Many people find that helping others is also the best way to help themselves. Your understanding of how difficult the recovery process can be will help you support others, both teens and adults battling an addiction. At twenty-four years old, Eric was...
See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/eric-zimmer-breaking-free-from-addiction-mental-and-trauma-healing-podcast/#show-notes
Many people find that helping others is also the best way to help themselves. Your understanding of how difficult the recovery process can be will help you support others, both teens and adults battling an addiction.
At twenty-four years old, Eric was homeless, addicted to heroin, and facing a long prison sentence. It's an honor to have him on the show to talk about his journey; he has struggled with addiction and hit rock bottom multiple times, his struggles in trying to figure out who he was.
In this episode, I am joined by my friend and fellow podcaster – Eric Zimmer, a behavioral coach, an author, and the host of the one you feed podcast. He's on a mission that is inspired to have a greater understanding of how our minds work and how to create the lives we want to live intentionally.
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Michael: Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well wherever you are in the world today. I'm very excited to be back with you with another episode with my guest Eric Zimmer who is a behavioral coach, author and the host of the one you feed podcast. Eric, my friend how are you? What is happening in your world today?
Eric: I am good and I am happy to see you again. It's we seem like it wasn't that long ago that we got to talk and I really enjoyed it so, I'm glad to do it again.
Michael: Yeah, same and knowing a little bit about your backstory and who you are, I was like man, I wanna have you on this show because well, I won't tell your backstory story for you so, for those who don't know you tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are today?
Eric: Well, there's always the long and the short version of that, I'll give you maybe the medium version. You know, I'm the host of the one you feed podcast as you mentioned, I do behavioral coaching, I created a program called spiritual habits, I spent a lot of time in the software industry, in a variety of different roles, I founded it a solar energy company but so much of my story goes back to sort of the big moment in my life was getting sober at the age of twenty four, I was homeless heroin addict, I was really sick, was facing a lot of potentially a lot of jail time. I got sober at that point and then you know from then till now has been an ongoing process of continuing to heal and grow into the person that I really wanna be.
Michael: Where did that start for you? You know, I think so well, let's back up a little bit because I think most people are gonna like, well how the fuck you become a heroin addict at twenty-four? Like, as someone who was a drug addict that twelve years old popping pills, let me first say that I get it, like I was seeking anything to disappear. What led you down that path? How did you end up in that position?
Eric: Well, I mean the straight factual version is you know at in high school, I started playing with drugs and alcohol like a lot of people did, you know, most people try it, I had a unusual reaction to it right from the beginning, I used in unusual ways it didn't become a problem until when I turned eighteen and I was in a situation and I've actually been kinda straight edge for couple years and I started using again and it was like, I was off to the races. So, I started by you know drinking and smoking pot and then that just sort of escalated and I was in the sort of rock and roll scene in Columbus Ohio and I went to band practice one day or for a while and I was like, how are these people more messed up than I am? Like, what is going on here? And they turned out, they were using heroin and I tried it and I loved it, I don't know that it was that difficult or that different for me than drinking and smoking pot, it's just more physically addictive and it's a whole lot more expensive and it's harder to get. And so, the consequences for me ratchet up very, very quickly and in some ways, I look at that as a fortunate thing because I think I might have been able to keep drinking and smoking pot for many more years than I did you know, I sort of burnt my life to the ground pretty quickly which with the benefit of hindsight, I'm like, wow that's actually a pretty good thing.
Michael: You know, what what's funny is I have the same thought, I'm like, I'm really glad I destroyed my life when I was twenty-five, that feels like the right time frame to have done it But I also realized like there's a lot of extenuating circumstances that leads a person down that path. And my own journey, just feeling like, dude, like growing up in the Midwest living in Indiana like struggling to survive it was like what do kids do, they drink and they get high and they have sex and if you're me, you're still cars and you break into the houses and you shoot guns people like psycho and that's the environment. So, you're in this and now did you graduate high school?
