music has always shouted truth to me over all the lies rambling around in my brain.

It’s ready and waiting to do the same for you.



People Need People: The Role Of Community

I had a friend in college who always used to say “No man is an island.” I mean, he said it all the time. We used to make fun of him because he said it so much.

But even back then, we knew he was right. We knew that if we had to go through our college years alone, we would be miserable. We would probably drop out of college and move in to our favorite cardboard box.

There was no way we could do life without each other.

And then we grew up. My friends moved away. I started to believe that I didn’t need people. And the next thing you know, I am a 500-pound alcoholic living a miserable, lonely life.

What happened?

What happened is I moved to that island. Maybe not physically, but I moved there in my mind. After getting hurt once or twice, I decided I didn’t like that too much. I decided I was going to live with as little human interaction as possible. I mean, people were the problem, right?

If I just keep people away, I can focus on me. I can do whatever I need to do to be happy. I won’t get distracted by other people’s agendas. I can just focus on myself. That is what I thought my solution was. But I was wrong.

It turns out people weren’t the problem. They were actually the solution.

All this life of isolation brought me was extreme misery, depression and loneliness. It seems so obvious now, but I really couldn’t understand why I was so sad. I did everything I thought I was supposed to do to be happy.

I needed people. I needed people bad. And once I realized this, I started taking drastic actions. The first thing I did, and probably one of the best things I have ever done for myself, was I got a job at Applebee’s.

Now, this may not seem like the dream job, and for sure, it wasn’t, but what it was was a chance for me to meet people. Not only meet people, but bond with them.

If you have every worked in the service industry, you know it is hard work. And you are in the trenches with your fellow “Applebuddy’s” every day. There is a strong bond that is created with that.

And even though I quit that job years ago, I am still friends with a lot of those people to this day. That says a lot to me.

It says that I needed these people. And maybe they needed me too. We were all so hungry for connection and we found it at America’s favorite grill and bar.

If you are feeling isolated or depressed, I would challenge you to look at your community. Are you involved with others? Are you calling friends regularly? Are you going to neighborhood events? Are you talking to people at church after the service?

There are so many things we can do to bring people into our lives. I promise, your new friends are out there just waiting for you to say “hi.” That one simple word can change your life. It for sure changed mine.

And if all else fails, I know Applebee’s is always hiring.

Community
The new single from Chris Swan and Soul Motivation Records
Coming 7.1.19!

How To Find Your Self Worth

A big turning point in my life was when I asked myself:

“What if I just choose to believe in God? What if I choose to believe God is there and what if I just start to look for evidence of Him working in my life? What have I got to lose? I mean seriously, what’s the worst thing that would happen?”

I think I was scared of looking like a fool. Scared of people making fun of me. I felt like it was a waste of time to put energy into something that maybe didn’t exist. But the truth is, I was wasting my time trying to find another solution for God. I was wasting money paying for alcohol, food, girls, whatever it took to fill the void in my life. The void I felt was an absence of spiritual health. Whether you call Him God, the universe, or your higher power, I could feel that a big part of me was missing when I wasn’t connected to God. And trying to fill that void with other things was killing me. So the truth was, I couldn’t afford NOT to believe anymore.

Once I realized I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, I knew I had to make that change. I decided to believe and just have faith that God was there. And even more importantly, I decided to start looking for how He was working in my life. As soon as I chose to see it, it was abundantly obvious that He was working in my life.

I started a list of all the little “God things” that started happening. And as soon as I started seeing these things as God working in my life and not just coincidences, I quickly realized that God had been there all along. And even more, I realized how much I mattered! Because if almighty God is taking the time to work all kinds of miracles in my life, big and small, then He must love me a whole lot.

And if God loves me, who am I to not love myself?

How exciting it was to realize this! To know that God cares for me the way He does. God is providing all that I need. He is showing up in my life every day. It’s so amazing to see it! I know that I am supposed to be here and I know God has big plans for my life. That is huge. And I am so grateful that I can finally see that now! The evidence was there all along, all it took was me deciding to see it.

Why Am I Depressed?

Why am i depressed?

I have struggled with depression my whole life. I have had some really great years and I’ve also had some really dark years. But mostly my life has been a day to day combination of both.

