On February 7, 2010, trailing 10-6 to the Indianapolis Colts at halftime of Super Bowl XLIV, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton made one of the gutsiest calls in Super Bowl history when he told the team that they would start the second half with an onside kick called Ambush. A role player named Chris Reis, a back-up safety and special teams player, wasn’t supposed to recover the onside kick, but when the squiggling ball bounced off the chest of a Colts player, Chris pounced on the ball—and held on for everything he was worth. His recovery changed the tenor of the game and propelled the Saints to their first Super Bowl victory—and gave their Hurricane Katrina weary fans something to cheer about.
Sitting on the 25 yard line behind the Saint’s bench and watching the Super Bowl game that night in Miami was Chris’ father. His father’s life had been filled with bad choices and poor decisions, and he needed his own recovery—a recovery from his addiction to sex and alcohol. Little did both men know how that moment would change both their lives forever. I am the father of that Super Bowl hero.
As the son of a teenage mother and a boozing father who struggled with life, I grew up on the working class streets of Chicago. I was sexually abused and terrorized by my paternal grandmother. Around my eleventh birthday, my family decided to move to Atlanta searching for a better life. At thirteen, I started drinking and a couple of years later I discovered sex and enjoyed how alcohol numbed my emotional pain. While I was still in my teens, I married my high school sweetheart. Even the subsequent birth of two sons failed to tame my desire for sexual trysts and all-night drinking escapades. An affair with a woman I met while carousing in a bar led to the destruction of my first marriage and left my two preschool-aged sons without a father in the home.
My younger son Chris was just two years old when I walked out on my family. He didn’t understand why his father had abandoned him. His mother was a strong and hardworking woman that always put the needs of her children first. Never once did she lower herself to say mean, hurtful or derogatory things about my lying or cheating ways even though such actions would have been justified. Instead she kept the door open that one day our sons
would have the type of father-and-son relationship they needed. Through her strong leadership at home, Chris became a Christian in high school, and he deepened his faith during his playing days at Georgia Tech. After college, Chris eventually won a spot on the New Orleans Saints roster, and he became a Super Bowl hero with his historic recovery of that onside kick.
At this point in the article you may be asking yourself, “What does your son’s recovery of a football have to do with your recovery from sex and alcohol?” Everything! Up to that point in my life I had tried all the options ranging from AA and therapy to white knuckle will power hoping to break the cycle of my addiction, but I failed miserably each and every time. What I realized just a few short weeks after the Super Bowl was that my son and the example of his life held the missing transformational link to successful addiction recovery for me. The missing link for the type of real and lasting recovery change that I experienced can be summed up in three very simple words: Live for More In my coaching practice, I often classify a fundamental idea like Live for More under the heading of “easier said than done”. And that’s the point. It’s easy to understand but very challenging to execute, and the meaning of Live for More is different for everyone.
Let’s go back to that night in Miami that changed both our lives forever. When Chris recovered that onside kick, my first thought wasn’t about the game changing impact of the moment. Instead I thought about all that Chris had to overcome in his life just to be in position to recover that kick, and I began to cry. Over 111 million viewers watched for 63 seconds as the referees untangled the mess of bodies to see what team had possession of
the football, and I couldn’t help but think that no one really understood what it took for this young man to be a the bottom of that pile.
His life epitomized what it means to Live for More. Living for more than himself, Chris decided at a young age to postpone immediate gratification and to live for his long term goals and dreams. He was more focused on creating a life that was far more important to him than drinking or doing drugs, partying or staying out late. I was just the opposite with my “live for today mentality”, and I was a master at lying to myself. I always found a way
to justify my behavior, blame it on my past or blame it on someone else.
In our book, Recovery of a Lifetime, we spend a considerable amount of time, energy and emotion detailing our personal recovery journeys. It’s not a sports book or a self-help book. It’s our story as individuals and as father and son. It’s a story of hope, faith and inspiration. Living for More is the central theme in our parallel tales of recovery, but it’s a difficult concept for many people that find living a faith-based lifestyle in an ego-centric culture
to be more and more daunting.
The missing transformational link to successful addiction recovery isn’t just a belief in God or a higher power. If that were the case, our Live for More motto would be once again easy for anyone that believed in God or worked the third step in AA. Living for More takes surrendering your life to the will of God, and then finding your God given purpose to create a life that’s far more valuable than the addiction you chose to leave behind. In doing so,
you’re able to become the man or woman God always intended you to be.
To be honest, stopping an addiction or addictive behavior is easy. I know because I’ve stopped many times. The hard part is staying stopped. What I realized after a year and a half of sobriety was my life wasn’t any better. In fact, I was miserable. Why wasn’t I happy? Isn’t the goal of abstinence from any addictive substance or behavior to be happier with your life? I remember asking my therapist that very question one sunny summer afternoon while sitting on the over-stuffed floral couch in his office. When he suggested that I needed to go to more AA meetings and that he was concerned that I may relapse, I knew that was my last session. I knew there that there had to be more to my recovery beyond not drinking. I longed for joy and peace in my life.
That’s why I frequently tell my clients that the goal of recovery isn’t abstinence. The goal of recovery is to create a life you love, and what worked for me was a faith based approach built around three key principles that serve as the foundation for developing a personal system and chain of reasoning that leads to transformational change over time. The following is a brief overview of my 3A – Addiction Recovery Principles.
This principle is about gaining awareness of behaviors from past generations while exploring your current behavior to gain understanding and clarity. Was there a history of alcoholism, domestic violence, drugs, infidelity, or child abuse in your family? It isn’t enough to simply know that your family history is filled with dysfunctional behavior. In my workshops, participants are asked to answer a series of questions about their values,
family behaviors past and present, their personal behavior, and faith. Awareness is the only way to clearly identify the link in the chain that needs to be broken. Once you have a high level of awareness, it’s time to move to the next principle.
In a faith based approach, the acceptance principle requires you to confess your sins to God, ask for forgiveness, and then ask God to remove your desire to abuse substances or inappropriate behaviors. Then ask God to give you courage to seek out the appropriate next steps. This principle also requires you to accept total responsibility for all of your bad choices and poor decisions regardless of your past experiences or the behaviors of past generations. Accept God’s unconditional love and forgiveness regardless of what you’ve done in the past, and accept that it will take trusting in God to overcome your destructive behaviors. Finally you have to accept that you can’t do it alone. You need the help of other people in addition to God.
After you work through the principles of awareness and acceptance, the final piece of the foundation to begin making your personal recovery of a lifetime, is action. This concept requires you to take the appropriate action steps to make real and permanent changes in your life. Get professional help from a therapist, counselor, coach or pastor. It is also critical for you to build a community of support in family, friends, church, small groups or a recovery group. Find a Bible study partner and an accountability partner. Ask for forgiveness from those you have hurt in the past and work hard to forgive yourself. Let go of your guilt and shame. Take the focus off yourself and serve others with a pure heart. Finally, you must begin to pursue God’s vision for your life.
When you choose to Live for More, you will be amazed at the transformational change that will take place in your life. Not only will you live a life of purpose, peace and fulfillment, but your decision to Live for More will impact those you love for generations to come.
Mike Reis is an author, speaker, and master-certified addiction recovery coach who firmly believes that it’s never too late to become the person you were intended to be. It’s his mission to inspire, encourage, and empower others to live in God’s truth and love. To learn more about his addiction recovery coaching practice visit www.ReisCoaching.com .To order a copy of his book, Recovery of a Lifetime, go to www.RecoveryofaLifetime.com.