Claiming sobriety from the depths of rock bottom, Nico Morales experienced the power of transformation.
"I have learned to claim the term 'addict' with some positivity to it - I have acquired a better advantage and I have to be intentional about what I'm doing." - Nico Morales
Nico Morales is an international published author, public speaker, small business owner, and recovering addict from Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has a bachelor's degree in Education.
Nico Morales was introduced to substances at the age of 10 and began using when he was 14 years. His relationships with his family deteriorated, and on his 27th birthday, he found himself alone and without anyone to turn to. He had hit rock bottom. But that was the beginning of his journey to recovery.
In this episode, you will learn the following:
1. How Nico Morales began using substances at age 14 and the long-term implications of his decisions.
2. The damaging effect of substance use on Nico's relationships with family and friends.
3. The consequences of being diagnosed with an addiction, including the difficulties of being referred for help.
Nico's Website: https://www.nohalonm.com/
5 Things to Know Before You Get Sober - Amazon Link
Nico's Social Media:
Other episodes you'll enjoy:
Balancing Preferences & Priorities: Darrell Horn's College Journey
Academic Endurance, Overcoming Challenges, and Self Reflection with Ahmara Watson
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Nico morales began using substances when he was just 14 years old. His alcohol and opioid use destroyed his relationships with his friends and his family. He wrote a book titled Five Things to Know Before You Get Sober. Nico shares his story and how he got sober.
Today is a special episode of Academic Survival dedicated to my uncle, Samuel McDonald. Today we are going to be speaking with Nico morales, and he is going to talk to us about the journey of consuming alcohol. Where it can lead you and the other side of it in terms of recovery.
When was your first introduction to drugs and or alcohol? Probably around the age of ten. I started using substances when I was 14 years old.
Axe Body spray mixed with some cannabis. Probably that stuff stunk. That's one indicator of somebody's use when I got home. The way that it worked out is that nobody was going to get home for a few hours.
Smoking cannabis allowed my brain to slow down. The detrimental part, the part that got me hooked, was that slowing down gave me time to process what I was doing. The long term implications are still unknown for me.
He doesn't have any of the friends that he used to have. He says a friend tried to tell him to change his lifestyle, but he didn't heed his advice. Have you ever thought about reaching out to him?
There were a couple of people that I brought down with me. One of my best friends got him hooked. They surrounded themselves with me, thinking I was a positive influence. For every individual who sold drugs, 500 people die.
My family relationships got completely ruined because of my alcohol consumption, my opiate use disorder. Now because they got ruined. They are being rebuilt. But at the time, all of them crumbled to nada niltz.
Nico: They actually don't diagnose anybody as being an addict. Addict is a term that was come up by society, taken from addiction. The clinically proper terms that they want us to use is person first disorders. Nico made sure to keep all of his stuff off paperwork.
When I hit rock bottom, I didn't have anybody around. It was actually my 27th birthday. I lived a life that just wasn't safe and wasn't healthy. When I stopped drinking, my body started to hurt a lot and I realized I needed a hip replacement.
Nico's daily living quality of life had tremendously dropped. What he went through, there's a 1% success rate. But that means that there is a reason that he's here.
"I chose to get my hips replaced because I realized that I have value to add to this world," he says. "I could travel, and I could go tell my story. I could inject hope into communities." He hopes his story will help others avoid the pain.
My definition of sober means I do not ingest or inject or consume any type of narcotic, whether that's legal or illegal. For me, defining sober means what am I seeking to get immediate gratification from and do I need to? What advice would you give college students trying to mix academic life with drinking?
"I was a drug dealer at that time. It really interfered with school. After I dropped out of college, I go back to school when I'm 30," says Nico. He graduated with a bachelor's in business without paying for it. From laying in an abandoned building, to graduating with honors.
The book is called Five Things to Know Before You Get Sober. What you'll get out of there is the five things that I believe anybody should know before they attempt sobriety. The best review that I've received so far is it was like my cousin was dropping me off to rehab.
How do you celebrate successes or wins in life? So many people associate alcohol with celebration. What I have learned to do is take myself to a nice meal. I like to go get tattoos. That's how I celebrate.
One of my favorite places to go to is called gobble this in Old Town, New Mexico. Favorite tattoo? I do not have a favorite tattoo, actually.
Five things to know before you get sober. Final parting words. You are an amazing human being who adds tons of value to the community. No one's expecting you to be perfect. It's okay to have no halo.
Thank you for joining me on Academic Survival. If you want to share your story on how you survived your freshman year of college, you can reach me at info at shandralmcdonald.com. We'll be back next week with more ways to survive your academic journey.
