EP22 Danny Dwyer – Bridging the Gap – from Homeless to Hero
If you are like Keith and always looking for good causes to help out, checkout Danny's Charity Front Line Yoga at https://www.facebook.com/frontlineyoga. Front Line Yoga works to get as many yoga mats into the hands of the homeless with the hopes that one day it will end up beneath their feet.
In this episode, I catch up with an old friend, Danny Dwyer. We dive deep into how he went from addicted to heroin and homeless for four years, to now being sober for 10+ years. We talk about how he got started with drugs when he was 8 years old, the progression, and getting kicked off the Boston Police Department for buying heroin, to eventually overdosing 2 times. Then we dive into the man he is today, how he got clean, his two amazing sons, Danny and Luke, and the “hero” work he now does.
- Danny discusses how his addiction began as early as 8 years old with his brother [6:43]
- He shares how marijuana was introduced to him [8:10]
- Alcohol wasn’t his vice, drugs were. He shares the pain that he was undergoing from moving, divorce and addiction [9:56]
- Danny gets into how drug varieties changed as he got older [10:49]
- He talks about his dad as a bar owner in Massachusetts. Danny describes him as a good guy but a hustler [12:15]
- He shares in more detail about his brother and their life in California [13:50]
- Danny describes why he used drugs: was it more emotional escape or physical dependence [15:39]
- He shares more information about his mother and how they moved quite a while in California and his mother’s addiction to alcohol [16:50]
- Danny shares why his mother and brother move back to Massachusetts [17:54]
- He talks about life in Veteran’s Project in East Dedham [18:58]
- Danny led kind of a dual life while growing up [19:36]
- Although there were scary parts of Danny’s life, he was really lucky as his dad made some major life changes [21:04]
- During his high school years, he participated in sports but was still involved with drugs [21:51]
- After graduating high school, Danny goes into the military (Air Force) cleaned up and fit, [22:59]
- He shares how he excelled in the Air Force with various positions he had [24:14]
- He talks about his sobriety of 11 years [25:11]
- Danny is great with dates based on various plaques that he earned from jobs he had over the years [26:54]
- He explains how he was in fact working on himself while balancing his work life but in turn let to addiction again [29:43]
- Due to his ACL tear and now pain medication addiction, he discusses how easy access to such things as: opiates, OxyContin and Percocet [32:06]
- Being a Police Officer on drugs, getting arrested in Lowell, Massachusetts and hitting rock bottom [33:50]
- Although he had no money, he shares how he still got his hand on drugs and living under a bridge [37:02]
- He talks about the physical pain of heroin withdrawal [40:33]
- If things couldn’t get any worse, he shares his experience in 2004 when he almost died [41:27]
- Explains what narcaned is [43:45]
- Danny wakes up in the emergency room having died, once stabilized he was released, but finds heroin in his pocket [44:40]
- Explains what fentanyl is [47:28]
- Danny explains how an overdose works [49:24]
- He explains why he is 100% still alive and how he ends up in a halfway house [50:05]
- Ended up being in a long term treatment center, North Cottage in Norton, Massachusetts [51:31]
- Philosophy on different type of therapies that work people may use and what worked for him [53:47]
- Today is about reaching out and connecting with people and those people validate me as a human being [56:33]
- Talks about his purpose, Luke and Danny [58:20]
- Recovery and what is important now to Danny [1:05:00]
- Mentor therapist – “Your shame hates exposure and it cannot survive the light” [1:05:48]
- He shares how he uses his Facebook page like it’s a journal to the world [1:08:21]
- Danny talks about how his mind isn’t completely consumed and overwhelmed [1:11:15]
- He talks about getting “help” [1:14:15]
- Being apart of the BETA podcast – Owning the Dash course [1:17:44]
You’re listening to The Business of Life podcast. Practical advice for creating the life you love to live. Here’s your host, Keith Callahan.
KC: Welcome to The Business of Life Podcast Episode number 22. Keith here and as always, super excited to have you on and grateful that you’re listening in every single week. If you’re new to the show, this is the show where I interview life experts and people that I admire, really extracting their success tips and also deconstructing my own personal success and failures, many of them in all areas of life, from physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial and really we share what has worked and what hasn’t worked. And, all of these interviews and all of my teachings are really, it’s based off of building a life of freedom, freedom to be able to do what you want when you want with who you want. And today, we have a really special guest, a good friend of mine, Danny Dwyer and we’re talking about bridging the gap from homeless to hero and Danny’s just, I mean this story is, it’s an amazing story of really, you know, when he was 8 years old, he started using drugs and when we talk about hitting rock bottom, like he hit it and he hit it hard and to be able to see who he is as a man now, the generosity that he gives, the open heart that he walks with, he is a, I know he’s had sole custody of his 2 boys for the last 7 years and it’s really, it’s his pride and joy and it’s why he does what he does and it’s, you know, it’s what keeps him going every single day. But, 2 amazing sons, Luke and Danny and, yeah, that’s sort of how we first connected through the yoga studios Open Doors and then we kind of connected with our kids as well. I haven’t been able to get as much time hanging out with him because we now live like 3 hours away but it was awesome to catch up on the podcast and really just an amazing, amazing story of overcoming some crazy stuff in your life. So, you’re going to love this one and, you know, I got off and I ran right down to my wife Amy once we got done recording and I was like “That was just awesome.” I was like “Danny has so much to offer.” And, Danny, you’re probably listening to this recording now. One of the things that I said to my wife was “He has to start telling this story like to schools and, you know, on a bigger platform. So, it was just awesome, man. Glad to have you on. Before Danny jumps on, I want to mention something that we have, that we’re Beta testing right now. So, I just put together a course and it’s called Owning the Dash and what owning the dash means, it’s that dash on our gravestone, right? So, we have a birth date and a death date on our gravestone and then there’s a dash between that and the dash is, it’s our life, right? Like, we don’t have control over when we’re born. We don’t have control over when we die but we have control over that middle piece and I’ve put together a course called owning the dash and it’s really, it’s to help people who are self-motivated but they’re desperate. They’re unsure of what to do or where to go in life and you know that you can do so much more, be so much more and it’s to help you go from that confused, desperate, desperate is probably a strong word but like confused, unsure place into empowered and unstoppable. So, this is beta testing right now. It’s 13 modules and it’s modules like you get to hear my story and how I went through 7 generations of change, picking your super power inspiration or desperation, how to really pray, surrender, praying through or praising to, the list just goes on and on. I am just insanely excited about this course. Like I said, this is going to be a course that we’re going to be charging for very soon. But, right now, I’m opening it up to you, our listeners for a beta test phase. So, you’re going to be the first ones that go through and you’re also going to get access to a private Facebook group where I’m going to be extremely active in it. So, how do you get access to that? If you go to the website, Owning the Dash, so just like it sounds, Owningthedash.com and there’s a little thing there, it’ll tell you to fill-out your e-mail address and we will get you into that group. Again, this is beta testing. It’s free to you right now. I can’t stress enough. This is like my whole entire life’s work, the last 15 years. I just poured my heart and soul into this and I’m extremely proud of it and I know it’s going to help so many people because we want to make that change in our life but we keep failing over and over and over. And, that’s what this course is. It is a breakthrough course. So again, swing over to Owningthedash.com. But, enough about that, let’s bring Danny on. You’re going to be blown away with this story.
INTERVIEW WITH DANNY DWYER
KC: Alright, so I am here with my good friend, Danny Dwyer. Danny, welcome to the show, man.
DD: Thank you.
