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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Monday, November 2, 2015

Reckless, Fearless and Young - An interview with Gordie Bufton

In the grip of addiction, no one is invincible.

Gordie Bufton, Speaker, coach and author of Eluding Reality: A Memoir about Drugs, Psych Wards, and Recovery

Editor’s Note: Every addict and alcoholic I know, including myself, have some hair raising tales and stories of survival. Yet, I’m always intrigued when I meet a young person in recovery, someone who has completely turned their life around. Gordie Bufton is one of them. He’s a twenty-something, good looking guy, who upon first meeting one would never think was once an addict. 

I think the stigma of addiction still holds the image of addicts and alcoholics as homeless, tattered, worn, beaten down, weathered, old people. That is not the truth.

Only now is our society recognizing that addiction has many faces, and it touches all of us. It does not discriminate. Addiction can take the lives of the rich or poor, young, old, teen or adolescent at any time. 

Gordie’s story is not unlike many others. What he is accomplishing today in recovery is why I chose to feature him for this edition. 

It is my hope families will read this interview together and open up the discussion. The time is now to talk about it and not run from it. 

All of us can make a difference, we need to keep the conversation going.
 — Barbara Nicholson-Brown

Start with your introduction to drugs and when it became the reason for you to get up in the morning.

Growing up at the golf course in Atlanta, I spent a lot of time with players considerably older than myself. This was my introduction into the world of destructive behaviors. The guys were always talking about wild parties and things they had done. These conversations always interested me, but I was a “good” kid and didn’t want to do anything that could jeopardize my grades or golf career. 
This all shifted when I experienced my first romantic breakup.  I didn’t know how to process the painful emotions. Prior to my senior year of high school, I had tried alcohol and pot a few times. I enjoyed the sensations and feelings from these substances, but didn’t have anything I needed to numb out. This all changed with the breakup.
Smoking pot removed the pain I was in from my broken heart.  
We live in a society that conditions us not to feel emotions and I fell into the bear trap that kept me in its jaws for the next three years.
Somehow smoking everyday didn’t completely destroy my golf game and I managed to get a scholarship to Colorado State University-Pueblo. In college my smoking and dealing escalated and my golf game declined rapidly. I no longer had anyone looking over my shoulder. 
Every morning I was waking up with a bowl of weed next to me and I’d smoke until my eyes were too heavy to keep open. Even though I was stoned, I would always attend class and practice golf, but the rest of my day was spent in a haze dealing to fund my growing habit.
The day golf season ended, my best friend was at my apartment smoking and asked if I wanted to try Ecstasy, (today known as Molly). 
I didn’t educate myself about the real dangers of Ecstasy (depression, mental illness, memory loss, addiction, and death) and tried it. Pot wasn’t creating the same high for me anymore. It was love from the start. This drug allowed me to escape my reality and enter into a drug induced world. 
Attending classes lost their importance — my focus was using and selling drugs. 
I spiraled out of control  using enough Ecstasy to fuel a rave and trying to smoke as much pot as Snoop Dogg every week. 
Two months after my first high on Ecstasy and tens of thousands of dollars later, my folks pulled me out of college. I was broke, and looked like a skeleton after barely eating for two months (Ecstasy depletes the appetite). I stopped using Ecstasy when I moved home, but continued to smoke marijuana and deal for the next few years.

You could have had a career as a professional golfer.  What happened?

During high school I lost the inner drive, becoming more interested in socializing at the course — instead of practicing. Talent without determination and hard work is nothing. Someone I grew up with on the high school team now had four wins on the PGA Tour. I made a different choice. I create more of a positive impact now, than I ever would have made playing professionally.

Do young adults, teens, grade schoolers have greater access to drugs and alcohol today?
Availability to access drugs and alcohol blows my mind. It was easier for me to get drugs than to get booze growing up. Dealers never ask for an ID. What scares me now is who the youth of today look up to as role models. The NFL or NBA doesn’t go a week without an arrest. Musicians love to flaunt their extravagant party lifestyles. This is a direct message to our youth this type of behavior is acceptable. We need to change this as a culture and demand more from these people of influence.  

Would you consider it to be the ‘road less traveled’ for young people who do not engage in addictive behaviors?

As I state in my memoir Eluding Reality:  A Memoir about Drugs, Psych Wards, and Recovery, I chose the path filled with drugs and temptations. Children today have many options to numb their pain. As a society we need to foster a culture where it is okay to talk about feelings and seek help for disharmony in our inner worlds — without judgment. At every talk I have ever given, I stress how the real work begins when we get clean and sober. It begins when we have to deal with stress and pressure using healthy coping mechanisms.