Eric: I did, it was interesting though because the first two years of high school did not go well, they went very poorly and after myself more year my guidance counselor said to me, look, we've got two options at this point, we've got this alternative program, it's a small school down the road, there's a hundred and fifty kids and they do school a little different down there and I'm willing to send you down there and see what it's like or I can expel you but I am not doing another year of this, you know, I mean, we were engaged in an epic game of cat and mouse where I simply was determined to go to school as few days as possible. And so, they sent me off to this alternative program and at first, I hated it, I don't think I would have but then it became this incredible thing for me and it got me through high school, I don't think I would have gotten through high school any other way without it. So, it turned out to be a really positive thing for me but then after high school is when I started drinking again and never went to college just because my actions, I was kind of a full time alcoholic and drug addict and like you, my childhood, I was always in trouble, I mean I think from the age of like you know eight, I was a kleptomaniac and I was probably before that I just was kind of always in in trouble from a very early age.
Michael: You know, we definitely have that in common, part of me off often wonders it's like, you know, we we're not that far part an age and so, I think to myself you know there's a generation of kids we would just come home and do or whatever we wanted to, right? And from a very young age, I was left to my own devices like seven years old, I'm like cooking, I'm buy it myself, it's chaos man. You know, when in high school is funny, the same exact thing my first two years nightmares and then I sat down with the dean and he basically goes look, dude we're expel you, you got busted and selling drugs, it's game over, here's what's gonna happen, there's an alternative program same thing, you're either gonna do this or good luck with the rest of your life, I was like alright. Now of course, I still didn't graduate high school but I think that's part of the journey of the chaos. So, you make it through high school, you head back into this lifestyle and you find yourself now what I would assume and I don't wanna put words in your mouth so you please take this away but I would assume kind of like where I found myself, I was like, I'm gonna do whatever it takes to get this fixed and my fix was like, women and alcohol and partying and it was like, dude, I don't care if I'm up till in the morning and I gotta get up at five like, I'm gonna do the craziest shit. What was that what you were experiencing?
Eric: Pretty much, yep, that was kind of it. I mean, I worked a series of really crappy jobs in restaurants, doing whatever I could do to just sort of barely make ends meet and played in a bunch of bands, part all the time that was life, from eighteen to nearly twenty-five.
Michael: Were you still in Columbus?
Eric: Well, part of that time, I moved to San Francisco for a couple of years, thinking that might help me which it did not, I mean my first night in San Francisco, I came to on a park bench somewhere in Oakland, I had no idea where I was, I had no how I got there and that more or less it that's like what life in Columbus was like and I just kept doing it out there and I ended up coming back Columbus when I got arrested in San Francisco and gotten a lot of trouble for stealing and just sort of hightailed it back to Columbus. I was in Columbus a lot of that time but not all of it.
Michael: Yeah, you know, the thing that comes to mind Eric is that old adage is like wherever you go there you are and that was dude, same it's funny these parallels are incredible to me. But I think the unfortunate side of these parallels are so common for so many people. And as I shared with you it was this rock-bottom moment that ultimately is the thing that transformed my life. What was the crux of change for you?
Eric: Yeah, it's interesting. I can tell you about the time that I got sober then and I was sober for eight years and then I went out and drank again and that's kind of another interesting part of my story. But I can tell you about kinda of what happened that got me sober for that eight-year period and I will. I think what that misses though is all the stuff that happened up to that point like, I moved to San Francisco because I knew things weren't right, I knew I was out of control and I thought well maybe if I do this and so there were all these attempts in those years. You know, very halting, very occasional but there were attempts to try and do something differently. I ended up moving to this little town in Connecticut on the water and Connecticut, thinking if I go there, they don't have heroin there and that's my problem. So, I went there and I drank and I party and I did all that and then sure enough it wasn't very long before I was lying to people saying, I need to borrow your car for whatever reason and driving it two and a half hours to a city that I knew would of heroin so that same thing kind of trying that. But the thing that got me quote unquote sober I was living in a van and the van was owned by this restaurant that I worked at and this restaurant was where I was stealing a fair amount of the money, I had like a three hundred dollar a day heroin habit at that point. And one night, I was working and a couple police officers came in the front door and they walked all the way through the restaurant and they kept coming and they kept coming and they came into the kitchen and they said, are you Eric Zimmer? And I say well, I'm not sure, I'm not sure if I wanna answer that question. I was haul out of there in handcuffs and in that moment I lost the place I was living, I lost my money the way I was going to get drugs, the finances and I went into to detox because I was simply just out of ideas, I just was like, I don't know what to do and I'm gonna be really sick tomorrow and I don't know where I'm gonna come up with three hundred dollars. So, I went into detox and while I was in detox they said, well, you really need more help than like a four-day detox man, like you've been in and out of rehab like none of this has worked, you need to go to our thirty-day program and I said no, I don't think so. I went back to my room and I just had as we refer to him in recovery a moment at clarity and my moment of clarity was like if I go back out there, I'm either going to die or I'm going to go to jail, right? I had hepatitis C, I weighed a hundred pounds, I was facing several major felonies at that point, I just had that moment whereas it's like I just need to go into this thirty-day treatment program and that really sort of kicked off my recovery. So, that's kinda, what did it, but as I said, there lots of moments leading up to that.
