Season 1: Episode #3
Hey everyone. Just want to thank you all for the amazing response to these shows. I’m fortunate to have such wonderful guests who are willing to share their lives with you. Please pass the word around on social media and to those you know need to hear these messages. OK…here we go.What makes a hero?
According to Philosopher and Scholar Joseph Campbell, a hero is an archetypal figure who takes a journey from his or her ordinary world, goes out on an adventure, through a decisive crisis wins a victory, then returns home transformed with gained wisdom to offer others. This podcast explores real people, real stories and the pivotal moments that changed the course of their lives forever.
I think that's why, I think that’s why a lot of people don't just look at what they're doing to themselves because they have no hope. Without any hope of anything getting better and then they look at what they really are, they would just die, they would just kill themselves. But once I had a little bit of hope then I was able to face myself really honestly and it was such a relief.
Clayton Light…yes that’s his real last name. This world almost lost that Light, but against all odds it was reignited. Clayton is back and badder than ever. Ready to illuminate the path for others who have gotten lost in the dark. May your hope be kindled as you listen to this Hero’s Journey. I’m Belinda Lams and this is The Moment When…
Clayton Light is a Video Producer/Editor and Motion Designer. His client list includes Fortune 500 companies and nationally known charities. His early work helped pioneer the popular video style called 'motion graphics'. He and his wife of 25 years, Lynn Splendid, formed SplendidLight Media, a marketing communications company that served the wine, food and travel industries. When not working or playing the drums, he enjoys his family of three children and two grandchildren.
So, how do we know each other?
I remember seeing you in class when I was the studio supervisor in college and I think I even helped you a couple of times like working with the patch Bay, something like that, but we never really talked until one night I was coming home from work and you were standing outside your apartment with your sister and your roommate. And I just stopped in and started talking with you guys and all of a sudden, we just hit it off. We ended up just talking for hours and after that I think we were kind of inseparable for, oh my God, what years?
Yeah and how many years is it now? Do we want to divulge that information?
That was 1981.
Yeah ok, it says something about the connection that we've had and have over all of these years and when we have woven in and out of each other's lives. It's pretty cool.
It is, it's amazing. I don't have that many friendships that are that enduring and that deep either.
Yeah, so…what was your ordinary world like before you had your pivotal moment?
My wife and I had a business. We didn't have a lot of clients but we had very good high-profile clients and I was doing work I was really proud of and I was just kind of going along thinking that things would just stay good. And then, things started to just slowly go downhill until eventually we ended up closing our business, moving to Northern California. And my normal world at the very end was I was in the basement of my wife's parents house and I only came out to take care of her father and that was pretty much it.
I was in a 100% isolation. I didn't talked much to my family. When I did, I was horrible. The only time I felt comfortable was when I was alone in the basement really. I became addicted to alcohol and I have a condition called alcoholism that I didn't realize was the source of my isolation and from the world and from other people but slowly, little by little, I became addicted to the point that I no longer had any of the thoughts I had before. I didn't have any of the goals. It had me, it had me so thoroughly at the end that literally before I opened my eyes in the morning, my first thought laying when I woke up wherever I happened to be laying was where is the little bit left in the bottle that I gave myself to get through the morning? That was my first thought was for alcohol and I would go and I would get the little bit I had left because I always had to leave myself some to get me through the morning until I could get to the store and get more.
So, that was my first thought and it was like every thought, everything that came to my way in my life, I had to measure it in terms of alcohol because I was dependent. If I was going to go to a movie with my wife which was rare but if we were going to go to a movie, I had to go to a liquor store that sold their little airplane bottles and have a couple of them like either hidden in the glovebox of the car or in my sock or whatever. When the moment and the movie was right, I would say oh I need to go to the bathroom and I would go take a dose you know because if I went two hours without a drink, my hands would be shaking so visibly, it would be really uncomfortable. It would be like I would need to have a drink like right away.
Some people drink then blackout, other people go on binges and then they're sober and then they go on binges and then they get sober. And what I did is I would get just at the phase of crossing the line of being drunk but not like fall down drunk and then just staying like that. And so, I would take just little sips to keep myself in that zone pretty much 24/7. I would wake up in the night and take some but I would always leave myself enough to get through the morning. I basically didn't have a day sober for about 25 years. I mean, I didn't have 24 hours sober for years.