When I joined Overeaters Anonymous and started working the 12 steps, I thought “Finally, I found my solution. Now I’ll never be depressed ever again!” Just typing that now makes me realize how silly that thought was, but I so desperately wanted to be free from this sadness that I believed there was a simple solution. All I had to do was fix it and I’m good, right?!

Unfortunately, it is not that simple.

I have been in the program for a little over a year now. It’s been amazing. I have learned so much and have really grown too. Yet, these last few days I have found myself struggling with depression again.

Why is this still happening? I am doing the work. I thought I fixed this!

The truth is there is no “fixing” it. There are things I can do in my daily life to deal with it. And I do believe over time it will get better, but I don’t think it ever goes away. It’s a part of me.

But here is the good news. I don’t have to deal with it alone anymore. I have a sponsor I can talk this stuff through with. I have my fellows that I can hang out with. And most of all, I can turn my sadness over to God and He comforts me. I’ve heard people say that my whole life but I only recently started to understand what that truly meant.

It means that I know I am loved. Unconditionally. It means it’s ok to feel my emotions. It’s ok to feel depressed. I don’t have to fix it. I can sit in it and feel it. Experience it instead of running away from it. And I know I can handle it because God is with me. Always.

I can be depressed and know that my life has a lot of worth because I am a creation of God. I can be depressed and know that God still has a plan for my life. I can be depressed and still see the joy around me. I can be depressed and know that I won’t feel like this forever.

With God all of these things are possible. And He has shown me time and time again that he will not fail me. He will not abandon me.

And that means I’m going to be ok.

Once I realize that, I can deal with the depression a lot better. It’s different now than it was in those dark years a long time ago. The difference is God. And God is good.

I’ve been asking myself this question a lot lately: “How do people do life without God?” I really don’t know. I know when I tried, it did not work. I know that I am grateful to have found God again and to have Him to turn to. I can’t imagine doing life any other way.

AA Without God?

AA Without God?

When I joined OA, the whole “God thing” was a big hang up for me. It kept me from going to AA meetings when I quit drinking years before. I didn’t want someone to tell me to pray more and read the Bible and I’ll be fine. I needed real life solutions to my problems.

The problem with that is it made me bitter and closed off. I wasn’t open to any spiritual discussion because I was so determined to say that a lack of God wasn’t my problem. I was determined to prove I was right. When we are bitter and closed off, we can’t heal. And what I needed more than anything was healing.

Being able to say I was powerless and that there has to be some bigger power at work allowed me to open up and see those real world solutions I had been searching for my whole life. They were always there. All around me. I just couldn’t see them because I had closed my eyes and refused to believe they were there.

I know the whole “God thing” is a big hang up for a lot of people in recovery. It keeps a lot of people away. We cling to our belief of non-belief scared that someone will take it away from us and we will be left with nothing to hold on to. That is a scary thought. But, the truth is, by holding on so tightly to a belief of non-belief, we are missing the whole point.

Don’t bring your personal development and spiritual health to a halt out of fear and selfishness. Open your mind and your heart and I promise you will find the answers you are looking for.

What Is Success In Life?

I have been struggling lately a lot with how I define success. I find myself getting caught up in comparing myself to others. I feel envious whenever I see someone who has more money than I do or has more fans than I do.

I get jealous. But then I also get down on myself. I feel like a failure because I am not measuring up to the person that has a million followers on Instagram. I set these impossible standards for myself and if I don’t reach them, then I have failed. And therefore by definition, I am not succeeding at life.

Just thinking through this and writing it down already shines a light on what is wrong with this thinking. But I still can’t help it sometimes. I feel like if I am not the best, then I am not successful. And that is a recipe for disaster because there will always be someone with more money and more Instagram followers.

That is a game I can never win.

So what does true success look like? Success doesn’t come from others. My success does not depend upon approval from anyone. I don’t have to compare myself to other people. None of that matters.

The only thing that matters is my health - physical, emotional, and spiritual.

With that in mind, I would define success as spiritual progression. Doing a little better today than yesterday is success. Learning to love and accept myself more is success. Spending more time serving others is success.

The truth is I am already successful because I am showing up every day. I am working on myself, sticking to my program and trusting God to lead the way. I am learning more about myself and others each day.