 Speaking about addiction and healthy lifestyle choices at Camp Verde Unified School District High School freshman class.
You share your story with young audiences — do they talk openly about their struggles with drugs and alcohol?

I’ve had the privilege of sharing my story with tens of thousands of youngsters and it amazes me how at such a young age they start using drugs and engaging in dangerous behavior. Two students in a 6th grade class admitted for the first time they were cutting themselves after a presentation, 6th grade! I was able to get them to talk with their school counselor and begin getting the help they so desperately needed. 
Very few kids can resist the peer pressure to use substances. My mission to help raise this minimal percentage. 

What was your bottom? 

My rock bottom was oh-so-low. My mentor, who helped me create a Holistic Addiction Recovery Coaching Program says rock bottom is the moment one decides to change. I love this definition.
Rock bottom is different for every individual. Sometimes we have to experience numerous bottoms before finally making the choice to change. 

“It was a sunny day in southwest Florida and I was sitting on the beach smoking pot with my friends when this divine message hit me. Lose your addiction or you will lose your life. I had never heard a message so loud and clear in all my life.” Now seriously wouldn’t it be great if rock bottom was actually like that?    Mine wasn’t so harmonious. 

Rock bottom was a three week span — fueled by a three week cocaine binge. I was living at home and my coke usage escalated. Heck, I didn’t even like it very much, but that’s how addictions work. 
My parents had finally had enough of me and had to kick me out. I had a few grand left and figured I could fund my lifestyle as a dealer.

They confiscated my cell phone and Mom had demanded Dad search me for drugs before leaving home. I had a half ounce of pot in my pocket. Dad found it and Mom went off the deep end, ran for the phone to call the cops, as dad barricaded the door. He walked down the hall for a moment, and I took the opportunity to jump out the window and run for my freedom. He chased me down the street screaming. 

As fate would have it, a kid I sold drugs to was about to snort a line of coke in a secluded location on my escape route, and I demanded he give me a ride out of the neighborhood. We did coke all night. 
The next few days I bounced around friends’ couches, paying my way with drugs and using non stop to numb the pain.

Some of my friends and I were at the beach a few days into my couch surfing career when some kids asked me to buy them beer and I figured since I had a fake ID being 19, I took the opportunity to make a few bucks. When I returned to the beach I couldn’t find my friends. So I “borrowed” the truck of the guy where I was crashing, and went back to clean up.  

It was now time to put into play the plan I been scheming to get the cash and hash in my bedroom. Since no one was home, I smashed in my window and walked right out the front door. As I was driving back to find my friends, I got pulled over. 

A gram of hash in my pocket (a controlled substance) warranting lots of jail time. My dealer at the beach informed me the cops found an assortment of drugs in my room and had issued a warrant for my arrest. 

I just couldn’t go to jail as I handed over my fake ID to the cop, but within a few minutes I was arrested. 

During the week in jail I desperately tried to get bailed out. I turned 20 years old behind bars. Not the way I envisioned entering my twenties.

When I was released, the first thing I did was get stoned.  Even the friends I used drugs with everyday had reached their limit and kicked me out. Homeless and friendless I spent a few nights on the streets or sleeping on the beach. 
At this point my only option was to take a bus to visit my best friend from third grade in Macon, GA.

When I arrived in Macon I was strung out and had smoked the last of my weed. I spent all day looking for my friend. It was impossible to think clearly.
I remember it was night and stumbling around Macon I spotted a group of young guys and asked them for help. But they had other plans for me.

One grabbed the back of my collar and started punching me in the back of the skull. The punches were so brutal I felt something warm running down the back of my neck. After four or five punches I heard something hit the cement, it was a red brick. After the brute dropped the brick, he then slammed me on the cement trying to break my neck. I was bracing myself with my left wrist as my body was bouncing off the pavement. During one of these throws I lost consciousness. Life flashed before my eyes and the images weren’t pretty. Twentieth birthday in jail, parents kicked me out, and my addiction out of control. A choice had to be made in that moment — maybe it wasn’t a choice.

I spent the night in the hospital and was released the next morning with a broken wrist and 12 stitches in my head. I was given painkillers, and like any good addict I abused them. After a few days at my best friends, he placed me on another bus.

I returned to Florida and spent another night on the beach. I didn’t sleep much because I knew a tough decision had to be made. Either continue down this path which will land me back in jail or dead…or get sober.

It wasn’t easy and my entry into recovery was anything but smooth. 

What message can you give parents on how to talk with their kids on this uncomfortable topic.

