Money Madness vs True Happiness – Blake’s Story
Early Home Life
I was born in Newport Beach, California, in 1983. I’m the second of four children and we lived in California for the first three years of my life while my dad did commercial real estate. About every three or four years we would move to a new place. After California we went to Atlanta, Georgia, then Park City, Utah, then back east to Florida, and once again to Atlanta. A lot of people in recovery programs talk about their hard childhood, but I had an amazing childhood. My family was financially set and we made some awesome memories on vacations together. I was always a very head strong and rambunctious child. My parents dealt with that by channeling it into sports.
I’d walk away with $40K every single Thursday night
In Atlanta, I got into baseball and started playing it everyday with a great group of friends, where we were fortunate to be able to travel around the states to play. From there I got into tennis and it became my primary sport. I was accepted into an elite tennis academy by 6th grade, so with my rigorous practice schedule, I never played video games or watched TV. I just spent all day outside, which you can do in Atlanta. I really had a good time with a great group of friends. Growing up, I really thought I had the perfect family and ideal childhood. At the age of 14, that started to change.
My parents were having marital problems, so my mom took us children on a pilgrimage-type road trip which ended in Provo, Utah. My siblings and I thought we were only supposed to be in Provo for a week, but a few weeks went by and my mother finally let us know that we were setting up residency there. I really didn’t fit in. Nobody played tennis and hardly anyone played baseball. A lot of the students were church goers of the LDS faith. I had been raised LDS but I didn’t like going to church. The neighborhoods were cliquey and a lot of people didn’t want their kids hanging out with me because I was a little shit. I just didn’t fit in and it was the first time I had ever felt that way. My father eventually gave up his career in Atlanta and moved to Provo to be with the family. I hated Provo and wanted to move back to Atlanta. I hear a lot of people’s stories from the rehab and treatment centers that I have been to, and I find it very common that, at some point in their lives, most who struggle have felt disconnected from people they loved and from better times, just as I did at that time. This all lead me to be very angry.
High school years and first addictive behaviors
“I was taking 40‑50 10mg Percocets a day”
I hated school so much that I started ditching out all the time. I fell into a depression and began watching TV for hours upon hours and day after day. That is my first memory of having some sort of addictive behavior. My parents were worried about me so they sent me to a psychologist. There were four terms in the school year and I only had to pass one in order to play tennis. So that’s what I would do, then ditch out on the other three terms. Because tennis was not a popular sport in Utah, I was one of the best in the school, even as a freshman. As a five-foot tall 14-year-old, I was beating 18-year-olds and even took the Utah State Championship. I took state again as a sophomore, but things got worse at home. My parents divorce was finalized and my father got his own place. It was hard for him to find work in Utah, so we were rather poor for awhile. My mother and I began to clash a lot because I didn’t want anything to do with church, but she would force me to attend and go to scouting activities. She wanted me to have some positive male influence in my life through these activities, but it just lead to a lot of fighting in the house. My junior year of high school I went to live with my dad and severed the relationship with my mom for several years. My dad was traveling a lot and even spent six months in Saudi Arabia, so I practically lived on my own and had the house to myself. The tennis season continued to be the only thing that kept me grounded. I’d be just good enough to be able to compete, but that year when I went on a skiing trip and tore my ACL. It wasn’t long after that I tried smoking weed, drank alcohol for the first time and started making friends with some of the wrong crowd. I drank alcohol and smoked weed a handful of times at parties but it didn’t really take for me and never even dawned on me that I could do it alone. I graduated early with a GED and began working at the Sundance Ski Resort. I really enjoyed working there for a year and I’d party a bit up there, but nothing crazy. Then my dad moved to Las Vegas for a job opportunity and he ask me if I wanted to go. I looked at that as my way to get out of Utah, which I was dead set on never coming back to, and I thought Vegas was perfect because it was the exact opposite of Provo, Utah.