That is success.

I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to be better than anyone else. I only have to be me. I am perfect the way I am because God created me this way. I have the exact amount of Instagram followers I am supposed to have right now. I have all the money that I need and I have an amazing perfect number of fans who love what I do. Everything is as it is supposed to be right now. And I will continue to grow each day.

The truth is I am who God wants me to be today and if that's not success, then I don’t know what is.

Serving Others

“All of me should be serving you”

This year I am putting out a new single every month. Each single represents one of the 12 core principles I believe are the key to a happy and fulfilled life. The first principle was Abundance, the second was Gratitude, third Acceptance and now comes the fourth - Serve.

I have spent a lot of years of my life being extremely selfish. I would spend my days just trying to make myself happy. I was all in my head, making every little thing all about me. I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working.

If I was spending so much time trying to figure how to be happy, why was I still so miserable?

That is where the fourth principle comes in. A life lived only serving ourselves is always going to come up short. We end up feeling lonely, inadequate, frustrated and exhausted. It just doesn’t work. The true path to happiness has to include serving others.

When we serve others, we get outside of our heads. We focus on someone else and take our minds off of our own problems. It gives us freedom from the stresses of life as we spend time working on another’s problems.

It helps us connect with one another and realize we are not alone. It helps us feel understood. We are all brothers and sisters and connected on a deep, spiritual level. The only way to experience that feeling is to spend time together.

Serving others brings us satisfaction in knowing we are useful. It reminds us that we matter. The world needs us and every time we serve another, we are shown how much that is true. We each possess very specific skills that we can use to help others. It is our duty to get out there and use those skills.

Serving others shows us how much we can truly affect our surroundings. Helping someone in a small way can send a huge ripple effect out into the world. If you open a door for someone and ask how their day is going, you put a smile on that person’s face and lift their spirits. That makes them want to do something nice for the next person. And then that person goes out does something for another and on and on it goes.

Serving another can actually change the world. Isn’t that amazing?

Serving others makes us feel good. It’s the combination of all these things that brings us joy and peace. It puts our problems in perspective and reminds us how much we have to live for. Serving is a way to change the world, yes. But it is also a way to change OUR own world.

I hope on April 1st, 2019 you will take a listen to my new single Serve. I think it will remind you how important this principle is to all of us and it might just inspire you to start a ripple of your own!

One Day At A Time

One day at a time

Sometimes I get extremely overwhelmed thinking about the future, especially when it comes to staying sober and abstinent. I still struggle with the idea that I will never get to drink or eat certain foods again. It seems like an impossible task. It also seems incredibly unfair.

I can keep going down that rabbit hole of a thought process and land on it’s not healthy to never enjoy certain foods again. And believe me, you can find plenty of people who would agree with that. They would say cutting things out completely is too drastic and not sustainable. What you need to do is learn moderation?

That is when I start to laugh because I have tried moderation time and time again. It may work for some people, but it does not work for me. As a matter of fact, moderation makes things worse for me because it keeps the cravings alive. Every time I have tried to indulge a little here and there, I would end up binging in no time.

I know abstinence is my ticket to freedom. But I don’t have to spend my time thinking about how I will never get to drink or eat certain foods again. All I have to do is stay sober and abstinent today. 24 hours. I know that my day today and my day tomorrow are going to be a million times better if I stay sober and abstinent today.

So I’m going to do that.

Even more, I am excited to do it because I have finally found a way to live the life I have always wanted. I have real purpose in my life. I get up every day with a drive and a focus that I never had when I was drinking or in the food. I sleep better and I wake up every morning with energy and vigor that I never had. I have so much love in my life, it’s ridiculous. And the truth is, I always had it, but now I am allowing myself to see it and feel it. And it feels amazing!

I am choosing to work my program today because it is working. I don’t have to worry about the future. I don’t have to say that I’m never going to drink again or I’m never going to eat ice cream again. I’m not concerned with a day that hasn’t even happened yet. My only concern is this day and what I need to do to make it great.

And when I lay my head down on that pillow tonight, I will have peace knowing that I lived another day in victory. I was able to live the day of my dreams because I was sober and abstinent. I know I can do this today and that is all I need.

