DR. MIKE MORENO: Welcome back to Wellness Inc. I’m Dr. Mike Moreno taking a deep dive into all things wellness after over 25 years of practicing medicine. I’m fascinated with anything and everything that can help you feel better, live healthier and become the best you possible. I’ll be interviewing the most cutting-edge experts in the field of wellness and exploring new innovative technologies to help you live your best life. At the end of each episode, I’ll give you my weekly RX. My top tips for you to use right away. Remember to subscribe for free, rate and review my podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.
The COVID 19 lockdown has led to severe social and personal breakdowns. Parents struggle to work from home while helping their children meet academic expectations in a virtual learning environment. People dealing with illness, disease, addiction and mental or emotional issues are further stressed. Substance abuse and alcoholism are at an all-time high.
Today, I’m addressing these issues with someone who knows firsthand how to deal with them successfully. Author and Speaker Ed Kressy. This guy’s story is amazing. I can’t wait to get into this because I hope people out there listen to what this guy has to say, because his story, I feel, can change lives and I’m really excited to have him. As a young child Ed was bullied by other kids for his love of reading and writing. He started drinking at the age of 16 and gradually moved on to heavy drug use to escape from pain and reality, leading to an arrest by the FBI. Yes, the FBI. He struggled for years with a dissociative disorder that forced him into addiction, recovery, and a life of sobriety.
Ed’s story is now an inspiration for many people around the world. His work, his book, his memoir, “Amazing Work My Addiction and Recovery”, inspires readers with an amazing story of transformation and rebuilding of one’s life. A timely reminder that people can overcome addiction, mental health challenges and criminal histories to make solid contributions to society. That’s exactly what Ed has done. Ed, welcome to Wellness, Inc.
ED KRESSY: Thanks, Dr. Mike. Very grateful to be here.
DR. MIKE MORENO: I mean, to say you were at the bottom of your life or thinking at such a young age had to be kind of challenging. I’m excited to get into this because I’ve read about you, I know a lot of your history, I know your work. When you actually get to talk to the guy, it’s a whole other level. So, I really appreciate you being here.
ED KRESSY: Well, I’m grateful for the opportunity to bring some value to your audience.
DR. MIKE MORENO: So, let me ask you this just to even go off a little bit, but did you come from a family of alcohol or drug abuse or anything like that in your lineage?
ED KRESSY: I came from a “good family”. I had many opportunities in life, came from a relatively affluent background. Grew up in the picturesque, idyllic woods of Rural Massachusetts, had a college education provided for me. I worked for a firm that was named the number 1 best company in America to work for by Fortune Magazine. They were called Genentech. They treated me very well. Dr. Mike, I could go on and on with the opportunities that that life and society provided me.
DR. MIKE MORENO: So, you think when you look at your initially on paper, you’re thinking this guy is going to be a huge success and then things went wrong and we’re going to talk, we’re going to get into this a little bit. So, you said your parents gave you the love for reading, so talk about how you know, the glorious world of fantasy led to this insecurity and other causes of your addictions.
ED KRESSY: Absolutely. Of all the many gifts that I was given, the gift of a love of reading that my parents instilled in me is one of the chief blessings in my life. It was almost a cliché. I was a little kid who would go home from the library, lugging stacks of books almost too high to see over. S.E. Hinton, The Hardy Boys, Judy Blume, The Wizard of Oz. I loved the escape into that fantasy world. To me, the worlds of books, the worlds of my imagination were much more appealing to me than the reality of the world around me. That suits a person very well when he or she is a little kid.
Yet as I grew older and got into junior high and high school, my fantasy worlds collided with what turned out to be a rather harsh reality or at least from my perspective, a harsh reality when I really couldn’t fit in. I was an uncoordinated kid. I could not compete in sports or gym classes. I was very sensitive. I would cry quite easily when the teachers yelled, or the bus driver pulled to the side of the road when the kids got too rowdy. Dr. Mike, where I went to high school, reading crying being uncoordinated, not exactly a campaign platform upon which one might run for class president. I just found it very hard to fit in.
DR. MIKE MORENO: So far you are painting this perfect picture. I say this all the time. There are people, who are giving everything, I have friends who have kids and whatever, you see this perfect environment and yet things go wrong for these individuals. When was there a point when you started messing around with alcohol and drugs? Like how did this whole thing start?
ED KRESSY: To me, I feel that if people understand one thing about alcoholism and addiction, the thing to understand is that usually or even often drugs, and alcohol are not our problem. Drugs and alcohol are our attempt at solutions. So, to answer your question with the benefit of hindsight, when I was 14 years old at a wedding reception after my aunt had gotten married, I was in Brooklyn, New York, a completely different environment than the woods of Massachusetts, where I grew up. I was surrounded by loving family.
