The Mind of An Addict.

Looking for a quick fix.

Pacifiers to numb me.

Numb me from my fears.

Numb me from my insecurities.

 

Cover the pain deep in my heart.

Patch my broken soul.

Give me that rush of dopamine.

 

Silence the endless stream of anxiety.

Shine your light into the darkness of my depression.

Even if it’s only for a moment.

Will you please end my suffering?

 

 

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Gambling: Just One More Hit.

As a child, I would bet on anything. I once bet my friend $10 that it wouldn’t rain that day. I played Poker with my friends every week and would illegally play online Poker through PokerStars when I was 13 years old. I was so happy to turn 18 years old so I could go to the Indian Casino. I went to Vegas every 6 months from age 21-23.

I want to be vulnerable with my readers. I believe vulnerability is our biggest strength. Here is my open and honest story of my addiction to gambling.

I struggled with being addicted to gambling all throughout my early adulthood. From 18-24 years old I probably lost more than 10 thousand dollars on Blackjack, Poker, and online sports gambling.  My family and friends knew I liked to gamble but didn’t realize how far gone I was. I hid my gambling addiction very well from my family because how ashamed I was of it. I knew I was out of control but didn’t know how to be open and honest about my problems. I was a man, and men don’t talk about their pain and struggles. I felt angry, alone, and depressed with no one to turn to. I couldn’t play the victim card because this was all self-induced suffering. This made me feel worthless and even more ashamed of the man I had become.

At my worst, I was gambling 7 days a week. I would do anything to get my high and to escape my life. I would max out my debit card limit and get $500 more from a high-interest cash advance. I remember leaving the casino depressed, stressed, and on the verge of a mental breakdown. I would yell “FUCK” as loud as I could in my car until my voice would crack and tears would roll down my cheek. This would be the average self-dialog after a loss while driving home.

You’re pathetic. How could you lose again? You piece of shit! What the hell are you thinking?!? Fuck life and everything. You don’t deserve Alicia (fiance). You don’t deserve anything! You’re worthless! You can’t tell anyone about this. Think of a lie…….. (one hour later)……I get paid Friday, I’ll win it back!!! Yeah, Ill win it all back and stop playing. I’ll win 1K and not play for a while. 

I would repeat this cycle of anger, shame, and denial. Gambling wasn’t the deep issue though, it was the symptom of a larger problem. I only gambled because I felt alone and depressed about my own life. Gambling was a coping mechanism for depression and anxiety. I felt so alive at the blackjack table and all my worries would momentarily go away. I was always looking forward to going to Las Vegas every 6 months. Like any addiction, I was chasing that high of dopamine. Soon I was betting $200 a hand on blackjack. There was one night that is stuck in my memory and shows how far my addiction had come.

In early 2012 I was planning on buying my girlfriend an engagement ring. This was at the peak of my addiction. I thought it would be a good idea to go gambling with the $3,000 cash I had taken out to buy the ring. I go to my usual Casino and put $500 dollars on blackjack. I figure I could win some more money and buy a bigger ring, a delusional justification. I was gambling because I love my girlfriend… Our minds can justify any bad decision. Anyways, I lose the $500 quickly and start putting more and more money on the table. Suddenly I’m down from $3000 to a total of $100. It’s 1am already and I’m in a deep fog, I say fuck it and go all in and win. I kept doubling my bet and kept winning. After 3 more hours of gambling, I get all my $3000 and leave the casino at 4am. I drive to the Bay Area immediately and buy the engagement ring. Sounds like a scene in a casino movie right?

Two years go by and I graduate from college. I was so busy with work, college, and my fiance that I didn’t have time to gamble. I thought I was cured of my addiction and that I could start playing Draft Kings and Fan Duel. Both sites are legal online sports gambling that plays well for young men who like to play fantasy football. I graduated from Cal Poly and received $500 in graduation money from friends and family. I had so much free time now that I was done with college. I spent that time gambling on Draft Kings and becoming absolutely obsessed with trying to win money on NBA games. I was checking my phone at least 100 times a day, looking for those small dopamine rushes when my teams were playing well. After two months of online sports gambling, I had lost all my graduation money. I was deeply ashamed of myself and was contemplating suicide. I had been lying to my fiance already about my infidelity and my gambling addiction. I felt so alone and depressed that I couldn’t hold onto this pain anymore. I finally open up about my secret life to my fiance, family, and friends. I finally could heal myself of the deep emotional wounds that were festering inside my soul. Honesty and vulnerability are so powerful. Being vulnerable can help us connect with each other in a deep and profound human level instead of the vapid surface.

Being vulnerable is seen as being weak, but it’s actually our greatest strength.

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

The One You Feed Podcast: Bringing Depression, Anxiety, and Human Suffering out of the Shadows.

Aloha!

Today’s blog post is dedicated to Eric Zimmer & Chris Forbes of the The One You Feed podcast.You can find them on Spotify and Apple Podcasts as well as their website http://www.oneyoufeed.net. The podcast is based on an old Cherokee parable listed below.

A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other. 

One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery, and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred, and fear.

The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?   

The grandfather quietly replies, the one you feed

I still remember getting goosebumps when I heard this parable for the first time. It normalized the human condition and made me feel more compassion for myself and others. It’s not about starving the bad wolf but taming it with love, compassion, and forgiveness.  Hating the part of you that feels hatred is unskillful and can lead to a very discontented and torn human life.