KC: So, prior to you and I getting on here, I always go through and do a full introduction, kind of how you and I know each other and all that. So, the listeners, everybody listening has already gotten that but I was wondering if we could sort of dive right in. I know, like personally, I know a little bit about your story. I know a little bit about how you went through that patch of addiction and the patch of being homeless. But yeah, I was wondering if we could sort of jump right into that and sort of catch me up and everyone else who’s listening up on sort of that part of your life.
DD: Yeah, definitely. So, I mean that’s the piece that most people see later on but the addiction part started for me at the age of 8. So, I just got to say I’m not used to talking about this so I’m just going to be thinking about it in my mind and then letting it come out as it comes out. But, the best way I can start is, so at the age of 8, my parents had split up just prior to that and my mother moved with myself, my brother and my older sister out to Los Angeles, California. She happened to work overnights at that time and my sister ended up moving back home to my dad to Massachusetts and so my brother was left to take care of me. So, this is the early ‘70s. Thing were a little bit fast-paced out at Los Angeles, so a little bit ahead of things back here and my brother who’s only 5 years older at that time, who was 13 was involved with kids that were into drugs and other things. And so, he was the one that took care of me. So, that’s how I was first exposed to drugs at the age of 8 was from my brother. You know, I used to, as part of hanging out with the group, that was kind of what you did with the group and so that’s how I initially got exposed.
KC: Yeah. So, at like 8 years old, was it like pot or even heavier stuff?
DD: Alcohol, marijuana, mostly marijuana, you know maybe at a young age, I don’t about other people but I didn’t have a tolerance for alcohol. It made me very sick. So, it was mostly marijuana but it was kind of a daily thing. So, it was kind of a little crazy, you know, I was in, I remember the first day of second grade when he came to get me after school. He was with a group of kids and we went right down the street to this guy’s house, to this kid he was hanging out with’s house and that was the first time that I got high. It was with a group of his friends and I was 8 and then I would just remember from there like my after school was kind of, you know, hanging out with older kids smoking pot and doing the things that all the kids do and then the next day I’ll be in, practicing penmanship and playing at recess. It was kind of a little bit confusing at that age is what I could say.
KC: Yeah, yeah, so it was kind of like you moved out to L.A. and you had the change in location and the separation with your parents and all that. And then, all of a sudden, drugs sort of came in right into the picture, right?
KC: So, for me it was a little bit different. Like, for me, when I was 12 years old I remember sitting in my bedroom and I can remember everything so vividly and I stole a six pack of beer from my dad and I drank that whole six pack in my room at 12 but I remember that I liked it. Like, I really liked it. So, like for you, when you started even at that young, young age of 8, was it something that you really liked right away?
DD: So, like I said, I didn’t have a tolerance for alcohol so I didn’t really care for it. But, I was in a lot of pain for what was going on with my family. You know, at the age of, you know, it happened prior to that, they’re separated and you see the arguing and the fighting and all that. And, you know, I’m looking back now. So, my reflection is I didn’t really know what was taking place then but what I know now is that I took on a lot of responsibility for the things that were happening between my parents. I felt kind of like it had something to do with me. So, marijuana, even though, you know, I didn’t realize at that time but it kind of took some pain away for me. I kind of felt good when I smoked and I was accepted by the people that I was hanging around with. So, it kind of fed me on a few different levels. You know, at that age it’s very confusing, so.
KC: So, it started with marijuana and then from there how did things progress?
DD: You know, marijuana, it stays that way for a few years and, you know, as I start to get older, as your age change you should get exposed to different groups and at that age level, there’s usually higher levels of drugs taking place. So, I think, you know, alcohol comes back into the picture. There’s a small amount of pills around at that time, by 11 and 12 years old. But, by the time I’m 14 years old, cocaine enters the picture. Same thing, similar, so, kind of what happens in between 8 and 14 is I spend 4 years in L.A. but I go back and forth between households. Usually come back and spend the summer with my dad here in Massachusetts. And, my dad who is, you know, he was a bar room owner. He had a bar room in South Boston. So, basically, the time I spent with my dad on the weekends or when I was allowed to get time with him, it was involved in being inside of a bar room, so.
KC: So, this was still in the ‘70s, right?
DD: Oh yeah, still in the ‘70s. So, you know, it’s very, I can’t even put words to it but it was a big thing back then. Not that it’s not now but…
KC: Yeah, so South Boston in the ‘70s, this was Winter Hill Gang, Lady Baldger, all that stuff going on like in full effect.
DD: Pretty much. So, what I grew up with around is, I kind of didn’t want to put anybody out there in my family. Not that anybody is, you know, my dad was, he’s a great guy but he was a hustler. He grew up the way he grew up and what he did is he earned money and put food on the table and a roof over your head and he did what he had to do to make those things happen and part of owning a bar room with, you know, there’s, you know, there’s things going on with numbers and loan shark and then all those types of things that have happened. So, at that time, my godfather also owned a bar room over on Broadway, right around the corner which was called The Pen. So, what I used to actually do is between the 2 bar rooms, I had a shoe shine box and I used to run back and forth. Those were like my territories so nobody else could, I had to run back and forth between both bar rooms so that I could protect my turf to earn my money shining shoes. So, but when I would run back and forth, my dad used to always give me an envelope to bring over to my, what I’d call my uncle Hank. He was my godfather and, you know, come to find out later on, you know that the money is full of money in the envelope from the action that’s taking place, so.
DD: And then, on Sunday it was a well-known place to where you could pull up and buy a six pack. You pull up to the curve and we’d run you out, this is out at my godfather’s place, the Pen. They’d run you out in a paper bag, a six pack of beer and they’d sell them right out to the cars on the curve. This is before. You can obviously go anywhere else on a Sunday and get alcohol, so.
KC: Yeah and that was on Broadway?
DD: Yes, it was on Broadway in South Boston.
DD: So, that kind of was what I did as kid and then, you know, when I went back to California, my brother was involved with some pretty heavy hitters out in California. Like I said, things were different in the ‘70s. Out there was a lot of gang related activity. So, my brother, how can I explain it out there, is you could be 8 years old and hanging out with somebody that’s 25 years old. Everybody was mixed together. It was kind of where you live and that’s just how things were. So, it would not be odd to find myself with a 25-year old driving with a group of kids in the back smoking marijuana and we’d be heading up to like what they call PV or Palos Verdes, where the hills were and we’d skateboard down our big wheels and then they used to drive around and, you know, not to get into, but they would rob houses. The older kids had the younger kids that would cruise, what they do is they take someone like me or the younger brothers of the kids I hung with who were small and we’d go in through the doggy door and open the door for them to come in and that’s kind of was how I was involved. So, literally that would be going on. I’d be out to 1, 2 o’clock at night because my mom worked overnight at Reynolds Aluminum so she was never around and that’s how my brother took care of me. So, there was drugs involved and that was involved and like I said, I would get home and then the next day I’d be playing kickball at recess so it was kind of a little overwhelming time in my life. So, I started to use more and more drugs to get away from how I was feeling about it all. Because, I never really liked it, you know.
KC: When you were using drugs and alcohol, was it a physical dependence or was it an emotional escape or was it both?
DD: Initially, it’s just an emotional escape. Initially actually my brother forced me to take drugs. I mean it’s, that part of my story is pretty known. So, it’s kind of this, kind of some abuse behind it. He used to have to babysit me. So, his way of doing that was to kind of drug me so that he didn’t have to watch me and what started to happen after that is over time I started to build a tolerance to the marijuana and the sleeping pills that he was giving me and stuff like that and, you know, I started to become a part of the group that he was in more and more because he had to involve me because he couldn’t leave me behind. So, physically, no, as younger age, I don’t believe there was physical dependence. I believe that I was, you know, building towards, you know, that dependence over time. But, no, it was definitely more of an emotional escape from things, the way that, you know, my life was at that time. It was pretty crazy, so.
