It all started with thumbsucking: my first coping mechanism to deal with emotional pain. At 8 years old, I was sucking my thumb and then hiding it whenever I could. I was a functioning thumb sucker. Eventually the pain of embarrassment from those around me got to be so great I stopped.
My next addiction was thanks to high-speed internet. At 11 years old, I found myself hooked to a computer screen playing online games. During this time, I discovered the world of online pornography. This addiction affected many of my relationships and kept me isolated. My high school years were tough times. The pressure to fit in and feel a part of did not sit well with me. I played sports for about two years but I eventually quit them all. My social anxiety continued to grow and I would cope by spending most of my time getting lost in a fantasy world on the computer.
When it came time to think about college, I had little motivation. I got accepted to a small college out of state and decided to go. Up to this point, I barely drank and rarely engaged in drugs. That was about to change. During my first few months of college, I started drinking and getting high on a regular basis.
I hit many jackpots that first semester. I was arrested for open container by a state trooper. I failed all of my classes and I even got caught for plagiarism. I flunked out of school and made my way back to the seacoast with my mom. My addiction to drugs and alcohol was in full effect but it was about to reach another level.
I arrived home from work one night to discover my father had passed away as a direct result of his years of heavy drinking. He had left home when I was 3 years old and never returned. Even though I had no contact with my father, his passing marked a new stage of my addiction. I turned to much harder drugs. I even found a way to order prescription pain meds on the internet. It wasn’t long before I found myself in a very bad spot. Hundreds of pills were being consumed in short periods of time. I had planned to “escape” this addiction by moving to Florida. But about 2 weeks before leaving, I was arrested. To my surprise they let me go and off to Florida I went.
I had planned to turn my life around in Florida. On the drive down, I was already getting high. Once again in a short period of time, I found myself at death’s doorstep. I pawned my belongings. I gave away my social security number. I hit another bottom.
I made my way back to New Hampshire and within a few days I was arrested once again. Ordering pills to support my habit had eventually caught up to me. I was now facing 7 years in federal prison. It was surreal in many ways. I asked myself what had happened. Addiction had taken its toll.
The fear of spending close to a decade in prison changes a person. Awaiting trial, I jumped head first into action. The judge did not order rehab; my prescription was to work full time, attend drug and alcohol therapy, and attend 12-step meetings. But I started to take even more action. I journaled every day. I read and memorized affirmations to help me battle my mind which I needed because I was experiencing panic attacks on a regular basis. I kept doing the next right thing every day. Eventually the time came and I did not end up going to federal prison. I did end up with federal felonies.
I was determined not to let my past define my future. I worked hard for my recovery through helping others, 12-step work, and personal growth. A time finally came when I had to face the fear and apply for a new job. I applied to a fortune 15 company. The application said, “Where you ever arrested?” I typed in my charges. On my first phone interview, I told them everything. I had nothing to lose. I was 8 years in recovery; I had purchased my first home and I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I told them about my addiction to OxyContin and various substances. I probably told them to much. But I knew I did not want anything coming back to me later on if they somehow were to hire me.
After being asked the same questions about my arrest in a second phone interview and a face to face meeting, I got the job. I literally felt unstoppable.
And indeed, I never did stop. I eventually won the highest award my company had to offer: an all-expenses paid trip to Switzerland for 5 days. I took my best friend Pete along with me whom I had met in recovery. I eventually got my master’s degree in mental health counseling. I spent 100’s of hours reading and engaging in my own personal development. I recently decided to leave my 9-5 job and pursue my own mission. I started Entrepreneurs in Recovery, my mission to help people in recovery reach their full potential through personal development and entrepreneurship. I want to show people the positive side of recovery. You can create the life you want in recovery. And I’m not alone. Many of my closest friends are in recovery and we work together to make our dreams a reality. We can’t do this alone. On December 18, 2017, I celebrated 12 years in recovery.
Learn more about Entrepreneurs in Recovery at www.JesseHarless.com