Yet I still felt very alienated, despite being surrounded by family. When I got that bottle of champagne, when my cousin and I snuck off from that wedding reception to go to his friend’s apartment and watch porno movies with our purloined bottle of champagne. It wasn’t so much the feeling of being intoxicated as it was that feeling of belonging. Now, all of a sudden, there is a world, there is an environment where I belong. So, what happened was I made a very strong association between feelings of intoxication and feelings of belonging and social acceptance. The jokes I made garnered laughs. People were laughing with me instead of at me. The remarks I made were of interest to people instead of fodder for others to make fun of me. These are the feelings that really associated themselves with that champagne. From looking back that is when the problem started, when I began using alcohol as a solution to my problems.
DR. MIKE MORENO: All right, so now you are 14, you are with your cousin, you decide to get some champagne, start drinking now at this point, you are already deep into the reading thing, right? You’re into that whole reading thing and you’re immersed in that. What did the alcohol do to that particular Ed Kressy?
ED KRESSY: My dream since I was a little kid was to become an author. I remember a couple of times in English class when the teacher would call me to the front of the room to read aloud a story I had written, or the teacher would read a story or an essay, an essay I wrote to the class, these are some of the first times I felt like I belonged. Like, I felt I could successfully interact with my peers. I remember once the same bully who would punch me on the playground came up and clapped me on the shoulder after I’d read a story aloud to tell me he liked the story. I developed this dream of becoming an author, yet I lacked the confidence. I lack the perseverance. I lack the determination to pursue my dream. Instead, I found an easier, faster way to get these feelings of accomplishment. They were false feelings now that I look back because they were the feelings that came with toxication.
DR. MIKE MORENO: So, I want to go back. You made a statement about how it affected your problems or how it fixed your problems. At 14, I am thinking to myself, 14, when I was 14, I was clueless. I did not know what was going on. You know, I’m still pretty clueless sometimes. Do you think it was in your mind at that point that I could be going down a bad path?
ED KRESSY: No, absolutely not. I never took a glass of champagne. I never started drinking vodka. I never did that first line of cocaine or smoked that joint thinking someday I’m going to wake up naked on the floor of a padded cell after the sheriff’s deputies and lock me up there, but that’s exactly what happened. No, I never set off thinking that the road I was taking was going to end up where it did for me, which was nights in homeless shelters, months behind bars and years in destitution. I had no idea when I got started.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Yeah, all right, so you get through high school, you get to college, you’re going to college and you’re still doing all this stuff. Now, a lot of people reflect on themselves and say “Hey, I’m successful”. I did well in school, I’m in college, you know, I’m succeeding in life. So why can’t I drink? Why can’t I do this? Why? It seems to be working for me. Did you ever have that attitude?
ED KRESSY: I had that attitude of life seems to be working so I can continue on my path of drug use. Looking back, what happened with me happens to a lot of us. We undertake pathways of career relationships, athletic endeavors because what we are really doing is putting up a facade. We are kind of constructing a lie, and the lie is a lie that we are telling ourselves. So, for me, I was working out in a kickboxing gym 5 or 6 days a week. I had a career with Genentech, the firm I mentioned. They treated me very well. So, what I was saying to myself was “Hey, a guy who works out kickboxing 5 days a week, a guy who has a career at Genentech, that guy can’t possibly be a drug addict because these are not the things in addicted person does”. Now, looking back, I realize these were falsehoods I was telling myself. I was constructing a facade. I was convincing myself I was not addicted to drugs and along the way, I was convincing other people to.
DR. MIKE MORENO: So how did you do that? I mean, obviously very successful. You go to college; you are working for Genentech. How do you justify? Is it every day you have a conversation with yourself at the end of the day when you lay down in bed and you say to yourself, another successful day for Ed Kressy. So, what if I’m doing coke and meth and drugs? I mean, is that how it works? Do you justify that?
ED KRESSY: In some ways, yes, I justified it. I believe what I did even more so was to have the milestones that were periods of binge using. So, no matter how bad I felt about myself during the course of a week, because although I had these things in life still through much of my adulthood, I was always that bullied kid who was afraid to stand up for himself. Even though I had the career and the kickboxing, I was still the person deep down inside who never pursued my dream of becoming an author so I could bury all that. I could tamp it down knowing that when Friday night rolled around, I’d start doing meth or I’d party on coke or I smoked marijuana and get intoxicated. So, I would more look ahead to the periods of tamping down the pain and use that to kind of push aside the feelings of inadequacy that were at the root of my problems with addiction.
DR. MIKE MORENO: I want to take a second here, and the reason I love your story is because when I read about you and I recognize that we were going to be able to interview you, I thought, I read your story like 2 or 3 times, and I was like… wow. How many people are going to listen to this guy and think, that’s me? I like to think that the show is meant to get people to maybe to get to people in a way that they have not been able to get to themselves yet. I think you’re an inspiration and your work that you’ve done and you and your book, which we’re going to get to more. I want people listening right now.
