Andrew: It’s a real pleasure to have Robert J Moore, CCAC,BASC and MC. An addiction counselor, mental health specialist, located in Ontario,Canada, with us today at Serene Scene Magazine. Thank you so much, Robert, for joining us here.
Robert: Thank you for having me.
Andrew: You are a busy author. You’ve got a few books out there, entitled, There’s More to Life, and My Journey Through Addiction to Salvation, a New Beginning. And your most recent, From Rock Bottom to Success, which is what grabbed my attention to initiate this interview in the first place. So, congratulations on those publications.
Robert: Thank you.
Andrew: I like to start out our interviews by asking a little about your history, what got you to this place in life where you’re at today?
Robert: Well, I have a past. My emotions were intact, and when I was growing up, it was like there was favoritism in my house. And I wasn’t the one being favoritized. So, I felt like I didn’t belong. So, when I was feeling like I didn’t belong, what happened was, I reached out to other sources that could make me feel a little better. Make me feel like I was Superman or invincible. Drugs and alcohol was a good portion of one of them.
And that led on to a history of drinking and drugging for a long time. I was in and out of jail for 16 years, living on the streets for 7 years. Just, so entrenched in the drugs and alcohol, I didn’t know what to do. And then, one day, I actually sat in the bush, with a case of beer, and rolling up some cigarette butts that I had found off the streets. I had not showered in days, at that point and time, and then I started drinking a beer. And I just started feeling sorry for myself again. And then, there was an epiphany just happen to come over me. And I decided, well this is it, I want the help.
It was just some kind of weird feeling, that I knew I can do it. It was like, that was it, the end of the road of that life. And then, it was like, the mold was starting to crack. And then I got into detox, where I sat there for many days, learning how to actually live without alcohol and drugs for the first three days.
Because of the fact that I was sicker than a dog. I did get myself into the treatment center. Once I got myself in the treatment center, I spent four months at this treatment center. Because, it wasn’t the alcohol and drugs, at this point in time they were dealing with, it was the attitude behind it.
The anger, all the delinquent behaviors that came along with the alcohol and drug setting. Because I was so entrenched in the behavior, I was actually conditioned to think that they were the proper way to be. Which I learned later on, it wasn’t and I really had to change quite a bit. I had to do, more than doing the 12 steps traditions I really had to go in depth on the intervention on my anger, on my behavior. And I had to see extra therapists in order to get the help. But I really, really, had to want this in the first place.
I’m proud to say today, I’m 11 years clean and sober, as of September 5th. Pardon me, September 7th, 2005, I became 11 years clean and sober. I started going through school, my first year, because I said I wanted to become somebody. I kept hearing, all my life, that you’re never going be anybody.
And it was really, really scary, because, all these people are going tell me I’m not going become or be anything. And it was like, something’s got to happen, I got to change this. I didn’t like the way I was feeling.
So, I made a pact to myself, that I’m not going feel like this no more. And I’m not going be broke no more, and I’m not going live like this. And I, more or less, went away for two years. Not talking to my family, not talking to the friends I had before. I wanted to really learn me. And this was huge, because it really got me to learn me.
I moved out of town, moved out to a new town. I started going to school, I ended up getting my high school diploma. I ended up getting my social service worker diploma. And then, I went and got my addictions diploma and then I got my BA in psychology, my master’s in counseling, my fundamentals in mental health crisis.
And I didn’t do all that to better anybody, I did it to better me. Because I wanted to know why I was acting the way I was, so I did all that. And at the same time, I had a criminal record because I was in and out of jail for so long.
So I figured, get more education, it’d be easier to have a job. Because that way the negativity, of that criminal record of years ago, wouldn’t withhold over water on this one. I’m proud to say today, I do have a pardon, I am free of my criminal record. I do have my credentials and that’s amazing.
And I wrote my first book, There’s More to Life, because I really wanted to get my message out to other people. I was starting to do motivational speaking back then, and then all of a sudden it just took a path. Someone looked at me and said, write a book. You can’t reach the people on the other side of the world. So I wrote my first book, I became number three in Canada. And then it died off, because I lost my momentum for that. So then, I did a second book, that one didn’t really take off. The third book, this last book, I just released November 30th 2016.
And December 3rd, 2016, I happened to become number one best-selling author in Canada. Now, that training kept going, and just two weeks ago, I actually became number one again. So, two times since November 30th, I’ve published this book it’s became. I got picked up by a publisher. They’ve actually nominated me, and get me to come out on March 26th, to London, England, where I will be accepting an award. I’m walking in the red carpet event where Winston Churchill spoke once. This is an honor. And I’m going be accepting an award, author award, 2017. I’ve never fathomed myself going through all this excitement. I’m on TV shows right now, I’m on radio shows, interview with glossy magazines. I get a lot of different things, I’m motivational speaking right now.