KC: And then, from there, so now you’re kind of in your early teens. Did you wind up, like how did things progress from that point?
DD: So, along the way, it’s a lot of moves. My mom was an alcoholic so that’s a part of this story that there was a lot of moves when we were out in California based, you know, her abuse of alcohol and failure to make ends meet where we were living so we moved quite frequently. So, that exposed me to a lot of different areas and a lot of different people where progression started to take place and that’s how it happened as I started to get older is that still living with my mom and part-time with my dad here and there. It’s usually where my mom was living at that time because things were different then. Like now, drugs are everywhere but back then drugs were, what’s the word I want to use, but they were areas that were known for drugs. So, a lot of times, you know, I hate to put it that way but it was affecting lower income areas at that time.
KC: Yeah, sure.
DD: And, that was usually the places that we ended up finding a new place to live and that’s how I started to become exposed.
KC: Yeah, and all still out in the L.A. area?
DD: So, L.A. and then, we finally, we make a move back to Massachusetts and the reason being is my brother got in some pretty heavy duty trouble out in California that involved, you know, the court system and all of that and actually, we were asked to leave the state based on that. If he stayed in the state, he would have had gone into the juvenile correction system. So, because we had the opportunity to come back here, he was allowed to do that and that’s how ended up back in Massachusetts. So then, based on, you know, the neighborhood we end up in, over time that’s how I’ve become exposed to cocaine.
KC: Yeah. So now, where are you back in Massachusetts?
DD: So, initially coming back, you know, Hyde Park, my dad was still in Dedham, kind of back and forth but where I end up on cocaine is my mom ends up living in a section of Dedham called East Dedham, the Veterans Projects it was called. So, it was literally this one road leads down into and it’s this big circle block of project housing which when you think of project, not like a New York housing project but more like row houses almost.
KC: Yeah, yeah.
DD: And, it was basically built for veterans of war way back when they would return and eventually it just became a place for people to live that couldn’t afford to live at other places. It was infested with drugs down there. I mean it was literally, I mean cocaine was the big thing moving, you know, coming out of the ‘70s, going into the ‘80s. So, those were the big drugs back then. Opiates weren’t really the thing around that area at that time and so that’s how my exposure comes to take place.
KC: So, fast forward, so you eventually got into the military, right?
DD: So, yeah, so this is, I lived kind of dual lives growing up. So, I always had a side in me, I really always wanted to do good and I never really liked doing the things that I was doing. Like, I was never crazy about doing drugs but it kind of was where I was and I kind of got addicted to it taking the pain away from me. So, whether I was really physically dependent at that time, emotionally, I was dependent, it was like a crutch in my life and that’s how I used it.
KC: So, was it something that, like for me I know with alcohol, it was like a 10-year stint. It was from like 12 to 22 and what I realized towards the end was that I hadn’t really developed emotionally during that time and that was the hardest thing. I don’t think I ever had that physical addiction but it was that, like facing those emotions and facing that, like all the healing that I had to do for myself was what kept me drinking I think.
DD: Absolutely, and the scary part about when you use this substance, what it’s doing is taking you away from who you are. So, that’s why the growth stops because you’re never really in your own faculties. You’re never really learning about yourself without being under the influence. So, at a later date you’re going to have pay and catch up on that, if that makes any sense. Do you know what I mean?
DD: But, I was also really lucky. I just want to add that my dad, you know, my dad was pretty successful in the things that he did and he eventually, you know, made some changes in his life where he got into some legitimate businesses and got out of the bar room business and he was able to provide some opportunities for me based on the life that he didn’t have and I wound up ended up going to Xaverian Brothers High School if you know anything about it. So, now a Boys Catholic High School and it’s a really good school and I’d have to say that happening in my life really changed the direction of where I might have ended up. Who knows where I would’ve ended up? But, it definitely played a role in how I ended up in the military and how I did good, so.
KC: So, did you wrestle and play football there? That’s like the 2 things they’re known for, right?
DD: I played back in the day. Football was the main thing. I actually graduated, not to mention his name but [inaudible – 00:21:56] football and basketball was really huge back then. No, I played football. I did some track. I did I think a season of wrestling. I’m not sure if I completed the whole season because even though I was Xaverian, I still struggled very heavily with drug addiction during high school. In my earlier high school years, especially sophomore and junior year. Cocaine really took a hold in my life, where there definitely was, you know, some major amounts of drugs being used and a lifestyle being lived outside of school that was really getting in the way of things.
KC: Yup. So then, eventually you graduate and you went on to, did you go right into the military?
DD: I did. So, I graduated at May 19th, 1985 is when I graduated high school. And, by November 28th, Thanksgiving Day of that year I was in basic training. I left of Thanksgiving. I needed to get out of town.
KC: Yeah, so when you were in basic training, did you go full-time with the military or were you?
DD: Initially, yes. So, when I started out, I joined the, I was in 2 branches in the military. So, I started with the Air Force in 1985. Basically, the reason I joined the military is I knew I wasn’t ready for college. I always had a desire to serve. I kind of wanted to. It’s just something, it’s a calling, I guess. This is the best way I can explain it from within. But, it was a way for me to get away from what I was living and I was looking to get away from it all because I knew, I was looking at the people around me that didn’t go to Xaverian and ended up staying and not having some changes take place for them, including my brother. They ended up in the prison system. They wound up dead or they wound up, they’re still living a lifestyle that involved drugs and alcohol.
KC: So, with the military, did you wind up like, did the structure with that take away the need for the drugs and alcohol?
DD: Yes. So, I cleaned up, to back it up, I cleaned up in my senior of high school. I went away to football camp. I really like got my stuff together for my senior and, you know, I made a real goal of it. And so, I was physically fit. I went into the military. I scored very high on the exam. That’s how I got into the Air Force and of course, you know, I said I never did any drugs or anything like that.
DD: So, I wound up ending up, initially my job was air condition and refrigeration because the career I wanted to get wasn’t open at that time but eventually when that opened they allowed me to cross train over and it was what was called Crash Rescue. So, it was a very respected position and it kind of is not the type of job that you can have and be involved in other things that are alcohol and drug related. It’s just, it doesn’t work in the military. So, the structure definitely provided me a platform to excel and bring out that side of me that always existed. It was in there but based on the life I had lived before and the experiences I was having, I was kind of held back from that side coming out, so.
KC: Gotcha. So then, eventually, you got out of the military and definitely correct me if I’m wrong. Was there a time after the military that like the drugs, like everything got bad?
DD: Very bad. So, I go into the military and then I do end up back home. So, actually, the initial, the first time I ever got sober in my life, where I cleaned up from alcohol and everything included was 1986 and I took a break away and then I was in, at that time I had come back off of active duty and that was just in the Air Force National guard down off of Odyssey Air For base. I was Crash Rescue down there. I was kind of floating around, trying to figure out what I wanted to do and then I got sober for a little bit, didn’t last too long. And then, in 1988, I wound up getting sober. I actually went away to rehab and actually made a real goal of it and cleaned myself up and from 1988 to 1999 and about a half, about a, actually about 11 years, I was sober from everything, completely clean, no drugs, no alcohol. And, during that time, I went from the Air force, I rejoined, I joined and went back on active duty into the army. I went back through basic training which is something I wanted to do so that I could get the respect within that branch, coming from the Air Force, and I was a combat medic with the 10th Mountain Division. I did a couple of years with the army. I came out of the army and I applied and got onto the Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, the Nashua Street Jail. I was hired there in 19–, let me see, 1996.
KC: Dude, you’re unbelievable with remembering years and dates and stuff.