Michael: Yeah, it's funny because somebody asked me recently they're like well what was rock bottom like for you? And I was like, dude, it was like a thousand fucking rock bottoms, like how many rock bottoms can I have and then it was you know for a lack of a better way to phrase it for me I was like come to Jesus’ moment where I like, dude what are you gonna do here? This massive clarity washed over me realizing that I was letting myself down that I'm playing the victim and I'm blaming everybody else. When you're in this moment and you're like contemplating, that's the area in which everything changes for people, right? You have a decision to make and hearing this in this moment like how do you navigate clarity when like this poison is trying to get its way out of your body?
Eric: I don't know, I mean it is one of those mysteries. I do think I've talked to a lot of people, I’ve been around recovery for I don't know twenty five plus years, there were few years I went back out drinking but I've been around people in recovery for a long time I've interviewed countless people and honestly why some of us get it and some of us don't is a mystery to me. I don't know what caused me in that moment to say okay, yeah, I'll go and then what caused me to stay in treatment and then because I know so many people who did lot of the things I did and they're not here today, they didn't make it. I know a lot of people who didn't make it also because I think I had a lot of advantages over a lot of people who come into recovery I was, I think I had some advantages but even other people I know who had those same advantages, I don't know why I'm here and they're not. So, I mean I can tell you kinda of what I did but how I found the clarity? What I do think is interesting is we talk a lot in recovery about consequence and hitting bottom and I do think there is an element of that that's important, there has to be some degree of like this really sucks but I don't think that's enough, what I think happened somehow for me was that around the same time that was happening, somehow there was some hope that was also interjected. And I think the combination of like, being sort seen the having the consequences and the fear and the reason to stay sober because of the consequences and then also being somehow given hope that maybe it could actually get different was those two things, I think makes for sort of a fertile ground for recovery is sprout from because I certainly had the rock bottom maybe not that low but I mean, I'd certainly had them before and it didn't do anything. So, I don't know what made that moment different but there was enough that was different and then I was willing do sort of day by day, do my best from there to kinda live into that.
Michael: Yeah, I resonate with that a lot. You know, I think about these moments of know finding out another one of my friends has been murdered and just being like what advantage do I have that they don't? Same neighborhood, same family style, same education and it's like here I am, all these years later and they're not and you think to yourself like wow, that must mean something. And so, often you know, people will throw these opportunities away and I’ll say this when I was like fuck this I'm cleaning my life up, it was three years of just massive suffering Eric, where I was just like dude, oh, my God, I just did that thing again, this is a nightmare. The one thing that you alluded to that I held onto to so strongly that I think was truly a catalyst for where I'm at today was hope. I was just like somehow, I think this is gonna fucking work just, can I show up today? Can I do the thing? So often, on shows and podcasts and these kind people just jump they're like and then everything was better. What was it like for you in that space of alright, I'm gonna step into the unknown, I'm gonna do thirty days, I'm gonna try to be sober?
Eric: You know, like you I look at it in some ways, there's a real special to that time for me, there's a lot of beauty in what I was doing and there was a lot of pain and suffering and it did not feel good, I mean I was doing drugs and alcohol for a reason. I took those away and I wasn't suddenly like oh, everything's better, I took those away and I was like, there's a reason and that's the thing I think that we often don't talk about like you said with recovery we have this like oh, when you stop using your life will get better well, yes probably in some ways but in some ways your internal life may not feel better, you might actually feel worse for a while, you might actually feel worse. And I often say, being sober I think is awesome, getting sober is kind of nightmares to me, you know, like, I stay sober a lot of times because I'm simply like, I don't ever want to have to do it again like, this is okay, I got this, this is pretty straightforward, I could handle this. Getting sober to me, it's been a miserable sort of, it's a very difficult experience and now I think I've forgotten the question.
