Hard Times & Hope

André: Clean, sober, and living on purpose

Episode Summary

When we sit in a stylist's chair, especially if it's a stylist we've seen many times, they get to know us well. But we often know so little about them. André is the person who cuts my hair. I had a feeling he would have a good Hard Times & Hope story to tell and that he would tell it well. The last time I saw him, I asked André if he'd like to be a guest on the podcast. I am so glad he said yes.

Episode Notes

Jule's website: https://julekucera.com/

 

Episode Transcription

Episode 25: André

Clean, sober, and living on purpose

 

00:07

Jule

Hi, I'm Jule. And this is Hard Times & Hope, a place for real conversations with regular people about a real hard time. We talke about what it was, how they got through it, and something good that came from it.

00:29

My guest today is André. André is a hairstylist in Cincinnati. We met at his salon where I appreciated how he treated me. Lots of stylists don't like to cut my hair. There's not a lot of it, and it's curly. And usually, I don't like it either. There aren’t too many stylist chairs where I look in the mirror and feel beautiful. But I do in André’s chair. We were talking about my podcast and on a whim, I asked André if he’d like to be a guest. He said yes, he had a story he'd like to share. What's André story? Let's find out.

01:03

André, thank you so much for being here today. 

André

Oh, thank you so much for inviting me. 

Jule

I'm really looking forward to this conversation, because we've talked a little bit about it. So I know what’s coming a bit, but I don't know the details. What's the hard time you're going to be talking about today? 

André

The time that I would like to talk about is my struggle with addiction. And moving past that and finding a sense of purpose after being a train wreck for so long. Um, I would say I spent most of my adult life and a good part of my teenage years just doing anything and everything possible to just numb out whether it be drinking or drugs or compromise situations, there was just a lot of things that I was doing to myself, for no reason. 

Jule

Let's go back to somewhere in that time where it's hard, you're in the drugs, you're deep in the numbing, paint the picture? Where are you, what's going on?

André

So early in life, I had a complicated relationship with my parents, they divorced really early, it was very messy. There's a lot of alcohol involved. It got to a point where I spent time in the foster system. It was it was really rough. 

And at some point, several years later, my parents decided to try to move on and they got remarried. And for them, it was a blessing. And for me, there was a lot I couldn't understand. And a lot I get now that I'm older, like parents are people and people have problems. And I didn't really understand that. 

And for me, it was just like, these people are crazy. And they're just hot messes. So I'm just gonna be a hot mess of my own and just skate through life and see what happens. 

And I was a functional addict. I held two jobs at points and I was able to pop some pills in the morning and go to work and do my thing and get high at night and do benders. And it was just, um, I didn't know how to adjust to growing up. They are moving on, but I didn't really know how and I found that substance abuse was my out. 

It wasn't I wanted to party and go out. It was sedation from the get go if that makes sense. 

Jule

Sedation?

André

Yeah. 

Jule

Oh, sedation, I was thinking sedition. Sedation, you are medicating yourself to feel better from how you feel. 

André

Yeah. And you know, when I was growing up, I saw I saw a lot of a lot of things I didn't know how to process. I saw a lot of abuse with people my parents were dating or random situations really no child should have been exposed to, to begin with. 

And when you're constantly in situations like that, you just don't know. You don't know what it's like to be like a real functioning person emotionally. 

Jule

Yeah. 

André

And you don't see it around you. So how do you know exactly… there's no, there's no real support system. There's no real parental figures that you can go Okay, I can aspire to something better. Like it was just, it was a weird time for me because a lot of my friends or acquaintances, they had stable families and loving parents that weren't drinking on a daily basis. And really early, I thought I'd be able to kind of work through things more productively. When I spent some time in Cleveland before I moved to Cincinnati, the public school system up there actually had a kind of like a youth group per se for children exposed to alcoholics and it was kind of like a safe space. 

05:00

André

Other kids in similar situations, or worse, talking about what's going on behind closed doors that wasn't available in Cincinnati When I came here, how old are you when you lost that when you came here I was about 14, it was kind of like the very beginning phases of I'm going to try drinking or stealing this from mom and dad, or I'm going to nab a couple smokes out of their pack of cigarettes, because they would never know the difference. And it just snowballed from there.

05:29

Jule

And what happened to make you say, Okay, enough, I'm ready to get out of this. 

André

Um, I was getting to a point where the people around me were either dying or going to prison. I mean, that was pretty much it. I just didn't want to go out that way. And I was working this job. It was a Great Clips gig, there was really no purpose. They're super comfortable. And I probably worked there a lot longer than I needed to. But um, I was in a really bad relationship and this new salon was opening, and I did some research and it was a corporate thing. And there was so much potential. So I decided that I was going to apply for the salon that was going to open a few months from that time.

I get a phone call. And my resume looks good. And I go in a couple days later. And this is when I'm still detoxing, like I'm still like going through withdrawals during my interview. But it went off really well. I was able to kind of keep things under control and make sure I was totally functioning, mentally clear. 