DD: Well, you know what it is, is I have all the certificates that have the dates on them. Like, when I was deputized as a Sheriff or when I was in Crash Rescue School or Combat Medic School. It’s all dated on plaques and things all like that so I know what those dates are. Otherwise, I don’t remember too much around other stuff. But, so I went, from there I went from the Army, come out kind of floated around for a little bit, got into the Sheriff’s Department and then from 1996, let me see, to 1999 and I got called for the Boston Police Department during my time in the Sheriff’s Department and same type of thing. You interview. You go through those psychological, you say what you have to say to get where you need to get and that’s kind of what I did and I wound up getting accepted to the Boston Police Department and I was on there. I graduated number 1 from my Academy class for Physical Fitness. I had the highest percentage score in the Physical Fitness exam and I wound up getting stationed in B-2 Roxbury out of the academy and pretty much because I had the prison experience and just a good instinct at being a Police Officer. I kind of got right into undercover work and I just kind of dove into it like I had dove into everything in my life. So, what had kind of taken place for me during this period of sobriety is what was starting to happen was I was externally seeking to fix myself or find value in life. So, I was very good at excelling in anything I put my mind to and anything that I wanted to do I kind of succeeded at doing. But, what was happening along in that process, what I didn’t realize was taking place is that all these external things eventually plateau or they fail you because you’re not fixing the stuff that’s wrong inside. You’re not doing that internal work and eventually what happened was, let me see, I had my appendix burst when I was on the Sheriff’s Department and I was exposed to some narcotic pain medication there. I didn’t relapse at that time but I think that might have set me up for a later date. On the Police Department, I was fully engulfed in my work, I wasn’t really doing things around recovery. I was doing things around police work and I was very involved in tracking down and doing work based on the lifestyle that I used to live, if that makes any sense.
KC: So, let me interject real quick, Danny. So, when you say you weren’t doing anything towards recovery, meaning like you weren’t working on yourself, you were just totally engulfed in the job per se.
DD: You know what, I believe that I was working on myself. So, when I got sober in ’88, I was going to meetings. I was doing a lot of program things and as I started to succeed in my life, those things started to taper off which I think is a normal course of action when you start to add things into your life that take up time. It’s hard to find a balance to keep things there that might have existed before and what eventually happened is I might have thought in my mind that I didn’t need it anymore or that what I was doing externally was enough to sustain everything going on in my life because, obviously, I was successful at it. So, it’s kind of like, that’s the tough thing about addiction. It’s very sneaky and, you know, it finds a way to get you back to feeding it somehow. And so, I was fully engulfed in doing good, you know, doing great police and doing a lot of stuff and being involved in, you know, a clean lifestyle, exercising, eating right, doing all those types of things. But, maybe the exposure that I was having to what I was seeing, working through the prison system and then dealing with, when you work as a Police Officer in the prison system, you kind of deal with the small percentage of the population but the percentage that you deal with, a lot of them are doing very bad things and you have to learn how to remain human around that and enforce the law without personally getting involved in it. So, you kind of have to shut down on an emotional level to allow yourself to do that and I think for someone that might have an addiction problem, shutting down and disconnecting from yourself emotionally is probably the worst thing that can ever happen for you because you got to remain connected to yourself. So, what happened is I was in a foot pursuit and I got injured in that foot pursuit, to where I had a partial tear in an ACL and then I was transported to the hospital from the scene and introduced, back introduced to narcotic pain medication into my life and that’s where it started to go south for me.
KC: Yup. Now, you’re, as a cop you started to use the, what was it at that time?
DD: So, you know, there was, before that there were sometimes where I had some physical related stuff. I didn’t mention. I had Crohn’s colitis type things where I had kidney stones, OxyContin, Percocet, all opiate type pain medications were readily prescribed and when you’re a Police Officer and you go in and ask for something, people give it to you because they think you’re honest, you know, because you know it’s how society deems or puts value on what they see on the outside, so.
DD: You know, initially, I was taking medication as prescribed but the crazy stuff about opiate is even taking them as prescribed, my opinion is they’re just too powerful, the majority of the time or the level you get prescribed at can be a little bit too much. So, we’re built where we have opiate receptors in us so our body readily accepts them so they’re very easy or easier to get addicted to than other substances. And, you know, that’s what happened is I got physically dependent upon opiate medication.
KC: Alright, and I want to jump into, I want to sort of fast forward through the rest of the story because I want to get to the good part. I feel like it’s important for everybody to here this part of the story because the change you’ve made in your life is just amazing and I want to get to that part but we can’t really jump there yet. So, getting to the point where I guess for me, what I would call rock bottom, and the point, you know, can we jump into that part?
DD: Sure thing. So, as a Police Officer, what ends up happening is I become physically addicted and dependent upon this medicine and now I’m struggling to try to keep that outside image and what ends up happening is, you know, I’m trying to take time off and go into detox and get myself cleaned up so that I don’t get caught, you know, utilizing these substances while, you know, I’m still a Police Officer and what eventually happens is the prescriptions get cut off and I start buying on the street and I get arrested up in Lowell, Massachusetts. I was a Police Officer at that time. I was off duty and I got arrested making a, you know, it went from pills to going to buy heroin because what eventually happens is the pills are too expensive. Heroin enters the picture because initially it is a cheaper alternative, initially, key point, so that’s how I wound up in Lowell. I needed to go outside of the area I was in where I wouldn’t be recognized as a Police Officer. The only problem is, is when I was going up there, there were Police Officers doing their job and I walked into what was already under surveillance and I was arrested buying heroin. And, what ends up happening is I lose my job as a Police Officer. So, I’m fired from the Boston Police. It’s in USA Today. If you Google it, it probably still comes up. It was probably, when you talk about rock bottom, going from being the number 1 Police Officer in your academy class, I was engaged to be married, I lived in Brighton. You know, I was headed in the direction on the outside that appeared like everything was great but on the inside I was an absolute mess and now the gig was up. I was fully addicted to heroin or opiates. I get fired from my job. My relationships breaks up and I’m now out of the house and I actually literally go and I want to say this person that I was engaged to made every effort to try to help me to get better and when it wasn’t working, she absolutely did the right thing and protected herself and I had to go and that’s how I ended up. Initially, I went into the car that I had out front and eventually I sold that car from under my feet to get the drugs that I needed to feed the addiction and that’s how I wound up homeless. I mean I was homeless in the car but this is like where I’m legitimately on the street. I don’t have a roof over my head and this starts a 4-year period of homelessness, where I literally, you know, my day was consumed with, you know, on average, you move about, I did anyways. I moved about 20 hours a day. It’s all about hustle and feeding the addiction.
KC: When you say moved, like going out and getting drugs?
DD: Moving, I’m constantly on foot all day long. I’m moving around. I’m going up through the Boston Common down through Roxbury. I’m running kind of a route I have and what I’m doing is, you know, you meet people along the way that are pulling in. You have connections, they’re looking for drugs, it’s just kind of how you feed the addiction all day long.
KC: How did you get money then to buy it?
