When you talk with Dr. Deborah King, you are enveloped by her exuberance and positivity.
Her booming voice is a dichotomy of power and delicacy. She commands your attention, to be listened to and yet you want to tell her everything. And smile, she makes you smile.
Daughter of a celebrity boxing legend, Don King, Deborah lived a life surrounded by celebrity boxers, sports managers, power and fame. Under the glare of the spotlight brought with it regular invitations to parties with free-flowing alcohol and drugs at an early age. “It didn’t even seem like that big of a deal to be using,” Deborah shared.
“Things were different back then than they are now. I’d go to parties, and there would be trays of cocaine being passed around,” shared Dr. King when we spoke with her recently. “Drugs were everywhere I went, and the behavior was normalized. Eventually, I was using them as well. But today it is different. There are so many drugs laced with deadly chemicals like fentanyl which can easily kill someone. And you can’t have hope for recovery if you died from an overdose.”
Who helped Deborah through her difficult addiction period? “I had a mother who prayed for me, and she was there unconditionally,” Deborah said. “She was sick, and instead of asking everyone to pray for her, she asked them to pray for me. She was getting ready to undergo surgery for cancer, and we were all in the hospital and were getting ready to pray for her, and she said, ‘God’s got me. Pray for my baby.’” She told her mom when she walked out of that hospital door, “You don’t ever have to worry about this again.”
For four months, Deborah worked on her recovery in an inpatient treatment center and then lived in a halfway house with other women fighting addiction. While in rehab, she was diagnosed with an underlying issue — bipolar depression. The diagnosis allowed her doctors to treat that underlying problem with medication, which was instrumental in helping her get sober.
Dr. King emerged from rehab with a desire to honor her mother by helping others find healing. She went back to school for a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and became a certified Intervention and Recovery Life Coach. “I believe ‘help’ is the most underused word in the English language. Help is the closest thing to getting new hope. And people don’t always know how to receive help, how to accept help, or how to ask for help.”
Deborah’s philosophy is that you should give without strings, and with pure intentions. “HELP = Healing Everyone with Love on Purpose. If you are trying to get that person on their feet and beat that addiction you want them to be successful in that. So the outcome should be dear life.”
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Pause – Pray – Proceed
“Recovery is as precious as gold, keep it polished for it will not tarnish or lose its value; how much is your life worth to you?” – Dr. Deborah King
Five years into sobriety, Deborah was able to utilize her coping skills to manage her bipolar depression. But, even someone with the soul of a fighter like Deborah, needs some help and when she does, she says that she calls on her support group and gets outside of her head. “I don’t sit in my misery. The brain is the most powerful tool that you have, and it can talk you into or out of anything you want to do. I say let’s read a book or take a walk and breath some fresh air. Let’s do something because a thought only lasts 7 seconds. Anything past that is an obsession. Think about it, pray on it and then let me make my next choice. By then 7 seconds is passed, and I’m on to the next thing.”
Dr. King now serves as a Mental Health and Addictions therapist and Nationally certified Recovery and Life Coach. She founded Limitless Life Recovery and Holistic Group King has just launched a new non-profit– Life is the New Cool. Its mission is to change the mindset of millennials and those who are struggling with addictions or traumas, or even thoughts of self-harm and suicide. To work to reengage and energize them, so they appreciate the importance of life. The trailblazers of the future, the entrepreneurs and corporate climbers, they put so much pressure on themselves and are all stressed out with trying to keep up. King says this opens the door for addictions to manifest.
“You are trying to stay up; you are trying to keep going. If you get hurt, you will take the pain pill, which can lead to addictions. They do not realize there is a different way.”
King has had three hip replacements, and the last two she used no heavy-duty prescription pain medications at all. “I knew I could permit myself to use because the doctor said it was ok, but I know better than that. I’m an addict. If I make those excuses for myself, that will turn into a way of life and a habit.” It still hurt but she toughed it out and used ibuprofen and acetaminophen, and she was alright.
There is no doubt that opioid addiction has turned into an epidemic. Early reports from a new study indicate that opioids killed 49,000 last year. The study published by JAMA Network Open, found that the rate of synthetic opioid-related deaths in the U.S. more than doubled every two years from 1999 to 2016. With so much dismal news out there today, King wants to help people learn they have a lot of power within them and help is out there to help people harness their strength to recover.
“It is my life’s purpose to have my clients experience a mixture of recovery and inner peace within themselves that allows them to self-validate, accept and appreciate who they are and to be satisfied with the person they have become while maintaining long term sobriety and life success.”
She walks the walk by starting every day with a positive affirmation. The aftermath of addiction and co-existing mental health conditions causes many people guilt, shame, and stigmas. In order to shake off the negative “beating-one’s-self-up type thinking” Deborah says, “I start every day with positive affirmations. I look in the mirror, hug myself and say – You’re beautiful. Have a great day. You have to love yourself before you can do anything else. You have to uplift yourself instead of waiting for others to validate your worth. If I’m feeling bad, I can restart my day anytime saying let me try this all over again.”
King plans to work in prevention and education especially at the middle and early high school levels, where children are making the difficult transition to a high schooler and young adult. “Kids today are under so much pressure,” King said. “Social media is the worst thing ever created.” She cited bullying, the desire to live up to expectations, and the potential reach of the post. “Once you post something you open it up to anybody to comment. Some people are just mean people. Kids use that if they are mad at each other and even after the kids makeup, the post is still out there and other people continue to feed of off that post, keeping the controversy alive.”
During these critical formative years, the need for children to fit in with their peers is enormous. She wants kids to know that “You don’t have to follow the crowd. It’s ok to stand and let your voice be heard. If I can avoid them falling into the footsteps that got me and help them avoid all of that pain and suffering, that’s what I’m going to try to do. It isn’t something you can learn in a book, but someone like me who has lived through this can help others understand.” King recently relocated to Ohio planning to reach out and help develop collaborations with educators, spiritual leaders, boys and girls’ clubs and the like. “We get so much more ahead of the game when we all work as a team. Kids don’t have enough to do, and then you wonder why they get into mischief. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”
She wants to bring families and community organizations together and develop after-school and weekend programs. “No child should feel they have to be alone. People with platforms entertainers’ athletes’ celebrities and the like have a responsibility to give back. They have to know that there are people who genuinely care.” King wants to pull high profile figures in to speak with kids providing inspiration and encouragement. Telling their stories of success and letting kids know that there are people who care about them and want them to succeed. “I want them to show kids they have choices and different paths they might take, doors they might open.”
King wants to help prevent drug addiction before kids start using. “Drug addiction starts because truly you’re trying to numb yourself to get away from something. In the beginning, it starts as fun. But it quickly becomes not fun anymore, and you’re just maintaining,” she says. “Especially with opioids and the opioid users. I know that addiction has no biases. You can be rich, poor, young, old, smart, dumb, black, white, green, purple, it doesn’t matter or care. And the cemetery is winning. Too many parents are burying their children. Too many classmates are going to each other’s funerals. And too many moms and dads are leaving their children because of the overdose or suicide.”
Living in Gratitude
One of the ways King keeps her recovery strong and motivation for life high is living each day as though it were a gift. “When I wake up in the morning I’m thankful I want them to know that. Let them know that there is always a higher power. Mine I choose to call God. The first thing I say when my feet hit the ground is thank you. That I can move and that my mind is functioning correctly. I’ve adopted an attitude for my life — life is the new cool.”
“As long as you have life, you have hope.”
Follow King on Social Media
Twitter @LimitlesslifeFL or @iamdeborahking