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From the C-Suites to the Streets and Back – Overcoming Addiction, Anxiety, Depression and PTSD

“Over the past decade, I have struggled with substance abuse immensely leading to anxiety, depression, and PTSD. After losing thirteen corporate jobs and ending up homeless, beaten up, and absolutely broken on the streets I have finally come to terms with my situation and am finding a path towards long-term sobriety and happiness.”

Hello! Who are you?

My name is Scott and I am currently in Minnesota – on my way to Oregon in 2024. I am a Business Analyst specializing in manufacturing enterprise business systems, an author, and a chef. I was married for 24 years but was divorced in 2015 after a long and mostly happy marriage that included the creation and raising of four beautiful children, three daughters, and a son. 

I love anything outdoors having grown up in Colorado and traveling the entire United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe on all sorts of adventures so backcountry skiing, kayaking, rafting, sailing, mountaineering, bicycling, and simple walking are all favorites of mine.

I also love reading, writing, and following ‘anything adventure’ mostly mountaineering, sailing, paragliding and hang gliding. My favorite pastime is gathering wisdom – in my career, history, science and mathematics, philosophy and stoicism, and music.

I grew up in the 1980s as a Grateful Deadhead but morphed into a corporate businessman in information technology until certain twists in my life led me down some deep and dark rivers of doubt.

Do I consider myself happy? I would say on a scale of one to ten my answer is seven. Overall I am happy now despite a very tumultuous run the past nine years.

I have come to understand that happiness is a state of mind and that it not only supports me in my recovery from the struggles with alcohol and drugs but also in my loss of contact with my children, a rollercoaster career, recovering from homelessness, and all the aggression and sorrow that living on the streets has brought to me. 

I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason and I am hopeful that my story is of some help to those in recovery and/or struggling with things similar as I have this past decade. 

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

I struggle – am recovering from substance abuse, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and the interconnectivity of all of these issues. It is a complicated set of variables to navigate but by leveraging grit, determination, awareness, and mindfulness I have begun to overcome most of this trauma and am seeking a path of happiness in my adventure.

Backstory 

I am 58 years old and the proud father of four children who came along with twenty-four years of marriage. In 1996 I received my MBA from the University of Nebraska and became over the years an expert in manufacturing enterprise business systems as a business analyst, project manager as well as manager of information technology.

My wife was a cardiac nurse so we had for over two decades a beautiful marriage in our careers and in our resulting lifestyle raising our children. We seemed to have everything we needed until we drifted apart in early 2010-2013.

‘Till Death Do Us Part’ never happened and that became the beginning of my fall into the depths of addiction, depression, and anxiety resulting in situations on the streets that ultimately left me traumatized with PTSD.

The Perfect Storm

I had worked for a company for almost fifteen years and after they were acquired and new leadership came in – effectively gutting the organization – I fell into problems with alcohol. Where one would expect or at least hope the organization would come to me and ask me if I needed help – no – they took the low road and fired me.

“Today is going to be your last day at the company”. I will never forget those words and their inability to even answer my question as to why – absolutely humanless and gutless but that was then and that was them – this is now.

My wife and I had already been set adrift in our marriage at this point and this was the final situation to result in her filing for divorce from me. My addiction took completely over as I fell into solitude and depression over her building a wall between myself and my four children whom I had raised to ages of at that time twelve, fourteen, sixteen, and nineteen.

I had nothing really after giving up full legal and physical custody of the children as well as my house and all personal property in that house other than my own vehicle, books, outdoor equipment, dirt bike, etc. 

I did however walk away with $70,000 in my 401K and proceeded to live off of that and travel all over the United States chasing my addiction and running from my life.

During this period from 2015 to 2023, I drank myself in and out of thirteen corporate jobs, a few apartments, more than countless ambulance rides, hospital and psychiatric ward intakes.

I spent time on and off the streets homeless where I was multiple times beaten up badly, mugged, robbed, and arrested for anything ranging from panhandling and DUI to Felony Assault on a Peace Officer. (Note: This final charge was eventually exorcized and reduced to misdemeanor disorderly conduct)

At its worst, I essentially died twice from heroin overdose in Portland, Oregon, and Chicago where I have woken up to one-two-three-four-five too many first responders surrounding me with a string of vehicles ranging from police – ambulance to paramedic and fire engines telling me that the fourth or fifth Narcan had revived me from a comatic non-breathing state.

Throughout all of that, I went into and out of substance abuse treatment programs as I navigated countless new career opportunities all over the US including Minnesota, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Colorado, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Washington D.C.

I literally went time and time again from the c-suites to the streets living in apartments and fancy hotels to underneath stairwells and camping in parks or 24-hour laundromats.

My attempts to block out depression ( of what was/is) anxiety (of what will be) and PTSD (of what happened) during this chaos had left me completely lost in my own direction. I was just like the person Tom Cruise describes in the movie The Firm:

“I would say I am exactly like a ship carrying cargo that will never reach any port. As long as I am alive, that ship will always be at sea, so to speak.”

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

My use of alcohol and chemicals only exasperated the mental struggles I was dealing with as problems piled on more problems, successes piled onto failures, and failures piled onto successes. Near the end, I was using any chemical I could to escape from myself.