DD: So, usually, that’s what I mean is, so I might be coming down and a car pulls up. Somebody recognizes me as a person that’s able to move within and out of a neighborhood that they may not be able to move in and out of because they don’t have that. They grabbed me. They give me the money. I go down and get them what they need. I get a piece off of what they’re getting or they pay me money and that’s how you do it that way and unfortunately it comes down to, you know, there were times, you know, I’m trying to sell myself but I’m really not good at selling drugs because I prefer to do them so I never have any to sell to anybody because I keep them for myself. So, that didn’t work out well for me. So, you got to make light of it sometimes. So, I wasn’t good at that. So, you know, you steal, you shoplift. I did. Going into, you know, Downtown walking down into [inaudible – 00:37:58] basement, you just do whatever you have to do to feed that addiction and pretty much, I’m that kind of guy, when I use, I don’t want to say I’m different because one thing about addicts is we suffer from terminal uniqueness they call it where we think we might be different than other people and that kind of prevents us sometimes from getting the help because we think we’re different. But, the way that my addiction is when I’m out there using is definitely on a different level than lots of people I know. I’m kind of an all or nothing kind of guy and it’s whatever’s going to go down for me to get what I need to get then that’s what’s going to go down and I’m not saying I’m a tough guy or nothing but eventually what happened for me is I got tired of running around and hustling and bringing money to people that when you came up, you know $5 short they were telling you to get lost. So, basically I just started going to those people and kind of taking what they had on them. That’s the best way I can explain that and that’s kind of how it ended up for me which becomes a very dangerous way to live out there. So, that’s how I kind of wound up. I wouldn’t go into the shelters anymore because the shelters weren’t safe for me because that’s I wouldn’t be able to protect myself if I ran into a group or somebody recognized me. So, I ended up living under a bridge down right outside the Fleet Center, between like kind of Charlestown in the north end. There’s a little bridge right there and I lived under there and why I picked that bridge is under is underneath the tide ends up going out so you could actually walkthrough and then get up on the wall on the other side and then the water will come back in. So, literally if anybody wanted to come out there and get you, they’re going to have to come through like, I don’t know, 8 to 12 feet of water to get to me. So, I lived under there pretty much full-time and then I’d come out from there every day. And, like I said, you know, I moved around and did what I had to do and during this whole 4-year period of time, there’s numerous amounts of detoxes and, you know, drug treatment taking place. I just couldn’t get it together and there were times, honestly, I really didn’t want to because it’s hard when you are coming off of opiates, the sickness that goes along with it, it’s very hard to bear. But so, it’s hard to get through that and stick with it. So, that’s, usually there would be times I would have trouble where the pain would get so great that I would just bail and go back out.
KC: Like, the physical pain?
DD: Yeah, the physical pain is I just can’t even put words to it. There’s never been anything in my life that I’ve ever experienced to be more painful than the withdrawal from heroin and opiate related drugs. It becomes where it feels unbearable at times. Everything hurts. You can’t put any food down. You can’t keep a conscious thought in your head. Your mind constantly races and the physical vomiting and diarrhea that takes place as a result of withdrawal is horrible. So, a lot of times, during that process, the one way to make that stop instantly is to put that drug back in your system and I’m talking it reverses it within minutes. It’s all gone away and that’s how get looped back in over and over.
KC: How did it finally end?
DD: So, like I said, in and out of treatment back and forth and, you know, I used to come out from under that bridge and I would have, you know, what I call moments of clarity where I’d be standing out there at 6 o’clock in the morning watching the work traffic going by and thinking about my life of being in 2 branches in the military and being a Police Officer and like my spinning and wondering how I got here and knowing that there was a good person inside and, you know, that inside I didn’t really want to die but I knew if I continue to keep living the way that I was living, that you know, 3 things were sure to happen. I was never going to get out of the life I was in. I was definitely going to die from using or I was going to wind up in prison for a really long time based on the crimes that were taking place feeding the addiction. So, in 2004, I think it was 2004, this is where the dates kind of get blurry for me. Maybe the Democratic National Convention was taking place down around the Fleet Center and literally, what they were doing is, a lot of don’t know what happens to the homeless during those times. So, the government agencies that come through, they literally come through and scoop up the homeless and literally like detain you. You just kind of disappear off the streets for days until it’s over and then they dump you back out. So, it looks really clean downtown and the people coming to visit are like, “Wow, Boston’s beautiful.” So, you know, I got wind that people were being scooped up so I bounced over to Cambridge. I hopped down the train and I headed over to Cambridge and I wound running into somebody over there that gave me some drugs. They actually invited me up to a motel room and I overdosed for the first time and they literally, I don’t remember much other than holding on to like the bathroom sink. I must have probably been trying to put cold water on my face and I was trying to hold the sink and they were pulling me away from the sink and what happened is that’s the last thing I remember. What they were doing is they took me and dumped me out into the stairwell because they didn’t want to, they were afraid I was probably going to die in the room and they didn’t want to get in trouble for it and, honestly, I don’t know who found me at that point in time. But, I wound up over in the hospital and, you know, they narcaned me. They resuscitated me. They narcaned me. They brought me back out of it.
KC: What was that other word, resuscitated and what?
DD: Narcaned. Sorry, I talk like people know what that is. Sorry. So, Narcan is a drug that’s very popular now. But, back then, so I think this is around ’04. Back then, it was kind of newer but what they do is they inject it into, they run an IV into you and they inject it into the IV and what it does is it takes all the opiate that’s in the opiate receptors in your brain and it literally flushes the opiate right out of the receptors and it kind of reverses the overdose process of opiates, not other drugs, just opiates. So, you kind of go from being dead to being alive like you’ve never been alive before because it has hydrochloric acid in it so it burns like hell through your system and every orifice in your body, like your nose, your eyes, everything’s just pouring out. You have no idea what’s going on. So, they hit me with that.
KC: And, that’s how you woke up?
DD: When I woke up I was already in the emergency room. They were probably doing it a second time and I came out of it and realized, you know, where I was and what was going on and, you know, my head was spinning. I was just like, I was trying to put it all together and picture what happened and I remember being in front of a store. I remember seeing that girl and then I briefly remember holding onto the bathroom sink and it was just baffling to me. It was overwhelming and what was wild is I didn’t have any insurance. So, the hospital stabilized me, of course, and then they released me which is what they do. You know what I mean? Their hands are tied pretty much. So, later on that night, I was walking away from the hospital down the street and I was just like, I just died. I couldn’t even believe that, you know, what had taken place and I was back homeless on the street and it kind of scared me. You know, I was, not kind of scared me, it scared me and the crazy thing about it was, is they never even searched me. In my pocket, I had the drugs that I had in the motel room. I still had heroin in my pocket.
DD: Yeah, so. But, I literally, I was so afraid to do it. So, this is how the addiction comes in. I walked around all that night and, you know, the next day and I ended up heading over down, back over into the north end, not to backtrack but cocaine was very much still a part of my life and mixed in. What happens is opiates override because all the money needs to be used to, because you get physical yield from that but when there was extra money or where I could, I would supplement and use cocaine along with the heroin. So, I headed back over to the north end. I figured out I need to get drugs because I can’t handle the way I’m feeling and I ended up doing that but I also, it was 2 days later so I believe that was a Tuesday I want to say. I know it was June because it was summertime and 2 days later I end up in a bathroom down and there’s like a Cambridge Mall like right in the center of Cambridge. It’s like a little food court area and there’s this bathroom downstairs. I went back down into that bathroom and I was decided to get high again because I was physically ill and I overdosed again off of the same drug that I had used 2 days prior.
KC: So, it’s the same one that was in your pocket?
DD: Same one that was in my pocket and so what was happening during that period is like people talk about it now like it’s this new thing fentanyl was being mixed into heroin a long time ago and that’s probably, you know, why it was so strong because I wasn’t using anymore amount than I normally would.
KC: What is fentanyl?
