Many who struggle with addiction die or go to prison. Yet, sometimes miracles occur. These are the stories of modern day miracles
My name is Schuyhler Schuff. I am 62 and I’ve been sober 31 years. My sobriety date is June 1st of 1989.
Drinking, using, and not wanting to deal with life. They controlled every aspect. It was a constant line that was always there before anything. I couldn’t do anything if I wasn’t drinking or using, that I could feel okay. Fear drove my life and drinking cut the edge on that. I didn’t relate drinking and using with dying. I think that’s probably one of the reasons why I tried to figure it out for so long, how to manage life and drinking and using.
I grew up, business was done drinking. My family and my grandfather, he did business that way. My Dad did business that way. There were parties at my house all the time when I was a kid. My Mom and Dad threw parties. They drank, his best friends drank. They drank when they went hunting, they drank when they went fishing. Drinking was a mainstay of everything that happened in my life, it seemed like.
The night before I got married the first time, we were out drinking and we were going to topless bars and we’re doing blow and doing all that kind of stuff. I got home probably three or four o’clock in the morning and I’m having heart palpitations. Only, I’m not willing to go to the hospital because I don’t want anybody to know that I’m drinking and using, right? So it’s okay if I die of a heart attack in my backyard at five o’clock in the morning the day I’m supposed to get married, but it’s not okay for me to go to the hospital and get any kind of medical treatment to pull me out of that.
I can look back now. And even today, I’m not disciplined to follow through with a lot of things. I’m quick off the gate, but long-term, it’s gotten much better in my sobriety than it ever was. But I was never one to do anything longterm and since I didn’t relate my life being a train wreck with drugs and alcohol, I wouldn’t think that being sober was the avenue to fix that. I always tried to figure out how to manage life and drinking, because it just seemed like that’s the way it was. It was never a vital thought. And at one point in 1987, I tried a short stint of getting sober for several weeks. I was in an outpatient program and you couldn’t be late more than three times or they’d ask you to leave. And of course, I made it about two weeks and I was late for the third time and it was over. I spent a couple more years out there before I hit that point where I was completely broken.
I had managed to gather, in a short amount of time, all the things that society says makes you successful. A wife, some kids, a house, job, a couple of cars, it all came together shortly after I had made that first attempt of getting sober. I can’t even tell you today without really thinking about it, but all that came together and it all went out the window just about as fast as it came in. It was like this flash. It came into my life and out of my life. And I ended up sleeping on a couch at some dude’s house that actually used to work for me and my Dad’s business. They were moving and there wasn’t a couch for me to sleep on at the new place, so I was going to be homeless.
I hadn’t had a job in two years. I didn’t own a car. I had nothing left to sell. I had no opportunity that I could think of. Basically the fumes in the tank were gone. And, I got up one morning, I believe it was a Wednesday morning, and nobody was at the house and I’m standing in the kitchen and fear of being homeless and not knowing what to do with that. I just said, “I can’t live this way anymore. I don’t know what to do.” And I said that to God. I didn’t have a relationship with God at that point, but I knew God existed out there. So I made the statement and God paved the way.
I went to treatment center. I hadn’t gotten divorced from my first wife at that point. She hadn’t gotten fired from her job. And her employer had a EOP program that allowed me a 30 day stay at [inaudible 00:05:13]. Score. Yeah. It was a big deal. In the middle of summer, June 1st is my sobriety date, so it’s in the middle of the summer in Arizona and Phoenix, and it was awesome. It was a great place. I learned a lot. It’s kind of different. It took me a couple of weeks. I was doing all the things that life had taught me to do. You sit in the front row in the front seat and you take notes and it’s going to change my life. And after two weeks, the inside of me hadn’t changed at all.
I’m taking the best notes. I can tell you all about Wall Street markets, cigarettes and beer and everything else. For me to be hip, slick and cool, if I drink this, I’m going to hang out with these chicks. And if I smoke that, I’m going to hang out in these places. All that stuff. But the inside of me hadn’t changed. I was still as lonely and hopeless at that point, that I could ever remember. And there was a little cup hanging ceremony and this picture of a family and friends that this person had managed to put together after a year of staying sober. I think I’d been looking for that all my life and had never been able to find it.
And after that ceremony was over, I’m in the treatment center all by myself, nobody’s coming to see me, my family’s not coming to see me. So I’m standing there in this huge room of all these people that are sober and all this great stuff’s going on, and I’m just dying, I’m miserable. And a staff member came up and asked me how I was doing. And it all just came out at that point. I broke down and I probably cried for maybe five minutes, seemed like a half hour at the time. But, that was the release. God had allowed me to dump all that shit at the doorstep of the treatment center. Basically, I just dumped it right there and I didn’t have to take that stuff with me when I left.