The addiction is complicated because I was not only addicted to chemicals, I was addicted to the chaos involved and to the absolute isolation from others as demonstrated in my inability to hold solid work and to escape to the streets where I was literally alone except for a bottle of vodka.

I have a substance abuse problem and as a result, I suffer from depression, anxiety, and PTSD but the ‘ chicken before the egg ‘ paradigm equally presents itself as I begin to wonder does the depression, anxiety, and PTSD cause me to suffer from substance abuse problems or vice versa..

A circumstance in which a choice must be made between two or more alternatives that seem equally undesirable is ultimately the problem I face. When I was lost in the whole thing it made me feel isolated, guilty, and sad as well as anxious.

The situation without question had an impact on my happiness as I was disconnected not only from what was going on in my life but from myself in general – I was literally just existing.

Until – I realized that there was a third alternative that could result in putting all of this chaos to rest.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

In October 2023 I had experienced enough and made a conscious decision to not only get sober but to really try and figure ‘the whole thing out’. I’m not going to say it was ‘rock bottom’ because I had seen that on the streets of Oregon or Portland or laying on a jail floor in the Bronx or thinking of jumping off a bridge into the Columbia River – those were all rock bottom and this was not that. What I was experiencing I guess was a feeling that ‘I was ready’.

That is the only way I can explain it and although that seems so simple an answer, for someone suffering from addiction and depression and everything else I have shared it was a very complicated road to walk to get to that simple twist of fate.

In the end, the only way to get out of the depths of alcohol and drug addiction is to first accept it for what it is and be ready for change.

I would say that 10% was a function of my struggles and 90% was a function of my actions.

I remember the day so clearly even though I was absolutely out of it. I took my cup of change and dollars that I had from panhandling and was planning to go buy a quart of vodka and I crossed the street and gave it to some other homeless dude ‘flying a sign’.

I walked over to the closest fast food restaurant I could find and just stood at the exit of the drive-through and waved to the first car and they stopped because their window was down and asked them simply – ‘ can you please call 911 for me ?’

I remember the ambulance came and I remember the argument I had with them over what Hospital they were going to take me to. I had been through this scenario before and I knew that I could ask for Detox at a specific location and that if I was animate – I could get what I wanted ‘ Fairview Riverside ‘.

I explained because I knew they had a good hospital with a great detox floor and that if you could get ‘in’ there you could ask and get up to a high-intensity treatment program for addiction for 28 days which is exactly what happened. 

I completed that program and I completed a subsequent 45-day medium-intensity program and am still in a sober living house and attending IOP – Intensive Outpatient treatment as I write this today – I do not count how many days I have been sober – all I can say is that I am sober today.

My depression, anxiety, and PTSD still come and try and grab me but I have learned – at least for today how to deal with those thoughts – they are not even things – just like addiction is not a thing – it is all inanimate and therefore is all relevant and irrelevant.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

I would like to tell a story about the downhill skier and visualization/awareness which have become my most important tools towards finding a solution in all of my wondering wanderlust.

At the start gate, the last thing the downhill skier is thinking about is the podium. The outcome has no bearing on where they are at. They are purely in the moment – focused – confident that they know what to do.

They have walked the course uphill so they know every single aspect and they have reverse-engineered that into their mind – into the state of flow that they are about to jump into. I have heard that just before the gate opens all they can feel is their breathing.

Once they jump into the run, they know instinctively what to do and how to react to all situations presented to them. Whatever they encounter they are ready for because they have already visualized the situation. Of course, a lot of practice and training helps.

So awareness and mindfulness are probably the most important skills I have acquired. Aware of what was and able to come to ‘at peace’ with it. Aware of what will be exists only in the reality that it is impossible and insane to try and predict the future.

Most importantly I have become aware of it now. Just Like Laura Ingles Wilder used to explain in her writings about The Little House on The Prairie, no matter what hardships they had endured or were certain to endure, all that mattered when they sat down for dinner was now as she wrote so eloquently “Now is Now”.

It is as simple as meditating. Letting thoughts go in and recognizing them only for what they are and then letting them go out. Maybe awareness helps at times if I decide to process the thoughts and understand why they are making me feel one way or another but regardless, being sure that my action is to let them go.

It is basic CBT skills CBT Triangle. (Note: I use the term they to describe thoughts only as a metaphor because although thoughts are certainly real – they are in the end not realistic to use in positioning myself )

I became aware that these thoughts do not care about me or how they make me feel – they are just thoughts and I am unable to control them from happening. What I can control is how I process them = allow myself to feel about them and most importantly I can control what my related outcoming behaviors will be.

So just like the downhill skier who has visualized his/her run and at the end is on the podium because their execution was flawless, I as well can end up on my own ‘theoretical podium’.

Thoughts are only thoughts – they have no substance whatsoever so why should I let them bother me – if a pickup truck is coming towards me while I am crossing the road, I better let that bother me and do something but the thoughts cannot hurt me – especially if I do nothing.