I want you to sort of go back to this point in your life that you just talked about. You are at Genentech, you’re making money, you’re successful, you’re doing kickboxing, yet you’re doing all this other stuff in the background. And let me tell you, keeping up that facade is a lot of work. That is so hard for people out there who are surrounded by friends or people who just think, oh god, this guy’s life is so good. It’s a struggle. It’s a pressure to keep that facade going. It is so much work to just not say “Hey, I need help”.
So, I’m going to ask you, I’m going to put you on the spot here. What would be at this point in your life if there’s someone listening who is living this life, what would you say to them to preemptively get to them before things got down the road, and we’re going to talk about what happened to you, what would you say to them at this point?
ED KRESSY: For someone who is on a path similar to mine, I would say that you’re not alone. Your feelings are similar to feelings others have felt, I would say, to consider pursuing a path of spirituality. No, often we get to a point where human power can’t help us. Human power can’t solve our problems. We need to turn to a spiritual path and spirituality. It means as many different things as there are different people who are spiritual practitioners.
My brand of spirituality may be completely different from yours, or there may be similarities. The best form of spirituality is the one that makes you the best person. Also, consider adopting a spiritual path and really learn the stories of others. Even in this day and age of the pandemic, there are books that you can read. There are many people who have overcome devastating addictions who have told their stories in books that you can read, and you can see the audience member, are not so different in many ways or at core, fundamental ways than people who have faced similar problems.
There is a great book by Jerry Stahl called “Permanent Midnight”. There is a book by a good friend of mine, Darren Prince, who was a celebrity sports and entertainment agent but all along was addicted to opiates. Mary Karr wrote an amazing book. Elizabeth Wurtzel. There are many, many stories of people that you can read and gain inspiration from, because once you realize that other people have accomplished what you want to accomplish, then you have that belief. Dr. Mike, as we’re aware, what the mind can conceive and what our what we can believe, then we can go out and achieve. So first, consider a path of spirituality and then learn from others who have walked similar paths.
DR. MIKE MORENO: It’s great, it’s perfect advice and I think it’s important for people to recognize that religion and spirituality are two separate things. It’s just finding that thing, as you said, I think you put it really well, it’s finding that thing that you can relate to or hear other stories or something that puts you in a good place. Now you got into some pretty gnarly stuff. I mean, let’s be honest, meth is arguably, I think, one of the dirtiest, worst drugs there is out there, you know, coke, heroin, and prescription drugs, you name it, but meth is pretty hardcore. At what point do you experiment with this and say “Hey, I can still again accomplish and be the guy that I am, but now I’m doing meth”. At what point do you kind of get into this? How old were you?
ED KRESSY: First time I did meth, I believe I knew I was addicted the first time I had done it. I want to say I was 19 or so years old. I used meth and right away there was that feeling I could just become a different person because I never used drugs to be a high version of myself. I never wanted to be me just feeling a little bit better. I wanted to become a whole new person. I wanted to become that author that I never had the confidence to be. I wanted to be the kid who stood up for himself on the playground like I never was. Meth was the drug that got me there fastest. Meth was the drug that took me to a place where I could feel like I was a whole different person.
Eventually, it really turned on me because I did, in a sense, become a whole different person. I ultimately was a victim of my own poor decisions. What that led to was a form of psychosis in which the methamphetamine had me convinced I was the target of a vast FBI conspiracy because I inadvertently befriended a 911 hijacker. I spent years believing I was really into it. I mean, I spent years believing the FBI was following me and invisible stealth bombers and beaming the disembodied voices into my head that I heard all the time.
I could go on and on with the beliefs I had, but they were very real to me. The meth in a twisted way, the meth gave me what I wanted. It made me into a completely different person. It made me into the epicenter of the nexus of this vast global 911 conspiracy that only I could unravel. It made those fantasy worlds very real to me and in a twisted type of way.
DR. MIKE MORENO: So, you’re at Genentech. And what about your personal life? Are you with a significant other? I have to imagine that addiction to whatever it is, alcohol, drugs, whatever affects a lot of personal lives. I mean, what was going on in your personal life had you been in a relationship or what? Like what was happening there?
ED KRESSY: I had one long term relationship with an amazing woman who I’m still friends with. She partied quite a bit, too. So, our relationship mostly centered around mutual drinking and drug using. My other relationships were mostly of a base physical nature. Great women. Amazing women, but I would never let anyone get close enough to know the real me. I did not like the real me. I knew me. I knew that I was a lying person. I knew that I was selfish. I knew I was self-centered. My view of others was always that if you knew the real me, you would not like me.
I took that a step further, believing that if you treated me poorly, I held it against you if you treated me poorly. If you treated me well, I held it against you even more because I knew the real me. So, I thought, if you treated me well, you had to be either out to get me or you had to be stupid. So, anyone who tried to get close to me, I would push away. I would create a wall of intoxicants of lies of distance, although I had some relationships with many friendships and romantic relationships with remarkable people, drugs were always number one.
