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The day I stepped off the plane in San Diego was like arriving on a distant planet, some space explorer weary of his surroundings and incredibly fearful of what dangers lie ahead. Not having more than a couple of days past since my father came home and told us to pack our clothes, I was now in California.
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This place I knew about from the movies and as big bad of a world that surrounded me in New York City was, I admit to being relatively sheltered. The enormous size of my family and tightly knit bond between us kept my view during childhood limited to those within it, good solid Irish-American Catholics in fear of God. Our community in the Far Rockaways was one of unlocked doors and open arms billowing with pride and a real sense of who we were. The culture transplanted from Ireland and visible at every turn gave us a real sense of that which brought us so close to one another, something that lacked greatly in my view of this new home I had found.

The baby weight hadn’t quite burned when I started stacking pre-puberty calories and I cannot deny having been a chubby kid upon arrival. The NYC accent shone through making me sound different and the style I brought with me didn’t quite fit in either, I was a beacon for attention and the sharks quickly began to sense blood in the water. On the flight, my mother sparked a conversation with another woman on the plane who spoke of the Poway Unified School District as being one of the best in the state if not nation. Concerned greatly with giving us the best they could possibly provide and having worked in education administration since becoming a mother that district was destined to be our home. What a difference between Rancho Bernardo and Queens, New York meant to me was a cultural shock that left me searching for an identity and insecure about who I was.

Any elementary school in the world will have its share of teasing and bullying regardless of how privileged or poverty stricken the area might be and my weight, accent and style made me prime candidate.

What my would-be harassers didn’t count on was the immense training in physical violence a tight knit family with many older male cousins will teach a young man and where I came from all but promoted the school yard fisticuffs. The teasing balled my fists and their challenge was accepted quickly as this was something I was familiar with; the result of an actual fight was something they were not. In the wake of such interactions I began to cultivate a bit of a reputation because to my surprise, having been beat up by a dozen or so older cousins regularly and returning such training to my younger kin left me with some rare skill sets in this part of the world. In short, I found out I could fight and so did they, both my peers and the staff of that school drawing unintentional negative attention.

Negative as it might have been it was attention no less and another by-product of the family had grown up to this point with was a lack thereof, not to any extent of neglect but naturally so given our staggering numbers.

The abilities imparted upon me by the attacks I had received and delivered among the boys of my family were now my greatest asset, quashing the teasing and giving me somewhat popularity. I cultivated this bad boy reputation from there and my attitude and appearance began to custom fit the persona. I was popular and liked or disliked that must have been important to me, I know it fed my budding ego and some false pride began to seep in. The “Real Me” would have to wait and remain an inner monologue as I exerted this tough guy image, who I was became far less important and over time would recess further into the obscurity of my mind.

The years following my arrival in the alien environment of Southern California saw my bright smile transform into a scowl, my fear of God dissipated and eventually disappeared, the intelligence I was blessed with no longer served me.

The rough and unapproachable façade I adorned would keep me safe and put those I encountered at arm’s length, the image I was representing would begin to take hold and my actions to support and reinforce it would lead down a dark road. In the beginning, it was simply acting out whenever I felt any type of way and regardless of the consequences I would feel better but soon I found alternative means of escaping my feelings with far more rapid results. The weekends were drinking, fighting, and destroying property, lying to my parents, and staying out all hours until those weekends spread into the week. This may sound typical of the late teenage or college years many experience yet I was barely in middle school yet and not even in my teenage years.


The onslaught of puberty matched with the excessive drinking and taking of whatever, I would raid from the medicine cabinet of friend’s parent’s bathrooms, smoke pot and do anything else that came along.

This such debauchery dulled my senses and freed me from inhibition dropping my guard against the drug that soon took my full attention. Speed came first from one such medicine cabinet, Adderall prescribed to a friend’s younger brother and a full bottle no less. Myself and the co-conspirator I unwittingly dragged along discovered this gem of pharmaceutical fun after breaking into the house of someone we knew to be away on an extended vacation the summer before entering my final year as a middle schooler.

At the ripe old age of 12 I wasn’t in the least bit fearful of our burglary bringing any trouble my way, after all it was trouble that freed me from having to feel like myself at first. In my mind who I was becoming was great and in retrospect probably kept me from feeling the depression and awkwardness of those years which may have killed me.

Already buzzed from the booze we pilfered out of the stocked bar in this house I didn’t even pause a moment to consider popping the top off the prescription and splitting up the spoils with my accomplice. 30 little pink pills sat in my palm for less time than it would take to count as I threw them in my mouth giggling as I washed them down with another swig of some liquor and prompted the kid I dragged along to follow. The fear in his eyes was exciting for me and I knew he would join me as his need for acceptance ran far deeper than mine, we didn’t know what we were doing and who really does at that age. The difference is we probably had better sense of who we were than most, mainly we knew we didn’t want to be whoever that person inside us appeared as and certainly didn’t want to feel how that felt.

BOOM!!! I was found finally and at long last as the intense stimulation from this miracle of modern science began to course my veins, I was alive and cared not that the effects of the alcohol were washed away.

This felt amazing and I wanted no interruption to distract me from its powers, I could do or be anything or anyone, my senses enhanced and fear vanished. This feeling was shared by my friend who suddenly went from timid and nervous to pronouncing himself a God and storming through the house smashing things at will. Laughing and assisting in this gratuitous vandalism and expression of new found power we both seemed to now have the ultimate solution to becoming the people we had been pretending to be. This show needed to be taken on the road as the confines of this house became too small for the aspirations of debauchery expanded within and without hesitation we abandoned this place and paraded through the neighborhood knocking over and kicking through anything in our path.

Without even noticing the entire night had gone past and here we were still invigorated with the spirit of an invading force the could not be stopped. “This stuff is amazing, maybe we should be on it!” stated my future co-defendant and my only response was “Yeah, I don’t think you’re supposed to take 30 at a time…” We laughed and continued.

The only thing I was concerned with was getting more of my new found favorite form of escaping into this amazing place of absolute freedom. What would I have to present as symptoms to my parents, teachers, or doctors to keep this in steady supply was my dominating thoughts as it slowly trickled from my system. Even then I knew that half of the month long supply I had taken was barely enough to last a few days before the yearning for more crept in and I wanted to feel this way all the time… The Hunt was ON!

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Stop Frying Your Brain song kept rattling around in my head after visiting their website. It was worse than it’s a small world at Disneyland. Eventually… I would hook up with those guys and it’s all because of that one stupid song.

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Stop Frying Your Brain – Locked Up Again Jail House Interviews

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The video below is not a reality show for entertainment. Yet, it is filmed in real life. The casting and their names are real.  The make-up, lighting and stage setting are actual ‘on the scene’. The clothing: Orange jumpsuits! The county, state,and  jail institute are of no importance.  This video represents our nationwide status.  

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SFYB Founder & Author

This video was produced for the ones suffering this affliction.This video was produced for the ones living the painful repercussions of those suffering this affliction.

This video was produced for the community minded, the hearts that are concerned, the workers that are able to reach: social, professional, educational, media, and faith based groups.

 

 

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Watch this video in its entirety.  It is about the experience, strength and hope to stop this nationwide destructor, one person at a time.  

The experience you will witness comes from jail inmates. The strength you will feel comes from a musical message.

The hope you will develop comes from the information provided that explains exactly where an addict can locate his or her personally designed drug treatment program plan.

There is no need to grasp in the wind for which drug treatment might or might not be the correct one.

The answer is at the end of this reality video.

If you are in a position to spread this helpline message to your ‘tribe’, please do just that. Being proactive is the reason we get stuff done.  You are a vital part of this nationwide solution. Watch, learn from it, pass it on, get the sobriety ball rolling. Thanks Robert Henslee



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That damn stupid Stop Frying Your Brain song kept rattling around in my head after visiting their website. It was worse than it’s a small world at Disneyland. Eventually… I would hook up with those guys and it’s all because of that one stupid song. Thanks guys you changed my life.

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Stop Frying Your Brain song kept rattling around in my head after visiting their website. It was worse than it’s a small world at Disneyland. Eventually… I would hook up with those guys and it’s all because of that one stupid song.