This is the Academic Survival Podcast, and I'm your host, Dr. Shandra McDonald. Statistics show that approximately 40% of students drop out of college every year. In fact, nearly 30% drop out their first year. Well, I am on a mission to improve these stats.
Many of us know someone with a substance abuse problem. For some of you, you are that someone. For me, when I was little, it was an uncle. Well, actually two uncles and an aunt and some cousins along the way. But one specific uncle stands out to me. He was the one who died from cirrhosis of the liver when he was only 36 years old. Do you know how much alcohol you have to consume to destroy your liver by the age of 36? I tell you, that's a lot of alcohol. Well, it's not a secret that drugs and alcohol are present on college campuses. Some students arrive on campus with a well-established substance abuse problem, and some students may have developed the problem while on campus. Today I'm going to introduce you to Nico Morales.
Nico Morales 00:01:26
I have alcohol use disorder, substance use disorder, opiate use disorder are the current terms that are politically correct, chopped down, I'm an addict.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:01:37
Nico began using substances when he was just 14 years old. His alcohol and opioid use destroyed his relationships with his friends and his family. It even impacted his college career. But he made a comeback. He wrote a book titled, Five Things to Know Before You Get Sober, and he's here today to tell us his story and to share just how he got sober. Today is a special episode of Academic Survival dedicated to my uncle, Samuel McDonald.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:02:11
Thank you for joining me on Academic Survival. Today we are going to be speaking with Nico Morales, and he is going to talk to us a little bit about the journey of consuming alcohol and where it can lead you and the other side of it, in terms of recovery. So, Nico, welcome to Academic Survival. Go on ahead and let everyone know a little bit about your background and let's get started on your story.
Nico Morales 00:02:41
Sweet. Well, thank you for having me, Dr. McDonald. My name is Nico Morales. I am from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Been out of school, shoot, for more than ten years. My background is checkered, I guess is one of the nice ways that people like to call it. I prefer just to call it what it is. I have alcohol use disorder, substance use disorder, opiate use disorder are the current terms that are politically correct. Chopped down, I'm an addict. When it boils down to it in the nicest way. I've learned to claim that term with some positivity to it. So, yeah, that's who I am. That's my background. I'm also an internationally published author, let me say that international public speaker. I have acquired a bachelor's degree of Education, small business owner. I identify as a Latino male. So, yeah, that's who I am.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:03:46
Alright, so tell me, when was your first introduction to drugs and or alcohol?
Nico Morales 00:03:55
That’s a great question. My first introduction to any sort of substance? Probably around the age of ten. Just saw it around my family, saw it around the individuals that I looked up to, the older males, they were drinking, and about age ten, that's when I kind of wanted to have my own drink and be like them, hold my beer in my hand, but they wouldn't let me. A lot of that monkey see do what I tell you to, not what I do happened in my environment. So it was about age ten that I started getting curious about substances and chemicals that would change the way that I thought, wow.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:04:37
So started at age ten, in terms of your exposure. What about your usage? When did that start?
Nico Morales 00:04:46
I started using substances when I was 14 years old. I was a freshman in high school. I can remember the day vividly. I was leaving school. Didn't have any extracurricular activities to do at that time. So one of the guys that I was hanging out with . . ., I'll take you home. On the ride home, he had already had a rolled cigar with cannabis inside of it. It's also called a blunt, and he was smoking it. He passed it over to me, and that's when I first smoked. From there, we didn't even go to my house. We went somewhere else, one of the buddy's houses, and we continued to smoke more cannabis. So, I'm about 14 when I first consumed any type of narcotic.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:05:33
Wow, okay, so you're 14, and I imagine at some point that day, you had to go home, right?
Nico Morales 00:05:39
Yes, I did have to get home.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:05:42
What was that like? I'm sure you smelled a little interesting.
Nico Morales 00:05:49
Yes, I did smell a little bit interesting. That's one indicator of somebody's use. When I got home, there wasn't anybody there. The way that it worked out is that nobody was going to get home for a few hours. So, I had some time to be by myself, get my clothes and spray them, cover them up with that axe Body spray and say, oh, I had a hard day of practice.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:06:12
No, not the axe body spray.
Nico Morales 00:06:15
Axe Body spray mixed with some cannabis.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:06:19
I heard at one point they were banning that in some schools. The Axe body spray.
Nico Morales 00:06:24
I think it's for the smell. Probably that stuff stunk.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:06:29
So then tell me a little bit how you felt after you consumed the blunt. Or should I say smoked?