Michael: I think about this space of in that sobriety, I'm curious about your thoughts on this, I think the hardest aspect of it is the actually having to sit with yourself and I recall like, I never thought I was an alcoholic, I still to this day dawn, I never thought I was a drug addict, I never thought I was a sexaholic, you know, whatever that thing aholic was work whatever it may be, I was just like anything but feelings.
Eric: Yeah. What's interesting for me is; you and I backgrounds are a little bit different; I mean your trauma is a lot of trauma world, we might call capital (T) trauma, right? And my trauma is a lot of what we would call lower case (t) trauma like just a long time of sort of neglected and not parental figures that knew what to do with a child like me. And so, for me the big feeling for me a lot of it was I couldn't stand, I think I'd gotten so good at dead my feelings even before I start doing drugs and alcohol.
The drugs and alcohol in some ways for me were the only way I could ever feel alive and I felt dead otherwise. And so, the feeling that was really hard for me to sit with was that just sort of absolute blankness inside, that absolute just nothing seems to matter, nothing seems to have any point, everything seems drink and drug and then I use in the world at least for a little while seems to look like it's worth living for a little while and then I get sober again and it's back to that like, why bother? What's the point?
Michael: There's like a self-tyranny and nihilism that comes along with that feeling, at least for me that's how it was. You know, I've found that now it's like, I can have a glass of wine and my life is an upside down and that's come from realizing like you said there was a reason. Dude, the reason I was partying like a psycho is because like I had not stepped into any aspect of value for myself and I think that's unfortunate truth for many, many people. So, you're going through this, you're in this process, you're stepping in a sobriety, I assume that in this you were probably like trying to rebuild your relationship with yourself?
Eric: Yeah. I mean, I got sober in traditional twelve step. You know, AA, Central Ohio in 1995, right? Like, so was a big focus was building a relationship with higher power, you know, creating repairing relationships around you but so much of it I think, so much of my journey and sobriety has been yes, building a relationship with myself. So, that I'm comfortable in my own skin, so that I feel like, I don't have the need to change my consciousness all the time.
Michael: I wanna find the right way to phrase this. The journey I went through into understanding what you just said with so incredibly arduous that I did not wanna live any longer because I was like, being me as really hard. How did you step into that?
Eric: I guess, I could try out the old one day at a time cliché. You know, how did I step into it? With a lot of help and a lot of support and a lot of modeling from people who went before me and a lot of reading and a lot of all the above. I mean therapy, reading, you told me I couldn't use the J word so, I won't…
Michael: That J word is journaling by the way.
Eric: You know, talking to people. There's a number of things about twelve step programs that I don't love and sometimes, I'm a little envious of people who get sober today because there's so many things on offer; that simply worked went in 1995, they just worked. And yet for me, the thing that was so critically important was to be around other people who were like me and to hear other people share and to hear myself share and to talk about what was going on. I think those were some of the early really important steps.
Michael: Yeah. I've seen that myself and for me it was stepping into men's group therapy, like I literally went across the country to join this group because I was like anything it takes. You know, I don't share this often publicly but you know growing up, I used to go to AA with my mom when I was like seven, eight years old and you would just watch this and I'd be like but can't they just stop, right? What is happening here and then you realize it's never the thing that's the problem, it's the thing that you're not dealing with that leads to the problem. And so, now you face this, you've stepped into the willingness to figure out who the hell you are, you're asking for help, you're doing the things that I would argue. Look, its acknowledgment, its community, it's asking for help, it's follow through, its actions, all those things. So, talk about sobriety just as a whole, the experience of that as you stepped into it in this newfound place of knowing who Eric is or at least figuring out who Eric is?
Eric: Well, it's really interesting because I did mention that after about eight years sober, I went out and drank again and I don't mean like had a glass of wine now and again, I mean like got you know drank and went back to smoking part to the point that I had to get sober again, I've now been sober fifteen years since then. But I clearly had not learned enough about myself because like I said, I did go back out. And so, there was a lot more learning to do and when I came back after that I feel like, I went even deeper into really getting to know myself at that point like you did, I did some really pivotal men's therapy for myself, I had to really think deeply like what does if I'm gonna come back and go to AA which says that a spiritual life is the way we get better, what does that mean to me? Because the first time around I think I just made myself believe what people around me believed and that was enough to get me sober but it wasn't enough for me to handle things when some things in my life went really upside down. I think it was that knowing who I am and growing into it was an ongoing and still ongoing process.
