Profiles in Recovery

Jef Mullins

Mullins has a favorite quote that seems to fit the pathos and rebirth in his own life: “The world breaks everyone and, afterward, some are strong in the broken places” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Once homeless, indigent, out of work and ailing – the fallout from years of alcoholism – Mullins today is radically transformed. He’s lived and worked all over the world – serving as a headmaster in Spain, an executive with Europe’s largest provider of addiction treatment, and a psychotherapist with double diplomas in psychodynamic counseling. Currently, he’s living in the United States as Chief Executive Officer of Waters Edge Recovery, which provides behavioral health care in Florida.

“My recovery has brought me so much – a great job, a loving wife, a nice car, a sense of purpose, etc.,” Mullins says. “But, far more valuable than any of that is that the people who loved me aren’t scared any more.”

Day Job:
Chief Executive Officer, Waters Edge Recovery (FL)

At my worst, I was:
Homeless, living in the streets or alcohol shelters. I lost access to my only daughter for three years and she lost a father during that time. I was penniless and very ill. My parents were afraid to look me in the eye and family did not talk to me, but about me.

What worked for me:
Good, residential treatment for 12 weeks in the north of England. It was time away from drinking (an often underestimated value of treatment) and I received love, trust and support. It was very important for me to learn about myself and my addiction and, on leaving treatment, AA was very important to me, as was staying busy, going to college and volunteering.

Advice to my younger self:
To ask for help much earlier. To swallow my pride and get honest with my loved ones and seek treatment. I think my life would have been so very different if I had.

Stigma I faced:
When people hear what I do for a living and then act as if they are experts and use the phrase ‘a self-inflicted condition.’ I hear it every week and it is demeaning and untrue.

Best advice for newbies:
Become teachable. Become hungry for knowledge. Ask lots of questions. Stay in the middle of things. If you are angry, use it – be angry with what you have lost, whom you have hurt, and get angry enough to change things.

Thoughts on relapse:
It’s not about the relapse. It’s about what you learn from it and how quickly you admit it afterwards. It makes all the difference in the world.

Rules I live by:
Keep your promises. Cherish and engage with my support network, including family, friends and the fellowship. Don’t let things build up until you begin to feel overwhelmed. Stay humble: by this I mean stay ‘the right size,’ Big shots get drunk.

I get inspired by:
The astonishing altruism of people in recovery toward people who are suffering. Mostly I’m inspired by those people who succeed, then fail, then have the courage to admit it and ask for help again.

How I get through the holidays:
I’ve been sober a long time now. Perhaps the most encouraging thing for the newcomer is that, after a while, it’s not a case of getting through anything. It really does get better when you truly know that you don’t have to drink. Put simply, it’s easy when you know you can’t drink.

Proudest moment:
When my daughter, with whom I could not have a relationship for years, chose me to be the person she came out to first.

Shed the Stigma:
If you’re a person in long-term recovery who wants to share your insights, please contact us at [email protected].