And when I got the job, and I was laid out all this potential, I was like this is this is how I'm going to get it together. This is I'm going to find my purpose again. And I did and through that job, I never wanted to mess things up. Again, I found a sense of purpose. I didn't feel like I really needed to get high anymore. I had a situation to where I could get up and go to a job I was super proud of and I built that salon up super-fast and build my book super-fast. And there was so much reward and accomplishment from knowing that I could do something without a crutch I could get through the day without a fistfull of pills. I could get through the day without doing a rail of cocaine to just function and stay awake. 

07:28

André

And I never looked back. Really. There are moments where I'm like, wow, if today's gonna be the day I relapse, I mean, so be it. But even through the pandemic, when I felt like I lost all control over everything. I just told myself it wasn't worth throwing away what I'm trying to do. 

Jule

Yeah, I'm so glad that you made that decision not to go out the way the people around you went out death or prison. I'm glad you're here. I'm glad you're on the planet. And I'm glad we know each other. 

André

Oh, me too. Me too. And I appreciate having you in my chair. And it was really a blessing to get to know you and, and other people. And that's another thing that came with my sobriety was I built a reputation. And I got to get close to people and I've been able to create relationships that weren't based on drugs or nonsense. They're genuine, respectable relationships. 

And I get to see people's kids get older and grow up as I'm cutting their hair and they get super excited to see me and it's a good feeling that I went from living in a car once or twice and being just a walking dumpster fire to be honest with you, to where I am now. It's It feels good. 

And I think a lot of people think they can't do that. And it's just a matter of finding your purpose. Whether it be your children or your art or something that just sings to your soul. I think if you get a chance to know yourself and just give yourself a minute to get clear. I think a lot of people can get clean and can get sober with or without a program. 

Jule

How would you describe your purpose, the purpose you found? 

André

Um, well in a lot of situations over the years, like when someone comes in after a cancer treatment regimen, for example, and there's a lot going on with their hair. I get to help someone’s self-esteem at the end. When they look in the mirror, they can feel better about who they are and where they are at that moment. I don't think that what I do is just for the vain and the superficial. I think that sometimes people, men too, we like to feel good about what we see in the mirror and whether that be hair

10:00

André

Or tossing on some makeup. For some ladies, even if it's basic as a simple lip gloss, there's just certain things that I think we all struggle with self-esteem, looking in the mirror, sometimes looking within, there's just a lot of things that can kind of shake us up a little bit. 

Jule

So you're not just styling hair, you are helping people with self-esteem, making them feel better about themselves. 

André

Yeah, and it's a new thing, creating another human interaction. Like, I try to be genuine with people, I don't want to just fake smile, knock out hair and send someone out the door. I like learning about people and what they do what their interest are, it fills my soul. 

But I also feel like there's a lot of people that they don't really have outside outlets anymore, socially or in the workplace. So, I get to play therapist for a minute, I get to listen to people's problems. And they feel better when they leave, because they just got to vent to a non-biased person, about their situation. 

So I feel like other than like technical skills, when you're working with people like that, you kind of have to develop an emotional skill set, because you don't know what people have going on in their lives or even that day. And it's important to stay in tune with that. Because really, we can really make or break someone's self-esteem as a hairdresser. Like, if we nail it, you love it, and you feel good about yourself. Or if we epically fail, you're gonna feel worse about yourself than when you walked in. 

Jule

It's interesting what you said about the pandemic, because as I look back on it, you were the first person I interacted with, when the restriction started to lift, and I live alone. So you were like the first person I was actually physically close to. And it was meaningful, it was like, it just felt healing and good and happy, I was glad to see you and glad to be out and glad to be taken care of. 

André

And I think I strive for that feeling in my chair. Because I was able to get sober and really empathize with things going on around me. And having experienced just so much nonsense, out of my control, or of my own doing that, you just you become more empathetic to people's situations, because their situations could be worse than what you've been through, or similar to what you've been through. That there's really just no point in writing people off or judging people based on poor choices.

12:51

André

Unless it's a chronic thing, and it never ends, then, you know, there's always that one person, but everyone, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone processes grief or negative emotions differently. And some are much more productive, dealing with those situations, maybe through their faith or community activities where others become super inclusive and almost implode and rely on alcohol and drugs and just anything really anything. 

Jule

André, when you got sober, how did you get sober? 

André

It was a lot of cold turkey work. I did try a couple programs. Some of them I had a hard time sticking with initially. Because there was a lot of…

13:44

André

…there was a lot of religion in some of these programs. And I think it's important to have faith in a higher power. But at the time for me like I I wasn't trying to let Jesus take the wheel, I was just trying to get control of my own life. And I just felt like there were certain parts of the program, that there was an emotional disconnect. 