As a matter of fact, tomorrow I’m on a TV show in Toronto, Ontario. And not only that, I’ve been nominated one of the 20 top motivational speakers in Toronto, Ontario, which I compete on April 8th. And the thing is, it’s not all about me, I’m not doing this all for me. With motivation speaking, I am, for the competition. But when I speak, it’s about the people in the audience. It’s about the people that have lost their way. It’s about the people that need the encouragement, the excitement in their life, to learn there’s a different way. They don’t have to go down the same road I did, in order to be where they have to be in life.
So I mean it’s being successful, not money wise, it’s about internally.
Andrew: Well, it sure is a long way from being on the streets for seven years and now doing motivational speaking in front of crowds and receiving rewards for your books. My gosh, I want to ask you about being on the street for seven years, and your family, and what was going on there. Seven years is an awfully long time to be on the street, isn’t it Robert?
Robert: It was, believe it or not, all the time I was on the street, anytime I slept, I was very close to a beer store or liquor store. I would go into buildings, steal clothing when people were doing their laundry. It didn’t matter whether it fit me or not, I’d stretch it to fit, just to keep warm. Pour snow all over my body just to insulate myself. When I say I lived on the street seven years, I don’t mean I slept on couches, I mean I slept outside.
So I put up tents deep in the bush. I’d have campfires out there, I’d shower in the goal stations or train stations. I’d pan handle, I really would pan handle to get my next bottle of booze. And you know what, I became very, very street smart. Becoming street smart allowed me to actually focus on my internal skills and how to achieve.
Instead of using the internal box, I use the external box in order to think now. Because it allows me to see different things, different angles. For instance, I went in, I had just enough money to buy some chicken. I went into the store, bought some chicken at the grocery store. I come back out and a friend of mine says, how we going cook this? We don’t have a grill or anything. So we went around that grocery store and I grabbed a shopping cart and we lit a fire in the back of the bush. I brought the shopping cart over and I put the shopping cart down and I used that as the grill.
Andrew: What was going on between you and your family during this whole period of time? You got 16 years of in and out of jail, that’s pretty hard core, 7 years on the street, that’s extreme.
Robert: Well some years I was growing up, it just seemed that I didn’t fit in. I felt like myself, I did not fit in. Whether I was at home or school, I didn’t feel like I was getting the attention that I really needed, I guess. And so I kind of alienated myself from my family and friends because unless they were the type of friends that were on the same page as I was, destructive.
I literally wasn’t hanging around with them. My family: my mom was a bit of a hot head, I’d say. I’d get grounded quite a bit. She would yell and scream at me. So I mean, emotionally I became emotionally distraught for a long time. And I subconsciously just held my emotions in and wouldn’t speak about them. So later on in life I’d become emotionally numb. And the more I came into recovery, I had to learn how to retract that back and kind of let all my emotions go to rebuild them, to identify them.
Andrew: When that decision happened, that epiphany, you called it, and you decided, this is the end now, I need to change. I need to do something different with my life. Did you reach out at that point to get support from your family and friends?
Robert: Not my family and friends, no. What I did was I actually phoned the local detox where I can get in there and get a bed for three four days; talked to them and see what my next stop was.
Well, upon going in there, before I went in there I actually was on the bus and I grabbed $20 off a lady on there. I was a lying, cheating thief, that’s what I was. When I was drinking I was a lying, cheating thief and you know what? I see it more and more each day, I see that when I work with my clients I see how I would react when I was not getting my own way.
And we manipulate everybody that’s around us to get our own needs fed. So, when I reached out to the detox, I was true the blue. I was honestly true. I didn’t know about any God at that time. I just knew that, look, I just need the help, I couldn’t do this on my own no more.
I was suffering and I just couldn’t do it no more. It was either that or death and I didn’t want to go die. So when I did go on the detox spent three, four days there with the DTs. I finally came out of that and that’s when I looked at one of the staff members and said I’d like to go to a treatment center. I’d like to get myself some help. And they said what makes this so different from all the times you came in here, spent the week, and went back out? I said, I don’t know what makes it feel different. I just know I need the help. And I didn’t contact my family for probably three to five months after that.
Because of the fact that I didn’t want them saying, wow, he’s crying wolf again. I wanted them to actually see the results, not hear the results.
Andrew: When do you think you realized for yourself that this was not just another one of those times where you’re going go out and relapse, and get yourself cleaned up a little bit and then go out and relapse? When did you discover, I really do want this life in recovery?