One Is Never Enough

One Is Never Enough

I am not like other people. I can’t do some of the things that other people can do. This is just a fact that I need to accept.

I can’t have one drink because one is never enough for me. I could never understand how people did that. If someone asked me to go “have a drink,” to me that meant we are going to get hammered! I would be 5 in and notice others just sipping on their first.

What is wrong with these people? Let’s do this!

Next thing you know I’m ordering shots for everyone to get them “caught up.” I thought I was the normal one. But it turns out I was wrong. Normal people like to have a drink, chat a little and then go home to their normal life. I have never been able to do that. I have never wanted to.

I can’t have an occasional treat, like ice cream or cake, because one treat leads to twenty. As soon as I get a taste, the sugar takes over and my cravings kick in. I may just have the one in front of present company, but then when I’m alone later, I am at the grocery story buying a quart of ice cream with hot fudge. I then proceed to spend the rest of my evening eating as much as I can until I get sick. You would think, then, that I had learned my lesson?

But no.

By the next day, I would be at it again. More ice cream. More hot fudge. More shame and guilt. I don’t understand how people can just have a piece of cake at a party and then be good for a while. That was never me. One was never enough. One was just a tease.

It may seem unfair at first that I am not normal. I have had my days of feeling sorry for myself. But the truth is it is a blessing to understand this about myself and to accept it because now I can stop trying to be like other people. Now I can stop getting mad at myself for not being able to “control myself” like other people seem to be able to do. I can stop beating myself up and focus on what I CAN do.

I get to eat delicious food every day that makes me feel great. I get to be free from the cycle of addiction and the mental obsession that takes over. I get to be free from cravings and I get to enjoy being clear headed and sober.

This life is awesome and although I may not be like other people, I am not alone. There is an army of us marching together. A “distinct entity” walking shoulder to shoulder and we are exactly the people we are supposed to be.

The Isolation Of Addiction

For me, drinking always starts as a social thing but then ends as an isolation tool. Drinking in high school was always about being at the party, trying to hook up with some girl. It was about friends and rebelling against our parents. It was fun and exciting.

But at the end of my drinking career, it became about getting away from people and being alone. That way I could drink as much as I wanted and as long as I wanted without judgement. I also didn’t have to pretend that I cared about the people around me because when I was getting drunk, it was all about me. It was purely for my pleasure and had nothing to do with the people around me. They just got in the way.

Even when I was around others, I couldn’t wait to be alone. I could care less about the party that use to be the best part. That’s when I knew something had changed. All I wanted to do was be alone with my drink and my food. Pretty soon the excitement was gone and it wasn’t fun anymore.

That is the progressiveness of my illness of addiction. It always starts out fun and ends up in misery. I can’t just have a few drinks to be social. I have to take it to the extreme. And the extreme is me, alone in a room, drinking more and more just trying to keep the party going a little longer. I could never drink enough. I could never eat enough. In the end, I was still sad and alone. All the drink and food did was add a hangover to the mess.

A life of drinking and overeating just isn’t a real answer. It isn’t sustainable. It may start out as fun, but it’s a lie. It may feel like a social lubricant at first, but for people like me, it always turns into a way to isolate. It promises comfort and joy, but it really brings sadness and pain.

I know now that I like to be alone. I get recharged by spending time on my own. And that’s ok. But I need to remember that I need people too. I am not meant to be isolated from the world. And I don’t want to be anymore because all that led to was extreme loneliness and sadness.

So I’m going to choose people over addiction today. I’ll see how that goes. And I have a feeling I will want to choose people again tomorrow.

Things Addicts Say To Justify...

Thinks Addicts Say To Justify...

Whatever your drug of choice is, we all have used the same excuses to justify using again.

To celebrate my 3 year anniversary of being sober, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the excuses I used to use to justify having that first drink. There are many times I would go 6-8 months without drinking and then start thinking some of the following things. And once I gave in and had that first drink, it was all over. The addiction cycle began all over again and I was in hell.

Here are a list of some of my excuses. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • I deserve this. I’ve gone so long now without a drink. I deserve a reward.

  • Everyone else gets to drink. Why can’t I?

  • There’s no way I’m never going to drink again so I might as well just do it.

