All of the information on this page has been reviewed and fact-checked by an addiction expert.

Origins – DJ Cruse


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and fact-checked by an addiction expert.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and fact-checked by an addiction expert.

Table of Contents


My name is DJ Cruse. I’ve been Sober since 2.22.2018. So that’s just a little less than two and a half years, my man. I am 39 years old. I never wanted to be sober before I tried. And September 19. 2011 was the first time I… No, let me take that back. Two months before September 19. 2011. I decided that I wanted to change. And I didn’t know what that change was. I knew I needed it. I wanted to change, sober for two months, fell off the wagon for a day, September 19. 2011 Became my original sobriety date. 

And I was sober until 2015. I thought I could drink like a gentleman. And it didn’t work that way. And when I fell off the wagon, again, I didn’t want to be sober. And then one day, I ended up back in, I was on Parole as a matter of fact, and my Parole officer told me that my life had become unmanageable. And once again, for the very first time I felt embarrassed. I think I felt embarrassed for not being sober. On 2.22.2018 I had found myself incarcerated on a technical parole violation. And I was… I was in (Maricopa Reentry Center) in Phoenix, Arizona. And I… I really didn’t know what I wanted my life to look like. But I knew what I didn’t want it to look like. 

And so I was surrounded by a bunch of guys that may or may not have wanted to be sober, may or may not have… have… have wanted a different way of life. Then I found myself wanting a different way of life. And I met one individual who looked like he had it going on. He looked like he knew what he wanted in life. And he had he… he had a purpose. And his purpose was to carry the message to another alcoholic or addict that still suffered. I met Justin Benjamin at Maricopa Reentry Center in Phoenix, Arizona, which is a Reentry center, for men that are reintegrating back into society, usually spending a lengthy period of incarceration here in the Department of Corrections in Arizona. They are attempting to reintegrate us into civil society. 

And most of us that were incarcerated or are incarcerated or were at one point incarcerated have issues with substance abuse and alcohol abuse. And I met Justin there, the Reentry Center and he… and he… he was like he wanted, he asked me if I… if I wanted a new way of life. And he told me briefly about a better way. And pretty much I told him, let’s not talk about it, let’s be about it. And he… he introduced me to one person, who introduced me to another person. He introduced me to my sponsor. Right. He introduced me to my sponsor through a 12-step workshop and in this 12-Step workshop, he invited a whole group of giants from the 12-step community from Phoenix, Arizona. Who… man, who all came there was about 20 men I met at once and as Wallace was one year one, Glen Campbell was another Cam… Cam. He was another. Box in Mike was another *Laughs* and a Boombox Billy, a whole group of… of just big personalities that were just Booming with life and they had the shine about them, Jay Elias, you know, all these guys that had a dirty wrecked past came in to share a little bit about their story they shared on step one, they share it on step 2, 3, 4. And the funny thing about this, this 12 Step workshop is I had previously had a bad experience in the 12-Step community, not in the first step, or the second, or any of the 12 it was the 13th step that almost got me walking right out of the program 10-15 years ago. 

And when Justin posed the idea or pitch the idea of having this 12-Step workshop in this… in the Reentry Center, which is almost, they were almost opposed to the 12-step program, for whatever reason, they didn’t, they weren’t, they were… weren’t preaching it wasn’t promoting it. And he’s like, he worked hard to get it to get permission for all these giants in the community to come in. And when he got it to come in all of a sudden, and then the residents, the guys were like, “Oh yeah, 12-step workshop all day, under the awning. No, I’m out.” And he was like, Justin was like, “DJ, you have a lot of influence with the guys. You can’t deny that.” 

He goes, how about you go out there, and you pump these guys nuts up and you get them ready and show up and show out because I went through a lot to get the… to get these guys in here. I’m like, “Okay. And I wasn’t even too sure about the 12-step program at this point. But I went out there on that little tiny yard and, and sold as many wolf tickets as I could to get these guys to show up and they did show up. 

And one man after another got up there and shared their personal experience with steps one through 12. And when that… that… that individual that closed up that 12-Step who happened to be, turned out to be a great mentor of mine. He *Laughs* pulled out his card. And he says “Here, man, here’s my card, maybe you will work for me someday.” [Chuckles] And you know that happened, man. And that changed my life.

And so I was surrounded by a bunch of guys that may or may not have wanted to be sober, may or may not have… have… have wanted a different way of life. Then I found myself wanting a different way of life.

