Actor Chad L.Coleman Shares About Empathy, Living Sober & Recovery in The Entertainment Industry
On January 01, 2019, while many slept the day away nursing hangovers from excessive drinking and drugging the night before, Chad L. Coleman headed out to The Lighthouse, a sober living home in New Canaan, Connecticut. Before he shared his experience, strength, and hope with those in attendance, I had a chance to sit down and chat with Chad about his path into recovery.
“It’s not my first rodeo.”
The path wasn’t always straightforward for Coleman. “I’ve been to more than one treatment center. It’s not my first rodeo. I tried to get a handle on my drinking in 2002. Yes, I was still struggling. I was fortunate never to let my drinking come to my losing a job. For many years I followed a pattern of 6 months off 3 months on. This was manageability, at this time in my life.”
Throughout his drinking career (35 years and 4 treatment centers), Coleman always questioned why he could not drink like the rest of his friends and associates. Once he started, he couldn’t stop. Enjoying a couple of drinks at a club was never part of the equation, his drinking was always excessive.
The inability to comprehend the reason why he couldn’t manage his drinking always plagued Coleman. He knew deep down that his relationship with alcohol was not healthy and it had to stop. “For years, I questioned why I couldn’t drink like my friends. Why did I always have to be the last one drinking? The question was bothersome.”
“I was born swimming in alcohol.”
Coleman believes his ex-girlfriend was instrumental in helping him gain clarity, by giving him the space to come to terms with his drinking and to get honest. Coleman respects that she never judged him for this behavior. She never let his behavior create anger fueled outbursts.
Coleman explained that a light went on for him during inpatient treatment at Silver Hill, in Connecticut. He understood the primary cause and inability to manage his drinking. The program enabled Coleman to make the connection between his mother’s excessive drinking while pregnant with him and his inability to drink socially.
Coleman was born with a substance use disorder.
Coleman was born premature (6 months) because of alcohol-induced labor. “Once I was able to understand that I was born swimming in alcohol I knew that I never had a choice of having a social relationship with alcohol.”
Learning that his dangerous relationship with alcohol was hereditary empowered Coleman “to make a conscious commitment to change. Once I knew this ALL the social pressures, the ego, and the questioning why I couldn’t manage my drinking was lifted from me.”
“With this new internal light leading my way, the changes I needed to make were obvious.”
Coleman believes Silver Hill’s alternative approach to substance use recovery helped him create a balance within his life. He feels all the programs he had been to previously, helped him build a foundation for recovery, but participating in Silver Hill’s program resonated with him internally – “The program had a Buddhist slant to their methodology, it registered tremendously.”
His personal path for recovery includes practicing “meditation, learning about self-soothing, mindfulness, awareness, Refuge Recovery, and yoga” daily. Coleman states, “It all worked for me and allowed me to build a stronger, more assured, internal self.”
Coleman feels this approach to recovery worked for him because he was not just going through the motions. He believed in the work he was doing. “I was no longer reaching for something that didn’t work. For the first time, I believed in my program.”
“Contemplate, meditate, excavate.”
Coleman has incorporated these tools as part of his lifestyle for recovery. He continues to start his day with mindfulness; “contemplation, meditation, and excavation.”
Coleman learned to start his day by focusing on his needs and unearthing new insight about himself -”Know Thyself.”
Coleman believed he was defined by his addiction and suffering. He identified with it. “When I was caught in the swirl, I was caught in the swirl, but meditation enlightened me to another presence. I was able to see that Addicted Chad – Depressed Chad were only small parts of me. It was not ALL of me. It’s powerful. It is to be respected. It is to be dealt with. But it is not all of me. When I look at myself with my wise mind, (Hmmm, I have a wise mind? He chuckles, I didn’t know that), I’m able to expand my possibility and know there are many choices to be made.”
“I was doing great in treatment, but I knew the real work started once I went home.”
In addition to continuing his daily practices for self-comfort and mindful meditation, a detailed aftercare program was set up for Coleman to maintain his recovery, upon returning to his home in NYC.
Coleman believes his continued success is because he had a plan in place before he left treatment. His aftercare recovery plan was more than attend meetings and get a sponsor. It was detailed. Coleman’s plan for recovery replicated his inpatient treatment process. In addition to following his path, Coleman established many new connections within the recovery community.
“Whenever I get scared I remember I’m not doing this on my own- I always have a community of people there with me. The fear of being back in the world continued to subside because I still had a place to find support.”
“Most of us have the heart for service.”
Coleman feels we all have a responsibility to help others. “We as humans strive to connect with others.”
He explained that he has always had others helping him overcome difficulties in tremendous ways; from his family being fostered by the Byrd family, to his brother, a minister, setting examples of unconditional actions of kindness and empathy.
Coleman didn’t just get his dangerous relationship to alcohol from his mom. He knows he has her generous heart. She was always one to welcome another into her home for shelter or a meal and is remembered by her, “massive kind heart for service.”
“If you want to punish me for being vocal about not choosing to live in a personal hell it’s not my loss.”
When talking about the entertainment industry and others who have chosen to “Recover Out Loud,” Coleman feels that the industry is receptive to his choice to be vocal about his recovery.
Coleman only recently started to share publicly about his recovery. He wanted to have his feet firmly planted in this change before choosing to speak about his past struggle and relationship with alcohol publicly.
Coleman feels alcohol has never come between his ability to do his job, but he knows this isn’t true for everyone; “The industry is a breeding ground for alcohol and substance use disorders. You think success is going to stop the internal turbulence, but it doesn’t always happen that way.”
He has never felt any backlash or lost work due to his frankness about his addiction. “If someone wants to punish me for being vocal about no longer living in a personal hell – You are not punishing me at all because I’m happy within my own skin today. How can I try to help another person when I am trying to hide who I am and what I believe?”
“Don’t B.S. yourself.”
For those in early recovery, Coleman advises you not to B.S yourself. “If you can’t tell me where you are going, who you are seeing, then you’re not following a plan for recovery. You have to be willing to do whatever your sponsor, coach, clinician tells you to do. Your will is tricky. Trusting others is hard. When you’re willing to trust others and do what you are told to do, you know you are on the right path.”
Coleman states he is most grateful for his “willingness to strive to be a better man. I am sincere, and willing to work on myself so I can help others reach this same place in their recovery.