I was measuring distance like how many beers is that, like time how many beers is that, time, space, everything every thought I had, somehow alcohol got thrown into the mix of measuring it or figuring it out. It was everything in my life. I couldn't imagine not drinking. I didn't know how, I didn't know what I would do, what I would think, what I would say, what I would feel without alcohol. It just was everything to me.
It wasn’t always that way. Clayton did have dreams of doing great things with his life before he was overtaken by addiction.
Well, I was thinking that I might grow our business, that I might get to a point where I was producing projects of my own. We had a video production business and I remember thinking you know, what do I want to say to the world. Here, I have this skill where I can communicate and I was doing a lot of marketing communications. And so, I was telling other people's stories and telling other people's passion but you know, I just kept thinking when am I going to use this for myself? What do I have to say to the world, what do I have to offer? I remember thinking that eventually, I was going to figure it out, I was going to come to understand what I wanted to say and I would be able to. That's kind of what I was waiting for and that was my dream really.
I completely forgot about it because all I could think about was alcohol really in the end and I was also caring for my wife's father in the last couple of years of his life and he had dementia and he was an extremely difficult man even before he got sick. I would wake up to a bed that was a complete disaster. The smell was, it’d hit you when you opened the door and then I would have to fight this man to get him clean, to get the bed clean and it was just a horrible existence. Pretty much, I was either doing that or I was drinking in the basement . That's not why I was drinking. But it's just that that was the only other thing I had in my life.
Clayton anticipated that his basement existence would eventually come to an end. Once his father-in-law passed and he was no longer needed, he figured he’d be sent away. His call to adventure came when the signs started to appear.
I would get little notes on my desk from members of my family saying, ‘it's not a secret anymore’ or you need help you know or can we talk about this and I knew what they were talking about. I remember getting one of those notes one time and I had a little drawer next to my desk that was locked and I remember unlocking it and pulling the bottle out and putting it on the table and just staring at that and thinking I'm going to lose everything if I don't stop. And I was telling myself okay, you're going to stop, you have to stop this. But while I was holding that thought in my head, you're going to lose everything if you don't stop, I was picking up the bottle and unscrewing the top of it and putting it to my lips. And that is a horrifying reality. Like I could not stop and I knew I was going to lose everything and I just could not stop.
I’m Belinda Lams and this is The Moment When…Today we’re talking with Clayton Light about his life of isolation and alcoholism and the threat it posed to losing it all…. His story continues.
Shortly after that, my wife came down into the basement and she sat down and was very calm which was unusual because I was just horrible and but she's just sat down very calmly and she said, Clay I had to ask myself if I still loved you and I had to really think about it and I realized that yes I do, but I can't live with you anymore. I can't live with this anymore. And she gave me an envelope and in it was one-way ticket back to my hometown in Washington State. She told me she was taking me to the bus in the morning and so that that was not a conditional thing. I mean, I said well, I'm just not going to go, I just refused to go but it was not to be. My daughter came downstairs and said ‘go, just go.’
I went on the internet and I put in the name of this organization and then the name of my town and it came up with a name of a club where meetings were held and I looked at the schedule and there was one that night. I went there and I walked into this meeting and I was plastered. It came time for the members of the group to share and I stick up my hand and I'm the drunk guy who's like my wife threw me out, I'm leaving on a bus tomorrow and I don't know where I'm going, I don't know if I'm coming back. Then, I left ok? But this guy came over to me and he gave me a schedule of meetings in town and he wrote his phone number on it and his name.
The next morning, Clayton’s wife dropped him off at the bus station just as she had told him. As he exited the car, he swore to never forgive her for this. Then he took an angry bus ride to the airport where he boarded a one-way flight to his parent’s house in Washington State.
There's no direct flight into my hometown because it's very small and so I had to stop in Seattle. And so, I called up my old drinking buddy who had been sober for 11 months and I told him what was going on and he said call your parents and tell them you're not coming. You know, just stay with me, I'll pick you up at the airport.
When I got to the airport, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to drink and I didn't want to quit but I just knew that I wasn't going to be able to drink. So, I went to the bar and I had this monster beer, the huge ones that are just like ridiculously big and I just chugged this giant monster beer and my phone was blowing up because my friend was waiting outside for me. I think he knew what I was doing. Anyway, I polished that thing off and pounded it down and then I walked out of the airport and got in the car.
And he took me to a meeting.