Changed my life. And you know, I can’t tell you if it is how it happened. But I remember taking a walk with him around that little yard. And whether I got down on my knees, or I didn’t in my memory. And in the way, I tell the story. I got down on one knee and I asked that guy to be my sponsor, right. And I’m like, “He looked down at me. He says, what are you doing, man? Get up.” I am like “Man, we’d be my sponsor. And I just want to show you how serious I am about this man.” And I told him a little bit about the spiritual experience I had, I had visions, while I was studying epiphanies and the Department of Corrections. And I had this vision of this eagle at some point in time. And I shared with him the vision of the eagle. I shared with him my spiritual experience and, and what I wanted in life and what I didn’t, and how I was, man, how I was just chasing that light, man, and how I was like, “I’m an eagle, I’m an eagle.” And he was like, he looked at me kind of secretly, and he goes “We’ve been waiting for you.” 

And at that point in time, I may or may not have been still coming out of some toxic psychosis and it was like “they’ve been waiting for me.” They’ve been waiting for me. And so all of a sudden, I had that magical feeling that every alcoholic or drug addict wants is that feeling, of being a part of something greater than themselves. And that man looked in my eyes and I looked at him eye to eye and I knew that he knew the Solution. And he told me he was gonna… he was gonna… he told me to master that game, master that game and read… read… the… read the big book. 

And if I could get through that book, I needed to know that book because he said I was gonna sponsor a bunch of men. And I am going to sponsor a bunch of men. And he allowed me just a brief, just a brief moment of hope and hugged me, and I knew that there was solidarity and trust and love. At that moment. I knew that my life could be different. If I just walked away from that he showed me and You know, I know there, there’s a lot of individuals out there and you know, living a different type of lifestyle, and they’re trusting the wrong people. And if anybody that’s ever gone to war, put work out in the streets, or even had a boss that they were loyal to, and their boss said, “Go do this.” 

And they’re like, “Yes, sir.” And they go runoff, and they go do it, man, everybody, most people like direction, and like being told what to do. And like being just like knowing for sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it, and how they did it. And they’d like to know that they did it well. Well, through sponsorship, through a solid sponsor, somebody that I’ve perceived as somebody solid, and it had a bigger personality than me. I was somebody that I was willing to trust and almost willing, almost willing to die for because this man was willing to share his time, his experience. And belief, he believed in me, when I didn’t even believe in myself. 

He told me, we’ve been waiting for you. And it was just, I had this moment of clarity. And I saw the eagle again. And I saw the light, and I felt the warmth, and I felt the love. And you know what, through a 12-step recovery, I found a whole community of men that are broken, and maimed, feel empty. And today, my sponsor tells me, DJ, we’re all sick. But the glory of it is we all got to be sick on the same day. So that way, we help each other. And today I do something that’s called staying in the middle. I call my sponsor every day. And three to five times a week, at least three. And during these, what they call uncertain times, the COVID-19 era. Most meetings are closed, most meeting halls are shut down. People are… or feel some type of way about meeting in person.

And thank goodness, my phone number is out there in circulation, because I got people, people that are calling me from every treatment center across the valley. And I stay sober, just answering my phone. I got… I don’t know how many. I have four to six guys in the book right now. I’ve never seen their faces. And I’m going all over the valley, in search of meetings where we can meet face to face. One day, I’m in Chandler. Another day, I’m in Peoria. Another day, I’m in Scottsdale. 

And I’m just really thankful that today I got a truck that I can fill up the gas tank, and just go and it takes me there. And I just, I lean into God, my higher power today. And the adventure of this 12-Step Program is a life of adventure. I never know where I’m going to be if you’re thinking about getting sober. And if you’re thinking about a new life in recovery, I would say Jump! Jump right now! Because we’ve tried every other way. And if you’re thinking about it, go for it. 

Pull the trigger! Nike, “Just do it”, baby! And just do it right now. And get a sponsor, get a sponsor and allow somebody the privilege just full-heartedly allow them the privilege of taking you through the steps. And if you can, we’ve tried everything. We’ve tried generally if we wanted to get sober, we’ve tried everything. So just try this, try it one time, go through the whole 12-Steps fully, fearlessly, honestly, and rigorously. 

And if it doesn’t work for you, okay, but try it just get this. You owe it to yourself, to your life, to your family, to your loved ones, to your heart and your soul, the empty, empty spot inside of you deserves to be filled. And If you have ever you know that feeling, if you know that feeling and you would like the opportunity to fill it. Get a sponsor, work the steps and help another addict

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Estil Wallace

Founder/CEO of Cornerstone Healing Center

lionel estrada lisac clinical director

Clinical Reviewer, Clinical Director

Lionel, a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC) with over 4 years at Cornerstone. Passionate about helping those with addiction, he has trained as an EMDR therapist  adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues of addiction, providing an empathetic approach to addiction.

Articles written prior to August 2023 were also clinically reviewed by Karen Williams, LPC 

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