This past month Philip Muls celebrated five years of sobriety. “When I stopped drinking, I got a second chance”, Muls states. This second chance didn’t come easily. It took Muls four attempts at rehab before he found a program that “resonated” with him.
Muls attributes his continued sobriety to his support system – his mentors, family and friends. At the suggestion of his therapist, he began to write about his path to recovery. “During a long plane flight, I wrote. At home, I wrote. It proved so therapeutic and enjoyable I decided to use my writing to help others,” he said.
This year Muls first book, Mind on Fire: A Case of Successful Addiction Recovery, was released in early 2018. His book chronicles his travels “with an authentic account of how addiction affects the brain and how recovery from addiction can be like navigating a minefield of existential fears and obsolete beliefs.” The book has received rave reviews on Amazon and will be translated in three more languages. Additionally, Muls has been named a Finalist in the 2018 International Book Awards.Previous
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What I lost to addiction:
I almost lost everything: my job, my family, and what was left of my self-esteem. When I stopped drinking, I got a second chance. My employer did not fire me, my wife did not leave me, my children started to respect me again, and so did I. I was very lucky because it could have turned out very differently.
What worked for me:
I went through rehab four different times. The fourth rehab facility differed from the other facilities in that they had a therapy program that helps you structure your day for seven weeks, gradually giving your freedom while preparing you to step back into your life. The program resonated with me. The day I entered was the last day that I touched a drop of alcohol.
Best advice for newbies:
Don’t do this alone! It can be an arduous climb to the summit of sobriety and having a “Sherpa” with you eases the challenge tremendously. My Sherpa was a therapist and also a recovered alcoholic, who helped me navigate the tough times during that first year. Without her, I’m not sure that I would have made it.
Advice to my younger self:
Find a mentor who can help you grapple with your existential fears, especially the fear of death. Over the years, those fears, which somehow bored into my consciousness, contributed to my drinking. I had recognized them, admitted them, sought help for them while in college, or even high school, my life would have had a different trajectory.
Rules I live by:
When the pressure builds up inside my head, I go to a quiet place in the house and I mediate for half an hour or so. It clears my mind and I feel stronger. I avoid places where people drink like bars and parties, because that is too much to handle. I take long walks in the woods with my dog.
What I value most in recovery:
My family. My wife recently told me how incredibly happy she is to have me back. And by that she means that I have found myself and back for her and my two children. I will always be incredibly grateful that she didn’t leave me when I was at my worse. My son and daughter are grown now, and I have a loving, strong relationships with each of them.
My 5-year anniversary of my sobriety, which was May 22, 2018, just a month ago. An interview with me appeared in a men’s magazine in Belgium called P-Magazine. That was scary but powerful at the same time.
Stigma I faced:
I was happily surprised that people admired and respected the fact that I wrote my book Mind on Fire on my journey through recovery. I had feared that I would face a stigma by doing that, but in fact it was quite the opposite: respect.
Rock bottom moment:
Was walking down the stairs at 3 a.m. in search of white wine, my poison of choice. I was in my early forties but was in such bad shape that I had to put both feet together on each step like a trembling old man. When I finally made it to the fridge and opened the door, there was the half-empty bottle, sparkling like a sliver of heaven in my hell.
On my bucket list:
One of my dreams was to write a book. And that is what I did. I self-published Mind on Fire: A Case of Successful Addiction Recovery. It is getting great reviews and sales are building on Amazon and other book platforms. The book will now be translated in Dutch, French & German.
Favorite recovery quote:
If one is to love oneself, one must behave in ways that one can admire. – Irvin D. Yalom
When cravings come:
I tell myself they will pass (and they do!). I remind myself of my rock bottom moments and I relive the horror of it. That usually does the job.
At my worst:
At my worst, I was drinking from 7 am till I went to bed at 10 pm. I was shaking and trembling all the time. I had gained 40 pounds of weight. I had to get myself committed four times before I was able to quit.
On my schedule today:
Every day I do some reading because it helps me to find new angles in my thinking.
What I learned about myself:
I have become more humble about myself. I know my limitations very well. But I also know what I am capable of and that makes me proud. I am committed to staying sober because that is who I am now.
How I get through the holidays:
My wife and I have explored Asia together. We went to India, Bali, Thailand and we still plan to do Japan, Malaysia and many other beautiful countries. These trips invigorate me.
I get inspired by:
I get inspired my great writers like Irvin Yalom, Michael Singer, Eckhart Tolle.
What saves me from myself:
A friend from high school who recently stepped back into my life. Although she and I hadn’t communicated in over thirty years, we picked up where we left off and now meet every few weeks. While my wife is my stronghold, this friend keeps me grounded. She speaks her mind and teaches me about myself and how I view the world. I can feel how our conversations further my personal growth and keeps my spirit and resolve strong.
On finding purpose:
During the first year of recovery, at the suggestion of my therapist, I started writing. During long plane flights, I wrote. At home, I wrote. It proved so therapeutic and enjoyable that I decided to use my writing to help others. My first book, Mind on Fire: A Case of Successful Addiction Recovery was released this year. I have ideas for more books that support and inspire those going through recovery.
SHed the Stigma:
If you’re a person in long-term recovery who wants to share your insights, please contact us at [email protected].