College and first encounter with financial success
“…80 mg OxyContin that I could purchase in an unlimited amount.”
I got into the University of Nevada (UNLV) and was really looking forward to playing on their tennis team. I started getting back into shape, going to practices, and playing matches when I tore my rotator cuff. I had that repaired but it caused me to really think hard about what I was going to do with my future. I didn’t come to a definite conclusion at the time, but I did make a conscious decision to not repeat the same terrible experience I had in high school. In high school I was quiet, timid, and didn’t really bother to make friends. With that decision in mind, I joined the biggest fraternity on campus. The fraternity had a saying, “We don’t party we celebrate,” but we celebrated everything. We had parties that involved 10 kegs of alcohol, smoking weed, and using cocaine. At 9 a.m. we’d be doing keg stands at the tailgate. Partying, drinking, and using was a lot of fun at the time. Because I joined that fraternity, I met a lot of people who could get me into any club. We could do anything we wanted and I felt like the king of Las Vegas. Through one of my fraternity brothers, I became the Assistant Director of Entertainment Programming for UNLV and the Director the following year. Each year we had a $300,000 budget to produce concerts and events for the students. They also paid for our school, gave us a living stipend, and provided numerous opportunities to make all sorts of connections in the entertainment business. We were able to bring in groups like 311, Unwritten Law, Yellowcard and many other big-name entertainers and just have an absolute blast. This all carried me to a pretty high status on campus, and I even had my own golf cart like Van Wilder.
At that point I started my first business. I’d go to huge clubs in Vegas and tell them I wanted to do a UNLV night. I’d promise to bring 2,000 people on a Thursday night and in return I’d ask for $20 at the door and 15% of the bar. Each of the clubs took me up on the idea because Thursday nights were so slow. I put together a team of about 10 people that would go out and market for me, then every Thursday night 2,000 people would show up to whatever club we were targeting. It was a sweet little gig where, at minimum, I’d walk away with $40K every single Thursday night, and all as under-the-table cash. I remember walking down Fremont Street with my friend after the first night as we had $40,000 on us. We found a homeless guy, bought him a bunch of alcohol and gave him $500 dollars. It was way too much money for a college student to be making. This business and party scene also put me into contact with the big-time drug dealers of Las Vegas. I was 23 or 24 at the time.
The downward spiral of drug addiction
By then I had tried just about every drug, including mushrooms, ecstasy, acid, and so many more, but none of them took. I never woke up the next day thinking, “I have to do that again.” But that all changed when I went to get my wisdom teeth removed. The dentist gave me Percocet after the surgery, which wasn’t new for me. I had opiates in the past but the difference was that this time I was really stressed from going to school all day and working my business most nights. I quickly began abusing the opiates. I went through the whole bottle in just 3 days and, because I had connections with drug dealers, I not only knew how to get more but also had money to do whatever I wanted. I had no prior knowledge of the dangers of addiction and naively thought that “addicts” were just potheads who chose to get high before class everyday.
“On Methadone, I basically wasted the entire 26th year of my life”
For about the next six months, I was taking 40-50 10mg Percocets a day. Due to this, my stomach started to bleed. A dealer I knew, who was one of the biggest suppliers of OxyContin in the west, started selling me OxyContin to get around the stomach issue. He had a whole house full of 80 mg OxyContin that I could purchase in an unlimited amount. I was taking 8-10, 80mg OxyContin pills a day. After another 6 months, things really started to falling apart for me. I stopped going to school and began isolating myself. I had become the president of the fraternity but I wasn’t taking care of any of my responsibilities. I didn’t understand that OxyContin was heroin, and the first time I tried to stop, I thought that I was dying. I went to the E.R. and told them that something was wrong with me. They asked me if I had been taking opiates, which I admitted to, and they explained to me that I was going through withdrawls. When they said that I thought, “What are withdrawals?” I didn’t even have a clue what “withdrawals” were. My takeaway from that experience was simply that continuing to take opiates would make the withdrawals go away; so I just kept using. My life continued to spiral downward and I began isolating myself completely, locked up in my room and zoning out in front of a TV again. I stopped doing my business and burned through all my money.