Michael: Yeah. I tell people all time when they come into coaching, when they get into programs, when they step in Think Unbroken and it's like this is a rest of your life game, right? Like when you make this decision, you're gonna realize the healing journey isn't over just because you listen to a podcast or read a book or went to our conference one time because almost twelve years into this, I have my moments where I'm like holy crap, dude, this feels like everything is backwards but then you realize like wait a second, hold on, pause, what's actually happening why am I triggered? Let me go through and assess the tools that I have and then if I need to reach out. One of the great benefits I've been able to acquire my life is a therapist that I can speed dial and that's one of those things where it's like, on the rare occasion, I'm like, yow, I need a session this week, when can we make this happen. And I think that's so much about it, you still even after all the work you have to keep being willing to ask for help. So, you go through this, you have this understanding and you fall backwards and this is where most people quit; they're like eight years, my life is a disaster, I cannot believe I did this, I might as well quit. Why didn't you?
Eric: Well, I did for a number of years. I mean, I drank and smoked pod again after I went back out for probably three to four years. It's really interesting because the first time that I got sober, I had pretty much burnt my life to the ground, the second time around when I went back out and I was drinking and smoking weed and what I mean smoking weed I mean like sun up the sun down kind of thing, you know, I had made a career for myself, I was in a professional career in the software development space, I was making more money than I'd ever made, everything on the outside it looked really good. But I knew on the inside I had the insight of knowing what it felt like inside to be out of control and I knew that I was out of control and I knew that it was a matter of time until consequences started coming. And so, it was really hard to come back, it was hard to come back because like I said, on the outside everything looked fine and so I had not had my asked kicked as bad at that point I just hadn't yet, it was a little more intellectual the first time it was like I had just been the pain of being whipped was fresh. Now, it was like well, I really don't want to get whipped. So, at your point it was like, I can't believe, I gotta go back, I mean when I was in AA it was like, mister AA, like sponsor in so many people and now I gotta go back and be lik, I got a day. It was hard, I mean the second time around was harder for me than the first time there no doubt to me that it felt harder the second time. I look at the second time, I'm like, I don't even know how I kept going but for some reason I did, I just one day at a time.
One of the things was I kept looking I had a son and I kept looking at my son who was, let's say eight or nine and I kept thinking to myself, do I really need to get in a car accident with him in the car because I've been drinking? Do I need to do that in order to know that this is a problem? And I just that sort of thinking, I just kept going now, I guess I don't have to ride the elevator all the way to the bottom but it was tough.
Michael: Did your family know?
Eric: Yeah, it's an interesting story because everyone knew that I had gone back out and I basically had said look, I don't think I'm actually after all, I'm an alcoholic, I'm know I got sober twenty-four, I'm now thirty-one, let's say and I've gone from a homeless heroin addict to a pretty successful software executive, right? I've done well. You know, I can look at my life and go look, I was twenty-four, I was doing heroin and that's a terrible idea like, I've done all this healing, I've done all this growth, you know, I think I can handle it, right? Like, I make good decisions in other areas of my life, I'm pretty sure, I can make good decisions around this, well it turned out no, I couldn't. And it wasn't like the minute that I went out and had a drink again that my life crumbled. In AA and recovery, we used to be so dramatic like if I picked up a drink again, I’d be out selling my ass for cocaine in three hours, right? No, that's not what happened.
