My name is Gary Goldstein, author of “Jew in Jail,” as well as blogger, and motivational & inspirational speaker.
More importantly, however, is the fact that I am an addict in long-term recovery, approaching six years and four months clean.
It took a lot of pain and suffering – both that I experienced myself and caused others – to finally get me to change my ways.
But once I finally decided to seek recovery from alcohol, drugs and gambling on October 31, 2007, my life has continued to get immeasurably better.
I know I have a disease, and that there is no cure, so I must remain vigilant every single day of my life and make sure to never get overconfident or complacent, because that is an easy way to relapse.
I am also extremely aware that this disease doesn’t discriminate, and whether you are a college graduate, like I am, or a homeless person sleeping in the subway, addiction will destroy your life the same way regardless.
So, how does one rationalize it when a person who seemingly has it all – most recently, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman – succumbs to this disease by way of an overdose?
Well, I am certainly not a doctor, but just a guy from Brooklyn, New York, who has seen a lot in his 52 plus years on this planet, and, for me, at least, it all comes down to self-esteem and self-confidence.
Even though I was an A student, who went on to earn a college degree in journalism and then worked for many prestigious companies in the media industry, it wasn’t until 1998 – the year I got arrested for robbery, due to my past addictions to alcohol, drugs and gambling, and was ultimately sentenced to seven years in prison – that I finally decided to spend time being introspective and come to terms with why I was drinking, using drugs and gambling.
I simply wasn’t happy who I was, or, as many people call it, “comfortable in my own skin.”
Knowing I wasn’t going anywhere until 2004 at the earliest, barring a successful criminal appeal, (which was not meant to be, and I served just under six years), I decided to put my thoughts down on paper, and wrote Jew in Jail.
The therapeutic value was something I had no idea would end up being so priceless to this day, as it was the impetus for all of the good things that have happened since my release from prison.
I am now the president of the alumni committee at the Coney Island Hospital Chemical Dependency Program, and am also on several committees with the New York State Office Of Alcoholism And Substance Abuse Services.
I have returned to Rikers Island to speak to the detainees there and help spread the message of recovery, and since I didn’t have a number on my shirt this time around, I was treated much better by the staff!
By being connected to OASAS, doors have opened, including getting invited to travel the country to attend National Recovery Day, as well as speaking to prisoners at other correctional facilities too.
The bottom line, in my recovery and from what I have learned by speaking and attending Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous meetings, is that the only way to remain clean is by sharing the message of recovery and hope with others.
Keeping things bottled up inside for so long, thinking that my problems were unique to me, was a huge mistake.
I have so much gratitude for where I am in my life now, and owe it all to not only the great people I have met along the way, but to my own determination and desire to finally change and stop beating myself up about my past.
As for addicts like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cory Monteith, Whitney Houston, and all of the others who have perished too soon, it just goes to show that being a wealthy celebrity is no guarantee for happiness.
We are all humans, with feelings, emotions, desires and needs.
Being labeled a recovering addict doesn’t bother me one bit.
Life is way too short to care what others think of me.
If you are a recovering addict, I hope you realize the great decision you made to seek treatment.
If you are still “out there” dealing with the insanity that comes with using, please consider going to a meeting or, at the very least, picking up a phone to call someone and ask for help.
You are worth it, and a role model waiting to blossom.