This was the first time in a long time that Clayton was directly facing the reality of his life, without a buffer. And then… a window of opportunity appeared…
I remember the first night I was there I was in the bedroom at my friend's house and there was this inflatable bed next to a window and that was all that was in the room. And I laid down there next to the window and the moon was really big in the sky and the moonlight was just like I was just kind of like bathed in this moonlight laying there, just like where am I, what's happening in my life and I knew that I was not going to drink for a while. And so, the first step I took was I just accepted that. I didn't have any intention of getting sober like as a way of life but the first step was that first night laying there, I felt that this acceptance come over me that for right now for this thing, this experience that I was having, that I wasn't going to drink and I just accepted that. I think that was the first thing that started to turn things for me.
One meeting led to more. Ironically, the meetings wereheld at a bar in a small logging town outside Seattle. Clayton was having horrible withdrawals. His hands would shake so badly that he wasn’t even able to hold a glass of water. In the past, when he had been accused of having a drinking problem, he knew that nobody understood what he was going through, until now…
My brain was from the very beginning, the first time I drank, had an abnormal reaction to alcohol like. I took alcohol and my brain said, ‘wow what is this new rocket fuel? How come we didn't have this before? Let's just run on that, you know? What do we need food for? Let's just more, more and more of this stuff, this stuff is awesome.’ I knew that people who were telling me I had a drinking problem had no way of understanding what alcohol did to me. But these meetings that I was going to, that my friend was taking me to, these people knew. I couldn't dismiss them. They were telling their stories and I was hearing them talking about like how they were hiding their bottles and where they were hiding their bottles. And I heard them saying and things that they were doing and how their brain worked and it was me. They were telling my story and I knew that they had been where I was and yet here they were, sober and happy and living full productive lives.
And so, I got like a little bit of belief, a little bit of hope that maybe I could change too. Just a little bit of hope really that I hadn't had. I had given up hope. But in seeing the people at telling their stories, I got a little bit of hope.
The moment when for Clayton came as a very clear and direct choice that he must make. And this window of opportunity to choose would be closing very soon .
I came to a realization that I needed to either hold on to that hope and grow it or I was going to be lost for good. Because I just had this sense that the kind of revelation that I was having was a one-time thing. It wasn't like I could just go back and then pick up this sense of hope later. This was my window, this curtain being lifted for me to see what was possible and the kind of feelings it was making me have, I had to seize that at that moment or just give up for good. That was like I came to the fork in the road and it was like are you going to live are you going to die literally, that's what it was.
More than one person in my family's come to me and said that we wondered why you weren't telling us that you had cancer. I mean I was really sick and I don't know how much longer I could have gone the way I was but I literally had to make a decision if I was going to live or die and that was the moment when I said I'm going to live.
It's incredible. What did you claim in that moment?
This may sound odd but I was taught that at that moment I should claim defeat and that that was what I should claim. I should acknowledge that I had been beaten and give up. Stop fighting it and just accept that I have alcoholism and that it is not safe for me to drink. The score is alcohol wins Clayton loses. That doesn't sound really victorious, but that was the key for me was just accepting that I had been defeated. I had one choice and that was just to accept this new way of life and just start over. Start over and start building again.
That was your power, the recognition of the truth.
Yeah. Just acceptance of the truth. Like stop bullshitting myself and looking at myself in the mirror. You're a drunk who's been thrown out by his wife. You have lost your business, you've lost your family, you've lost everything and you're sick. Look at what you are, you know? But I had not looked at myself honestly, I had not seen myself. Just that dropping all the bullshit and just being honest was a turning point and I and I couldn't have done that if I didn't have hope that I would survive that moment.
I think that's why, I think that’s why a lot of people don't just look at what they're doing to themselves because they have no hope. Without any hope of anything getting better and then they look at what they really are, they would just die, they would just kill themselves. But once I had a little bit of Hope then I was able to face myself really honestly and it was such a relief, it's such a relief. It's like I literally felt like somebody walked up to me and said, ‘why are you carrying this’ and lifted a big weight off my shoulders that I had been carrying around. I mean, I literally physically felt lighter for a long time after that I noticed that, I felt like I was floating around because I felt a weight come off of me.
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Today we’re exploring the choice between life and death and the restorative power of Hope…with my guest Clayton Light.
Though not everyone has this experience, Clayton was gifted with a phenomenon called the Pink Cloud; a kind of euphoric feeling that can come during the recovery process. He felt like a newborn baby and was highly enthusiastic about his new program and this opportunity for a new life.