Nico Morales 00:06:38
I smoked it because that's what you do with that. So, after I smoked the blunt, I felt lightheaded. I actually felt included. That was the biggest feeling, like, oh, I actually belong to a community. These people are looking out for me. They want me to be like them. So I felt included. That was the internal emotion that I felt. Now that I look back at it mentally, though, I was like, oh, what is this? Started thinking differently. My brain just felt a little bit lighter. It didn't feel like it was racing anymore, so it slowed down. And for me, that was a nice relief because I have a very fast paced brain, fast paced mindset. And so smoking cannabis allowed that to slow down. And for me, the detrimental part, the part that got me hooked, was that slowing down gave me time to process what I was doing, which gave me a better advantage, is what I perceived. I hadn't learned how to slow down my thinking on my own without consuming something or ingesting something or smoking something. So I missed that part in my development. I skipped over it because I chose to smoke, and that's how I chose to train myself to slow down. And that type of training continued.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:08:05
Wow. I didn't know that that was a thing. That the whole slowing down of the brain and not being able to, I guess, basically relying on something else to help you do that, I think probably because I'm a slow processor to begin with. So you don't want to slow me down because things can be like, where are you coming? So when those effects wore off, how did you feel after that?
Nico Morales 00:08:39
After that, I felt really uncomfortable, really shameful. Those are two feelings that I can share. I felt shame because I was like, I shouldn't need something to feel that good. So I felt shame because I really thought something was wrong with me. I was like, they say drugs are bad, but when I took it, it felt good. It made me think better, cleared up my mind. So there's got to be something wrong with me that I can use this type of substance, and it benefit me because that's how I saw it. I saw it as a healing benefit at the time. Again, I'm 14 years old, underdeveloped mentally, underdeveloped emotionally. So to me, that was both sides of it. I knew it was something I shouldn't do. My conscience told me, you shouldn't be doing this. But also the other side is, hey, it helps. So what's wrong with you that this bad stuff helps you? Does that mean that you're bad, too? So I felt shame.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:09:46
Yeah. Wow. So then you're 14. And then just based on what you've shared in your intro, apparently this behavior continued beyond the age of 14. What way did your behavior change overall? Or did it, like the prolonged use of it? Did your behavior change overall? And if so, what impact did that have on your friendships?
Nico Morales 00:10:21
That's a loaded question right there. Dr. McDonald so the long-term implications to what happened? Yeah, I messed myself up pretty bad. Full transparency. If we're just talking, like, physical, starting from the head down. I've had my nose broken many times. I have my teeth knocked out. I’ve broken my hand. I’ve broken my wrist. Torso is pretty intact. Both hips have been replaced. I snapped my left tibia in half, and I’ve broken three of my metatarsals in my foot. Those are just injuries that I've had. Not all of them came from substances. Some of them were just random accidents. I say that because those have implications on how your body functions. So, I want to connect with the audience that way. Right? Think about that. That's how your body feels. When I was taking substances, my brain was taking those type of damages. So, the implications now for me, it takes effort to focus on certain things very much scatter brain. So, I have to be intentional about what I'm doing. I lose thought processes frequently, which is very frustrating. I'll won’t lie to you. There's a lot of things that I could probably be way better at, and I'm not because of the choices that I made. That's what it was, the choices that I made. So, there is long-term implications there were unknown consequences that I didn't even know could happen. And then there's, of course, the known consequences that everybody gets told about. So, the long-term implications are still unknown for me as regards to, like, what type of damage did I do to myself in my old age, right? I don't know where I'm at right now. I could tell you, yeah, I messed up my body pretty bad, and I shouldn't be this beat up at my age, mainly because my decisions put me in positions like that. The second part of your question, I don't have any of the friends that I used to have whatsoever. These are both good and bad friends. I'll give you two examples. We will call one J, and we will call one M, just so we don't put any names on it. J, he was a negative influence on my life. This individual I used to move, work with, we would buy products together. We would sell products together. We would interact in different illegal activities together. Because of the lifestyle that we chose to live and the consumption of narcotics and alcohol, that relationship got tattered to a point where J became an informant with the federal government, and there's some malice that I have towards him. So, there's that side of it, right? So, [I] ruined relationships even when I was trying to participate in that lifestyle. On the other side of it, there was a gentleman, M, who I grew up with. I love him to life, and I still wish blessings over his house. I wish blessings over J's house, too, now, but not at the time. Me and him, we grew up together, and he saw that I was headed down the wrong path, and he tried to correct me. He was like, oh, bro, you really need to change how you're living. And if you don't, I can't be around you. That was huge. For me, that was one of the most impactful conversations that I had ever had because somebody cared enough to say, hey, it's not okay how you're living? So long term wise, I don't have any of the relationships that I used to have, and I'm okay with it, if I can be honest with you. It took a while to get over it, but, no, it ruined all relationships for me.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:14:46
So your friend who actually took the time to speak with you and was trying to, in essence, put you on the right path or basically tug your shirt tail like, hey, this is not the path you want to go down, did you heed any of that advice? I mean, in hindsight, you know that it was great advice, right? But at the time, what were your feelings toward him in that discussion?