My dad noticed that I wasn’t the same and started worrying about me and asking me questions, so I told him what was going on. I admitted to him that I needed help and we found an addiction specialist in Las Vegas who put me on Suboxone. I was on that for nine months and it was the worst, because you don’t get the euphoria of the opiates, but you still get all of the negative effects. I tried to come off Suboxone multiple times but those withdrawals were just as bad as the opiate withdrawals. Unfortunately, my father and I didn’t realize that the Suboxone was just delaying my recovery. Eventually, I just went back to OxyContin because at least then I could enjoy the high along with the disadvantages. I continued to feed the addiction while abusing Xanax and Ambien, as well. I really don’t remember a lot about that period, just that it was really bad. My dad came to my place, found me unconscious, put me in the car and drove me from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Rehab and relapse
I was admitted into a Utah rehab center for a month long residential program. In rehab I realized that I was addicted to pills and that I wanted to get off of them, but I didn’t think I was addicted to alcohol and I wasn’t willing to give that up. I flew back to Las Vegas after treatment and while my father was driving me home from the airport, we passed my dealer’s street. It triggered a reaction inside of me and I immediately began hyperventilating. My father asked me if I was alright, but I just played it all off because I wanted him to think I was good. Three days later I was using again, and after six months I was back in Utah, slightly more willing, but not totally ready for rehab. I went through another round of treatment at a different Utah rehab center. Afterwards, I was basically forced into a poorly-run, sober-living facility. When I got out, I bummed around Salt Lake County for awhile until I found some success doing consulting businesses on CRMs, but I just couldn’t stay clean. Since I was self-employed, I couldn’t get OxyContin through my insurance and, instead, turned straight to heroin.
“I was finally determined to be done using for good”
I finally got to a point again where I wanted to get clean but was not excited about going back to rehab, so I began trying to wean myself off the drug with Methadone. On Methadone, I basically wasted the entire 26th year of my life. I’d take Methadone, sleep all day, and then watch TV. I made just enough money to get by and lived in a dark dungeon-like basement, isolating myself from the world. However, on Methadone you can still get high on heroin and take Xanax, you just have to do a lot of it. From my experience, no one on Methadone is clean. I had started at 165mg of Methadone and managed to wean myself down to about 90mg and finally got off of it. The one thing good about that time was that I was able to reconnect with my mother, who I hadn’t talked to in 4 years and hadn’t had a relationship with since I was 16. She had tried, but I wouldn’t allow it. With her support and my dad’s financial backing, they got me back into rehab after detoxing for two days on my own.
Second encounter with financial success
“over three-and-a-half months, I blew through $93,000 on drugs”
I was at such a low place by that time that I was finally determined to be done using for good. After 30 days in yet another Utah rehab center, I moved back to Utah County and began doing my consulting business again. Once I had been clean for seven months, I went into business with two partners doing CRM consulting, which eventually turned into a software company. But the real reason I was able to stay clean for so long was because I turned my addiction to drugs into an addiction for work and success. I became a workaholic. I had found passion in my business and enjoyed consulting with major companies around the states, but I was working 100 hours a week. In a period of two years we went from just the three of us to managing over 85 employees. We then went through our Series A of funding and raised over 7 million dollars for the company. As the COO, oversaw 75% of these employees. It was an amazing experience, I learned a lot, and it was enough to keep me sober at the time.