We arranged a Skype video call and with my wife and I sat down and I talked with her and I told her what I'd been doing and what I'd learned about my condition and how my outlook had changed how I felt, this new feeling I had. I could honestly say for that day that I did not want to drink and I did not intend to drink that day and I didn't want to. You know and that was absolutely a miraculous thing I think for her to hear. And then I felt that it was honestly I did not want to drink that day and then one of my buddies said, can I talk to her? He jumped in, ‘he said I've been watching him, he has embraced this program’. So there was just like this persuasion like…
Take him back. Don’t you want him?
Exactly. And so, she said okay you can come home.
Before heading back to his wife, Clayton did go and spend some time with his parents. They were thrilled to see him sober. Clayton shared that his life would now be centered around attending meetings for quite some time. His parents showed their support by buying him a car. The visit turned out to be especially meaningful since they would be gone from this life sooner than expected.
In the Hero’s Journey, the hero eventually takes a road back to their ordinary world. Clayton’s road back was an actual drive. He got in his barely running gift of acar, and headed from Washington State back to Northern California.
I was driving and I knew that at the end of every off-ramp was going to be a convenience store or a bar and I had not been alone since I had stopped drinking. This would be my first time and I was going to be on the road and I was scared that I was going to drink and so I decided that what I was going to do was I was going to only stop for gas at places that also had fast food and that's it and that's what I did. I stopped for gas and got like a hamburger and then got back in the car and just kept going and I drove for 17 hours straight and when I got back home, I called my wife and I said OK, I'm back in town but I'm not going to come home yet and I drove straight to a meeting. I was late. I got there in the middle of the meeting and then when the meeting was over, I went outside and everybody was standing around outside and I pulled out that schedule that I'd been given with the name and phone number and I said does anybody know this guy? And all of a sudden he stepped out from the middle of the crowd he said, ‘that's me, I'm the one who gave you that.’
He entered his ordinary world with a completely new countenance. People couldn’t believe how much better he looked than when he had set out on his journey. Now began the integration of recovery life, no longer in a basement alone, but surrounded with a powerful and supportive community.
I knew that I was going to have to completely change everything about how I thought like I wasn't going to be able to look at anything the same way because my entire world had been around alcohol every thought had been around it. So, I had to think differently. What I later found out that Jung called this a psychic change. Jung was very instrumental in the beginnings of this organization not directly but through some circumstances. One of his principles that he laid out of from the people that he did see recover that he treated was that they had to undergo a psychic change. Just a reorientation, like a reboot. I had to totally rebuild my world view from scratch.
What were some new thoughts that you started to have?
Well, at first I was still pretty foggy. But I remember one of the big revelations for me was when I finally got home and I was sitting in the room upstairs and my wife walked into the room and I remember being happy to see her come in the room and thinking I haven't felt like that for years. Because always, when my wife would walk in the room my heart would just like-- my stomach would tighten up, because I knew that she knew I was drinking and she was broken about what I was doing to myself. Every time I saw her, I felt hurt and just sad and just angry with myself, just bad. And so, When she came in the room and I was really glad to see her and I was happy and I wanted to talk to her and I remember the first time I'm thinking oh my gosh, I haven't felt like this for years. This is wonderful. Just little things like that, things that I had forgotten about but that was experiencing for the first time again that I was just enjoying so much. I was like a kid.
Clayton was sponsored and supported by the very person with whom he met at his very first meeting in town. Now he was sober and armed with surrender, acceptance, and truth. With the help of his mentor, he was able to work the steps of the program, which became his new occupation.
Amazing. What was the response on the other side from especially your wife, your kids?
For the next year, I went through these processes of taking an inventory of myself, of taking an inventory of all of the relationships that I'd had finding out where my fault in their failure was, not paying attention so much to where the other person's fault was but really paying special attention to my failings on my side and then making plans for how I was going to restore that relationship unconditionally. Just being sure that I only took responsibility for my wrongs and never mentioned or never even had in my mind the other side of the coin of what their feelings were. My goal was just to get my spirit pure and to become unburdened from the damage that I'd caused and to be able to look anybody in the face. And of course there are situations where you can't do that because just to even approach the person again might cause them more damage or because maybe they don't know the extent of the of the harm you did to them and so to confess it to them would hurt them more.
You can't unburden yourself at others expense. In situations like that, you just write it down as thoroughly as you can and then you fold up the piece of paper and set it on fire and let it go. I spent really the next year just basically going through this program and following the suggestions and also trying to find work again. That was part of it and so I started looking for work again and slowly things started to happen.
