Tom O’Connor is here today to tell his remarkable story of recovery. He grew up in New York and was the youngest of nine children. His mother was a raging alcoholic, and several brothers also had addiction problems. His dad passed away when Tom was 12. With his step dad’s help, he was able to go to college. He was still an alcoholic but eventually graduated and started working on Wall Street. He was a functioning alcoholic who became a self-made millionaire at 30. 

In spite of his career success, his personal life was in shambles. Tom shares his biggest rock bottom moment that landed him in the hospital after falling from a six-story building. He still didn’t become sober until three years later when he looked in the back seat of the car he was driving and saw his six-month-old daughter, and realized he didn’t want to be like his mother. He has been sober for 33 years and finds support and comfort by helping other people become sober. 

He did the steps of AA, and ACA helped him immensely with his childhood trauma. We discuss ACA, childhood trauma, and sponsoring other people as the greatest form of accountability. Tom shares many personal stories and how other modalities have helped him stay sober. We talk about the benefits of giving it away and helping others by being of service. We also discuss the relapse before the relapse or signs that it will happen. This is an inspiring conversation about taking responsibility, being grateful, and being sober while helping others do the same.

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Audio Timestamps:

  • [03:02] Tom grew up in Garden City, New York. They called themselves the Catholic Irish alcoholics or the CIA. There was a lot of dysfunction, and he saw a lot of things that kids probably shouldn’t see.
  • [04:32] He started drinking in high school and his older brother dealt pot.
  • [05:16] He would have four or five beers in the first hour and black out. He knew it was a problem from the very beginning.
  • [06:17] He went to the University of Notre Dame but was kicked off campus within six months. His stepfather helped him get through college but drugs and alcohol were problems.
  • [08:10] He ended up getting a job on Wall Street and working his way up through the ranks. His success masked the deuteriation of his personal life. Tom was a raging alcoholic.
  • [10:21] Tom was the youngest of nine children. His mom was a raging alcoholic. He lost his dad to pancreatic cancer when he was 12. He became a self-made millionaire at age 30.
  • [11:04] In September of 1995, he and a friend were drinking at a restaurant and they took mushrooms. He was paranoid and scared and hung off the ledge of a roof. He ended up plummeting six stories onto the concrete below.
  • [12:17] He woke up with a shattered right foot, fractured spine, punctured lungs, broken ribs, and covered in bruises and scratches.
  • [12:41] He recovered. Three years later he was driving around with his six-month old daughter in the car and realized he was just like his mother.
  • [13:07] He got clean and now he’s married to his soulmate.
  • [17:58] Tom got sober when he was 33, and he’s 57 now. He’s also played a role with other members of his family getting sober.
  • [18:48] He retired from his career in finance. Now he has time to help people and sponsor men.
  • [20:13] He also went to ACA Adult Children of Alcoholics. AA is like undergraduate and ACA is like graduate school. ACA is for people with dysfunctional parents. They don’t have to be alcoholics.
  • [23:15] Tom had a midlife crisis and went away for 45 days after he was sober. He wants people to know that even in sobriety, you can still go through mental health issues.
  • [26:04] ACA has its own brand of steps, and there’s a lot of writing and reflecting. A lot of it is about self-forgiveness.
  • [28:28] When your attention is focused outside of yourself, you don’t have the same emotional attachment. You can help others in ways that you can’t help yourself. Stepping outside yourself gives you another perspective.
  • [37:21] It’s easy to see the relapse before the relapse. Sponsoring other people helps you stay sober. It’s the best form of accountability.
  • [40:05] Being connected with people who have your values is so helpful. AA and the other communities make this possible. 
  • [42:21] People in meetings need to hear about the stories of people who have had relapses. Stay connected!
  • [48:25] Tom has found other modalities helpful like talk therapy, marriage counseling, Wim Hof breathing, meditation, journaling and more. He’s also tried plant medicines in Costa Rica.
  • [49:47] He loves the recovery conversation around meditation.
  • [50:46] Don’t pigeonhole yourself into just one community like AA. The work never stops. 
  • [52:20] Being sober has had an amazing impact on Tom’s family. They have an awareness around alcohol and know where to get help if they ever need it.


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