Drugs were not the only thing in my life. There were relationships. It was career. That was fitness. There was nutrition. There was other things, but drugs were always, always, always number one. And everything else family, my beloved dog, the home I owned, my motorcycle… all of that had some importance in my life, but it always took a distant second, third, fourth place to drug use.
DR. MIKE MORENO: So, when you look back were there times where you stopped yourself and said, I got to get a hold of this? Or was it always like, you know, full steam ahead? I’m fine.
ED KRESSY: I quit drugs a thousand times. Maybe a million. I remember once at one of the depths of my cocaine addiction right off of my living room, I had this, you know, those garbage chutes where you kind of open a little drawer-
DR. MIKE MORENO: Oh, yeah!
ED KRESSY: Yeah.
DR. MIKE MORENO: I have one- I live in a high rise, so I know exactly what you’re talking about.
ED KRESSY: Got it, yeah. Ok, so you open it a little and you put the garbage in a chute and the garbage disappears into the basement. Every Monday morning, I would take whatever cocaine I had left over, which usually wasn’t very much because I would do it all. I took my cigarettes, I took my booze, I took my whatever, and I threw it down that garbage chute thinking, That’s it. I’m never going to do drugs again. I’m never going to smoke again. And Dr. Mike, you know what I was doing Tuesday night, Wednesday night? Cocaine, cigarettes, booze. So, the problem is not quitting. The problem is staying quit.
DR. MIKE MORENO: That’s a that’s a whole other thing. Let’s get to what happened to you. I know I read something. I loved the statement. It said, you are probably the only guy who was arrested by the FBI, investigated, and arrested and then given an award by the same head of the FBI down the road. So how does that whole thing? I can’t imagine when you think FBI people are like, OK, that’s serious stuff. What did you do?
ED KRESSY: Well, first of all, I’m so grateful to the FBI and to many others in law enforcement for giving me a second chance. They allow me to serve law enforcement, helping them better serve communities affected by addiction. I’m so grateful. The reason I got involved with the FBI is I used to show up at their offices with my talk of 911 conspiracies and the people that I thought were following me and my electronics that I thought were bugged. I remember once sitting in the lobby of the FBI office with a guitar amplifier that I thought had had a surveillance device in it. One time I pushed my luck too far. I showed up at the FBI offices with a warrant out for my arrest. I had failed to appear in court on a previous charge.
As I recall, it was related to one. I had broken into my relatives home to steal for drug money, and I had been arrested then, so there was a warrant out for my arrest. The FBI, when I when I showed up at their offices, I remember I was filing a complaint against Stanford University because Stanford had hired me, I got sober long enough to create a resume, and Stanford gave me a wonderful chance to work in their state-of-the-art Cancer Center. I went to work for Stanford. I lasted a couple of months before I went back on the meth pipe.
Fast forward again to that FBI office, although the FBI arrested me for failure to appear in court. Really, it represents a much greater failure on my part. I failed to use the many opportunities society provided me in service to society. Instead, I selfishly use drugs and we see where it got me, unfortunately.
DR. MIKE MORENO: So, you’re at Genentech, what happens with this work and these jobs, do they finally just fire you or what happened there?
ED KRESSY: Yeah, I quit… maybe hours before they would have fired me, they gave me some great chances. Genentech allowed me to work with their senior management. They sent me on overseas business trips. They sent me back to school. They gave me every opportunity. I made them pay for it. No, I was a terrible employee. Had I reached out for help to their human resources department, they would have sent me to. I’m sure they would have sent me to treatment. They would have done everything they could for me, but I was too selfish, and my head was not where it needed to be, and it wouldn’t be for many years.
DR. MIKE MORENO: So, you lose your job and I’m imagining you’re on the streets. Over what span of time is this happening? Like, how quick does someone just unravel?
ED KRESSY: For me, the real quick unraveling came when I switched from snorting meth to smoking it. That’s when the disembodied voices started. That’s when the real conspiracy beliefs started. When I was smoked, when I began smoking meth, I owned a home in San Francisco that quickly went away because I would. I smash holes in the drywall and tear the place apart looking for surveillance devices. I was nowhere near employable. Eventually, I sold the home and spent all the money on strip clubs and methamphetamine and guitars I would smash in fits of rage.
DR. MIKE MORENO: How old are you at this point, Ed?
ED KRESSY: Yeah, at this point I’m probably 32, 33.
DR. MIKE MORENO: So, you’re a young guy. So, let me ask you this. Do you think, first of all, smoking meth is pretty hardcore. I mean, you think about crack and you think I watched something on Netflix the other day talking about, you know, crack cocaine in the evolution of it and how much more addicting it was than doing cocaine in the nose, like you said. So, you’re doing all this crazy stuff, and it still doesn’t occur to you that you’re going down this bad path now. You became psychotic. I think there is many people that say, Well, this guy, you know, this guy went a whole other extreme, you know, he became psychotic in the FBI. I got this under control, so what? I party on the weekends; I keep my job and I’m doing a good job and my work likes me. I just do whatever I do on the weekends.