  • I need to just drink less this time.

  • I can control it now. I just needed a break.

  • I’ll just drink on gigs.

  • I’ll just drink at home.

  • I’ll just drink 1-2 times a week.

  • I want to get drunk.

  • It’s fun to get buzzed.

  • I never do anything fun anymore. I deserve to have fun.

  • Getting drunk sounds fun

  • My life sucks. I just want to drink.

  • Drinking will make me feel better.

  • It will be different this time.

  • I’ll just have one day of drinking and then get back to work on being sober and healthy.

  • I want to be part of the party.

  • It’s unfair that I don’t get to drink.

  • I miss the old days.

  • I think it’s time for a drink.

  • I’ve been sober long enough to prove that I don’t have a problem.

Every time I had one of these thoughts and then gave in, I would be back into the misery of addiction in days or weeks tops. These were all lies and excuses that led me back to that hell. If you find yourself saying these things to yourself, know that you are not alone. We all have these thoughts. But I have given in enough to know that they lead to an awful life.

All these thoughts are just our disease trying to bring us back. They are lies. And we don’t live in lies anymore. We live in truth. The truth is we deserve to be free. And freedom comes from letting those thoughts go and celebrating another day of sobriety.

Happy sobriety day to anyone who has a day, a week, a year or a decade sober!

Addiction Panic

I am an alcoholic and a food addict. I also have an anxiety disorder. My days of addiction were filled with panic attacks. I use to get them almost daily. Fear would grip my entire body. I felt like I was dying or I was going to have a seizure.

I would be so scared for my life in these moments and knew I had to quit drinking and overeating. I knew my bad habits were playing a big role in triggering these panic attacks. But then, when I would consider walking away from my addictions, the panic of not having my only comforts would kick in. It was a catch 22. Damned if I did. Damned if I didn’t.

Can I survive a life of continuing to get my fixes every day? But then, how would I survive without them?

Talk about insanity. I was stuck in the middle of these two choices for years and years. Both with food and alcohol. I remember being in a constant panic. If I didn’t get my fix, how would I survive? What would I have to look forward to every day? And this want became a real need. I needed the food and alcohol to survive and have any joy at all.

I felt trapped and unable to make a move. And this would cause endless bouts of depression and anxiety. It was a scary way to live my life.

Thank God He pulled me out when He did. He showed me it was possible to have joy without my indulgences. Matter of fact, the joy I experience now is real and lasting. And best of all, it has no side effects. I don’t have to suffer through days of hangovers just to get a few hours of fun in my life. I don’t have to spend my days feeling bloated and winded just so I could have a few hours of fun with food.

But the best part is the panic attacks are pretty much gone. I still may have a moment of panic here and there, but I now know how to deal with it. I can call on God to give me strength. I can reach out to my fellows for encouragement. I am not alone. And I am not relying on a deadly substance to get me through the day. The constant panic has been replaced by serenity and freedom.

I am finally free from this insanity and panic. And this freedom came from working the 12 steps of OA. I never want to go back to that life. And I can say honestly today that I will do whatever it takes to stay on this path of recovery and freedom from the panic that used to rule my life.

How To Make The Right Choice

We have a choice to make and we must make it every day.

Are we going to fight or give up?

Both are very real options and when we get up every day, we have to choose which one it’s going to be. And to not choose is in itself a decision to give up. It’s crucial that we make this decision first thing every morning. It will be the difference between success and failure in our lives.

Abstinence and sobriety take work. It takes an intentional attitude and an actual plan that we follow. So if we choose to fight, then we need to follow through by making a plan for our day and then following it.

The power of planning cannot be overstated. It doesn’t need to be an overly detailed plan, either. We just need to plan the following five things:

  1. What are we going to eat?

  2. When are we going to eat?

  3. How are we going to serve?

  4. What are we going to do to live out our true purpose in life?

  5. What are we going to do if temptation strikes?

If we have a plan that includes these five things, then we are going to win the fight that day. And at the end of the day, we can lay our heads down in victory, ready to get up the next day and make the choice to do it again.

And if one day, the fight seems like to much to bare, it’s ok. We don’t have to win every battle, we just need to keep showing up and choosing to fight. That’s how we will win the war. Success is nothing but a series of battles won, one day at a time. If we choose to fight every day, then we are guaranteed to have the successful life we have always dreamed of.