I had a drink nothing happened, you know, but over a period of a couple years it got back to the point where nothing was more important to me than getting high, it was more important to me than my job, my son anything, and I hate to say that but it's true, but I was able to sort of see that and I had that again a little bit of clarity enough to go, this is happening. I had a wife at the time, we're not still married and lots of things were not good about that marriage and it ended. But she had sort of had enough of me at that point even though I think you know, she continued drinking right after I got sober but she had enough of me. I mean there was a very clear precipitative event that time and it was, I went out, I've been on a multi-day binge like heavy drinking round the clock and I went over to a friend's house one night and the next thing I know, I'm coming to and it's like 10 A.M. the next morning and I just sort of freaked out because I was like oh, shit like, I did not make it home to get my son up and take him to school now, she wasn't my wife then but she was there, she got him up and took him to school, right? But I had that moment of like oh, my god, like what if he had woken up all by himself? You know like you did, it's seven in a house by himself on his own. And the combination of that and how sick I was physically in that moment, got me to I was like alright, I'm going to AA meeting, sounds like the worst thing in the world but I'm going. And that's kinda how I made my way back in.
Michael: Yeah. I think the willingness to acknowledge that you're about to have to suffer again is really powerful because in my opinion, it's like that acknowledgment is what brings you forward. You know, because for some people the most difficult thing that they can do is just raise their hand and say, I need guidance, I need help, somebody for the love of God save me, I'm on the edge of the building, right? And the bravest thing that you can do is just be like, yep me, over here, yes, somebody.
And I wanna implore that to people like, recognizing, we can't do this alone and it's not even necessary like you have to go to AA, you have to do a Think Unbroken course, you check out Eric's program, it's like do fucking something.
Eric: That's right, I couldn't agree more. I do think we can't do this alone. I mean you hear the every once in a blue moon story about somebody who's like well, you know; I just quit, I never went, I never did anything and who knows what the story is with those people? But the vast, vast, vast majority of people need some support. And there's lots of different ways to get it these days, I think that's a great thing and find some help.
Michael: And that's a big part of again a parallel in our journey, me going okay wait a second, I'm gonna just offer support to the world as I'm in this, trying to figure out what is happening and then that thus transpired and until what it is now it's like it's taken it on its own life and that's happened for you as well. Talk to me about this, where does this idea of service come in, not only had you been a sponsor before so obviously there's something in, you're like, I wanna give back but now having built something as great as your programs and the book and the podcast which is a phenomenal show like, where does that want for you come from?
Eric: It's interesting because going back to that story about high school when I went to the alternative program, I was like, I said I was a troubled kid, I mean I was always in trouble. I was drinking and using and unusual ways and I went to that alternative program and I ended up founding a tutoring program for disadvantaged children where we took high school people from upper middle class suburban high school and we went and we tutor kids who were disadvantaged and all of a sudden like, I became a model citizen and what I learned then was like, the reason that happened was because doing something for other people just lit something up in me.
There was also the entrepreneurial aspect which I also recognize is a key part of me, making things out of nothing. So, when I got into AA and I started finding, I was around people in AA that said service, do service, do service and so, I did and I realized I loved it. And then to be honest, I kinda got away from it a little bit and as I was sober a little bit longer I founded a solar energy company and I poured all my heart and soul into that for a while and that eventually I shut it down and when I shut that down, I just hit a point where I was a combination of board and not doing well in my personal life that I got the idea to do the podcast and I just thought, this sounds like it would be good for me, it sounds like it would be fun and maybe it'll help somebody else, I mean, I had no idea. But I knew I was reading these sorts of books anyway, I knew I was thinking about these sorts of things anyway and I thought why not just give this a shot, it sounds like it'll be fun and then it actually went very well and I realized it like, oh, wow, I'm kinda of back where I'm happiest, when I am doing my best to help other people and serve other people.
Michael: Yeah, I resonate in that, I had a mentor years ago, tell me he's like dude, when you're at your lowest go help other people. And honestly like, I thought about this just the other day never said this, I thought about this either if I didn't do this, if I wasn't doing Think Unbroken what the hell would I be doing with my life? It's like, six years into this thing and having this big mission and wanting to build this incredible, just tool of service for people, it's like man this is just it fires me up and people will be like well, you're crazy. I literally have friends who are like, you work more than anyone I've ever met and I'm like, yeah but, I love it.
