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Ep. 81 – The One Handed Bandit Shares His Story and How He Made the News with Joel

Podcast Episodes

Ben’s cousin Joel H. is here today to talk with Tom and Ben about his story of addiction, what he went through, getting sober, and staying sober. Joel is four years older than Ben and was super influential on Ben when they were growing up. Ben also shares how important it was for him to see Joel go through the process. 

Ben was born with one hand, but that didn’t deter him from playing all of the sports especially karate. His mom also encouraged him to be social and surrounded him with friends. Like many of us, Joel drank as a teen. His addiction issues didn’t really flare up until he was injured and tried oxycontin. We talk about this and more in this encouraging and entertaining episode. 

Show Notes:

  • [03:55] Ben shares how Joel got him to work out by punishing him on heavy weights. He was a huge influence to him.
  • [05:00] Ben also took Joel to his first AA meeting. 
  • [06:07] Joel was born with one hand. He was an only child, but his mom always made sure he had friends around and got to try all of the sports. Karate was his favorite.
  • [07:04] His parents drank on weekends. That didn’t seem to have a huge effect on his addiction. 
  • [08:16] When he was nearing the end of his teen years, several events took place that he didn’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with. He went through a breakup. His grandfather died, and his parents also got divorced.
  • [08:50] He also had two groups of friends. The church group that was into sports and the pot smoking surfer group. 
  • [09:06] He started spending more time with the second group, because he liked the effects of alcohol and it helped him cope with his current losses. 
  • [09:24] He was still responsible. He went to school, worked, and got married. 
  • [10:14] When he was 28 years old, he had an accident in the weight room. He began taking Oxycontin for the pain and ended up spending his money on it for the next two years. 
  • [11:39] He got to a point where he overdosed. 
  • [12:03] He divorced and got into a new relationship. His pain began again, and he got legitimate pain meds. This led to addiction and depression. 
  • [13:01] Joel got into trouble for the first time in his life. Joel shares a story where he ended up being dubbed the one handed bandit. He also broke into a courthouse building. 
  • [14:36] He ended up turning himself in and losing his home and relationships. 
  • [15:21] Ben and some friends knew it was time to get him into treatment. 
  • [16:06] Joel started to go to meetings, get a sponsor, and work the steps. 
  • [20:03] Part of the process of re-evaluating your life is taking an inventory of the way you were behaving and the way you would like to behave.
  • [21:08] It’s more fun being sober and not waking up with a hangover. The biggest gift of recovery is peace of mind. 
  • [23:01] At treatment, Joel felt like he wasn’t alone. He was around people with a similar story, and the counselors were great. 
  • [25:05] Tom found out that his false beliefs were at the center of his addiction.
  • [26:16] Joel couldn’t imagine dealing with his pain without using. In meetings, he learned that this was possible. 
  • [29:22] Praying started helping Joel to get his confidence back. He surrounded himself with winners. 
  • [34:14] Fitness really helps with sobriety and having goals and something to shoot for. Joel inspires other people with his one handed bench presses. 
  • [37:13] Ben shares how hiking and speed walking can alleviate depression and anxiety. 
  • [40:37] A lot of common sense stuff can be applied to treatment. Going for walks or to the gym really helps. 
  • [42:15] Part of treatment is practical application of the tools. 
  • [44:06] Joel was in a sober living environment for almost two years. That attests to his willingness to do the work.
  • [46:27] The recent loss of Joel’s mom made him feel helpless. His treatment tools and support group enabled him to cope with the loss that would have normally sent him back into addiction. 
  • [52:49] Joel now works in treatment, and it’s great for his relationship with Ben. 

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