The Power of Sharing Our Story – Brian’s Story

As a little kid, I’d heard stories of my biological father and his drinking and drug use and swore never to follow in his footsteps. I have no memory of him. He passed away from an overdose when I was young. I was adopted by my grandparents, whom I called mom and dad.

Brian Schnedler

How It Started
I was first offered a beer in 6th grade and said no. It wasn’t until I was 14 or 15 that I drank my first beer. I hated it. I started smoking marijuana around the same age. That I liked.

I got a job at a pizza place, and that’s when the drinking and drug use took off. I would drink from the keg at work. I soon got into mushrooms and LSD. I even got into selling mushrooms for a very brief period. I eventually dropped out of high school, worked full-time at the pizza place, and became a full-time addict. The psychedelics were short-lived. I eventually moved on to meth and was addicted to it for about three years. Once I would use all my meth, I’d be asking everyone if they had any. I couldn’t get enough of it. The same was true for weed and alcohol. A few OWI’s and two possession charges got me to slow down a little but not quit. I eventually removed myself from the group of friends I would hang out with. They weren’t bad people, but it was the best thing for me. My girlfriend and I split up around the same time. I felt completely alone, and that led to my first suicide attempt. I began going to Alcoholics Anonymous and got sober briefly. I’d been sober only a few months and got upset one day and drank one beer. I then went to AA and told everyone. My sponsor and a few others got upset with me about it. That made me even more upset, so I never returned to AA.

I didn’t drink for over a year after that. I got my GED and began taking college courses. I met my wife around this time. I eventually began to drink on occasion. That occasion turned into a daily thing. I would drink until I was drunk and passed out every single day. I wanted to drink myself to death. This path led me to another suicide attempt. I went into psychiatric care, and my family and friends had an intervention. With the help of them and psychiatric care, I was able to get clean and sober. I was also a heavy tobacco user all these years. I quit drinking and smoking on March 3rd, 2014. It was ultimately my decision to take a stand against these things, but if it wasn’t for having a good support system, I don’t know if I could have done it alone.

My first year of sobriety was incredibly difficult. No one ever tells you how hard the first year or two are in sobriety. A couple of weeks after I had gotten sober, a good friend of mine died in an ATV accident. To cope with the loss, I ran a half marathon on a treadmill!! Running had become my therapy. I skipped a full marathon (26.2) and jumped to a 50K trail race. That eventually led to a 50-mile trail race. I tried the same race the following year and got hurt. I began to put weight back on and couldn’t run much anymore. Around that time is when my both my parents were in the hospital at the same time. The stress was getting to me, and I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, I told a friend how I was feeling, and he suggested I try mixed martial arts. Specifically, Jiu-jitsu (submission grappling). I began meeting up with him and started to try it out with just the two of us. I eventually asked him where he trained. That lead to me taking my first class. In my first real sparring session, I got caught in a triangle choke. Instead of letting my ego get the best of me and storming out of the gym, I was addicted immediately and wanted to learn what had just happened. That was four years ago, and I’m still training.

Last year during the pandemic was my hardest year of sobriety. On August 5th, my dad, who didn’t have to adopt me but did, unfortunately, passed away. I got the call, and my chest got incredibly tight. I felt him leave. The next morning, I was on the mat training Jiu-jitsu with my friends. It was my therapy. Dad would have wanted me there instead of drowning in booze. He was so proud of me for becoming sober and finding something like martial arts to do instead of getting drunk every night. A few months later, around Thanksgiving, my friend passed away on his birthday. Those feelings of loss I just had for my dad all came back. I stayed strong and trained when I could. Today I’m still running and training martial arts, which gets me through the day because I enjoy it. A big fear I had when I got sober is “what the hell am I going to do now since I’m not drinking?!?” I’ve heard the phrase “liquid courage. “All alcohol did for me was talk about the things I wish I could achieve but never actually try any of them.

Now with 7 1/2 years of sobriety, I’m achieving my goals. The courage was there, and the alcohol prevented me from trying anything. For a while, I would get down on myself about all the time I wasted being wasted. Thinking of all the stuff I could have been doing instead and feeling like I wasted my life. Recently I’ve changed that mindset. I realize being able to share my story with others and quite possibly help someone. Maybe the time wasn’t such a waste after all. I can live happily with that thought. My life isn’t perfect but compared to where I once was, it’s pretty damn beautiful.