Eric: Yeah. It's interesting I do think that is one of the things that AA figured out really, really well and which was this basic idea that like the way to remain sober is to help somebody else but the amazing thing the insight I think that was there that I think is so important and sometimes we gloss over it. Let's say order to go to an aa meeting tonight and I'm fifteen years sober and somebody walks in the door in their two days sober and I have a conversation with after them, right? It's easy to see how like oh, Eric is fifteen years sober and he's helping this other person, he's passing on everything he learned and it's easy for it to look like the benefit is flowing from me to them. And sure, some is but in equal measure it's flowing from them to me and that I think was the insight that aa really found and hit on and really developed was when one alcoholic is talking to another there is a reciprocal magic that happens there, that helps both people equally and I think that's really important. And I often say because a lot of people like well, I don't wanna ask for help, I don't wanna hurt, I don't wanna burden anybody else, I said let's not what is it, it's not the way this works. Like when you go and you ask somebody else who's been through what you're going through and you ask them for help they're getting as much out of it as you are. And so, that for me is that really beautiful insight it's this two-way street that I think is one of the most beautiful things in the world, is when we connect. And I heard somebody say recently, you know, you're basically, (I can't remember the phrase) but it's that basic idea of, when we transfer our difficulty, our trauma, our addiction when we train for all those things into being able to help others then those things cease to be a burden and a problem in our life and they we start to be able to look at them and go oh, this was a gift in some ways.
Michael: Yeah, and it can be and if you're willing to step into the darkness and the difficulty of this discovering the gift like it can be something really powerful. I mean, I think about all of the people that your show has reached and touched and the voices that have been on and the stories and the experiences and it's just like that's what the world needs more of, right? It almost feels like this aspect where it's like, damn your spiritual man sometimes although a show on, I'm like, I went to church.
Eric: Yeah. Well, so they should put on my conversation with you because we're definitely going to church.
Michael: Yeah, and it's like there has to be this willingness, there has to be this willingness to step into the vulnerability. Now let's be clear like, you and I, one of the things I do wanna bring note to, we're able to have this conversation with that spectrum of emotion removed from it, right? That where you're sharing it and it's sucking you in and next thing you know you're on the ground in the fetal position and I think that I want people to hold on to that. When we're talking about asking for help, when we're sharing our stories, when we're in this; this isn't the first time, right? Especially definitely not on a public forum and it took me a decade to get to this point, you know what I mean?
Eric: Yeah. I mean, I am significantly I imagine older than you. I have been around recovery for twenty-seven years, you know, again a few of those years I was back out drinking but what twenty-three years you know, I've been working on this stuff for a long time and that's not to say that like, it's gonna take you twenty-three years for it to get good, I think it can get better very, very quickly but it's a very different place that you're describing. You're just saying made me think of something and what it made me think of was, when I think about being vulnerable. I realized at one point there is the basic vulnerability of saying, I need help, I have a problem and okay, I did that and I went in and I did that but there's a lot of vulnerability that continues to come after that that we have to keep doing. And you know, I find for myself and I found this didn't take me that long been sober, get a couple years in and suddenly start sponsoring people and all of a sudden it's harder to be vulnerable because I should have this figured out and let that go on longer and suddenly become somebody who coaches other people and has a podcast and is known for some of this stuff like, I still have to work on being like, I don't always have it all together, and it can get hard to ask for help. I find at this stage in my journey because there is that sense like well shouldn't I always be, okay? And the answer is no, of course not, life is still life, no matter how good you do recovery, no matter how much therapy you do, you know there's a Buddhist saying I love and life has the ten thousand joys and the ten thousand sorrows, you're gonna get both, doesn't matter what you do you're gonna get both and when the sorrows hit, they still hurt.
Michael: Yeah, they do and I resonate with that. One of the discoveries I've had to make in my own healing journey is just being like at some point I've had to go to a next level in terms of who I'm seeking guidance from because when I feel like, I'm on the same level as people and this is not to be dismissive but if I feel like, I'm the same level my brain will not let me consume whatever they're telling me, this weird fix defensive mechanism I know where it comes from built into my childhood and I go okay, cool, since I know that I need to go to a super expert, right?
Eric: Yeah. I think that's really interesting, I actually have, it's right here it's a little pink posted note and it says, it helps to talk even when you know the answer. And what that is that I will get in a position where room, I'm like, I know I look you do this long enough it's not like there's any groundbreaking answers out there like, I know what to do, I know what the answer is, I know what the response is. It still helps me to share what's happening to me to another human being even if I know what they're gonna say because that's not what it's about; some of the time that's what it's about, some of the time it is about, get into a perspective that you can't get on your own. But some of the time it's simply that connection to another human being and saying look, I'm hurting and just having somebody be there with you and you not be alone and so, I have to remind myself for that often that like yes, I think I'm pretty sure what they'll tell me but that doesn't mean that I shouldn't go reach out and share how I'm feeling because if I don't otherwise then I just am locked inside myself all the time.