Be an adult and get uncomfortable as your child’s life is at jeopardy. I have spent some time with Dr. Drew Pinsky one of the leading experts on addiction and he says there are two conversations to have with your children about drugs. 
  1. Do not tell your kids what you did during your adolescence, young adulthood, unless you want your kids to do the same.
  2. Be honest about your addiction and talk to them about your recovery and how vital this is to your life. 
If kids know their parents have used drugs they think it’s okay for themselves to experiment. 
To those parents who provide the substance thinking they’d rather kids do it around them. It’s illegal and you’re risking going to jail. It only takes a moment to have a fatal reaction. 

With celebrities and pop culture icons losing their lives to overdoses, do you think young people believe it won’t happen to them, that they are invincible?

At every school audience I speak to I have the privilege to get the concept across no one is invincible. Dangerous life altering effects happen from bad choices. It takes one wrong decision to end a life. Life is fragile and we should treat it as a gift not an entitlement. 

Talk about your time in institutions.

When I got sober as anyone in recovery will tell you, it wasn’t rainbows and gumdrops. I had to deal with life for the first time in years without a way to numb my emotions.
I was known to relapse and smoke pot and go into a drug induced psychosis. These episodes would land me psych wards. The first stay was two weeks and I was given lots of antipsychotic medication. I’d taken a lot of powerful substances in my using days, but these pills were stronger and the positive side effects nowhere to be found. 

During one of the stays I escaped the institution. Two helicopters and six police dogs were searching for the mentally ill man in boxers. They couldn’t find me for hours. When they did, I was strapped to a hospital bed for days and they wouldn’t let me up for any reason. I was there for 30 days. 
I was admitted five times to three  different facilities and labeled bipolar, schizophrenic, and depressed. I spent over two months locked away. 

Was I crazy? That is debatable, but a judge did label me legally insane. 

To learn about how normal people are in psych wards and all the details check out Eluding Reality on Amazon.

I was fortunate to be sent to a rehab center now located in Sedona, AZ, Alternative to Meds Center. 
This center specializes in medication withdrawal. They did a slow taper off the antipsychotic medications and rebalanced my brain chemistry with supplements, exercise, nutritious food, massage, yoga and sauna detox.  I have never taken prescription medication since and now live a “normal” life. Warning: never stop taking prescription medication without the permission from a medical doctor. 

How can we change the perception that substance use and alcoholism are and can be deadly? 

It’s important for those who have lost loved ones to speak up. It’s important for those who have almost died because of their addictions to speak up. As someone in recovery I feel a civil duty to share my story with others to inspire hope.

Do you view today’s youth as too entitled to believe they can do whatever they want without consequences?

No. I strive to empower more youth to know they can accomplish whatever it is they set their hearts to. I had a chat with a 16 year old entrepreneur who said,  “fail young fail fast, it’s just learning experiences.” He will have challenges of course, but at least he’s playing the game of life and not sitting on the sideline and wondering what could be. 

The consequences for breaking the law are strict and part of the reason over two million addicts are incarcerated. Today’s youth need to be taught the consequences for their actions in school and if they still decide to break the law, it’s on them. When I was dealing drugs I knew the possible sentences, but still did it.

What does it mean to be in recovery?

In recovery is going to mean something different for every single one of us. Personally, I choose not to drink alcohol or use any mind altering substance since April 22, 2010. I don’t even like taking Advil.

Does this mean the hard-core IV drug addict who now has a beer once a month has to restart his clean date every time this happens? I don’t think so. In recovery we tend to hold others up to our own standards. This mindset can be detrimental and creates a lot of shame. Who am I to judge what being in recovery means to you?

If I choose to drink or smoke pot I know the potential consequences and it’s a risk I’m NOT willing to take. My life is so much better without alcohol or drugs.

As an addict, always looking for a quick fix, why does recovery seem to take so long?

When I was active in my addiction it consumed my life 24/7, 365 days a year. It never took weekends, nights or holidays off. Why should recovery be any different? I spent around two hours every day working on my recovery, an hour exercising, thirty minutes meditating, and thirty minutes reading or learning something new. 

This doesn’t include all the time I spend advocating or mentoring others. Recovery is a way of life for me a way of being present in the world. Being willing to examine my behavior and change what’s no longer serving me.

If there’s anything I can do to help you in your recovery or have any further questions please reach out to me gordiebufton@gmail.com or gordiebufton.com or any social media platforms. I look forward to hearing from you. We are the Creators of our Destiny.

Gordie has shared his story with tens of thousands of students and has spoken at over 85 different events. His passion is educating young people about the real dangers of substance abuse. He authentically shares his experience to inspire others to live into whatever their hearts desire and fulfill their dreams. Eluding Reality: A Memoir about Drugs, Psych Wards, and Recovery is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Eluding-Reality-Memoir-about-Recovery-ebook. To preview the 30 Day Video Series on Overcoming Addiction visit https://www.avanoo.com/spa/corp/#/first3/470