There’s clearly some sort of disconnect, some mental disconnect that happen. Where do you tie in the drugs and or the mental disconnect or both? Did one cause the other did one was it doomed to happen or what are your thoughts on that?
ED KRESSY: It’s hard for me to tell whether the mental health challenges were present before the alcohol and drugs because I started drinking heavily when I was 16, which is it’s relatively early in life to start drinking that heavily. So, it’s hard for me to tell. What I can say is that I felt all those things too. I felt I had a career, I felt I owned a home, I felt it couldn’t happen to me. Meaning the psychosis, the FBI beliefs, and even while those things were happening. Dr. Mike, I think it’s important to remember that for those of us who struggle with psychosis, whether it’s drug induced like mine or some other form, we believe these things. These are our reality.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Right. Absolutely.
ED KRESSY: I didn’t think I heard voices. I heard them. They were as real to me as your voice is now. To touch on a great point, you made earlier on the damage that meth does to this day, even 12, almost 13 years after my last hit of meth, I still experience these disembodied voices from time to time. I still entertain beliefs of some government interest in my life.
Now I’m fortunate, thanks to God and thanks to amazing people in my life, I’m able to use these to my advantage. I’m able to, as you so kindly said earlier, to use what others have given me as a way of inspiring people who are looking to transform their own lives. The point is, if you’re questioning whether you might have a problem around drugs, the very fact that you’re asking that question might want to cause you to start investigating this a little bit deeper. Read other people’s stories. Connect with other people and see what similarities there are between you, the audience member and someone who has experienced problems like I have and ultimately fortunately overcame them.
DR. MIKE MORENO: So, you’ve been in jail?
ED KRESSY: I was in jail for a total of two and a half months and to be honest, the reason I didn’t serve much more time was because society gave me unfair advantages due to my birth circumstances. Let’s face it, I had a lot of privileges that many people don’t get. I used to think that I was never a violent criminal because I made better decisions. I never was a violent criminal. I used to think the reason was I just decided better. That has nothing to do with it. The reason I was never a violent criminal is because when I was selling cocaine, for example, I was selling coke out of a paid for apartment while I was going to college, which was also paid for. Had those things not been true, my apartment in college not been true, I would have been selling probably crack cocaine out on the street and I would have engaged in violent crime. Almost certainly, I would have hurt myself. I would have hurt someone else. These things might sound obvious to say, but it is a little bit different when you live them.
Fortunately, one of the many blessings of my sobriety is that I’ve been allowed to do a lot of work inside prisons and jails. So, our sisters and brothers who are incarcerated and who are turning their lives around, they really gave me a wonderful education on the fact that the difference between me and someone who is serving a long sentence in prison is not so much a difference in kind, it’s just a difference in degree, and it’s because of my birth circumstances and the unfair advantages society bestowed upon me.
DR. MIKE MORENO: I mean, for a guy that’s gone through all this and I got to tell you, you’re very humble, you’re very straightforward, you’ve been through a lot of hell. I think when we take someone like this and then we put them in a pandemic, man, now you’re really challenging people. You know what this pandemic has done. We can go on and on and on about it, but think about these people who have mental illness, who have addiction issues, who have these problems, and now you throw a pandemic into the whole thing. I mean, how do these people keep going? What do you think about this pandemic with how the impact it’s had on mental illness and all of that stuff?
ED KRESSY: I think the pandemic is a wonderful opportunity. First, let’s say if I could snap my fingers and make the pandemic go away, I would. However, we can’t often change our circumstances yet.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Right.
ED KRESSY: Circumstances don’t matter nearly as much as the view we choose to take of our circumstances and there is no better time that to shape our own character than during times of adversity. I think Martin Luther King said it best that people are not formed in periods of comfort, people’s characters are formed in periods of calamity. Dr. King says it much better than I. We can choose to look at the pandemic as an isolation that results as a terrible affliction or we can choose to look at the pandemic as an opportunity to explore other means of healing, other means of transformation. The pandemic is not going to change either way. We don’t have control over the pandemic.
So, what we’ve got to do is take charge of what we can control, which is our viewpoint, our mindset, and our attitude. It’s not easy. Trying to change our mind is like trying to change the wind sometimes, or it feels that way, but the harder we apply ourselves through practices, at least for me, the practices that work best are meditation, spirituality, nutrition, fitness, daily practices. We can form our minds to take on that adversity, and we can find opportunities even in these very challenging circumstances that the pandemic presents.