How A Food Recovery Retreat Saved My Life

Food was always my first love. Ever since I was a kid, food was my best friend, my safety net, and my go to solution when I needed comfort. Oh yea, I also loved eating when I was happy. It was my favorite way to reward myself after a job well done. Even though I say “was,” the truth is, deep down I still feel this way about food. But COR, an amazing food recovery retreat in Minneapolis, MN, helped me realize how damaging that way of life was and more importantly showed me what my other options were. And they are awesome!

Before COR

Before COR

I grew up in a good home. Everything looked great on the outside. But behind closed doors, our family was a mess. My mom and dad fought constantly. There was a lot of yelling and screaming. But whenever it was time to eat, everything was ok. Sitting in front of the TV, eating with my family, was the one time that everyone got along. It felt safe. It felt like everything was fine. It was the one escape from the madness. And as I got older, I continued to use food for safety and comfort. I didn’t realize it at the time. It was just an instinct. I wanted to survive so I grabbed the nearest thing that would get me there and that was food.

The problem is, as time went on, it was never enough. I could never eat enough to feel truly safe or happy for long. I always wanted more and more because the only time I was happy was when I was eating. Then I started hanging out in bars. I’m a musician, so it’s my job to entertain in bars every night. It’s also part of the job to drink and get others to drink more. So I took that to heart and really went for it. Now I was drinking a lot and eating a lot. I gained weight so incredibly fast. Most of my adult life (I’m 42 now) I have weighed over 400 pounds. The worst it got was actually after I quit drinking. I knew I was going to die if I kept drinking the way I was, so after one night landing in the ER with severe heart palpitations, I decided to quit. And I did. But instead of drinking, I turned to food.

2 years later, I was over 500 pounds and miserable. I could barely walk 10 steps without having to stop to catch my breath. My knees hurt so bad, I could almost not get up after sitting anymore. I had asthma and was constantly wheezing. I was pre-diabetic and constantly scared I was going to have a heart attack. The list goes on and on, but I knew I had to do something quick. That’s when I found COR.

My life completely changed the moment I walked in those doors. The people were so nice to me. Love and kindness was something I really craved and it meant the world to get that there. And when we started talking about the disease of addiction and how the 12 steps could help me overcome this, it was over. I knew this was me. This was the solution I have been looking for my entire life! For the first time in years I saw hope again! I felt like I finally found my people too. Finally I could understand that I wasn’t a freak with no willpower. I had this disease that was curable if I was willing to take the steps. Once I realized that, I was all in! I worked the first three steps at COR, found my first sponsor and started working the steps as soon as I got home.

After COR

After COR

It’s been about 7 months now. I’ve lost 109 pounds! That is super exciting and there aren’t enough words to express how much better I feel physically. But truly the best part of it all, is the day to day of it. I have a meal plan I love. I don’t have to obsess on food all day. I have time and energy to put into things that matter now. I am connected to a bunch of amazing people. I have freedom and peace that I have been craving since I was a little kid. And I finally feel safe and loved without looking for it in food. I can’t say enough about COR. It literally saved my life and made the life I’m living 100xs better. I am finally on a real road to recovery, not just some fad diet. This is the life I’ve always wanted and I have COR to thank for all of it!

Why Am I Always Broke?

Why am i always broke?

I’ve been broke my whole life. Whether I was making great money or no money, it didn’t matter. I’ve always been broke. Everything has been a struggle. I could never afford health care. I could never afford to pay my taxes. I could never afford to pay my mortgage. I lost a house to foreclosure and I almost lost my second. I had to file for bankruptcy because it go so bad. I didn’t know what else to do.

When I filed for bankruptcy, I was making close to $60K a year with no dependents. Also, I would track all my money in and out. I knew exactly where I was spending my money. I knew exactly what I was bringing in. I had a budget every month.

What?! Why was I always broke?

I got to the point of almost losing my mind. I constantly felt like a failure. I couldn’t claim ignorance because I’ve read all the books about what you’re suppose to do with money. I knew what to do.

I couldn’t claim low income because I was making really good money with no child support or alimony or other common excuses men use for financial woes.

