How Addiction Saved My Life – Reflecting On Gratitude, Empathy, and Mindfulness

“This article was originally written by Bradley Callow and was first seen on under headline How my battle with the bottle made me a more successful entrepreneur.  To view the original article click here

Metal is cool to the touch. Almost cold.

How do I know this? Why do I possess an unshakeable sense of just how cold metal can be?

As the barrel of my Smith and Wesson 1911, .45 caliber handgun pressed hard against my temple, I couldn’t help but notice it’s temperature.

The cold was in such contrast to the heat of my skin. My pulsating temple moving the gun with each racing heartbeat.

I now know this kind of vibrant experience is found in a state of true mindfulness. No past. No future. Just right here, right now.

For reasons I can’t explain, I didn’t pull the trigger that day on my knees in my Los Angeles apartment. I now seek out a similar kind of enhanced awareness through meditation rather than core-shaking pain.

I am still a glutton for punishment however. I did choose the life of an entrepreneur.

I’ve always been an entrepreneur and I will continue to fight to be the most successful entrepreneur I can be. It’s just the way I am wired.

While I’m sure I could find earlier examples, the most prominent came at the age of 11. I wasn’t selling lemonade or cutting grass. Nor was I some wiz-kid who wrote a computer program. Nope. I was selling weed.

And, no, I didn’t come from a low income neighborhood or have hippies for parents. On the contrary, I came from a good home in one of the wealthiest counties in the country.

Why did I start selling drugs? I’m a problem solver. At their core, that’s what any good entrepreneur really is. What was my problem? I liked smoking weed, and I didn’t want to pay for it. Problem solved.

Choices like this and a battle with the bottle ultimately lead me to that Los Angeles apartment at age 26 where I somehow walked away with my life.

Not long after, I found myself in a wilderness treatment program for 90 days located on the Colorado Utah border called Open Sky. There I would not just face my demons, but I would learn how to love myself.

I also learned gratitude, empathy, and mindfulness. Not just as concepts, but as character traits.

It is these three things I now attribute the beautiful and rich life I have.

These have served as the foundation of what it is to be both a conscious and successful entrepreneur.


It is impossible to feel fear in a state of gratitude. Yes, impossible. Try it.

I was able to experience gratitude in the feeling of the dirt on my hands and the fire on my face. In the opportunity to eat a warm meal at the end of hard day of backpacking. The sensation of a hot shower after three months is without parallel.

Most importantly, in knowing that I was going to have another chance at life. I didn’t leave my gratitude in the woods. I keep it with me.

During those all to frequent entrepreneur moments where fear sets in, I find my gratitude.

Gratitude I don’t have a damn boss! Gratitude I get to work from a place of passion rather than obligation. Gratitude I get to make a difference. Hell, gratitude that I can work buck-ass naked in my home office if I so choose.

It doesn’t really matter what I’m grateful for, it just matters that I FEEL it.


This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched.” – John Watson 1903

Every person we encounter is suffering in some way. You have no idea what another human being has gone through or experienced in their day, much less their lifetime.

As I witnessed others in our treatment program share their journey, I couldn’t help but feel empathy. They didn’t bear scars on their face or have horns on their head. Instead they looked just like you or me.

I used to have horrible road rage. Then it dawned on me that anything someone “does” to me on the road I’ve either done before or will do eventually on purpose or by accident. Whoa.

I now find empathy for my customer, my clients, my business partners, and my suppliers. Why? Because not only does it feel right, it will hopefully result in the same when I show up as the human being I am. A human being who make mistakes. Forgets things, gets angry, misspeaks, or drops the ball.


I am a huge Tim Ferriss fan. His podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, dissects excellence. He interviews all kinds of top performers.

One of, if not the most consistent practice for these high-achievers is some form of mediation practice.

Mindfulness allows you to move from be the unknowing participant in your life to the conscious observer. You move away from, “I am angry!” to, “Hmm, that’s interesting, I’m feeling angry right now.

Without getting too philosophical, this removes so much power from the emotions and negative thinking that can really get in your way as an entrepreneur.

It is critical for me to note that I struggle with these character traits on a daily basis. If I gave you the impression these were easy changes to make in your life, I’am sorry. Two steps forward, and one step back.

This is something I constantly wrestle and work at. I can tell you that it is absolutely worth it.

Whether I am helping high-performing families empower their children so they don’t turn to the same self-destructive behaviors I did through Rich Legacy, or supporting those struggling with their alcohol use to moderate or quit thanks to The Moderation Institute, I always offer them this advice…

Gratitude. Empathy. Mindfulness. GET SOME.


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