So that was the beginning, really, for me of my spiritual connection that ebbs and flows and sobriety that comes and goes, as I fight with my ego and knowing that God has a plan for me. And then of course I have the plan for myself and it goes back and forth and I’m [inaudible 00:07:19], so that’s the real journey in sobriety. I’d always said that I didn’t choose to be born. It wasn’t my choice. I didn’t ask come into this world. I always felt that people that had Moms and Dads, they were connected somehow to something I wasn’t connected to.
And then when I got into treatment, of course, my wife and I, we had a daughter together. I had three other children that she had from her first marriage, but we had a daughter together. And that was my lone connection in the world. And that drove me. I remember early on in sobriety that I had made a comment to God that I didn’t know where my daughter was for the first almost year and a half of sobriety. Shortly after I got sober, my wife disappeared and I didn’t get to see my daughter. And there were times I went back and forth, but I told God, I wanted to be a Dad more than anything. Even if it was only for five minutes, I didn’t want to miss it. Because there were times I didn’t want to stay sober because I’m like, “What’s the point? Everything that I ever wanted, it’s gone. So what’s the driving force for me to stay sober?”
And so looking back, I know now, God knew that I would end up being a single Dad, raising my daughter, at least for the first few years until I got remarried. And he knew that I would need to have these steps done and that I would have to have a solid spiritual foundation with him and so on and so forth so I could be the Dad to my daughter that I really wanted to be. I didn’t realize how God wanted me to be the Dad to my daughter, but I wanted to be present for that.
So the human connection for me, it’s really important, and I’ll give you a little context. Five or six years ago, my wife tracked down my birth mother in Ohio, and I go there every year and I see her and I spend 10, 11, 12 days with her and she never has a list for me. And she cries when I get on a plane to come home. And, what’s really amazing is that I was adopted by a family that I never wanted for anything here. A Mom and a Dad. My Dad passed away eight years ago and my Mom now lives in a facility and I help take care of her. And my wife actually helps quite a bit to take care of her.
But after spending a couple of years visiting my Mom in Ohio, my wife actually had asked me about my father. “Ask your Mom in Ohio about your Dad.” Because my Mom in Ohio was not married to my Dad. And so when I asked her, she finally volunteered a little bit of information and my wife did some research. At one point I noticed that somebody had asked me about my Dad and I couldn’t even remember his name. And I related that to the fact that I had a great relationship with my Dad who raised me and a not so great relationship with my Mom who raised me. But now I have my Mom in Ohio who cries when I leave on the phone and I connect those things together that it’s kind of a weird dynamic. But my Mom was not great. And I love my Mom in Ohio. My Dad was great and then I don’t even remember my birth Dad’s name. It’s kind of kind of different that way.
So when it comes to the human connection, yeah, I really believe that there’s a lot. I see, especially now that COVID has been a year long and how it’s affected a lot of people. And I have a pretty strong opinion about mask wearing or being out in public. God’s got me no matter what. If I’m supposed to die from COVID, I’ll die from COVID. It won’t matter if I’m staying at home or wearing a mask or not wearing a mask. If that’s how that works, that’s how that works. And that’s my belief system.
For many years, before I got sober, and I tell this in my little spiel, I talk about what life was like before I got sober and what’s life like after I got sober. You look at the fact I couldn’t hold a job. I never had a paid vacation. I never had a raise. I never stayed anywhere long enough before I got sober to have any of those things. 401k, any of that. Pension, none of that stuff. I get sober and I stay sober a while and I just retired from a job that I basically had for 23 years and I owned a business for eight out of the 31 years I’ve been sober. So a huge difference.
I was in a marriage before I got sober for 18 months. We were only together actually physically for probably 12 months before I got sober, and yet I’m 31 years sober. I’ve been married to my second wife for 25 years. So I had this great life. I was able to spend 20 years with my Dad that raised me, going to football games, fishing, partnered up in business, he helped me with my business adventure. And, in the end, I know that he was proud of me, even though he was a man of few words. It took me a while to figure out that my Dad said he loved me because he spent time with me. So, it took me a while to figure that out but I was blessed that way.
So I have a great life today. Like I said, I’m married to my second wife, 25 years. We have stuff, we’re pretty comfortable. As long as the world doesn’t blow up, I think we’ll be okay. I know that I’m not always okay with the situation because I maybe don’t know what to do or what to say or how to react or any of those things. But I know God’s going to take care of it, it’s going to be okay. So I show up and I do whatever it is that I feel compelled to do and I believe that God guides me through those situations. So even if the world blows up, I guess we’ll figure it out if I’m still sucking air.