I stumbled upon the podcast about 18 months ago on Spotify and have been hooked ever since. I was searching for more content from my favorite author Timber Hawkeye when I found his interview on the The One You Feed on Spotify. I must have listened to that interview at least 25 times before I had the courage to check out any of the other episodes. I’m grateful that I took that step because I have learned and grown by having an open mind to new concepts from a wide range of perspectives. I feel as if part of each guest’s wisdom has been planted into my mind. The podcasts guest range from prolific authors, Zen Masters, Rabbis, Christian theologists, neuroscientists, and spiritual gurus. Here are my favorite episodes.

Timber Hawkeye: Episode 39

Adyashanti: Episode 166

Richard Rohr: Episode 168/169

Tara Brach: Episode 143

Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute): Episode 112

The creator and host Eric Zimmer does a fantastic job of mediating the conversation so we get the most high-quality interviews. Eric has also transformed into a spiritual teacher himself and has dedicated a huge part of his life to finding the truth of the human condition. I commend Eric for bringing depression, anxiety, and the basic human condition out of the shadows. Recognizing our problems is the first step to alleviating suffering and of living a more meaningful life. By listening to this podcast I have fed my good wolf of self-growth and compassion. It’s hard in a world full of distraction, numbing agents, and noise to take the first steps to a better life. It’s worth it though. I hope this blog post has helped you and maybe sparked an interest in listening to The One You Feed podcast. You can find it on Spotify and apple podcasts.

 

With Aloha,

Johnny Hoffman

Enlightenment: Consistency, Hardwork, and Falling Down Over & Over Again. 

I define enlightenment as having overall peace, clarity, and contentment in life. It is not separate from the world or only for spiritual gurus. It’s achievable for everyone.
In February of 2015 I awoke to the truth of what my life had become. At 24 years old I was overweight, unhappy, and anxious. For the previous two years I had been constantly numbing myself with gambling, cigarettes, alcohol, over-work, and fast food. I did this because I hated who I had become and wanted to avoid thinking about my actions. This all changed when I admitted to my ex-fiance that I cheated on her. I also had been hiding this secret life from my family and friends. Instead of running from the pain, I sat with it and was transformed. Sitting with the pain allowed me to see the truth of my past and present situation. There was no one else to blame but myself for how my life had unfolded, I was only victim to my own unskillful actions. Self-compassion​ and forgiveness were some of the hardest things to cultivate after the many years of negative self-talk. I was so miserable that I had to take action to improve my life. My old life wasn’t produces the results I wanted so I knew I had to change. I felt like an empty canvas. Ready to start new habits and have an open mind to new ideas.

In the following months I changed my life. I meditated an hour a day, eat healthy, worked out, volunteered, and started reading Buddhist philosophy. A book titled Buddhist Bootcamp by Timber Hawkeye changed my mindset from entitled to grateful. The book helped me forgive myself of my wrongdoings and show self-compassion. I lost 35 pounds and felt amazing spiritual, physically, and emotional. I felt peace I had never felt in my life. I felt enlightened.

Fast forward to November 2015 and I’m drinking right after work, smoking cigarettes, gambling, and partying every Friday and Saturday night. So what happened?? How can you go from feeling  enlightened to partying in a couple months. It was quite easy actually, it all started with thinking I was cured of my suffering. That I didn’t need meditation, exercise, and I could relax my diet. I also took a sales job which I knew deep down would cause me suffering. I was soon depressed, lonely, and miserable again.

A few more months pass and I hit another rock bottom around March 2016. This one wasn’t as harsh because I knew what I had to do. I had a template of how to decrease my suffering and be at peace again. I once again started meditation, long walks in nature, working out and eating right. I felt good again and was at peace. Old habits don’t die easy though because this peace did not last long.

I move to San Jose in August 2016. Sadly, I don’t even try to connect with the community or try to make new friends. I felt lonely once again and start drinking more often. This was a time of nothingness, of no growth and very little memories. Maybe it was meant to be this way, a time where I could make my next move. I decided I wanted to move to Maui in December of 2016.

From Jan-April 2017 all my focus was on saving money to move to Maui. I was blessed to be around my family and friends back in Sacramento,CA though which helped me feel connected. My diet was horrible though and once again was overweight. I moved to Maui in April 2017 with my eyes wide open! I felt a sense of exploration and joy.

I fall once again into old habits. Soon I’m smoking cigarettes, drinking tons of alcohol, and eating spam musibis. I feel anxious, stressed, and lonely once again. I knew something had to change and fast. My first step was my health. I decided after watching the documentary Forks Over Knifes that I would persue a more plant-based diet. I switched my diet to a pescetarian diet, meaning I only eat fish, dairy, fruits, vegatables and legumes. I lose 25lbs and feel amazing. Presently I’m working on becoming a vegan and becoming more active in my local community. I meditate, write, read and go on long walks every day. I’m working on getting stronger by going to the gym regularly. I still feel lonely at times and would love to meet other like-minded people on Maui. This is my next step to feeling a sense of community on Maui.

Big picture take away from this post is that peace, enlightenment, contentment or what ever you want to call it takes hardwork, consistency, and you will fall down alot. The key is to rise everytime you fall. Don’t judge your unskillful actions but learn from them. Find a template that works for you to thrive and try to follow it as best as you can. I’m just sharing my template in hope that you can take one piece of it and apply it to your life.

Growth is life. If we are not growing we are dying.

With Aloha,

Jonathan Hoffman