Robert: When I was on my way to that detox I guess at first it was, the epiphany set in. I didn’t know what that was all about. I didn’t understand it, I just knew I wanted to get help.
After I went through the DTs, the fourth day or so afterwards, and I said listen, I really, really need the help this time. And I was sitting there with that counselor. He says, what makes the difference? And I said I don’t know what makes it different, I just know I want it.
At that moment, I think, is when something hit me and said, you know what? There is a better life. I’m tired of living emotionally numb. I’m tired of living angry. I’m tired of living on the streets. There has to be a better life. And I basically said that to him, to his face. And that’s when he said to me, you can have anything you want, you just have to work hard for it.
Andrew: It’s one thing to want it, it’s another thing to do the work, isn’t it?
Robert: That’s correct, that’s very correct.
Andrew: When did you realize that you could do this?
Robert: When I started going through my recovery, believe it or not, I was about three or four months in the recovery and I think I was just floating around and not really knowing what to do. I was just trying to float and following people that I see doing well and achieving well.
Fortunately the people I was following were the people of my same age variety and sobriety. Which I can’t learn from them at that moment, because they haven’t been further ahead in order to be teachable. So the sponsor looked at me, he says who’s your sponsor? Who’s helping and guiding you through this?
I said, what’s that mean? He goes, okay for now on, here’s my card. You’re going talk to me daily, and we’re going walk you through things. He says, how far have you gotten in your step work? I said, look I’ve always done one, two, three and that’s it. I said I don’t know what happened. He says I just went out drinking. He goes how about you try one, two, three, four, and five? Once we get through the fifth then you’ll know something different. So I put my faith in him, I don’t know why. But I put my faith in him and I actually did the fourth and fifth with him and that’s when it was like bang, wow this is cool.
I had nothing to hide at this time. I just poured it all out, all of it. I cried like a baby. It was amazing. It was absolutely amazing the release and then I realized there was hope. And that’s about the time that you take a look back and think, wow, this addiction thing has really taken me through some dark places.
No, I mean I read my book over. I just read it over last night just to make sure it was up to the were I wanted it to be. And I can’t think of another thing I want to put in it. I look over and I sit there reading it and I felt that emotion.
See, my book is all based on, see I have a lot of psychology and a lot of addiction background in that. So what I did was, there’s a lot of people out there that don’t understand addictions. And I want them to understand what I was going through. So I actually walk people through the emotional part of things that I went through.
So for instance, when I talk about the detox, I talk of how I was feeling and how, maybe I was a bit sweaty and all that stuff. So I talk about all the emotions that goes along with all that, all the actions.
Andrew: You talk about how you can help a loved one that has an addiction problem and I’d like to cover that now in the interview. I mean, what advice would you give to a family member or a spouse or a brother or sister? How do you help somebody that was like you on the street, in and out of jail?
Robert: There’s several different ways. If a person is too closed off to that person, a lot of times that person will be closed off because they don’t want that person telling them what to do.
So what you want to do is It’s gather pamphlets or something like that or say, like my book for instance. Someone not long ago actually grabbed my book because it’s number one best selling author. And they said, well hey this is a really good read, and they’re actually reading it in front of them, and they don’t read.
They just actually read the book in front of the other person, just to kind of put them on that path. And then they left the book in their living room and walked away, and just left it there in their living room. So this person actually picked up that book eventually, so you can do that with pamphlets.
You can do that with inspirational things that move that person to a different level. In order to give the person advice that’s helping, or see another person that’s going through this tribute of addictions. The biggest thing is try not to push them because it’s just going put them in the corner and what’s going happen is they’re going get very defensive.
In order to reach out it’s always best to get a professional involved. When you get a professional involved, they can guide you and tell you the best way to do things. Because, as a professional myself, you learn the behaviors of the addict and how they’re going react to their family.
Unless they have a very close family member they really talk to, you can get that person involved. And say, listen, when you’re doing this, this is affecting the family because of this.
Andrew: You’re really speaking about the mindset that an addict or an alcoholic has when they’re active in their addiction right now. You lived that mindset for many, many years. Tell me a little bit about, how it is that you viewed the world when you were active.
Robert: When I was active, I thought I was invincible. I would, I was living on the streets, in order to get my next drink. I’d dress up nice in a suit, I’d walk up and down the streets, I’d pan handle, I’d look at everybody else as a target. I literally would, how much money they have, how much money could I get out of them, how could I survive today, it was all surviving techniques.
Like I said, it was lying, cheating, stealing, I didn’t care how I got it, I wanted it. I end up mixing up with the wrong crowd, I end up kicking in doors for a few people, I won’t mention who, but I mean simply put, I’ll just say that I did get mixed up with the drug world, and it got pretty mean.
