Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Michael Eon Is Helping To Change Our World

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Continue to remove the stigma associated with addiction and addicts, continue to offer resources and help to those struggling with addiction or who are affected by it in friends and/or family members, and to ensure that sufferers know that there is help and a way through and out of active addiction.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Eon.

Michael Eon earned a BA in psychology from the University of Michigan and an MA in international affairs from Columbia University. A former board member of the Audio Publishers Association and a former producer of major motion pictures and television productions, Michael worked in the publishing and entertainment industries for more than twenty years. Michael discovered the core of this story through the cathartic processing of autobiographical memories, following its evolution into this novel of redemption and recovery. Originally from the New York area, he currently lives in New Hampshire with his family. These Things Happen is his first novel.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born in the late 1960s in New Jersey, approximately 30 miles west of New York City, the middle child of three boys. My mother was 22 when she married, my father four years her senior. My father was rarely home, always working, and when he was home, there was almost constant chaos with yelling and fighting. I was taught from the youngest age that no one was trustworthy, reliance on anyone or anything outside of myself was a weakness, mistakes were a betrayal, and love was dependent on and success was measured by monetary achievements and wealth. My desire to escape from the world I was born into began with thumb-sucking and ended with alcohol abuse. I began drinking alcohol when I was twelve, smoking marijuana when I was fourteen, snorting cocaine when I was fifteen, and so on. My lack of control as a child led to a lifelong pursuit of attempting to gain control in and of my life — a fruitless pursuit that always returned me to isolation and escape because I was never taught how to deal with life on life’s terms.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

In high school, I was a huge fan of existentialist literature (Camus, Kafka, Dostoyevsky, etc.) and their attempt to come to terms with the absurdity of life and the impossibility of living with oneself, of which I could wholly identify. As my experiences with life broadened in college, and my antagonism toward capitalism and wealth (particularly as represented by my father) grew, I became increasingly attracted to more spiritual works, including those of Richard Bach, William Pirsig, and Paramahansa Yogananda. In my junior year, I took a course on German Literature, which focused on Hermann Hesse. I’d read his masterpiece Siddhartha in high school, but it wasn’t until I read Steppenwolf for this course, that I really was affected personally. The struggles of Harry Haller were so identifiable, from the debauchery of his earlier years to his quest for spiritual enlightenment later, that my own personal quest to reconcile the material world with the spiritual world grew in awareness and intensity. This idea of trying to live an “Eastern” life in the “Western” world has underpinned my own life’s journey from trauma and addiction to recovery and spirituality.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m not sure I would consider it funny, but the biggest mistake I ever made was going into the family business. I had worked for the family business every summer and vacation break during my high school and college years. I had begun my college career taking business courses — accounting, economics, etc. under pressure from my father. Until then, I had never gotten less than a B in any course at school. I ended that first semester of my freshman year at college with two C’s and a D. My parents were horrified. I was horrified. I hated those subjects. By the end of that year, I was asking myself, and my parents, why I had to continue with business courses — courses I believed were a waste of intellectual brain power in a world that I was beginning to see was so much more than money and business, in a life that I was beginning to understand was so much more important that money and business. Following a determined battle with my father, I began taking courses that I believed were so much more meaningful, including courses in philosophy, psychology, literature, and religion. I completed my college career with a psychology degree and minor degrees in world literature and religious studies. As my senior year progressed, I kept putting off my search for employment with a psychology degree, considering the possibility of continuing on with postgraduate study in the field. Even as the summer progressed, I did nothing, believing I had earned the right to take some time off to evaluate. All the while, I was getting pressure from my father, and quickly the idea of postgraduate study fell to the wayside since the idea of continuing on in school at that point exhausted me. And what was I going to with a psychology degree without continued study? Needless to say, I had convinced myself that “I’d be crazy” not to “try out” the family business full time. So, that’s what I did. Fifteen years later, thoroughly burnt out, regretful of every professional moment I had spent over the past fifteen years, and having hit rock bottom from alcoholism and drug addiction, I left the family business. It took me a long time to come to terms with that decision to go into the family business out of college. I had convinced myself that “I’d be crazy not to try it out,” but that was a lie. A rationalization. A justification. I knew full well what it would be like, the hell I’d have to endure, the time I’d spend away from home, the determined pursuit of money for money’s sake. But I did it anyway. Why? The truth of the matter is that I was lazy. I took what I believed at the time to be the “easy way out.” Never again would I do anything in my life thinking it was the easy road. No. From that point forward, I would challenge myself, no matter how hard the road.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