Eventually, there was so much going on with the business that I couldn’t sleep more than four hours a night. My weight had gotten out of control and I got up to 317 pounds. I was at the office six days a week and worked the seventh at my house. My business partners started getting really worried about me. I was so focused on this one area of my life that I let everything else go. My partners forced me to take my first vacation. I was going to take a couple months off and travel South East Asia. I had made plenty of money at this point and could basically do anything but I was fucking miserable. I bought a ticket to Thailand and thought I would travel and learn about Buddhism, which I hoped might cure my misery. However, I had to wait four weeks to get a passport. Two days into not working and I was stir crazy. Work had distracted me from my mental issues and without that, I was forced to face them.
The final drug run
Over the next three-and-a-half months, I blew through $93,000 on drugs alone. I was shooting dope and started smoking crack for the first time. I’d pay other people to go get me drugs because I didn’t want to get in trouble. On my birthday in December, I moved into the penthouse of a hotel and began a long binge on alcohol, crack, and heroin. Dealers would come to the room and drop off a few days’ worth of drugs so I didn’t even have to leave the hotel. At that point something miraculous happened.
“My mindset had been that money would bring me happiness… that was a false belief”
The drugs stopped working. I’d heard it mentioned in AA meetings before, where you get to a point that the drugs just have no effect. I felt I couldn’t overdose and I was using as much as I possibly could, but I couldn’t get high. I’d get high to quiet my mind, but now the drugs weren’t doing their job. In the past, all negative thoughts of being inferior, depressed, or hopeless had always been silenced by the drugs. Nothing seemed more miserable than having a shit ton of money and drugs but not being able to get high. It was at this “lowest of lows” that I had my moment of clarity. I thought, “What the fuck am I doing? I can’t even get high.” For the first time, drugs and alcohol were no longer a solution. I made the decision then to get clean.
I tried to detox on my own and I remember having seizures but can’t recall much from that period. On December 22nd, I called my mom at 3:30 a.m. and asked her to come take me back to treatment. I told her that she had to come right then, because I knew at 7 a.m. my dealers would be back to drop off more drugs. I was afraid to tell her that I had relapsed but she already knew. She told me she had been praying for me and had gotten a feeling that was the case. She had even called the treatment center set things up for me.
I got into treatment and they told me that my arms were the worst they had ever seen and they were very scared for me. I finally realized that I didn’t know anything and for the first time was willing to let others make the decisions for me. I spent the holiday season in detox and yet another Utah rehab center. I then went to sober living again, but this time it was to a much better, very well-run facility. I got a lot out of this sober living center. It taught me how to be re-introduced to the world, connected me with the sober community, and introduced me to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which I had previously refused to participate in.
Finding true happiness and recovery
For the first time, I started going to AA meetings on a regular basis and finally began to feel comfortable in that setting. Previously while in AA meetings, I had always looked around at everyone else and thought only about how I was different from them. This time around, I stopped looking at the differences and started looking at the similarities. I had also felt that I couldn’t do the AA steps because I didn’t believe in a higher power, but I was able to get over that and work the steps without identifying a higher power. I remember coming to the realization while in an AA meeting that, “This is where I’m supposed to be.” I had accepted the fact that I was an alcoholic and realized that I needed to put as much energy into getting sober as I had anything else in life, including my business. I got my first sponsor and he started working me through the steps, very slowly. I also started getting back into shape, changing my diet, going to the Fit To Recover gym, and joining a sober softball team.
My mindset had been that money would bring me happiness, but I realized that was a false belief. Now I find happiness by progressing as a person in all aspects of my life – emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally. It could be achieving a new personal bench press record, learning a new skill, or helping someone else. These are the things that bring me inner peace.
I basically told my partners that I wasn’t coming back and they were very understanding. They are doing very well with the business, having opened eight locations across the U.S. I live mostly off my savings now with a very frugal lifestyle. I enjoy living frugally because I know that money only brings me misery. I don’t eat out much, I don’t go on shopping sprees. I do travel a bit and recently did a cross-country road trip all over the U.S. I have reconnected with family and been fortunate to make a lot of amends. I also began serving in the addiction recovery field, where I can use my experiences and knowledge about what it takes to get sober to help others do the same.