So I looked at other people as, I didn’t like them, I didn’t care for them. I just wanted what they had and that was it. I drank out of the blue bin boxes on recycling days, at the bars I grabbed one bottle. And I’d take all the empties there and take the little bit that was left in, just to get the next drink, it was pretty bad.
Andrew: And then you went through the recovery process, you’ve improved yourself immensely. And throughout that experience, your views on the world must have changed, so what are your views today?
Robert: I love empowering people, I really do, I had to go through certain things. I went through the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
I also did the California Four Step when I was about five years of being sober. And the reason why I did all those is because I want to learn different ways of bettering me. Once I learned how to tap into empowering me to be a better person. Less angry, more positive, and tap into abundance of what’s going on in my life.
Then I was able to see the other side as a different person. Because what I feel, when you change your internal peace, you change the things that are going on with you. The way you talk, the way you walk, the way you think, the tone of voice you use, everything around you tends to change.
Your friends will change. The people you hung around with so I’m getting to the fact where they talk about people, places, and things, that will all change. I have to show by example to other people today that, hey you can make it, you can be here too, let’s just do the hard work.
Andrew: Well you certainly have done the hard work and it’s brought you a long way from where you used to be.
Robert: I tell people today, it sounds kind of funny because of the wording I use. One of my favorite sayings are, I’m intoxicated off my own exuberance of verbosity, which just means I’m high on life.
I use that a lot and people look at me, I thought you didn’t drink. And then I explained to them, I said no I don’t drink but I’m high on my own exuberance which means I’m high on life.
Andrew: You know it is a difficult thing to get sober after so many years and from coming from the street and in and out of jails, I mean I don’t have to tell you that, but a lot of people out there would think that you were a lost cause. That you’re never going to make anything of yourself, but you did. You turned it around, and that’s one thing that’s incredibly difficult, but let me tell you there’s another thing that’s incredibly difficult. And you seemed to have succeeded here as well: and that is staying in recovery. How do you stay there?
Robert: How do I stay here? I do the work, I will go to meetings. Just because I’m 11 years clean and sober doesn’t mean that the disease is still not there. If I don’t do the work on a regular basis, I will slack down. I will end up going backwards. I mean, just because I’m a counselor and deal with all these clients all the time with mental health and addictions. I have to go and talk to a counselor once in a while, too, just to debrief.
I don’t say names, I don’t break confidentiality, I just debrief and then that’s how I stay focused. I leave my work at work, I leave my home at home. I don’t come home and take my anger out on people at my house like I used to do. Today, if I feel like I’m feeling distraught, I’m feeling angry, feeling resentful, feeling some kind of emotion that’s really disturbing me. I’ll take a second back and I’ll say why am I feeling this? Let’s rectify this and let’s fix it. If I don’t do that, I will see myself with a lollipop, which I call a beer, in my hand, and that will start the process.
Andrew: What advice do you have for a professional out there treating somebody that’s just walked into their clinic for the first time, off the street. And they look like that lost cause, what would you tell them? How can they best help that individual?
Robert: Well you’re going have to build a rapport first. You have to earn their trust, you’re going meet the client where they’re at. The best thing, when I have a client come in, and you know, we joke around for a few minutes because I know they’re feeling uncomfortable, they’re feeling scared. And especially in the setting, in an office setting, you want to define empathy and sympathy, you want to define that difference. Empathy is when the person starts crying, you’re just touching the Kleenex box and letting them know that it’s there.
You’re not taking away their emotions. Sympathy is when you’re giving the box of Kleenex to the client and then you’re taking away their emotions, so they can feel better. So you want to define that when you have a client come into your office for the first time, because you want to build that rapport.
That rapport is going make it or break that communication with that client and that counselor. If it’s not a fit, there’s always another counselor, I’m sure that person knows that could help them out. But being a person that was lost, and I had no where to go. I mean I was homeless and alone.
I was alienated by my friends, like I said, my family. My journey was just a path on a dead end. When I finally sat down and I broke the ice the person found out what interests me. So I had interests in art back then. Well, the person went out of their way and got some stuff so I could draw thing.
Here, why don’t you draw? Draw me a picture before you come in next time, let’s see how well you do. It was reverse psychology on that way, to bring out the real me, so if that person sees a person and maybe they’re a mechanic. Hey let’s see, you know what, relate that question to something about the car.
You build that rapport and that phase.
Andrew: Robert J Moore, author of From Rock Bottom to Success, available just about anywhere you look to buy a book. Thank you so much for spending your time with Serene Scene Magazine today.
Robert: I appreciate it Andrew.