My goal is to bring both reality and spirituality to the reader. Reality in the sense of what it is like to endure childhood trauma and active addiction into adulthood, and spirituality in the sense that through humility, connection, and service, one can overcome the despair and hopelessness of active addiction to lead a more useful, connected, and productive life. For the reader who suffers with addiction or who has been affected by the addiction of a friend or family member, the message is: you are not alone and there is hope.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

Many of the scenes in the book are based on autobiographical experiences. One, in particular, carries a lot of weight because it details the affect that first drink of alcohol has on a born addict. The effect, comprised of an immediate craving for more and obsession to regain the feeling again at once, is profound — it was for the main character, Daniel, just as it was for me. In its own way, it was a spiritual experience for the both of us. I didn’t ask to be an addict, learn to be an addict, become an addict. I was an addict. From that very first drink, like Daniel, I wanted more and I wanted it fast. I had to feel that “feeling” in my head. I had to be taken away. I had to be removed from myself. And the taste was no deterrent, nor was the threat of getting in trouble, or anything else. In that moment, nothing else mattered but getting and having more. That would become the pattern of and driving force in my life for decades after.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

It began as a cathartic processing of traumatic memories from childhood and adolescence that grew out of the moral inventory I wrote when I went through the Alcoholics Anonymous 12- Step process (Step 4, specifically) for recovery. I began journaling the experiences in greater detail and with greater emotion. At some point, as I progressed in my recovery, I had the idea of incorporating those “memory stories” into a novel (thought about doing it as a memoir but given the subject matter and connection to family involved in the writing, who were still alive, I decided against it). My goal was to create a story whereby both sides of the coin, active addiction and trauma along with spiritual growth and recovery, were included.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

As an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous, I take other men through the 12-Step process as I was led through it years earlier. Not all of those I sponsor will make it through the process. I’ve found that a person needs to achieve a certain level of despair in sobriety, perhaps even an emotional rock bottom, before they become willing to throw out all of their old ideas and preconceived notions in order to become teachable and willing to do what the 12-Step process requires of them. I have seen people drag themselves into AA for the first time, having just hit rock bottom in active addiction, in a state of hopelessness and helplessness almost inconceivable. I have witnessed them become entirely different people once I’ve taken them through the process, both internally and externally, having moved from self-centeredness to more altruistic behavior, having regained the family and employment they had lost when they had arrived. It’s truly remarkable to witness, and very gratifying to know that I was able to play a part in their spiritual growth.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Continue to remove the stigma associated with addiction and addicts, continue to offer resources and help to those struggling with addiction or who are affected by it in friends and/or family members, and to ensure that sufferers know that there is help and a way through and out of active addiction.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is about providing guidance, direction, and solutions. As a member of Alcoholics Anonymous who has had a spiritual experience — a personality change — as a result of the 12 Steps, I put those principles into action to the best of my willingness on any given day. I am accountable for my actions. I learn from my defects of character. I strive for tolerance, humility,

and service. I surrender my personal will and ambitions to those of the group so that I may be of greater service to those around me, both inside and outside of AA. I help others through the 12 Step process.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

I wish someone had told me at an early age that (1) I was enough, (2) making mistakes was a part of life, (3) I was not alone, (4) hope and help can always be found, and (5) love was not conditional.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“One day at a time.” Sounds cliché, even trite, but that phrase saved my life. Years ago, I sat in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in utter despair, confronted simultaneously by two facts: that I could never have another drink again for the rest of my life, and that in order to maintain that sobriety I would have to come to these meetings for the rest of my life. The reality of this was paralyzing, and deepened my despair. Then, someone shared a story about how they try to live “one day at a time,” and not worry about tomorrow. That all they have is today. That yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come. That they need not worry about never having another drink again, or coming to these meetings forever. That, just for this moment, this hour, this day, they would not drink or drug. His share hit me like a ton of bricks. All I had to do was bring it back to the day… today. My paralysis eased and my despair lessened. Today, I could do. Tomorrow isn’t even here yet. But today, I will not drink. That was manageable. And it worked. I’ve used this phrase for all other facets of my life to ease any anxiety or worry I might have about yesterday or tomorrow. It works. It really does.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

That would be Russell Brand. I have immense respect for his journey from active addiction to recovery and emotional sobriety, his wisdom in understanding and applying the 12-Step process, and his quest for change through service and working with others. He is a great example of the power of change resulting from a commitment to the 12-Steps. Like myself, if he can do it, anyone can.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Michael Eon Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.