Amazing. What was the response on the other side from especially your wife, your kids?
I think that there was at first, a little bit of hesitation on the part of some people because they had known me through all that bad time. They had known that I was in the throes of withdrawals, that I would say anything. So, the level of trust was low and my credibility was low but I think that I had taken so much time and so much care. Let me give you a good example. When I was going to go to people and I was going to preparing to approach them, my mentor he would have me write it out, write out what I was going to say and show it to him. And I remember one time I wrote this long paragraph and he circled the paragraph and he crossed the whole thing out and then off to the side, he wrote I lied. He replaced that entire paragraph with just those two words. Just distilling things down to that level before I approached people, I think it really was a revelation to people. I think that they saw when I approached them and I was prepared and I was. And they believed me and for the most part, people like were just crying and like forget about the harm you did to me. I'm glad you're better. It's so good to see you well again and that's overwhelmingly the response I got.
Some people were still mad at me and some people still are and maybe they always will be. I don't have to carry that shame anymore because I have done all that I am able to do to repair things and I will remain willing but I can't do any more than I've done. I can look them in the eye.
That's an incredible feeling.
Yeah, I honestly think that it's an exercise that people should go through who don't even have addiction problems. I'm really a firm believer in there are some aspects to the recovery program that I went through that anybody can benefit from, anybody.
You have to let go of expectations and only just own your side of the street and then accept what happens. It's a great way to live life, it really is.
Do you look back at the years with any kind of different perspective from your vantage point now? The years that you spent struggling with this or defeated by it?
When I think back on that time, I guess what I regret is that I didn't seek treatment. I didn't know that I had a treatable condition. And I didn't go to the resources where I could have learned that.
The Hero’s Journey isn’t complete until the Hero brings home the elixir to offer others.
I just recently finished a two-year commitment as the chair of a committee that goes into rehabs and I go into rehabs now and I tell my story to the people who are in recovery. I use the resources of the organization I'm with to help them find people who can work with them one on one when they go home because nobody wants to go to rehab in their hometown. Everybody wants to go to a state or to away. And so when you're going to a rehab hardly anybody is going to come out and come and find you when they get out.
I remember how I felt when I was really in the throes of it and I had no hope and I heard people tell their stories and what an impact that had on me. I just love having the opportunity to go into that rehab and I see people sitting out there, hunched over rocking back and forth and I know how they feel and just like sharing hope with them, hoping that they get it.
I remember one time I went into a rehab and I was giving my presentation, I looked out in the in the audience and there was somebody I knew really well from business, from my career who had been a big influence on my business life. And just stopping in my tracks and just thinking, OK no, I've got to go on it's kind of remembering where I was but I was just like shocked. But then going up for that person afterward and talking with them and helping them get connected and that just happens to be a person who lives where I live. Now, we see them all the time but I got to actually see somebody get better that I met in rehab so that was great.
Listen carefully as Clayton now calls others to go on their own hero’s journey.
If anybody out there is struggling with addiction, first off, there's hope, there really is. If you want to get connected to people who can help you, you can either use directory assistance or you can look on the internet and you can look for the hotline number. And there's almost always one in pretty much every region certainly in the United States and most of North America. And you can call and either leave a message and someone will call you back right away or quite possibly someone will answer the phone and talk to you right there on the spot and guide you to resources where you can get a schedule of meetings if you really need to. There are people who make it their part of their program of recovery to do these calls with people who are at a crisis moment and they'll meet with you, they'll sit with you, they'll talk with you, they'll explain the program to you. They'll just be with you until you stop shaking.
I shared a few thoughts for my dear friend of 37 years.
I just want to say to you that I've watched you and known you all these years and out of each other's lives and we like to play with your last name because it's Light and there was such a long period where it was dim. I remember wondering where is your light? I know it's in there somewhere. How do we get it and wanting to fan that flame inside of you and just feeling like you were trapped inside of yourself in some ways. And It's so bright and beautiful now and it's so fun to see it fully manifesting and that you're also igniting other people with it. And I think that's what you're always meant to do in some way. You've used that in different mediums that you've worked in and relationships they've been in but it's really through your own darkness and your own pain to come around and be able to give this bright light to people, to heal them and help them and encourage them and to keep yourself alive. It's just beautiful. I'm so proud of you. I'm happy for you, I'm happy for your family and thank you for sharing.
Thank you. It's always great to be around you.
Clayton has been sober 5 ½ years. 24 hours at a time.
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