DR. MIKE MORENO: You hear people talking about silver linings of any bad situation; there are silver linings of bad situations and when you talk about the pandemic in particular with what we’re talking about, I think that this pandemic has almost allowed things to surface that would otherwise not have surfaced. In other words, something of this magnitude has led people to maybe take a look at themselves. Maybe it’s challenged them in such a way to where they’re just going along, much like you were. Things are going OK, and they are still stuck in this problem, their world, but I think the pandemic has kind of almost slowed things down in a sense to allow people to say, god, this is a problem and I need help.
Which takes me to my next question, what do you do or what can you say to these people to say, Hey, it’s OK, what you’re going through and there are ways to get help? And it’s not like, look at me, I did it sort of thing. It really shows your heart and your passion for humanity. Where do they start? I’m this guy listening. I got these problems. I have all this stuff going on. I don’t have, as you put it, the good hand that was dealt to you. How do we get these people to say, Hey, it’s OK and there are people out there to help you?
ED KRESSY: Absolutely, there are many, many people who have faced challenges far more daunting than mine, and there may very well be people listening right now whose challenges far exceed anything I’ve overcome. Your suggestion is to look to people like Anne Frank or the Dalai Lama, who is exiled from Tibet when he was a little child and became a spiritual leader of a nation, in fact the world.
Look to stories of people who have overcome challenges similar to yours, or people who have done things that you are trying to do, which is get past barriers, which is to transform your life. See what they have done, understand that it can be done, that these are quote unquote normal people in many respects who are put into extraordinary circumstances yet through their spirits through the grace of god, through whatever means they took have triumphed. They can triumph. You can triumph too.
Remember when it comes to drug addiction; the goal is not to get sober. The goal is not to quit doing drugs or to quit drinking. These are necessary steps along the path, but the goal is to lead a meaningful life.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Right.
ED KRESSY: The goal is to be of service to a form of God you may choose to believe, or the goal is to be of service to your fellow human beings, or the goal may be to improve yourself in some meaningful way, whatever the goal is for you. That’s what to keep in mind. We don’t want to quit drugs and just go back to leading our normal life. I mean, maybe some of us do, and if that’s what you want to do, that’s fine, but for most of us, the goal is really to lead that meaningful life of service, of spirituality, of self-improvement.
So whatever challenges you face, remember adversity can often be our ally. We can shape ourselves in times of adversity like we cannot in any other times. Adversity is a fantastic opportunity to really develop our character to really strengthen ourselves.
If I could tell one quick story, it’s a story about a hiker going through the woods who happens to come upon a butterfly. The butterfly is emerging from its cocoon. The hiker notices the butterfly is struggling. The butterfly is struggling mightily. It’s fighting, it’s fighting. It’s trying to free itself from the cocoon. So, the hiker takes out his knife and starts to cut the cocoon, thinking that he’s going to help the butterfly by setting it free. Now, the hiker has all the best intentions, but really, what he’s doing is harming that butterfly because it’s struggle to free itself from the cocoon that gives the butterflies beautiful wings their strength.
Human beings are very much like that butterfly. We find ourselves in times of intense struggle, like many of us are finding ourselves now during this challenging pandemic. Yet it’s that struggle oftentimes that allows us to develop those wings, which give us a chance to fly. The fly means to achieve our dreams, to reach our highest aspirations, to be in service to a higher power and or to our fellow human beings to really transform into our best selves.
DR. MIKE MORENO: So, I mean, it’s a great analogy, and I totally get that, and I see that. Do you ever think about and unfortunately for some people, these diseases, these addictions, these things we’re talking about, people don’t live to tell their story like you did and people don’t get there. You see it every day. You watch the news; you hear these stories. Unfortunately, some of us, their personal things, you know about people, you hear about people, you know, to use your analogy that that butterfly never gets to fly and bad stuff happens. When you look back and you think about that, would you say that you were able to fly?
Thankfully, for a lot of people, because you’re doing a lot of good and I want to talk about “My addiction and Recovery” a little bit in a sec, but you had to go through a lot of stuff and is there a point where you think, you know, I needed to go through those things to be able to do what I’m doing now? Or I could have kind of only gone through half of those things, and I still would be where, you know what I’m saying? Like, did I need to go through all of that in order to be where I am now and spreading the word and doing what I’m doing? Or could I have gone through just 10 percent of that, and I would have still been able to be who I am now?
ED KRESSY: Absolutely, I question the universe every day. Not a morning goes by when I don’t wake up and think, why? Why can’t my depression go away? Or why can’t I be rid of this anxiety? I could be so much greater service. I don’t know. I have to play the hand that was dealt to me. You look at me and you see basically a privileged white male who was given a lot of things in life yet selfishly threw them all away in favor of doing drugs and going to strip clubs and buying motorcycles and things like that.
Yet at the same time, those things that society gave me that things of a material nature were like a weight, like an anchor or a tie tied around my leg that dragged me to the bottom of a sea of misery and desperation. I don’t know.
