These entrepreneurs used the skills they learned in active addiction to help them succeed in business.
There is one thing that most people who struggle with addiction and substance use disorders have in common. They tend not to do all that well in their careers.
Some people have success for the short term and do something that may be rewarding to them personally or financially, but in the long term it pretty much always comes crashing down and often in the most dramatic way one could imagine. Others don’t attempt to reach their goals, or maybe they don’t even have them at all, as using was the way they avoided the stress of attempting to achieve in the first place. This is not just about money — of course, living simply is quite often the best way to go about one’s life — but what it is about is conquering the things that held you back, reaching your goals and being proud of yourself.
Many people, once they are in recovery, begin to thrive creatively and professionally and open their own businesses. Some even use some of the survival skills they learned as an addict to help them as entrepreneurs.
We recently talked to 10 entrepreneurs about how they have become successful while in recovery.
1. Seth Leaf Pruzansky was addicted to heroin. He is now the owner of Tourmaline Spring, a company that distributes “water so naturally pure it exceeds every Federal and State guideline for drinking water straight from the ground.”
“Having been through severe drug addiction and the mental and emotional dysfunction that comes along with being an addict, I eventually realized that no one was going to do for me what I needed to do for myself,” he says. “With this in mind, I not only conquered my addiction to substances, I examined the root of where these addictive tendencies originated. I found that root resided in my inability to be present with life itself in the here and now. I was jailed in a prison of the mind, always identifying with the remembered past or an imagined future, neither of which were reality. Through my commitment to heal the root cause of my addiction, the symptoms of my dependency, meaning my drug usage, disappeared. What emerged after that was a state of mind that I can describe as ‘universally objective clarity.’ From that point on I was able to form Tourmaline Spring bottled water of Maine. It is the highest quality, most ethically produced bottled water in North America. Had I not faced the root cause of my issues, I would have never been able to have the clarity of mind to get the awe-inspiring results that I’ve gotten in only six months since launching my business.”
2. Julio Briones owns AnswerMan Specialty Services, a prison consulting and personal crisis management service.
“My drinking led me to a 10-year prison sentence and a two-year stay at an inpatient rehab,” he says. “Thankfully I was able to get clean while on bail; it gave me the clarity and focus that has led me to live the life I have today. Even after all these years I struggle, but all I need to do is look around at my beautiful family and remind myself of all I will lose if I go back to old behaviors. Today, I own a business in which I help people manage their own personal crises, many times stemming from addiction. I use my experiences to guide them and their families by giving them the tools they need to get through divorce, rehab or incarceration.”
3. Patrick Henigan is the owner of Jacksonville Fitness Academy. He is six years sober from opiate addiction.
“Before moving to Jacksonville with my wife,” he says, “I was one of the highest in-demand trainers in Philadelphia. I trained CEOs, celebrities and local athletes. The most important factor for me is drive. I have an internal drive to make up for the six years of my life that I wasted with drugs and jail time. Every morning I wake up, I remember what it was like to be broke, alone, and actively ruining my life. That gives me a little kick in the butt to accomplish more than what I need to that day, so I can distance myself as much as I can from that person and that situation.”
4. Dr. Harold Jonas is in recovery for heroin addiction. He is the Founder and CEO of Sober Network Inc., the “premier provider of innovative digital solutions and award-winning mobile apps which address the multiple and varying needs of the addiction and recovery industry.”
Of his journey he says, “When I first entered recovery, it was strongly suggested that recovery become my number one priority in life. I was told if I adopted and maintained this concept, all would be well. While it sounds like a cliché, it is true. My own passion I have cultivated for my recovery led me to my business success. To achieve the rapid growth my company has experienced since its inception, I have had to literally live at a constant level of highly calculated risk daily for a long period of time. As both a recovering addict and entrepreneur, in order to not just survive but thrive in this high stress atmosphere, I make it a point to consciously negotiate the core principles of recovery — acceptance, surrender, trust, hope and faith — into my life each day. It allows me to meet the ever-changing daily challenges of business. This helps me not just professionally but also keeps me grounded when I often feel, as a visionary entrepreneur, like I am hanging off a cliff waiting for others to ‘come around the curve’ with my newest business concept.”
5. Akshay Nanavati is a Marine Corps veteran who was diagnosed with PTSD, and then struggled with alcohol and heroin addiction to the point where he considered taking his own life. He is now sober and his business, existing2living is thriving and has been featured in Entrepreneur.com, Forbes, Huffington Post, Military Times, Psychology Today, CNN, USA Today, and Runners World. Here is what he has to say about his time in recovery:
“In order to recover from PTSD and alcohol addiction, I had to learn how to find an empowering meaning to suffering. Finding the gift in suffering in one area gave me the strength and ability to find the gift in any kind of suffering, regardless of the context that created it, including the struggle of building a business. Reframing struggle allowed me to embrace the obstacles and challenges of growing my business. Additionally, it also taught me new skills that helped me better serve my clients who each wrestle their demons in their own way.”
Many people who struggle with addiction also struggle with careers; however, these entrepreneurs used the skills they learned during active addiction to create their businesses. For the full article and to find out more about the rest of these entrepreneurs, check out the original feature article 10 Entrepreneurs in Recovery over at The Fix.