DD: So, fentanyl is a, when you think from a pharmaceutical standpoint, they use it for anesthesia but they also use it for chronic, like people that are end stage illness. It’s a very, very powerful painkiller and when you think of, on the scale, fentanyl is probably 3 or 4 steps, I would guess, higher than heroin as its rate of powerfulness. So, they have these things called fentanyl patches that they give to people but these patches are only like, so you say you got a 10 microgram patch or a 25 microgram patch. It’s not milligrams and it’s delivered transdermally, over 3 days it’ll go transdermally into a person’s body 25 micrograms and provide, you know, pain relief. But, they’re extremely addicting and back then people were opening their patches up and either eating them or they were mixing them in with the heroin, to make their heroin more powerful to draw in more customers. But, in the process of that, what was happening is people were overdosing and dying because it was too powerful. So, that’s what happens, 2 days later I use the same drug that had me overdose 2 days before it happens again and it happens to be the same rescue crew and out was on, remember, they had me out on the sidewalk so they must have brought me up from the bathroom that I was in. They had me up on the sidewalk and I heard, I remember hearing, I remember this distinctly when my eyes opened and I heard the one say to the other on the crew. He said, “Good save.” So, they had brought me back. I was gone.
KC: So, when you OD, I guess, both of these times or, what happened? Like, I understand that like you blacked out and stuff but did your heart stop, did you lose brain function, like?
DD: So, how an overdose works with heroin initially or any opiate is respiratory arrest takes place first and then if nothing’s done to interrupt that respiratory arrest, cardiac arrest takes place and that’s how a person dies. A lot of times too because opiates cause people to pass out, they can cut off their airway and end up suffocating themselves. So, the first I don’t know what really happened. The second time I know that I was in respiratory arrest like complete respiratory arrest. I did not have cardiac arrest but I was considered pretty much gone at that point and that’s why the guy got a good save on that and they brought me back.
KC: So, respiratory arrest is you’re not breathing.
DD: That’s it. You’re not breathing.
DD: And, you can only not breath for so long before you’re done. So, you know, if you know anything about it, it’s clinical death takes place within 4 to 6 minutes and after that biological death takes place, which means once biological death takes place, there’s no, you’re not going to reverse it. There’s going to be irreparable damage to the brain and other vital organs. So, clinical death is where if emergency services take place, a person has a better chance to survive. My luck was is that I overdosed where I did, where both times I got help in the proper amount of time and I got helped by a paramedic rescue crew. So, that’s the reason why. And, the drug Narcan and the things that they did for me, 100% is part of the reason why I’m alive today. So, after that, same thing, I get over to the hospital, Keith, and within a few hours they stabilized me and released me. So, there’s no, I have no insurance. There’s no place for me to go for further treatment. Nobody’s going to pay for it. A couple of months go by, I wind up in treatment and I go to a halfway house. And now, this is longer term treatment and this is where sobriety begins to start for me again and that’s how things begin to change and that was in 2004. I wound up, let me see, out at it’s called North Cottage Program in Norton, Massachusetts.
KC: In where?
DD: North Cottage.
KC: And, what town?
DD: Norton, Massachusetts.
KC: No way, man. That’s where we met. That’s my hometown.
DD: Absolutely. It’s right across from the Town Hall, the big mansions right there.
KC: Yeah, I never knew you were in there.
DD: Yeah, that’s a drug rehab for 250 men.
KC: Yeah, did you used to get Jeffrey’s Pizza and Subs all the time?
DD: Yeah. They overcharge by the way and I hope they hear that. So but that’s how treatment starts for me and that’s how it starts going in a different direction.
KC: So, once treatment starts, I guess this is a 2-part question. This time and the other time, was there a 12-Step Program involved?
KC: Do you think that getting to the point of, if you have never gotten to the point that you literally like you’re on your hands and knees begging for help and you have some type of higher power, whatever people want to call it, do you think you could have recovered without that?
DD: First thing for me without having detox or, you know, longer term treatment which allowed me to concentrate on therapy type things, honestly, do I think people can do it or do I know people that have? I do. But, I think it’s very rare.
KC: Do you think that the people that do have, have a much higher chance of relapse? Meaning, so for me, like I went through a 12-Step Program but it wasn’t for drugs. It was for consciousness. Like, I literally could not change the way that I thought about things and would keep, like it was crazy like I would keep doing the same things over and over and over and I did a 12-Step Program and about a year ago, so this was 10 years ago that I did it. About a year ago, I realized all the same stuff was coming back into my life and it was just like you said, like I wasn’t doing the, I wasn’t working that program that got me to where I was in my life. So, like for addicts who don’t continue with something like that, what are your thoughts on that?
DD: So, my thoughts now, I’ve been around recovery for a long time, meaning I was exposed in ’86 and, you know, there’s different schools of thought on it and my belief is, is that I don’t care if it’s addiction to food, gambling or whatever it is you have going on in your life. For me, the key thing that has made the difference for me where I might have not done this in the past, it was about human connection and how you choose to connect with humans and where you choose to do that or the humans you choose to have around you makes a big difference on how positive you are daily and where you end up long term. So, whether that’s in a 12-Step Program, whether that’s in a church, whether that’s in a yoga class, whether that’s going to therapy, whatever that might be, it’s about finding what works for you. I think initially the exposure for everyone, like going to rehab, they have specific format that you have to follow, like North Cottage requires you attend groups and meetings and go to 12-Step. So, 12-Step is great. For me, I needed a deeper level of I needed to go deeper and get into things that a 12-Step going to say like an AA meeting wasn’t going to do for me. Because going to AA meetings is great and everything but I don’t need to hear about anybody’s story. I really don’t, like from a podium or whatever. I needed more of an in-depth like one-on-one counseling or, you know, a men’s group or things that were going to key in on actual issues. I didn’t, I had a lot of knowledge inside my head about addiction and even about recovery but the thing that people fail to realize is knowledge does not have power without application. So, you can know everything you can about something, if you don’t apply it, especially if you’re an addict, you’re going to end up using again. So, it’s about finding what works for you. So, where we might come in on the same level, addiction is very similar for people but the life experience is, or the underlying issues that might have led somebody to addiction initially can be completely different. Therefore, the therapy should be tailored towards those underlying issues, if you get what I’m saying.
KC: So, and that’s sort of because one of the big pieces of the 12-Steps is they call it surrendering to a higher power but that doesn’t necessarily mean. It doesn’t mean God, it just means like you have no control, right? Like, and what you’re saying is that it was the, like you needed to get around the people the community, like that is really one of those big steps for you. Am I hearing that right?
DD: Absolutely. Community, you know, and just finding a place where it’s about identification, validation and that’s, we’re all born a certain way and we’re born with the ability to heal each other and help each other but we tend to run through society where everybody, not everybody and I don’t mean to sound harsh or whatever but a lot of people are just looking out for themselves and people are, you can live inside of an apartment building now and there could be a hundred people in there and nobody knows anybody anymore. People are not connecting, you know, they just kind of, they’re kind of living and they’re relying upon themselves and their own thoughts inside their own heads to deal with everything that’s coming at them with what life gives us these days and life’s, whether you’re an addict or not, just a regular person that doesn’t have any addiction issues, you know, life can be pretty tough and the way to get through life for me today is about reaching out and connecting with people and those people validate me as a human being and make me feel good through that connection and that to me has been the greatest healing thing that’s taken place for me. And, the 2 main people that, that really happened for me was with my 2 sons.
KC: That’s sort of when, when you and I first met I remember the, I don’t remember, I remember we chatted about this a little bit but I think that I first saw you write a Facebook post and it was, it was about that you finally found your purpose and your reason for being here on this earth and it was Luke and Danny, right?
DD: Luke and Danny, yeah. So, it kind of takes my voice away and I get pretty emotional when I talk about my children and it’s emotion about gratitude, like so my whole life, I never wanted to have children. My son Danny was born when I was 39. I was horrified. I was afraid to have children because I was afraid for them to go down the road that I had lived or to not be able to be the Dad, like my Dad provided a roof over our head and fed us and did things like that but when it came to unconditional love or, you know, showing up at a soccer game or doing things like that, he wasn’t there. I didn’t want to be that Dad for my children so I chose to go through life and not have that which set me up to not be involved in long term relationships and things like that. Whole ‘nother story but by the time son Danny comes along, you know, he’s kind of like a miracle kid. He’s born premature. He wasn’t breathing. He winds up in intensive care and I’m devastated. You know, I’m thinking if this kid doesn’t make it, like I’m kind of thinking everything that I did through my addiction has made this happen and, you know, it wasn’t really about that but, you know, he comes out of it and he is this amazingly strong, strong kid like strength I’ve never seen. And then, you know, almost 2 years later, my son, Luke, comes along and I become a stay home Dad because I didn’t want to go to work and handover a check every day, every week, excuse me for somebody else to raise my children. I wanted to be involved in taking part and raising my kids. And, you know, I wasn’t married at that time with their mom. She didn’t want to stay home. She wanted to go to work so we decided I would stay home and that’s how I started to, this is where the healing really began for me is I had no skills whatsoever as a Dad. But, what I learned was is that I just, I learned my children, I learned the types of cries they had. One was hungry, one was my diaper’s wet and one was I’m really tired. And, I learned to notice things that I didn’t notice in everyday life because I was so consumed with myself and my own selfishness and the things, you know, I was trying to take care of myself but I wound up where I wound up. Even though, initially my addiction might have started out where it wasn’t my choice. It definitely wasn’t. I didn’t want to start out and do the things that happened to me back then. But, what I had to realize is a lifetime later, whether that happened or not, I was responsible for it now and I had to take responsibility for it and that’s where it changed for me, is I no longer was a victim and I started to volunteer in my life and to take care of the things that I needed to do to keep myself in a position to now take care of the 2 children that existed in my life. Prior to them being there, it was only about me. But, there was a piece inside of me that could not allow me to do it any other way because kids to me, I’ve always loved kids and they’ve always been that, we’re all born that way. We’re born where we’re depended upon our parents and, you know, we’re happy and we kind of live moment to moment like “When’s Scooby Doo coming on? When is snack?” They like, they move very, very cool throughout the day and I started to watch them, I started to watch them doing it and I was like “This is, my childhood was kind of stolen. I don’t remember a lot about it.” So, what I had the opportunity to do was actually be the child that I was never able to be and I started to grow up with my children and at the same time, of course, I was adult enough to take care of them and handle the responsibilities that I needed to because I was keeping my recovery in check and doing the things that I needed to do which was therapy. I started to get involved in yoga. I had a men’s group I was involved in and I got involved in yoga teacher training that’s how I became a teacher. And then, as you know, I started working at Open Doors Yoga Studios. So, we went to the playground everyday and, you know, I went down the slides. I went on the swings and that’s how my life, I guess that was kind of like a rebirth for me and that’s what it came about for me. So, that’s why I say is based on the schedule that I was living at that time, taking care of my kids full-time during the day and then what would happen is I was managing yoga studios at night where I was running. You know the set up, you know, there were 13 of them at that time. So, I would do 5 at night which could be 4 to 5 hours out on the road. So, their mom would come home, I’d help get them into bed because I was waiting for the last class to end and then I’d head out in my vehicle and do a 5-studio tour, like from Weymouth all the way down to Duxbury and then I would get home about 3:00, 3:30 in the morning. And then, I was back up by 7 in the morning to take care of my kids. And, that’s how I was living at that time. So, based on the schedule I was going to yoga. I was going to therapy. There wasn’t a lot of opportunity for me to get out to meetings, not that I wouldn’t have if I could’ve but other things were working for me. So, I was working in them and that’s the key thing is if something is working for you then you should continue to work it. You know what I mean? That’d be my key message. Don’t stop working something if it’s working for you. Why change it? It’s when something’s not, change it.
KC: That’s so powerful because a lot of people through guilt or shame or other things feel like they have to change something that’s working.
DD: I can always speak about addiction and the life I’ve lived. There’s a lot of shame associated with the life that I’ve lived and the experiences I’ve had and with anything, you know, the people I’ve talked to, shame is a major killer and it’s a major thing that returns people to the things that are bad for them because we’re so ashamed about the things or the way that we feel that we internalize it when we stay with inside ourselves and we become as sick as our secrets and those secrets eat away at us and eventually whether it’s food, gambling, addiction, whatever it is, if we ultimately don’t get help with outside of our self to break that pattern of thought, you’re going to create them circumstances based on the way that you’re thinking about yourself. You can’t continue to fill horrible and bad about yourself and continue to live in a positive way if that makes any sense.
KC: Yeah, it does.
DD: So, that’s what recovery is about for me today, whatever you’re recoveries from or even if you just live in daily life, it’s about positive thought, followed up by positive action, taking the knowledge, feeding yourself, taking the knowledge you have, bringing in new knowledge but absolutely applying it daily and recommitting yourself to life. Getting up and realizing, what is really vitally important today. It’s the breath that I breathe and it’s the family that surrounds me. It’s the people that love me. Everything outside of that is important but to me those other things go away. I will still have the main thing that matters to me and that’s the breath that I breathe and the family that I love and that’s why I do things the way that I do and continue to run the way that I run.
KC: That’s awesome, man.
DD: So, that’s basically, you know, how I continued. I put one foot in front of the other and, you know, I had a mentor therapist. He was my counselor and he used to say to me, “Your shame hates exposure and it cannot survive the light.” And, he used to say it to me and initially when he was saying it to me I’d be like “Oh my God, this guy.” You know what I mean, in my mind like “Just shut up, Dude.” You know what I mean? But over time, I started to think about that. He eventually passed away and, you know, he had remarkable things that came to play in my life like, you know, initially when you’re hearing something and I kept hearing it over in my head and I kept thinking about it and then eventually it started it started to make sense in my life and what I realized is “Yeah, you can believe at a higher power. You can believe and you can invest in all of these things but you got to believe in yourself and you got to invest internally. You got to believe in who you are and you got to find a way back to you and that’s what my children did is they paved a road back to who I am, back to the child I was and I started to grow up and learn about myself and the way that I think and how I can change those patterns and utilize things outside myself to help me change those patterns and progress my life in a positive way. And, shame is the key thing, is if I feel shameful about something, I need to expose it to light and that’s why I started posting on Facebook. It was a way for me, I was taking care of my kids at that time and I couldn’t really get around a lot of people unless I was doing a play date or whatever but you can’t really talk during that time because you’re managing kids around and all over the place but I would post my feelings and I would put things out there and what I started to realize is the response to it wasn’t the response that I had in my head. It was actually positive response to it. So, the things that I thought or how people would see me or receive me were the thoughts that I had in my own head but they weren’t really true. They’re the way that I saw it or believed it and what I started to realize is I needed to expose the way I was feeling and put things out there and I got positive feedback for it and what it did is it exposed it to light and it destroyed my shame. It like beat it up.
KC: Such an amazing way that you’re sharing that you used Facebook. So, you’re using it pretty much like a journal for the world to see and it’s totally, it’s just amplifying the healing process for you and helping others at the same time.
DD: Because what it comes down to, it was, it was a platform for me because what I always, you know, you look at your life, I lost my job as a Police Officer. I’ve made major mistakes. I lived a lifestyle. I hurt people out there, you know, in the process of feeding my addiction. And, what I realized is people say, you know, “How’d you do it?” And, the only way to do it is to walk back through all the records you’ve created. You’ve got to feel the pain all the way back and you got to do the work when you feel the pain. There’s no way to like take a plane and land over here in recovery. You got to go back through all the damage you’ve caused and you got to make it right. And, how making that right is, is through amends and how you make it right too is you don’t do it anymore. You start living a life that is opposite of the one you lived and as start putting days and days and days together, that starts to grow and starts to grow just the way my addiction grew when I fed it that way. So, if you take like addiction takes, it consumes your entire life. It takes all your effort and all your energy and what I started to realize is if I took 50% of that effort and energy and applied it towards recovery and living right, extremely successful, you know.