There’s a concept in Buddhism, of Dukkha. The concept of Dukkha means we all suffer. Although we suffer in different ways and various afflictions are visited upon us, depending upon our birth circumstances, the nature of our suffering is very similar, so we’re all connected that way. Many of us don’t make it out of addiction. Many of us don’t make it through our challenges. Those of us who do, hopefully we can live in service to the memories of those who came before us. Hopefully we can keep their legacies alive. Hopefully we can do better for ourselves in the world, around us, in memory of people who are no longer with us. Let’s face it, this is our time for all of us. Our time upon this Earth is finite. We’re all here for a relatively short amount of time. For many of us, it’s going to be years and years and decades and decades, but our time on this Earth will end someday.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Right.
ED KRESSY: As one of my closest friends and mentors likes to say, you never see a U-Haul following a hearse, right? You never see a U-Haul following a hearse. Nothing of a material nature can we take with us on the next stage of the journey should we choose to believe there is a next stage? So, what we can do is focus on when our time comes to leave this Earth, what do we want to look back upon?
DR. MIKE MORENO: You think this is the foundation for “My addiction and Recovery”, which, by the way, man, this is something you guys have to read. I know you do some great stuff with Defy Ventures, a charity that that you work with, but you know, when you look at this work, that was the product of, quite honestly, a pretty bumpy road. Drugs, alcohol, FBI arrests, jail. I mean, it wasn’t pretty. And even though you sat at that poker table of life and were dealt a pretty good hand, you almost lost the pot in a sense. I tell patients they had all the time, Listen, you sit down. Life should be like sitting down at a poker table, right? It shouldn’t be boring. It should be fun. You’re going to make friends, you’re going to make enemies, and you’re going to get a hand dealt to you.
How you play that hand is what leads to your success or not. I think you can’t just keep turning the cards back to the dealer and say, Give me another hand. You take that hand; you play it the best you can. You sit on that table of poker for as long as you can, and you make the best of it. I think that’s what you’ve done is at the end of that night, you were able to come up with “My addiction and Recovery” and you’re able to share this with people. I think it is remarkable. You know, what is the one thing you would say that is you’re most proud of from this work?
ED KRESSY: What I’m most proud of from having written my book was to put my faith in a form of God that I believe exists, which allow me to face my fears. There’s a quote by Joseph Campbell. “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”. “The cave you fear to answer holds the treasure you seek”. I remember getting up before dawn every day for a year, a couple of years, however long it took to write my book, I would have my French press coffee by my side. I would sit at my laptop and I would go to war with my demons. I would go to war with my fear. I believed the FBI was spying on me at times. I believed that if I told the story of the 9/11 hijacker, I believed I befriended that the government might assassinate me. I believed that people would hate me. I believed that Muslims would hate me because I would come across as being disrespectful to religious or faith-based practices.
All these terrors, all these demons set upon me as I was writing my book. Yet, thanks to a belief in a spiritual force I faced, my fear was able to write a book, which hopefully brings some value to others. I hope that some people will read my book and believe that transformation is possible in their lives and the lives of people they love.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Yeah, I think when you do a work like that, it’s a very vulnerable thing to do. I can’t imagine the emotions that went through your mind when you’re pounding this thing out on a computer or typewriter or whatever it was. I mean, I’m sure there were tears and there were times where you’re like, Yeah, this may be too much for me to do, but you, you forged ahead, you push through it and now you share this work with a lot of people.
Listen, we all have our story and one of the things I like to do with the show is perhaps get people to think about their story. We’re fortunate enough to bring some amazing people on here to share their story. People get through it and people get to where they are like you and they appreciate it. Then they go out and they share this with other people and that’s a beautiful thing. I know you do some work with Defy Ventures. Tell me a little bit about Defy ventures.
ED KRESSY: Yeah, thank you. The Defy Ventures is an amazing organization, they’re a non-profit that delivers entrepreneur and employment training to currently and formerly incarcerated persons. Thanks to the Defy Ventures and some other organizations, I’ve had the opportunity to work in some of California’s most notorious maximum-security prisons. I’ve had the opportunity to work inside of jails. I’ve learned that the people I’ve worked with whom society often labels as being among the very worst of the very worst, these are actually some of the most beautiful human beings we have in our society. Now, they’ve done some terrible things, by no means do we condone actions taken by people like me who hurt others through our poor choices.
The point is that our sisters and brothers who are incarcerated or who were incarcerated, many of them really are transforming their lives. Many of them have beautiful things to offer to society and are bringing those things to society. I think people who have served time are one of the most underutilized resources our society has. When we give people a chance to learn from their mistakes and to share what they’ve learned with others. When we give people second chances- the thing about second chances is that second chances benefit the giver as much as the receiver, sometimes even more so. That is what I found in my life.