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How I Survived the Hunger Games of Law @StopFyringBrain

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Prior to enrolling in law school, I had no idea about the “cutthroat” culture and law students using guerrilla tactics to gain an edge in obtaining better grades, accolades, and academic distinctions. During my first semester, I witnessed despicable classmates hide study guides in the library stacks during finals week, outright reject modest peer requests for copies of study outlines; and deceive absent classmates about the subject matter discussed by professors during exam study halls. These were just a few examples of atrocities of human nature I witnessed. Very quickly, it became clear that the motto “each man for himself” was ingrained in the law school culture. Essentially, I was one out of about 100 recruits enlisted to train as a “law student mercenary.” The mission: focus solely upon surviving law school, no matter the cost.

As semesters came and went, it became obvious that many of my classmates’ mental and physical health were deteriorating. On countless occasions, I witnessed students break down in tears after exams, and later observed many peers miserably hiding in between the law library stacks. For fear of stigma and shame, many classmates chose to cope with their anxiety and depression in their respective ways. Meanwhile, some sinister overachievers quietly reveled in their misery. Displays of integrity and decency were almost non-existent. Understandably, some students “mailed it in,” and dropped out altogether.

Without question, a majority of students leaned on substances to cope with academic stress and anxiety. For instance, some carried flasks of whiskey in their backpacks while others would pop loads of Adderall to fuel all night study sessions. Our weekly Friday Happy Hour slowly morphed into Happy Hours. Quite frankly, drinking, drugging, and addiction were very much a part of law student culture.

As for myself, my approach was simple: keep my head down, trust a select few, nurture genuine relationships with faculty and administration; and never distract myself with law school politics. It seemed that simple right? In spite of my mother battling a terminal neurological disorder, I remained focused on the prize. In 2010, I graduated with strong academic credentials right before my mother passed away and reveled in her being proud of her son.

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Entering The Real Life Practice Of Law

Admittedly, I was naive to think that once I entered the real world of law practice, the fierce competition would quiet down a bit. First, I began as solo practitioner, and worked concurrently as judicial clerk for a senior probate judge. Itching to gain courtroom experience, I joined a close friend at a South Florida firm representing institutional lenders in foreclosure actions. If I had a dime for every complaint I heard from staff and attorneys, I’d be a very rich man. With the exception of the sole shareholder, there wasn’t a happy employee in the office. Further, it was obvious to me that many were abusing alcohol and other substances while “on the clock,” and few took pride in their work. Management neither demonstrated a modicum of interest to boost employee morale nor even attempted to address employee wellness.

After a year, it became clearly apparent that continuing to represent banks in residential foreclosure actions would eventually lead to career suicide. More importantly, my legal mind was atrophying. So, I leveraged my local connections and joined “Big Law” where I concentrated my experience in a professional liability defense group. At the time, I felt like I had reached the pinnacle of my career. For starters, I had a beautiful office with an ocean view, a great salary, great benefits, and I was working on newsworthy cases. To quote Rod Tidwell from Jerry MacGuire, “I had reached the qualm.” Sadly, it only took a few short weeks to realize that this was merely a figment of my imagination.

Deciding Whether My “Big Law” Colleague Remained An Ally Or An Enemy

Unfortunately, starting out in “Big Law” was as terrifying as landing on the chaotic Normandy Beach in 1943, and being clueless as to where your “fellow” soldiers’ loyalties existed – with the allies or the axis. Trying to distinguish which of your colleagues was an enemy or a friend was next to impossible. Since my performance was primarily measured by the amount of monthly billable hours, I anxiously practiced in fear of my superiors and wary of the motives of fellow attorneys. As for my beautiful office with an ocean view, I rarely took my eyes off of my computer screen, so I barely had an opportunity to admire the blue horizon.

As the weeks went on, it became clear to me that I was an insignificant associate droning away at a “Big Law” firm fighting battles on multiple fronts. On one front, I was battling to meet my monthly billable hour quota. Keep in mind, the firm shareholders spared no mercy when it came to reminding me that my job security solely depended on meeting my monthly billable hour quota. On a second front, I had to aggressively jockey for access to mentorship and opportunities to professionally grow. Otherwise, my professional progression would end up permanently stunted. I also had a very difficult time establishing a solid rapport with fellow colleagues outside of my practice group based primarily upon the fact that intrafirm competition successfully suppressed trust-building conversations and camaraderie.

