Successful Sobriety! Healing Properties Alum Chris Adams
Few things say successful sobriety like a wife, a kid, a full-time job and a degree or two. Throw in a hotshot sports betting start-up and you’ve also got sobriety come true. So spins the sober life of Healing Property alumni Chris Adams!
Chris used to “pride himself on the alcoholic badge” he wore. “I was a liquor drinker from the word go,” he said, “and I kept my foot on the pedal until I got sober.” That was 10 years ago. Before that though things weren’t very pretty. In fact, like almost everyone who’s out ripping and running, Chris had alienated all his family and friends and burned every bridge he ever hoped to cross again. He also basically found himself without a home.
Then Chris wised up. Got himself into rehab and drove away those demons. It took some work. Hard work. It also took some soul-searching. But slowly but surely Chris started to become Chris again. Then he began being an even better version of himself. Now he’s set on being the best Chris he could ever hope to be.
Chris got with his old alma mater and told us what it was like, what happened and what his life looks like now. As you’ll see, it’s a good life. Damn good. An enviable life as well. And Chris should be proud. We know we are!
Yesterday’s Drinking Days
Before we get into all the great good things happening in your life, may we please do a quick rundown about your more sordid yesterdays?
I started drinking around 13 or 14 years old. By sophomore year of high school, I was drinking by myself before school. Life went downhill quickly, and I became a walking blackout. Since being sober, I once calculated the amount of hours, days, weeks, and months of my life that I had lost due to blackouts – it was a lot… That’s probably why I try to squeeze so much out of every day now. I never drank normally even from the beginning and I remember every aspect of that first sip (the who, the what, the where, the when, even the why). From there, drinking quickly devolved me into a nasty, selfish, lone wolf – an absolute recluse. I learned early on that emotions are not sustainable to live the alcoholic life I thought I was destined for, so I shut them off too.
Could you please give us a brief picture of your ripping and running?
I thankfully never got heavily into drugs, but one withdrawal stint with alcohol is not something I would wish on anyone. To some extent I pride myself on the alcoholic badge I wear. I was a liquor drinker from the word “go” and kept my foot on the pedal until I got sober. For many alcoholics it takes time to find that just right mix of substances that is the sweet spot. For me, I knew I was home the second the burn of dark liquor passed through my esophagus into my stomach. I drank as often and as much as I could. Alcohol was the spark that ignited my fire, instantaneously forcing me across the threshold and in the blink of an eye I was gone. I drank daily and my rhythm was “come to, drink, black out, pass out, repeat.” I could usually get two or three solid drunks in a 24-hour period.
What compelled you to get clean?
I became physically dependent by the age of 20, multiple drunks daily – accompanied by all the mental, physical, and spiritual side effects: consistent four horsemen, shakes, sweats, audio and visual hallucinations, inability to process food, etc. For some reason, I do not like to call myself homeless during this time because it feels like an indictment on my unconditionally loving family, but I was not welcome at home, or anywhere for that matter.
So, I found shelter/places to stay where I could and made the hard choices like scraping together change and deciding between food and alcohol. It was not much of a decision at that point. There were plenty of people genuinely willing to help, but I’d become a horse with blinders. I burned every bridge imaginable, until it was just me and alcohol on that island. In the process I landed in some very interesting places, including the ward where I would adamantly tell people “I don’t belong here” to which a schizophrenic patient would respond “yeah man, me neither.”
Then one day I woke up and tried three times to choke down some whiskey so I would have a shot at eating some very outdated food. For the first time, it just didn’t work – I was unable to keep it down. At that moment if I had seen any other option or any other out to keep spiraling down, I would have taken it. But there was none. I was finished. I reached out for help – for the first time genuinely and without ulterior motives – and it came in bundles.
Where did you wind up enrolling in rehab?
Father Martin’s Ashley in Havre de Grace, Maryland. I did their 28-day in-patient treatment program.
Did you go straight to Healing Properties after completion?
I had plenty of visitors throughout my treatment and as my time there came to an end, it became apparent my family believed my best opportunity was to head to South Florida. So, they handed me a suitcase and two twenties and told me they “loved me” and “would always support me.”
Unfortunately, Healing Properties was not a promoted bed-to-bed option at FMA; instead I was sent to another house which did not at all resemble the brochure’s pictures or descriptions. I’m laughing thinking about it now. It was tough for my family to tell if I was being honest or manipulative until they came to visit. That day, my saint of a mother had a very “in-depth” conversation with the folks at FMA who, after apologizing profusely, informed us that there was another nearby place. Off I went to meet destiny – a pink halfway house, a house manager named Jon, a roommate named Will, oh, and a guy with one leg. Life took off from there – then again it kind of had to.
