Chris Willard on Growing Through Drug Addiction

Grow Through It: Substance Abuse

Chris Willard, psychologist, teacher, and author of How We Grow Through What We Go Through, tells his story of growing through drug addiction.

When he went to college, Chris started to struggle with depression, anxiety, and addiction. He decided to take a few years off to ‘find himself,’ but during that time his IV heroin addiction got worse. After many treatment centers and therapists, he was finally kicked out of a halfway house and ended up sleeping in parks around Boston.

Chris’ family refused to pick him up, but they found another treatment center for him on the West Coast. His bed was not immediately open, so his parents took him with them to a retreat with the renowned meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.

The retreat was transformational. His heart felt like it burst open. He felt more engaged with life, more creative, and felt that life was worth living again in a different way.

Chris went to treatment, spent time in nature, and connected with others. He practiced mindfulness and meditation. As he got clarity, opportunities opened to him. He got sober and then built skills on his sobriety. Chris doesn’t think life gets any easier but that we get more tools to use. Meditation, 12 steps, and therapy became the tools he put his faith in because they worked for him.

Chris’ advice is to keep showing up. He learned more recently about self-compassion and tries not to listen to his inner critic. And he suggests trying to tune into more helpful thoughts, which can be a more powerful voice until we discover our inner compassionate voice that will help us through hard times.

Keri Blakinger on Growing Through A Prison Sentence

Grow Through It: Legal Issues, Incarceration

Keri Blakinger, author of Corrections in Ink, describes growing up as a competitive figure skater. When her skating career fell apart, she fell apart. She struggled with addiction for almost a decade, doing heroin, sex work, and living on the streets.

Blakinger was arrested in 2010 for drug possession and served under two years in prison. She got through it by learning how to make time pass — doing crosswords, running laps in her cell and reading.

She learned that our criminal justice system is broken.

Blakinger considers herself lucky and privileged. When she left prison, she was able to finish her degree and became a journalist.

She doesn’t believe there is any silver bullet for addiction. Everyone’s story is different. She found something else she could be passionate and obsessive about — her work as a reporter covering the criminal justice system.

Tracey Syphax on Growing Through Incarceration

Grow Through It: Legal Issues, Incarceration

Tracey Syphax, serial entrepreneur and author of From the Block to the Boardroom, describes a childhood filled with traumatic experiences that led to drug use, stealing cars, drug dealing, getting shot, and spending 7 years in prison. He turned his life around after reading the bible twice—cover to cover—in solitary confinement, developing a strong faith, and believing that God saved him. Syphax says that the possible is always possible. If he could go from the crackhouse to the White House, anyone can find their purpose and passion in life.