The truth is I had only myself to blame and my problem was two-fold.

  1. I was spending too much money on my addictions.

  2. I believed I would always be broke.

I really felt like it was impossible for me to get ahead in life. Especially as a working musician. No, I was just meant to live the life of a suffering, poor musician. So that’s exactly what I was.

As you might guess, nothing changed until I did. I had to face these two issues or I would never accomplish the things I wanted and I would never live the life I dreamed about.

First up was my addictions. My first concern with these behaviors was health based. I was dying. I weighed over 500 pounds and could barely move. That had to change. But the other part was the money. I was spending $2-$3K a month on my addictions. Yep, you read that right. $30,000 or more on alcohol and food per year. That is what we call “unsustainable.” And that is what addiction does. It blinds you to reality so you can keep living in your little comforts.

“Just one more day and I’ll change.” I said that for years.

I had to quit drinking. And I had to get my eating under control. If you want to hear more about how I did that, you can check out My Recovery Story. It was not an easy path, but one I knew I had to take. I am still a work in progress, but by the grace of God I’m sober and abstinent from compulsive overeating today.

Now the second problem. This one was even harder to conquer. It was my mindset. I truly believed that I was just meant to be poor. It was too hard to get ahead. The world was out to get me. Murphy kept showing up at my front door. Just when I thought I was getting ahead, something bad would happen and take me right back to zero. I was drowning and saw no rescue in sight.

The truth was no one was going to come save me. I had to stop looking for a rescue boat and start swimming.

Are these water analogies landing?

It was up to me. And if anything was going to change, I had to start believing in what was truly possible again. When I really thought about it, things went south when I stopped believing in myself and the possibilities of life. I had to get that back. And I had to start believing that good things could happen to me. Even more, that I DESERVED good things to happen to me.

It took a lot of counseling, late night conversations, reading, studying and praying to finally start to get it.

I was created to be successful. I am meant to be happy and healthy. I am a creation of God and I matter. There is a plan for my life. All I have to do is start believing again.

So I chose to believe. I started telling myself every day that I live in abundance. I am not poor, I am rich. I am surrounded by love, opportunity and money. Everywhere I look, these things are in my life. And you know what, they always have been I just couldn’t see them until I chose to see them.

Once I made that choice, things started to happen. Money started showing up. Gigs started rolling in. I got a bunch of piano students and my record company started to get its wings. God was working and my reality became one of true abundance.

I still have to get up and choose abundance every day. But when I do, it makes all the difference. I use to always be broke but now I am rich beyond my wildest dreams. Even if I don’t have the bank account to back that up yet, I have no doubt I will soon. And more than that, I have the friends, family and love to remind me all along the way just how rich I am.

“If you see yourself as broke, then you’re gonna be broke. If you see yourself as doomed, then you’re gonna be doomed. But if you see yourself as rich, surrounded by love, surrounded by money, surrounded by opportunity, then you’re gonna live abundantly.”

Abundance - The New Single From Chris Swan - Coming January 1st, 2019!

How To Overcome Fear

Fear is a powerful force. It’s also incredibly sneaky the way it can work itself into our lives, quickly take hold, and destroy our hopes and dreams. Fear can be paralyzing, keeping us from making decisions and moving on with our lives.

Fear can keep us isolated. So often we spend way too much time worrying about what others think of us. It can make us push people away when all they want to do is love us. Fear can make us believe that we don’t belong. It can make us feel like we are not good enough or cool enough, which can lead to self-loathing and a feeling of worthlessness. It can lead us down a path to where we don’t even want to live anymore.

Fear can fester and destroy our lives. It’s so important that we call out our fears and face them head on. We need to look at them logically, find the false information we base them on, and replace them with truth.

The truth is we were created to be here and we are here for a purpose. We do belong and we are worthy of love. We are perfectly imperfect just the way we are, even with all our flaws. We are meant to be happy and successful.

Fear can work it’s way into our lives quickly, so we need to choose to see the truth over our fears everyday. A great exercise is this: every night before we go to bed, we need to take a few minutes and ask ourself “Was I afraid today?” If the answer is yes, we need to call out those fears. Look at them logically and see if they really make sense. Then replace those thoughts of fear with the truth.

