Photo of Caron alumnus Brian against a light background.

How did drugs and alcohol impact your life?

I had always felt like an outsider. When I was young I had a close network of about six, seven best friends, but I would observe how they communicated with each other and I couldn't understand how it was so easy for them. I always felt like my communication with everybody else was so labored and it was just a lot of work. It didn't seem like I had the same connection with anybody.

I think emotions are scary. I think they're scary for most people. And to confront them constantly and walk through them and deal with them in a healthy way can be difficult. I don't know exactly where that disconnect comes from, but it was definitely there and it was very strong. It was strong enough for me to feel like I needed some relief from the anxiety that it caused, that constant state of just not being quite there.

How did you find relief from those anxieties?

I found the relief from all my social anxieties and uncertainties through drugs and alcohol. It started with a simple buzz from a cigar actually, and then that convinced me enough that I should try weed, and I drank some beer and it was awesome. I clearly remember the feeling and the exact scenario of my first beer. And I loved it and I was all about having that feeling again.

I had alcoholic thoughts right from the beginning. I remember it; it's like liquid courage as they say. And for me it felt like that. I was able to be as outgoing as I wanted to be and I was able to talk to people that I wanted to talk to. And that was just maybe a month after my first beer, my instincts were like, drinking is how you get things done. So that's how I started planning everything.

Did you have a moment when you knew it was time to reach out for help?

I did a brief stint of homelessness, only a week and a half, which isn't long. I mean, there have been people out on the streets for years, but I did it hard. I did it fast and I did it super dirty. It wasn't pretty and I didn't want to do that again. I had seen other people get sober. I guess I had gotten to the point where I was really tired of living that kind of life and I knew life could be much better. I basically said I'm going to do whatever they tell me to do.

And I think in that moment of just completely giving up, I gained everything.

What was treatment like at Caron Renaissance?

I think at Caron I learned that I did have a problem … I started to see my selfishness, and I started to realize that the life I was living was actually pretty abnormal. The hustle, the drugs, the drinking, had become so routine that it just seemed relatively normal to me. I started to get some clarity. Caron gave me some separation from the life that I'd been living and it allowed me to see it for what it actually was

At Renaissance, the therapy was a lot more in your face and a lot more rigid and a lot more harsh. But ... I was pretty content despite the more emotional challenges. I felt like it was more where I belonged, as far as treatment goes.

What do you mean by ‘emotional challenges’?

Well, they confronted your flaws. It was the starting point of taking a good hard look at myself, which is a very uncomfortable thing for people to do... We develop our sense of person and we believe what we are doing is right. And a lot of times we're dead set on defending that. Caron broke down some of those walls and forced me to really take a good look at what I was doing with my life and what I was doing with the people around me, which is something I really needed to see.

That's not comfortable and it can be painful, and it can be scary. But I realized that it was an environment where it was probably the safest opportunity for me to explore some of those things.

How has sobriety impacted your relationships?

I'm present in my relationships now. And I'm a lot more focused on other people's needs. I try to be selfless and I try to approach my relationships with other people unmotivated for any outcome that would benefit me, and just try to be somebody that's there and good and supportive. I think that it makes for a much more real connection with people.

I think one of the problems [when I was addicted] was this complete disconnect because it was just all about me and what I was going to get out of a situation. And I really think that created the emotional disconnect that I couldn't fully understand. Now I care about people and I think that it shows.

What does a sober life look like for you today?

When I was drinking and using drugs, I had absolutely no freedom. My radius of freedom was probably 10 miles. If you go outside that radius, you start to risk running out of your supply. Since I got sober, I've never been more free in my entire life. And since then I've managed to develop my own photography project and travel all 50 states by myself. Nobody's there with me. I'm just doing my own thing.

How do you feel sobriety has impacted your art?

I look back at some of my old ideas and I'm like, What were you thinking, buddy? I thought that drugs and alcohol fueled my creative process, but now I think it steered them in the wrong way and it was just a foggy haze of a mishmash of ideas.

People talk a lot about ‘barstool ideas’. You sit there, you come up with all these great ideas that you want to do, but there's no execution. In sobriety, I have the opportunity to seriously execute the ideas that I come up with. Getting sober was such a huge achievement, such an impossible and monumental achievement that I realized if I can get sober, I can do anything I want.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

A man and a woman leaning on each other

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