If I SILENCE them – give them zero power. I can then easily let them go being aware that these thoughts do not care what I do with them and that I truly owe them nothing, therefore they mean nothing and to act on them by ‘using’ (covering them up) or by allowing them to stay (depressing myself or allowing myself to become anxious) is pointless.

By understanding them for what they are and are not I can fairly easily move on. “So What ?” I say to myself “ Now What? “

So what does it really matter – my father used to say ‘Does it pass the so what test ?’ Now what are you going to do I tell myself because as the Bible says ‘Faith without works is dead‘. 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Once I focus on that nothing else matters – the past does not matter and the future ceases to exist – silence – now – discipline – calm – smile.

I am not a bible thumper nor am I a massive AA follower, nevertheless I have used both of these tools among so many others as part of my recovery adventure.

The Bible especially allows me silent time in the morning to have a relationship with GOD who is my ‘higher power’ and the AA sober community provided me, especially in my early days of recovery with a solid foundation upon which to build a cornerstone of my recovery mansion. 

I believe most importantly I have found spirituality in the sky – every day – when I look up at it – no matter what is happening with it – sunshine or clouds – snow and now rain – starlight – sunrise or sunset – evening or dawn, the sky and I have come to a fair agreement.

If I do not judge or care what it does, then it will not judge or care what I do. That is not to say I can do as I did – I think it only means to just move on and do what I do – hopefully by avoiding substances and negative thinking such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I know one thing – just for today I have accomplished that.

Letting go has become so huge as well – letting go of resentments especially – and especially to those who beat me up, mugged me, put me in the hospital, stole everything off my back so many times. I am not going to say I forgive them – maybe that will come one day but one thing I understand is almost like Victor Frankl who so famously said 

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Victor Frankl

Which leads me to acceptance – my final thoughts:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I allow myself now to accept what is. Rather than let things bother me and fall back into addiction especially, but even in sobriety to fall into despair, depression, or anxiety – I have really learned to ‘accept the things I cannot change‘.

Rather than go down the rabbit hole of ‘I miss my children that I have not seen now in nine years – or resent my ex-wife for facilitating all that bullshit or being pissed off at some dudes that beat me up and robbed me – or thinking I am a failure and I will never get another job because I lost I think 13 corporate jobs over $90,000 in less than a decade – or fret over the physical pain of my neuropathy and the overwhelming reality that I am closing in on sixty years old and will never ski, kayak, climb, backpack or fly as I used to – that I still have many summits to get to if I remain aware and never give up

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

My parents may GOD bless them have been my number one fans – and I am so blessed with them still in my life now that they are in their late 80s. God, I talk to about this whenever I really struggle and then there are all the process groups that the recovery community brings to you either in person or ‘virtually’ via Zoom or whatever.

I know that any time of day – anytime I can find a meeting and just listen or find a meeting most of the time during regular recovery hours in the Minneapolis – St Paul area as it is such a huge recovery community.

I do not find it hard to share my struggles with almost anyone – of course, I do not just go out and push my shit out onto others – it is like AA in a way – it is a program of attraction or better said it is like Lean Manufacturing where PULL is the key to the entire way of thinking.

  • Deliver value.
  • Eliminate waste.
  • Continuous improvement.

But that analogy is a whole ‘nother story 🙂

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

The most important piece of advice I could give anyone is to never ever ever ever ever ever ever give up. As long as you got skin in the game, you are still in the game and as long as you are still in the game, you are still in the game.

I had a girlfriend for a short while after my divorce who told me this once. I asked her what it meant and she said Scott – Believe in yourself – Just Be yourself – we had a beautiful relationship for all of a month and that is ok because for the time we were – we were. 

I am not suggesting that I have no goals or expectations in fact quite the opposite. I have learned to expect that everything is flow and it is not always going to go my way and through visualization, awareness and mindfulness I can navigate my way through the chaos that happens both in my life and in my head. I do believe absolutely that everything happens for a reason.

Where the wind was blowing
All across that high and windy place
Where the air was thin and full of silver sounds
I spelled owls and sagebrush and small wild things
The whole universe was alive vibrating all across that high and windy place
And there was no more fear
Seek and see the marvels around you
You enter the desert alone
Alone you are sifted by the wind

Scott Lipinoga

Thank you for listening to my story – I hope it helped somebody – anybody – it helped me either way to revisit it so thank you again.

If you want to reach out, feel free to do so, and as we always say when we are floating on a raft or kayak on the river: ‘See you around the bend’.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Where can we go to learn more about you?

I am currently authoring a couple of books. 

@tgsaet The Greatest Story Almost Ever Told is my biography set with character

@tcba The Complete Business Analyst is my rendition of 25 years as a Business Analyst specializing in manufacturing enterprise business systems

Who knows how this will unfold but it is a work in process and a huge part of my recovery adventure.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

1 thought on “From the C-Suites to the Streets and Back – Overcoming Addiction, Anxiety, Depression and PTSD”

  1. Hi Scott,

    It is amazing you are still going stronger than ever. My name is Geno, remember me? From Plymouth, MN? I am also in long-term recovery becoming a Licensed Social Worker. Reach out to me sometime, it would be great to hear your voice.

    Reply

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