If we do this consistently every day, we can destroy fear. It won’t disappear forever, but we can keep it from ruining our lives. We can gain strength in reminding ourselves of what the truth really is. And then we can live the lives we were truly meant to live.

Don’t let fear steal your joy away from you. Let the truth ring free and give you the peace you have been looking for your whole life.

What are the benefits of honesty?

“Honesty is truth and that truth shall set us free.”
-Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book Pg. 218

What a great quote from the Big Book. Honesty has been a big part of my recovery. Honesty towards others, sure, but mainly honesty with myself. It’s been one of the biggest challenges and also one of the biggest gifts.

To start getting better, I had to admit I was powerless. I had to accept that I had a problem and I needed help. I had to stop lying to myself saying “It’s not that bad” or “I’ll change someday.” The truth was I was dying. And once I could admit that honestly, I was finally willing and able to do what I needed to do to live.

And now every day I have to practice honesty to stay sober from alcohol and abstinent from compulsive overeating. I have to face the consequences of my actions, truthfully.

If I choose to drink again, I have to be honest with myself about what that would feel like. It would be fun for a few minutes or hours, but then it would be hell for days. I have to stop romanticizing my days of drinking and look at them for what they were - an insane cycle of misery and depression. That’s the truth, not this fuzzy memory I keep coming back to where those were the “best days of my life.” I was not living the dream. I was living the nightmare when I was drinking and by being honest with myself about that, I can push the alcohol away for another day.

When it comes to the food, I have to weigh and measure my food honestly, not trying to sneak in a little extra here and there. I have to report to my sponsor any changes I need to make in my food plan throughout the day. And I need to share my story with others - openly and honestly. This is the only way I can stay on a healthy path and it’s important to encourage others in their journey.

When you live a life of lies, you have to work really hard to keep them all straight and to try to make yourself believe them. It’s so much work and, honestly, it’s really exhausting. I don’t ever want to go back to that “house of cards” life. When you choose honesty, all that work goes away and you are free.

I’ve tried it both ways and I can say honestly that honesty has been the better path by far.

The Substitute

For years when I was drinking and overeating, my biggest fear about quitting was “What will I do with the time? What will I have left to make me happy?” I always came up short, unable to come up with something. I was so scared my life would be empty and boring without my addictions.

WOULD I GO INSANE WITHOUT MY COMFORTS?

When I quit drinking, food became my substitute. Instead of alcohol, I just doubled up on food. And there was some comfort in knowing that I had a back up vice to turn to. At least I had one comfort left.

BUT THE FOOD WAS KILLING ME.

Ironic how the substance that is supposed to give us life was actually taking mine. And all because I was scared I wouldn’t be able to find happiness without it. I had to let my overeating go but how could I possibly find any joy in life without it? With food being my final vice, what would I substitute this addiction with?

Then came OA. And I discovered a permanent substitute for all my addictions. One that really worked and brought joy into my life. Real joy. Joy that would last longer than a drinking binge or a 2 hour meal. One that didn’t include hangovers, guilt or shame. It was the answer I had been seeking for all these years.

THE SUBSTITUTE WAS THE FELLOWSHIP OF BROTHERS AND SISTERS I FOUND IN OA.

I finally found my people in the rooms of OA. We are the same in so many ways. Finally I am not alone. We are all in this together. I am surrounded by an army of people who get it. And I can’t overstate how much comfort I find it that. For years, I tried to overcome my addictions alone. It felt overwhelming and impossible.

But there is strength in numbers. I have meetings I can go to so I can stay connected to people who care. I have people to call when I am having a hard time. I get to serve my fellows by picking up the phone and encouraging them when they need it. There is also a lot of hope in hearing another’s story of struggle. And also hearing the stories of those who have overcome their addictions.

IF THEY CAN DO IT, SO CAN I.

I am choosing community and connection over isolation and addiction. There is so much more joy on this side. The fellowship brings true joy and peace that I never was able to find in alcohol or food.

I finally found the substitute I have been searching for my whole life. This is what true happiness feels like.

If you can relate to this, I would highly encourage you to check out AA or OA, depending on your drug of choice. The fellowship is waiting with open arms. You don’t have to do this alone anymore.