After years of destructive behavior, Andrew is now pointing his energy in a positive direction with The Institute for the Advancement of Group Therapy
By Andrew Bordt
As the child of a father who struggled with and ultimately died from alcohol use disorder, I experienced him stumbling around the house, eating half of my or my sister’s dinner before we got to the table, almost breaking my hand when I tried to remove a bottle of vodka he had hidden in one of his many secret stashing places, and verbally abusing me when he wanted me out of the house so he could indulge himself without bother. I made the proclamation early that I would never drink or become like him; unfortunately, the well-intended statements of children seldom ring true in adulthood.
I started experimenting with alcohol in high school and occasionally drank to the point of vomiting and a half-day hangover the next day. I didn’t learn that resuming drinking in the morning makes that pain go away (temporarily, until it comes back much worse) until after I graduated college. I was lucky to have the structure and those competing priorities that, at the time, were stronger than my desire to keep drinking, or I might not have finished university at all. The year I graduated was accompanied by a breakup of my first long-term relationship and diving into the substance use disorder pool’s deep end. Within a few months, I graduated from occasional drinking to binge drinking, psychedelics, barbiturates and cocaine. The competing priorities of work fell to the wayside, and I lost the job—my first job—at a company I had worked at for eight years. I even spent $4,000, most of what I had saved for an IRA account, in less than a month on cocaine. Something needed to change.
When I moved on to my next company, my drinking increased again, this time to “manage the stress” that my new, high-level position brought.
I thought a change of environment would do me good, so I accepted a position as an English teacher in the People’s Republic of China. I had heard that drugs in China were such a severe offense that people were executed or sent to labor camps if caught buying or selling them. I assumed avoiding these things would be a competing priority for me to stay clean. I didn’t consider that the drinking culture in China is much more relaxed than in the U.S.; drinks with lunch were standard for business, there were no open container laws, and public transit was the only way to travel. Furthermore, my work schedule (1:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.) and coworkers (expats in their early to late 20s) weren’t conducive to a “clean” living environment.
The trips I took throughout Asia during those years bring back a few pleasant memories, but more a sense of thankfulness that I am not in jail or dead. While tales of bribing police officers in Cambodia or pulling my hair out after consuming an entire mushroom and opium pizza in Laos may hint at humor when I retell them now, they were downright scary, and I am lucky to be alive. And those are only two stories of many; my experiences in Vietnam, India and even China make it quite clear that I have a guardian angel watching over me.
I lost weight, began building meaningful relationships, excelled at work and stopped wasting money on making myself sick.
Lucky for me, I met a strong-willed and supportive woman who helped me reorient my goals for a while. When we got married and eventually welcomed our baby girl into the world, I had a new sense of meaning in my life. I drank less, and we were happy … for a while. When I moved on to my next company, my drinking increased again, this time to “manage the stress” that my new, high-level position brought. This stress stayed with me when we relocated back to the U.S., and within six months I drank until I blacked out almost daily. One day, when my wife was overseas, I passed out at 3:00 p.m. I had become something worse than what I swore not to be. I didn’t eat half the dinner off my daughter’s plate—I didn’t cook dinner for my sweet girl at all.
That was the moment of change when my priorities adjusted, and I began to get my life on track. I lost weight, began building meaningful relationships, excelled at work and stopped wasting money on making myself sick. I found my sense of meaning and appreciation in my daily life.
Three years in, I decided I was ready for my next big move, and I have partnered with a former colleague in the behavioral health and addiction space to bring my knowledge and experience in educational pedagogy, training and classroom best practices to further help others in the field on their path to continuous recovery. That is where I am now. We officially launched our business, The Institute for the Advancement of Group Therapy, in June of 2022 and are excited to add value and support to people who need it most. While launching a business is both exciting and terrifying, I do believe that what we are doing will make a positive difference in people’s lives.