KC: So, let me ask you a question with your, the culmination of it actually working. So, I personally believe that until we are either insanely desperate or insanely inspired that it’s almost impossible to make big change in our life. For you, was it a combination of both? Was it just the desperation, like when the change started and did that change over time?
DD: So, the way I believe is if there was no pain, why would I stop. Seriously and I think humans, we make changes based on when we don’t feel good about something. You know, we have opposite reaction, you feel happy, you feel sad. When you feel sad you do something about it. When you’re an addict, you use drugs as a result of feeling those feelings. So, you know, it’s the most honest way I can be like I, did I like living the lifestyle I lived? Absolutely not, but I did like the way the drugs took away pain that I felt. But, eventually that didn’t cause me so much internal pain. I’m not sure if I would stop because I think that’s the way I’m built as a human. It sometimes got to be painful for me to recognize or make a move to move in a different direction, if that makes sense.
KC: So, let me ask it in a different way. Now, that you know, it’s been over 10 years and is it the fear of the pain or the inspiration of how good life is now that keeps it going?
DD: That’s the beautiful part about recovery because initially even though you get clean, the pain is around for a long time and, you know, there’s a lot of shame. There’s a lot of guilt. There’s a lot of times along the way. It’s just, it’s a rough ride. I don’t have the fears now that used to have in early recovery. My mind is not completely consumed and overwhelmed, the way that it felt early on. There’s a lot of happiness. It’s about inspiration today and when that exactly took place, I mean a lot has to do it for me with my children and the happiness or the laughter I heard coming out of them started to heal me in a way that I didn’t even know was taking place. So, I can’t give you an exact time when it happened but it’s definitely about the good stuff today. Do I have fears about using drugs and stuff like, don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel like you’re ever out of it. Like, if I don’t continue to do the right thing, I could surely end up back where I was or even worse. But, I don’t live my life in fear everyday like I used to. I live my life in happiness and I live my life moving forward, trying to create good. So, how I do that is I do things, you know, that are inspirational or that inspire or bring about inspiration within myself, that make me feel good and for me it’s about service work. It’s about helping others. I love yoga. Yoga was a platform. You know, yoga reaches out and helping kids in children’s hospital and, you know, doing non-profit work on the Boston Common with homeless and I get out. It’s about getting out of myself and giving back. You know, service is with, Xaver means selfless service where you really, it’s about being selfless not selfish but the weird part about it is you end up helping yourself in the process. So now, the fear is not there anymore.
KC: So, I got one more question. I’m going to kind of put you on the spot for everybody listening to.
DD: Oh boy.
KC: Well, I think this will be in a good way for us listening. It’s sort of, it’s a tough question to answer I think.
DD: Oh boy.
KC: No. So, let’s say that you’re, I’m listening in right now and I’m not at the point that you were at and it’s not as bad as you had it but I’ve been trying to change my entire life and I keep failing and I keep going back to my old patterns and it might be like food addiction but not to the point that I gain a hundred pounds or alcohol use but not to the point that it really affects things but it’s starting, like I’m not able to live what I know, like I’m not able to live up to my potential and I want to change so bad but I don’t know how. What do I do?
DD: Keyword is help. You got to get help and if you can realize this, that the best thinking that you’ve had in everything you’ve done up to the point where you’re at, right at this point has got you where you’re at. So, what you’re doing right now is not enough. You got to get outside yourself. You got to get help. The knowledge you might have might be great knowledge but the position you’re in currently, it’s not effective. It can’t help you. Maybe at a later date, once you clean up or get to a place where you can reapply it. It can help you. But, for right now, like you know, addiction related, it’s about getting off the drug initially. It’s about breaking that physical addiction. That has to be broken first. Once that happens, then you get to a point where you can start to look and try to fix the underlying stuff. the physical part of it has to stop in order for anything to take place, If nothing changes, then nothing will change. It will always be the way it has been if you don’t do anything to change it.
KC: It’s awesome, man and, you know, I appreciate you taking the time to, you know, really go deep, share your story and I know there’s a lot of people who are listening that are going to be inspired and, you know, I was inspired when I first met you I was inspired by just the way you walked, the way you carried yourself, the way you were with your 2 sons, you know, because it was different for, when I had met you, I learned a lot about being a present father and really, you know, I started to spend more time with the kids versus being the provider father from watching you. So, I just wanted to thank you for that gift to me man and just, you know, it’s been inspiring to watch you in everything that you’re doing. So, thank you.
DD: Thank you, Keith. I’ve always looked to you as, you know, you have 3 and one on the way and I’ve always looked at you as a very involved father and have been inspired by the things that you do in and outside of your home. And, I really appreciate this opportunity and that’s the one thing that I hope from this is this is that somebody might get something positive out of it and find help.
KC: Awesome. And then, if people want to get in touch with you like if they have questions, is it okay if they reach out?
KC: What would be the best way for somebody to connect with you?
DD: Give them my phone number.
KC: Alright, I don’t know that you want to put that on here. There’s a lot of people listening to this. Maybe e-mail or.
DD: Yes, e-mail.
KC: Cool. What’s your e-mail address? I don’t have it.
DD: Alright. Put livegratefullyDanny@gmail.com.
KC: Alright, livegratefullyDanny@gmail.com. And then, what about, what’s your Facebook handle or what’s it called?
DD: I’m just Danny Dwyer with Daniel in parenthesis.
KC: Alright, I’m looking it up right now. So, it looks like it’s Facebook.com/DDwyer1111.
DD: Oh, that’s my birthday, 11/11. Alright, that’s it.
KC: So, you can connect with Danny there and, yeah, man. I appreciate and I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of people reaching out. Yeah, and I know you definitely touched a lot of people today.
DD: Thank you, Keith. I appreciate it.
KC: Wow, huh. He’s such an amazing, amazing human being and, you know, to go from where he was to where he is now is just such a testament. So, feel free to reach out to him. Seriously, if you’re looking for help, if you’re looking for guidance in any level, feel free to e-mail Danny or look him up on Facebook. I know he’s definitely available and ready to help out, not by cell phone. I don’t think he knew how many listeners we have but definitely feel free to reach out to him through e-mail or Facebook. And again, I just wanted to remind you about the Owning the Dash Beta Test course that we have right now. It’s so pertinent to be releasing this as we’re talking to Danny because I feel like out of all the people, so I’ve mentored now, it’s over 23,000 people that I’ve mentored and really taught how to make change in their life and the biggest thing that people struggle with is they have a way to make change and they understand how to do it. Like, you may understand that you need to diet or do this or do that or change your habits. But, we don’t do it. We like over and over and over, we just run into these road blocks and in all honesty, we kind of believe that we can’t do it anymore. That’s what this course is about. It’s for you, the person who’s looking to make a change in their life. You’re self-motivated. You want to do it. You just don’t know how. It is going to give you the road map to make that change from confused, maybe a little disappointed, a little bit lost right now to being empowered and unstoppable and eventually in the stories of others. You know, like you’re sitting there and you’re listening to Danny and we’re talking about his story, like that’s the power of this course. So, swing over to OwningtheDash.com. You can get set up right there. And again, I’m really excited about this. I’m really excited to share it with people because I know. This is something I’ve been teaching for the last 6 years but I finally put a framework to it. So, if you’re interested, if you want to be part of the beta test group before we start charging for this, swing on over OwningtheDash.com. Alright, love you guys. Have a beautiful, beautiful rest of your day.
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