04 Jan Believing there are better days ahead: A journey to beat addiction
Laughter, self-belief and knowing there are better days ahead are what Sean Steiner believes are key to moving on from addiction and forging a better life.
From his first drink at 13 years old to becoming trapped in heroin addiction in his early twenties, Sean has experienced the pitfalls of addiction first-hand, but he has also experienced the joy of changing his life.
This blog shares Sean’s story in the hope of reaching out to other young people who find themselves caught up in addiction or trapped in a place where they feel the future is slipping out of their control. He talks about his experiences and what helped him to make a change.
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
A craving for attention
Now 30 years old, Sean is passionate about helping young people, drawing on his own experiences and sharing the messages he has learned.
Growing up in a small town in Wisconsin, USA, Sean was an active child who played a lot of sport. The youngest of three brothers, his parents divorced and both remarried while he was still young. While he had a happy family life, Sean had a craving for attention that ultimately became a problem.
“I felt like, yeah I was good at sports, but they labelled me as ADHD, and it was hard to keep me in one place at one time. I didn’t really excel in that aspect. I had to find a way to get that attention and went out, getting in trouble. Grabbing attention in a negative way.
“I started drinking on my 13th birthday and it kind of accelerated from there to other things that got progressively worse as high school went on. I just felt like I wasn’t getting noticed by my parents, or whatever, and it let me on a dark path.”
In his senior year at high school, Sean’s mother sent him on an outer wilderness therapy programme, and from there he went to boarding school in an attempt to keep him out of trouble.
At boarding school he made up for lost time, quickly gaining credits that he had struggled to achieve at his old school.
Coping with tragedy
However, when he finished boarding school, he reverted back to his previous group of friends, returning to his previous lifestyle of smoking cannabis, drinking and living for the moment. Then when Sean was aged 18 his brother took his own life.
“It really crushed me. It really drove my addiction home. He was a really good friend to me and other than being my brother we spent a lot of time together. He was someone I trusted and cared deeply about.
“I started self-medicating, not dealing with the issues – like being able to talk to someone or just letting it out. It would come out when I was drinking. To give that experience the time it needed to process drove me deeper into self-medicating.”
Sean turned to alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, Vicodin and abusing prescription drugs.
“It was a nasty mess that eventually led me into heroin, which was my go to. It made me forget all the issues I had. It took me through a whirlwind of pain and agony. It quieted my mind, made me feel good about myself.
“I kept using – it was a mixture of things that made me feel good in the moment. I never really had a job, I did a semester at school but dropped out. All my money just went to having fun. There was a lot of lonely times in my head.”
Finding support in loved ones
However, as Sean’s drug use spiralled, he was lucky to have the support he needed to start to pick up the pieces of his life.
“My mom always supported me, always was there for me to pick me up. She helped save my life. She found my drugs – my heroin – and was going to stage an intervention with friends and family but my dad cancelled it last minute because he didn’t want to spring that on me.”
“I appreciate that, but I did need to hear it because I thought no-one cared about me. In my head I was this horrible person. How I acted, I definitely hurt people around me. People seeing me self-destruct was not a good thing. All my friends were willing to be there for me. My mom talked to all of them privately.”
“After I got wind of the intervention I thought ‘the cat’s out of the bag’. I had wanted to stop that lifestyle for a long time, but the stigma behind heroin use is like ‘that’s a horrible person, why would they do that?’”
“It’s not like you can go to a family dinner and say, ‘oh I have a heroin addiction’.”
“If you can do nothing else, do whatever is in your power to make the people in your life feel completely unashamed of who they are.”
The road to recovery and beat addiction
Sean’s mother offered him the option to go for treatment in Arizona.
“My low was just how I felt inside. I was devastated. I cried to my mom, I said, ‘I can’t live this way anymore’. I needed a change of scenery, new people around me, to get out of where I was.”
Through a six-month programme in Arizona Sean was able to turn his life around and is now married, has studied at college and is working. He is also keen to use his experiences to help others.
Advice for young people: Ask for help
What is his advice to people in a similar situation, who are facing problems with drugs or alcohol?
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you think that person is going to be judgemental then find another person and say, ‘I need help’. Someone who is not biased.”
For Sean this was his mum, who had seen alcohol addiction in other family members.
“Find someone who is going to be there to build you up and cheer you on because when you have lost everything its good to have someone there who will say ‘you’re a good person, you’re going to be able to do this. It’s going to be tough, but I’ll be there every step of the way.”
“Keep a positive attitude and believe in yourself. In my head I kept telling myself ‘things are going to get better – It’s just one day out of many days ahead of you, you could be dead right now or in jail’.”
“Being able to laugh about it – laughter helped me to heal, with the pain I went through and the struggles. It gives me energy to laugh.”
“A best friend is the only one that walks into your life when the world has walked out.”
Shannon l. Alder
However, Sean also believes finding a passion and moving forwards in life are the way to avoid falling into bad habits. His tip is to find something you love, that gives you joy just doing it. That’s the ideal journey to beat addiction.
“Find something you’re good at, you’re passionate about. Put yourself around people who are doing something, who are going to help you to step up to your next level. Not people who are just living, not pushing themselves to be better.”
“Whether that is sports, playing a musical instrument, going for a run, find something that will help you to clear you mind.”
Supporting young people
And Sean’s advice for parents?
“Be there but don’t be overbearing. The more I got pushed, told ‘you need to this’, I thought ‘well I’m going to do that, don’t tell me what to do’.”
“Always be encouraging, even if they are in a bad way. Say, ‘hey, I love you, you’re a great person, you’re so smart’. Let them know you do care. So many people I was in recovery with had family who had turned their backs on them.”
“Always be there and be able to give them options. Don’t try to push them because it will push them away further.”
Sean is now keen to help teenagers who are struggling with addiction and hopes to set up his own recovery centre with an animal rescue facility to help nurture life skills
For now he will continue to tell his story to help inspire people to change their lives and achieve the great things they are capable of.
“The day I found my smile again was when I stood in my own storm and danced with my tribe.”
Shannon L. Alder
Choose the life you want to lead
If you have made positive changes to your life and overcome serious problems, such as beating addiction, please do share your story with us and help to inspire others. Please leave your comments at the end of this blog article and connect with the community on social media:
Positivity, having a passion in life and building a strong mindset are so important to carving out the life that you want to live – find plenty of support on Back on Track Teens.