Michael: Yeah, and that's a dangerous place, right? That's the dangerous game. There's a pro and con to that. The pro is that you're gonna find out real fast you got some shit you need to work on. The con is that you're gonna find out real fast you got some shit need to work on.
Eric: Yeah, right absolutely. You know, I often think of this is making me think of this idea of sometimes thinking about our healing journey as like a spiral staircase, we tend to think it should be linear and it's not and what I have found is you end up back at like oh, okay, this again, this again? I think like a spiral staircase is helpful like if you were going up a spiral staircase and there's a painting on the wall, you're gonna come by that painting three or four times but hopefully each time you're coming by at a slightly higher level. So, it's like the things that are problematic for us the big issues the things that we wrestle with; for my experiences we're gonna come back around to them a few different times but ideally, we're doing it a slightly higher level and that helps us from at least for me helps me not get discouraged, thinking oh, I should be past that well, no’, it's there again but I'm in a slightly different place with it than I was last time.
Michael: Yeah. I actually really love that analogy. I often think about the fact that we're literally spinning around the sun right now, chances are at some point you're coming back to where you started. And the hope is that when you get back to that you now will leverage the tools that you've learned over this last rotation that you can execute against that circumvent the potential for rock bottom because you already played that game. And so, now it's kind, I look at I go, alright, I fell back, I made a mistake, I fucked up alright, wait a second, I've been here, I've done this it's like a team going to the championship for their seventh time, they've done it, you've been there, you played this game, you know what it is, so now can you go in there with the game plan to get yourself out of it, right? And I think that's the key.
Eric: Yeah, I mean and I've shared on my show a lot that depression is something that I think I had from when I am very young and it is something that has been an on again off again visitor to this day. And what I think I know now is when it's around I know how to do it a whole lot better, I know how to handle it way better than I used to which is not the same as making it completely go away which I mean if I could, I would, right? But I respond to it so much more wisely than I used to and that's to me the game is how do we respond wisely the difficulties in life because life will keep bringing them, right? We're gonna get old, we're gonna get sick, we're gonna die, the people around us are gonna get old, they're gonna get sick, I mean life brings difficulty so, how do we respond to it wisely is to me the whole game.
Michael: Yeah, I love that and that's a great place to round off this conversation and I want people to hold on to what you just said because it's so true like figure out that wise way, it's there, it's waiting for you. Eric, before I ask you my last question can you tell everyone where they can find you?
Eric: Yeah. If you go to oneyoufeed.net you can find the podcast there, you can find the spiritual habits program, all the ways to connect with what we're doing.
Michael: And of course, we'll put the links in the shows note for the Unbroken Nation. Eric, my friend, my last question for you, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?
Eric: I think it means that even with the difficulties that we have in life there is an underlying unity to all things, it's just deeper than the moment-to-moment tribulation. And so, I think you know, being unbroken to me is being able to tap into that from time to time and being able to keep hold of that even in the difficult moment.
So, I think that there will be moments we feel broken because I think life just sometimes does that but there's something deeper than that.
Michael: Brilliantly said my friend, thank you so much for being here.
Unbroken Nation, thank you so much for listening.
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And Until Next Time.
My friends, Be Unbroken.
I’ll see you.
Eric Zimmer is a behavior coach, author, and the host of The One You Feed Podcast. He is endlessly inspired by the quest for a greater understanding of how our minds work and how to intentionally create the lives we want to live. At the age of 24, Eric was homeless, addicted to heroin, and facing long jail sentences. In the years since, he not only found a way to overcome these obstacles to create a life worth living, he now helps others to do the same.
Eric works as a behavior coach and has done so for the past 20 years. He has coached hundreds of people from around the world on how to make significant life changes and create habits that serve them well in achieving the goals they’ve set for themselves.
In addition to his work as a behavior coach, he currently hosts the award-winning podcast,
The One You Feed, based on an old parable about two wolves at battle within us. With over 400 episodes and over 20 million downloads, the show features conversations with experts
across many fields of study about how to create a life that has more meaning.