What did your time at HP look like?
I was tired of doing nothing for the past ten years. Now sober at the age of 24, I had a lot of catching up to do. I got involved with AA – attended meetings, met a sponsor (who is no longer my sponsor but was in my wedding last year), worked the Steps and Traditions, started sponsoring myself, helped start the Steerage meeting on Wednesday nights, etc. I started working in a restaurant, then left after a couple months to work at one of the hotel pools with one of my friends who to this day remains one of my closest friends. And I began college at Palm Beach State – from scratch. Before getting sober, I had attempted college on three separate times.
My days were incredibly full whole living at Healing Properties, and I made some very close friends. It was at HP that I remember genuinely laughing for the first time in a long time. While I was there I also built a relationship with Tim, the owner, which has stood the test of time and distance.
Where’d you go immediately upon leaving HP?
I was at Healing Properties for about a year. I left HP to move in with my sponsor at the time just down the road. We changed our relationship at that point, removing the definition of sponsor/sponsee. We were inseparable. And if he lived up here in Maryland, we would still be inseparable. While continuing my studies I ended up going back to HP, this time to work as Property Manager, and I remained in that role until returning to my family and friends in Maryland.
Back Home: A New Man
Did you divide your time between work and school and recovery up in Maryland too?
Yes. Balance in life is everything. Nothing personal (plenty of friends who love it and thrive there), but I was not coming back to Florida, and I knew that the minute I landed in Palm Beach after Father Martin’s. It would serve its time and purpose but for me, it would never be home. To do that, however (make the leap back home I had watched so many people fail at doing), it meant I could not become a statistic. I had been given all the tools I needed to be successful; now the only mitigating factor was action.
So, I created a life (from a recovery standpoint) like the one I had in Florida – meetings, sponsor, sponsorship, service, etc. Within a year and half, I had finished my bachelor’s degree and was working full time. And, like most of my friends from home, I did it with ease. More importantly, I was able to rekindle a relationship with my family. This relationship is now light years different in a positive way.
I also met my wife – which is quite a story. She is from Michigan and had moved to Maryland for a job at Johns Hopkins. To help her with the transition the hospital paired her up with a mentor from Michigan State. That mentor just so happened to by my best friends’ (and best man at our wedding) girlfriend at the time (now wife). Within two weeks of her starting and moving halfway across the country, we were on our first date. So no, I do not subscribe to coincidence or luck. I am a math guy, and the odds of us meeting are not logical.
Going for the MBA
With all that what made you decide to keep continuing your education after that initial run — the challenge, the enjoyment, the feeling of fulfillment?
From an achievement standpoint I am rarely fulfilled. I am usually content from personal and spiritual aspects, but achievement is something I’m always seeking. It is more to prove the people who supported me were and are right than anything else. I went to get my MBA at UVA’s Darden School of Business for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was that no one thought I was even going to graduate high school. So if I was going to “do” education, I was going to do it at the highest possible level. Likewise, I never want education to be a reason I cannot advance professionally. I also always aim to be the example for someone following in my footsteps; after all, someone was that person for me.
Might we say you got, er, hooked on the feeling of fulfillment?
There is something to that for sure. That said, education is incredibly important. This does not have to be formal education; I view it as learning. Having an appetite to learn and to chase a passion is a skillset so few people have (at least the ones I interview…). Education teaches so many lessons outside of the textbook that its effects are rippling. Fulfilment is a side effect of those two things (learning and passion); much like happiness being a byproduct of living right.
Did you stay the hardcore work/school/recovery course while you were at UVA?
I had no choice. If my time was minimal in undergrad it was nonexistent during this time. I was now working one of the most demanding professions (investment banking) full time, while attending Darden full time, and balancing it all with recovery and my personal life (buying a home, getting engaged, planning a wedding, executing a wedding, and expecting a baby in January of 2021). Time management is key but you also have to learn to delegate. I cannot be good at everything and that is okay. Learn to say no to things; that is also okay. I often laugh internally when people tell me how busy they are. There are more hours in a day than people think. It comes at a cost – less sleep, less time to watch college football, etc. But I love what I do and almost every aspect of my life, so why would I change it?
What did you end up earning for your efforts?
In May, I graduated from the University of Virginia – Darden School of Business with an MBA.
Thanks! It has been a wild but rewarding ride and it would not have been possible without the support of my wife Jamie!
(Be sure to come back tomorrow for Part 2 of Healing Properties interview with alum Chris Adams and find out how sobriety is spurring even further success!)