The second chances I was given by the FBI, by the police department, by the American Red Cross, by my communities, by my wonderful family, all the incredible organizations and people who gave me second chances to allow me to contribute, they’ve received something back from me and hopefully what they received back from me is as good as what they gave me. It’s hard to believe, from my perspective, because it was so good and so wonderful what they gave me. I’m giving back, and I’m just one example. There are many, many women and men who are or were incarcerated, who are giving to society just as much as me, if not far more so. I think this is a wonderful opportunity that the Defy Ventures is providing society.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Let me ask one final question before we wrap up. I’m somebody listening to this program right now, this podcast listening to this conversation that you and I are having and I’m saying to myself, this guy, maybe I’m this guy when he was 30 or 40 or whatever, no matter where you are in your life, even if you’re sitting pretty and life seems great, if we got to you, and you’re thinking about this discussion that Ed and I have had, and I’m this guy listening, what do you tell that person to help them, to make them head in the right direction? What’s a short nugget you can tell them?
ED KRESSY: The short nugget I can tell them is what I like to call the three S’s, spirituality, service to others, and self-improvement. If whatever we’re doing, hits one or more of those three S’s, usually eventually that will put us on the path to where we want to get.
DR. MIKE MORENO: You know, I got to say we were fortunate enough for you to get through some difficult times because it led to your work in “My Addiction and Recovery”, it led to the work you do with Defy Ventures. It led to you continuing to help people. Thankfully for us, you made it through this quite challenging life. I know there are others out there that can do the same thing by looking into your work and as you said, just looking into the work of others and seeing the struggles that people have been through. So, thank you for sharing your experience and thank you for your continued work that you do. I’m sure people may want to reach out to you. Where can where can people find you online or find your book “My Addiction and Recovery”?
ED KRESSY: Oh, thank you. You go to my website, www.authoredkressy or you can just search by my name, Ed Kressy. It’s a fairly unique name.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Beautiful. So, people can reach out to you, people can reach out and say Hey!
ED KRESSY: Absolutely, yeah, thank you so much for mentioning it. If you or someone you love is struggling, if I can help in any way, don’t hesitate to reach out.
DR. MIKE MORENO: Ed, thank you so much for everything. We appreciate it. A lot of people do.
ED KRESSY: Thank you, Dr. Mike.
DR. MIKE MORENO: I mean, amazing stuff, and god, I say this all the time, and we have such amazing guests on here. I’m hoping that if it helps one person, if there’s one person that can lead down a pathway of success, like Ed, we’ve done our job. I guess I shouldn’t call it a job. It’s our service to the community we that we live in, to our families, to our friends, our loved ones and maybe to our perfect strangers, but let’s get now to today’s weekly RX.
You know, the first thing I got to say is there is not enough attention given to addiction and mental illness. I think people need help, and I think I understand there are resources and a lot of things that that are barriers to helping these people, but we have to continue to work at getting these people help, and we have to continue to recognize that, that people need our services, and we need to devote time and efforts and finances to these people. I hope this continues to head in that direction and more of that is done.
Lastly, I just want to say, if there are people out there struggling and we were able to listen to Ed’s journey, and fortunately for us and for all of us, he was able to come out on the other side, but for people out there who are listening to this and say, god, that sounds a lot like me, now is the day to take that step and reach out for help and talk to somebody. Talk to anybody, but let people know that you’re having a tough time. That’s it for today.
Don’t forget to subscribe for free download and listen to Wellness, Inc. with me, Dr. Mike Moreno on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. Follow me on social media @The17DayDiet. Take care! The Wellness, Inc. with Dr. Mike Moreno podcast is for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended as a replacement or substitution for any professional, medical, financial, legal, or other advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This podcast does not constitute the practice of medicine or any other professional service. The use of any information provided during this podcast is at the listeners own risk for medical or other advice appropriate to your specific situation, please consult a physician or other trained professional. Thank you.
About This Episode:
The Covid-19 lockdown has led to severe social and personal breakdowns. Parents struggle to work from home while helping their children meet academic expectations in a virtual learning environment. People dealing with illness, disease, addiction, and mental or emotional issues are further stressed.
Substance abuse and alcoholism are at an all-time high. Today Dr. Mike addresses these issues with someone who knows first-hand how to deal with them successfully, author and speaker Ed Kressy.
As a young child, Ed was bullied by other kids for his love of reading and writing. He started drinking at age 16 and gradually moved on to heavy drug use to escape from pain and reality, leading to an arrest by the FBI. He struggled for years with a dissociative disorder that forced him into addiction recovery and a life of sobriety. Ed’s story is now an inspiration for many people around the world.
“My Addiction & Recovery” inspires readers with an amazing story of transformation and rebuilding one’s life. A timely reminder that people can overcome addiction, mental health challenges, and criminal histories to make solid contributions to society. Through one recovered addict’s firsthand account of how incredible people motivated him to do the hard work of making positive changes, readers will glimpse hope for the lives of others and for their own lives as well.
Connect with Ed Kressy: