Kevin Edwards changed the way he thought after combating the addictions he battled for more than half his life. Now, the Culpeper native is using the power of the mind and the internet to be part of the solution to the sweeping drug scourge through the recent launch of CulpeperRecovery.com, an online community providing free coaching, training and support.
“It’s based on scientific strategies and self-empowerment techniques,” he said of the website, grounded in the four points of SMART Recovery.
An acronym for Self-Management and Recovery Training, SMART Recovery is a global nonprofit that’s been around for 25 years. An alternative to 12-step programs, SMART Recovery employs a science-based approach to beating addiction rooted in four points—building and maintaining motivation, coping with urges, managing thoughts and living a balanced life. Worldwide, some 2,500 meetings are held, according to the group’s 2017 Annual Report.
Edwards “found” the training program by happenstance after tapping into its main principles on his own through research and reading.
“I’ve been in recovery now for almost four years,” said the 36-year-old. “Thoughts lead to feelings and feelings lead to behaviors. I started doing all this mind work and personal development, which ultimately—by changing your unconscious beliefs and thought patterns—you change your feelings and how you’re going to act. It changed my life.”
Edwards started a local chapter of SMART Recovery, which he facilitates, last summer. The group meets weekly 7:15 to 8:45 p.m. on Thursdays at the Culpeper Library, engaging in open discussion or going over the four points of the program.
Launching the companion website was a natural progression of his work as a certified recovery coach.
“It takes practice to change your thought patterns, it’s like building a skill,” Edwards said. “You have to think about what you’re thinking about. That’s why willpower doesn’t work, why there is so much internal conflict with people.”
Your conscious mind may want to quit abusing drugs or alcohol, he said, but then your unconscious mind will kick in with the opposite, generating thoughts that the substances are somehow helping.
“You need to take that belief, bring it up to your conscious awareness and then deconstruct it. Where did it come from, why do I believe it and is it true? Then you replace that belief with one that’s going to serve you better,” Edwards said.
“I felt like the community needed more awareness,” he added. “If I can help people shortcut their addictions, maybe they don’t have to go through as much misery as I did, because I was addicted for 20-plus years.”
A 2001 graduate of Culpeper County High School, Edwards started smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and experimenting with drugs as a 12-year-old.
“Before I even got out of high school, I had a PhD in getting messed up,” he said. “My biggest issue for a long time was liquor and cocaine. I wanted to fit in with the older kids and then it was out of curiosity then it spiraled out of control and it ended up being my identity.”
Edwards left home for college at Full Sail University in Florida and his addictions followed. At age 20, he remembered falling to his knees, crying and praying for a change, to be free from being in an altered state.
“I wanted to stop, but I didn’t know how,” he said.
Edwards tried a 12-step program in chasing sobriety, but said the one-size-fits-all approach was not a match for him. He earned a degree in audio engineering and came back to Culpeper still addicted to alcohol.
“I was drinking anywhere from a fifth to a liter, even half gallon, almost every day,” Edwards said.
He functioned in his alcoholism, becoming a top salesmen for a major insurance company. Edwards kept searching for answers, eventually finding and implementing cognitive behavioral therapy in establishing new beliefs. He stopped referring to himself as an addict or an alcoholic, realizing negative words cause negative feelings. Edwards was able to kick his harmful habits, including smoking cigarettes, by creating new thoughts and a healthier lifestyle.
Now, he works full-time as a recovery coach with private clients as well as leading SMART Recovery Culpeper and contributing to other initiatives of the local recovery coalition. His mother, Donna Edwards, is a co-facilitator of the weekly meetings. She said it’s a terrific program that has worked for her son.
“He went through many years struggling with addiction and the family struggled right along with him,” Donna Edwards said. “Through self-study, he really made a difference in his own life. He’s a different person.”
She said her son has also cut out coffee and soda, replacing them with healthier habits like exercise, nutritious food and meditation, all of which are touted through SMART Recovery. Being a facilitator for the group has taught her it’s not easy to beat an addiction and that she was going about her previous dealings with her son in the wrong way by telling him to just stop.
“I was very naïve,” she said of Kevin using drugs and alcohol in middle school. “I thought I just had a child acting badly. I thought he had an attitude problem.”
Looking back, Donna Edwards now recognizes the signs of substance abuse —Kevin losing interest in baseball, a sport at which he had excelled, his lack of respect for any authority, being secretive and negative, she said.
“I am so proud of him,” she said of the person he has become. “He is just passionate about helping other people realize there is an answer out there. There was a ladder he could have climbed out of the deep hole he was in but he didn’t know about it.”
CulpeperRecovery.com is for anyone dealing with any kind of addictive behaviors, Kevin Edwards said. Folks can sign up for the discussion boards through the free mobile app, Slack, and communicate with others in various categories—motivation, urges, beliefs, fulfillment, personal stories and hobbies. Participants can remain completely anonymous when they set up a user name and password. The only rules, he said, are ask questions when you need help, be helpful to others and have fun.
“Make the recovery fun and know it’s a process,” Kevin Edwards said. “This is just a phase you are going through. You can become completely indifferent to it, where it has no power over your life anymore.”
For information, contact email@example.com.