Ryan Donnelly's Blog


Frank and I slapped hands and hugged. I told him I was going to try to hit the sheets a little early, being as though my first day in rehab had been a little overwhelming both mentally and physically.

Every night we went to bed at around 9 PM. It was a house rule that the lights went out in all of the rooms at that time, to be courteous so that anyone who wanted to, could go to sleep at that time. Frank gave me a small flashlight he was given by the warehouse supervisor Steve. He told me everyone was allowed one for writing letters. I thanked him and turned the lights off and said goodnight. Within seconds, literally seconds, Frank was snoring like a chainsaw. This was going to be a great couple of months.

I was lying on my stomach ,with my notebook and pencil. My flashlight was laid down next to me and I started writing. While writing I was praying that I would be able to sleep tonight, knowing deep down that it wasn’t going to happen. When you abuse opiates for long lengths of time as I did, your brain stops producing levels of Serotonin adequate enough for you to get a decent amount of sleep. Without those chemicals being produced, I was sure it was going to be a long night of writing and staring out my window into Time Square. I didn’t mind though, I knew how lucky I was to be alive, to even be able to stare out unto such a beautiful sight. I wasn’t taking anything for granted anymore.

During these long hours of the night, I had ample time to set a strong foundation of thinking, most of which consisted of what I was going to do with my future. Was I absolutely sure what the specifics were? No, but I knew I was only interested in serving other individuals battling addiction or mental self-destruction. I had so much to write and so much to get out of my system, it was as if my hand wouldn’t write fast enough to catch up with my mind.

I would feel tired, so tired that I tried not to get too excited about my plans, because I knew I needed the sleep if my body would allow it. I’d lay my head down on my pillow facing the window and when I opened my eyes to the city I realized I had this crazy CHOICE.

This moment, believe it or not was a life changing moment. I could lay in that cot, filled with self-pity and fill my thoughts with bullshit. Why Me? Why am I like this? My life sucks. It would be very easy to do that. But something snapped in my head. I decided to challenge myself. In that single moment I had a victory over my mind, the first in years.

That moment could have gone two ways, I could have broke and ran out of that building to look for a fix so I could sleep, or I could chose to smile, and realize that in this moment I had a chance to overcome incredible demons. A chance to prove to myself what I was truly made of. A chance to prove to all of those people who left my side, that it was the biggest favor they could have ever done for me. A chance, period.

My inner strength was given back to me. I got out of bed and went to the bathroom. I looked at this mysterious guy in the mirror, who was looking back at me. For the first time in a long time, I saw myself, and guess what? I liked what I saw. I was back bitches, no one could change that now.

I walked back to my room and once again went over to my window where I stared out toward a giant city skyline. I had done some great things in the military, was a member of Naval Spec War, skydived and worked side by side with some of the most bad ass men on the planet, received awards and applause, but this mental battle that I just won over my own mind, was to this date my greatest accomplishment.

I went over to my cot and started to set goals on paper. A while back Jess was watching Oprah and told me that she was going to take Oprah’s advice and make a vision board to help her in achieving her goals. I liked the idea of being able to put pen to paper and visualize what I craved out of life now. At that moment I made a promise to myself. I ripped a piece of paper out of my notebook and drew a smiley face on it and wrote, “SMILE STRIVE CONQUER”.

Every time I felt weak-minded and a tinge of self-pity, I would take out that piece of paper and read it. And soon after, the paper was my mind, my mind was that paper. We were one, and I have never looked back since.

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