The Ambassador of Hope on Why Understanding Risk is Crucial to Staying Sober
Published On: October 6, 20204.6 min read
Andre Norman, the incredible and inspiring Ambassador of Hope talks about his journey from violent convict to Harvard fellow, and how he now travels the world empowering people to seek the help they need to build better lives. Andre talks about his…
Andre Norman, the incredible and inspiring Ambassador of Hope talks about his journey from violent convict to Harvard fellow, and how he now travels the world empowering people to seek the help they need to build better lives. Andre talks about his struggles with anger and violence, the epiphany that changed the course of his life, and why change is available for everyone.
Andre Norman’s early experiences prepared him for a life of crime and violence, culminating in being sentenced to over 100 years in prison. It was during a two-year stint in solitary confinement that Andre had an epiphany that changed his life. After serving 14 years behind bars, Andre is now known as the Ambassador of Hope and helps empower other people to turn their life around.
Andre was born and raised in Boston with a single mother who struggled to provide for him. By the end of high school, Andre was a part of a gang and found himself in prison.
Andre tells people that he went to prison because he quit on all the opportunities he had available to him, not because he was black, or came from the inner city, or the son of a single mom.
In the first six years of his sentence, Andre convinced himself that he was doing well. He convinced himself all the negative aspects of his life, including being a gang leader and locked up in solitary prison, were good things. He rationalized and justified his whole existence until it all came crashing down when he realized he was the king of nowhere.
Once he decided he didn’t want to be where he was anymore, he had to face the truth about who he was and what he had to do to change.
Andre wrote down who he was and started working on the list one area at a time. Andre got his GED, he went to anger management and started working on his relationships. It took him eight more years of doing the work to get out of prison after serving 14 years total.
Andre didn’t do drugs or drink but he went to every program they had available. It was a friend that eventually brought him to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and that’s where he learned how to take accountability and apply the 12 Steps to his anger issues.
Alcoholic behaviour can take many forms, for Andre it was anger.
Addiction is created from pain, and when you have pain you look for release. Fighting and attacking people was how Andre dealt with his pain.
Pain doesn’t always come from someone being a bully or violent, it can be as simple as a misunderstanding and not realizing how the other person feels about something you’ve done.
Andre’s last fist fight was in 1991. Once Andre decided that fighting was no longer how he wanted to live he had to figure out another way to communicate and develop better habits. The other initial step was realizing that bad thoughts don’t make you a bad person.
Separating thoughts from actions and taking a few seconds to respond instead of reacting violently is how Andre slowly changed his life.
When you’re in jail, the only thing you see is failure. That’s why it’s so important to show up in person and show that if you can make it, they can too.
Andre’s nickname, The Ambassador of Hope, came organically from helping people all over the world. Andre travels around the world to deliver a message of hope to people who need it.
Andre was awarded a fellowship by a Harvard professor as part of his efforts to help heal tensions in Ferguson after Michael Brown was killed.
The US has a racial addiction. At some point, the country needs to acknowledge that they have a black/white problem and start working towards fixing it and implementing a solution, instead of focusing on the problem.
The instant you say there is no risk, it quadruples the odds of something bad happening because you are no longer guarding against potential problems.
When you believe that you can’t relapse, you are putting yourself at risk. When you acknowledge that risk is real you do something about it. When you say risk doesn’t exist, you do nothing about it and make yourself susceptible to anything that can go wrong, and something usually does go wrong.
Most people don’t understand the long term consequences of their actions.
At age 17, Andre had a chance to be a Junior Counsellor for a foreign exchange student but because he didn’t understand the opportunity he lost it. Understanding the opportunities that are in front of you is very important. Get educated because opportunities are coming at you at a thousand miles an hour, but if we can’t recognize them they will go by without us. You have to get out of your comfort zone to grow.
Andre learned to ask for help for the negative habits he had, but he didn’t realize until much later that you can ask for help on the good things as well.
Learn the action steps that can rebuild your life and those action steps can take you someplace great.