But as things continued, and I talked with other struggling recovering addicts, I started to embrace more and more aspects of it. Knowing that there is a real thought process behind it, whether I'm on board with every word, it really doesn't matter. But if you use the fundamentals that are in the programs, you can, you can get sober, you can learn to deal with things and move on. Sometimes people can do it, no problem, get sober the first time around. 

14:44

André

I relapsed seven times in my life. Some were situational, some were intentional. And what I mean by that is one time I threw away my sobriety because there was just free drugs and who says no to free? 

15:00

André

My, my nephew and my grandmother passed away within 24 hours of each other from unrelated situations. And I had to tell my mother that her grandson was dead. And then I had to tell my sister her grandmother was dead. And it was just, it was so much to deal with. And I didn't know how to process my own grief that the first thing I did, as soon as things were moving forward was just relapse, because I didn't know. I didn't know how to process that. 

Jule

How do you process it now? 

André

I still have some challenges processing some feelings. I think a lot of that goes with spending most of my life just not emotionally in tune with things. But I've learned to move forward. I mean, I keep them both close to my heart. And I feel like as long as I remember them, same thing with my dad, he's been gone about six years, you know, as long as I do them, right? And stay sober. I feel like they're always going to be around in a way. 

Jule

I have a similar perspective. My husband passed away more than a decade ago. And I'm sure he's still around.

16:17

Jule

You've talked about, you found something that sang to your soul. What if somebody says, André, I want something that sings to my soul? But I don't know what it is? Or how do I find it? What might you say to them? 

André

You know, it's kind of funny that you asked me that, because there was a young lady I was speaking with last night, and she was debating on making some changes. And she was trying to figure out if one option was better than the other. And I asked her, I was like, well, maybe if you phrased the question to yourself differently, like, What? What would give you more purpose? I think that it has to be more than what's just gonna pay the bills. 

And I think when people think, you know, I got to find a purpose, it's it has to be something tangible, it has to be like, why have to have a certain kind of career, or I need to have certain kind of money in the bank. And sometimes maybe if giving back is your thing, and when I say giving back, like spending some time with people beginning their recovery process and becoming a sponsor, or doing something with the local community, or even teaching something, whether it be like a community workshop.

I think there's a lot of things that we find so much interest in, but we're just programmed to think, well, that's just not good enough, or that ideas stupid, or that's just not going to go far. But if you want to open up some dog park themed with clowns, I think you should do it. 

Like there's just whatever it is, like, even if it's like for me, like the simple joy of having my toys on my wall. I'm a big He Man fan. That was my jam in the 80s. So, you know, with that show, I felt good as a kid, there was a lot to it. And it was an awesome show. And as an adult, I've got my little toy collection, that gives me a little bit of joy late, whatever, whatever even picks you up out of the slumps in the slightest bit, that could be your thing.

18:20

André

But I found that like giving back and helping others puts a lot more into perspective.

18:28

André

And I feel like that's helped me when I am behind the chair. I've had a lot of opportunities to do community events and donate and mingle with people and that brought me a lot of joy. So like all that encompasses my hair job. 

But maybe your thing is retail, like flipping small things, hitting up thrift stores, like I don't know, I feel like it can… A purpose can be anything that you want it to be. 

Jule

You said three things in that answer that I think are all really important. One, when you were coaching the woman in yours in your salon, change the question, maybe you're asking yourself the wrong question. Two was, maybe you already have the answer, but you're not letting yourself have it. If you want to have that dog park, maybe that's the thing for you. And three was, give back. 

What's one of life's simple pleasures that you really enjoy?

19:20

André

Food.

Jule

Say more about food? 

André

Well, I love food. Food for me is just a source of so many awesome things with sweet, savory, I don't know, this is comfort, comfort on a dish. And in some cases, it's a cultural experience.

19:39

André

You get to kind of taste the flavors of a different culture and I think food brings people together like you can be at like a family event and everyone's in their own corners. But you mention “Food is done” and bam! Everyone's together chit chatting and talking about how awesome the meal is.

Jule

Is there anything else you'd like to say André about hard times hope or anything? 

André

Actually, you know what? Yeah, I think no matter what you're going through, or how just dark things seem, I think everyone has the power to pick themselves up off the floor. I've had to do it several times. And sometimes it got harder as time went, but if you can find anything to grasp on to, I think anyone can make a shift for a better life. It’s just a matter of being true to yourself and asking yourself the right questions and don't bite off more than you can chew. We live in a world where our self-worth is defined by things or appearances and it's, it's hard to process that when you feel subpar. 

21:07

André

And my suggestion is screw everybody else. And I don't mean that like in a in a start knocking things over in grocery stores and throwing like tantrums in public. But if something makes you happy, if something gives you self-worth,then that’s what matters.

21:29

Jule

Thank you for listening. That was André. He has been clean and sober for six years. I'm Jule Kucera host of Hard Times & Hope. My website is Jule Kucera.com. That's J-U-L-E-K-U-C-E-R-A.com.

Take care. Take heart. See you next time.