Overall, the office morale was exceedingly low. I commonly observed poor body language in my fellow colleagues, and often heard of them quietly thinking aloud of their “exit strategy.” The partners generally appeared miserable, and the stench of scotch emanated from their orifices at all times of the day. Granted, the firm boasted some brilliant legal minds with high IQ’s, but their emotional intelligence was well below average. It became very clear to me that this was not a place to for me, a millennial lawyer, to thrive.

Stress-big-law-anxiety-law practice-depression-anxiety-competition-addiction-pressure-coping
Coping With the Immense Stress and Pressure

Quite frankly, I numbed my depression and anxiety with alcohol. During the weekdays, I would come home and cook dinner while polishing a bottle of wine. Every Friday afternoon, it was routine for me to greet my wife (then fiancé) with a handle of Jack Daniels (instead of flowers) and make sure it was polished come Sunday. No exceptions. Additionally, I began smoking cigarettes while driving to work, prior to attending court, and in some cases before and after client meetings. I stopped exercising (because I had no time), and my diet primarily consisted of Chinese takeout and pizza. To make matters worse, I saw how helpless my wife felt as she witnessed me transform into a depressed attorney that medicated himself with vices of all sorts. It nearly destroyed me and broke my heart.

Without question, I was killing myself slowly, but surely. Ironically, I ignored the all-too familiar warning signs. After all, I lost several close friends in the legal industry because they failed to address their depression, anxiety, and addiction issues. All things considered, why would I neglect my mental and physical wellness? Simple, lawyers like myself, are taught never to show weakness or vulnerability, as their jobs partially depend on maintaining this impenetrable façade of resilience. I was frightened of the scenario that word would get out that I was seeking professional help, and my career would come to an abrupt end.

My Moment of Clarity and Finding Purpose

After slaving away for about seven months in “Big Law” and seeing how my mental and physical health deteriorated to concerning levels, my family and wife demanded I resign. The very next day, I tendered my resignation and decided to focus on rehabilitating myself. This was the hardest and best decision I’ve ever had to make. Looking back, it was a life-saving decision.

Candidly, I spent the next year or so saddled with confusion, self-doubt, anger, and regret. Rather than wallow in a state of depression, I chose sobriety as my vehicle to regain my clarity and confidence. During this long period of introspection, my creative juices began to flow once again and I finally discovered my purpose.

For better or for worse, I uniquely possess the crucial characteristic of spending years engaged in that daily struggles that accompany a high stress profession, such as law. Today, I draw upon my experiences to connect with my fellow attorneys and professionals who feel tortured and confused. Phrased differently, the sharpest tool I have in my toolbox of communication assets is empathy. It is an effective trust-building asset that can slice through any psychological defense mechanism.

I am now the founder of MindWell Coaching and Counseling, spawned from my own personal experience to help solve a problem where no solution exists: to coach and counsel lawyers and educated professionals battling depression, anxiety, addiction, and simply neglecting their physical health. My wife, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and assists with repairing the family unit.

We recognize there is a generational gap when it comes to the priorities of millennial professionals and our esteemed elder statesmen (and women). Together, we coach and counsel attorneys, professionals, and “ordinary” people who suffer from depression, anxiety, addiction, and those who simply feel stagnant professionally.

Today, I stand proud that I had the courage to walk away and save myself.  I am here for those who need to rebuild their confidence and courage.

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  • Faith in Recovery  Click image below to visit our FB page
  • Faith in recovery USA Connections Welcome to United Churches Against Addiction. We consist of many subchapters. Currently we have two active subchapters, Faith in Recovery UK, Faith In Recovery USA. This is the USA subchapter....
  • Faith in recovery UK Connections Welcome to United Churches Against Addiction is a one stop shop providing support for people struggling with addictions by connecting them with local churches and quality specialised groups and centres suited...
  • United Churches Against Addiction – UCAA Welcome to United Churches Against Addiction. United churches against addiction is the parent organization of churches around the world whose purpose is to share resources and information with those...
  • Humbly United Brave souls are we who have waged a great war within ourselves and emerged victorious upon surrender, this is the axiom for which we lay a foundation that will bear the weight of...

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