Nico Morales 00:15:17
I had my ego in the way, so I was upset with him. I did not heed his advice. I ran into some more problems after that. So, no, I didn't take his advice, which I should have. And looking back at it, it was great, but it caused me a lot more problems and pain. Quite honestly, even now, to this day, there are certain situations that I get reminded of him. I'm like, yeah, that's the relationship, you blew dog. What can you do with it?
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:15:51
Have you ever thought about reaching out to him?
Nico Morales 00:15:53
We have, actually. We tried to have a conversation maybe about 4 years ago, and it just didn't . . . the person that I was at the time that we had created the relationship, that person was gone. This new version of me, he didn't know. I was just like a stranger.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:16:17
Yeah. Okay. So then when you were going down this path of substance abuse, were there any friends that you had prior to the usage that decided to go down this road with you?
Nico Morales 00:16:34
Yeah, there was a couple of people that I brought down with me. One of my best friends got him hooked. There was a few people, actually, that got hooked up by some of the actions that I participated in. In Spanish, my grandmother used to tell me, “Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres.” Show me who you surround yourself with, and I'll tell you what kind of person you are. They surrounded themselves with me, thinking I was a positive influence when the reality was, I was a negative influence. I recently learned a fact, too, just because I think facts are cool. Dr. McDonald, I found out that, unfortunately, they did the numbers and that for every individual who sold drugs, 500 people die.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:17:25
Wow. That's an alarming stat.
Nico Morales 00:17:30
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:17:32
So tell me a little bit, then, about the impact your usage had on your family relationships.
Nico Morales 00:17:40
It's a great question. My family relationships got completely ruined because of my alcohol consumption, my opiate use disorder. I say that with a little bit of a smile now because they got ruined. They are being rebuilt. But at the time, I will put it this way, I was 20 years old. So about 20 years ago, my parents split up. At the time, part of it was because of the . . . I don't want to speak for them. My parents split up about 10 years ago, and at that time, my mother was still letting me stay at her house. But because of the actions that I was taking and barely being at the house, she told me, you’ve got to go. So, she asked me to leave her house. I left, and I ran the streets for a little bit longer, got into some more hassle - some more trouble, and I needed another place to lay low for a little bit. So, I called my dad, and my dad says, yeah, you could come stay with me as long as you're not using. Alright, that's a fair enough deal. I just won't use at your house.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:18:47
Nico Morales 00:18:48
Went and stayed with him for a little bit of time, but our relationship [deteriorated] to the point where he was like, “You got to get out of my house too, man. Don't come back.” So, at that point, I was sleeping in my vehicle, going to different buildings that I could crash out at. I have a younger sister. She's a couple of years younger than me, and she is very important to me. About the same time frame, she was like, “Stop talking to me. I can't be around you. You’re really messed up.” And that crumbled my world. It really made me hurt inside. Like, yo, “I'm that far gone that even you don't want to be around me?” She was like, “Yeah, you're that far gone.” So, it ruined them. Completely ruined them. And now, shoot, 12 years later, me and my mom have an open relationship where we talk, but there are certain things that we don't talk about. Like, there's boundaries that we have to have in order to have a healthy relationship. Me and my dad, we barely talk. I still have communication with him, but there's problems there in our relationship because we haven't healed through some of the hurt that has happened. Both that I caused. It's a two way street relationship. Me and my sister, we have the best relationship, mainly because that was the one that I focused on building first. She's really important. So right now, all of them are good. But at the time, crumbled to nada niltz. Nobody wanted to be around me.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:20:28
Wow. Were you ever officially diagnosed as being an addict, or is that a thing?
Nico Morales 00:20:40
No, they actually don't diagnose anybody as being an addict.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:20:44
Nico Morales 00:20:45
Addict is a term that was come up by society, taken from addiction. Basically. That is a person who has an alcohol addiction. Right. And they didn't even get spoken to like that. That's alcohol addiction over there. Drunk heroin, addiction. So, addict comes from just shortening that whole term. The clinically proper terms that they want us to use is person first, disorders. So, if you're interacting with somebody who over drinks, that's an individual who has alcohol use disorder. If you're interacting with somebody who uses cocaine a little bit too much, that's a person with cocaine use disorder.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:21:30
Nico Morales 00:21:30
That's the way they want it described now. Yeah, no problem. I still get it. I fail at it, honestly. I'm like, yeah, I went from addict to author. People look at me like, “Nico, you can't say that anymore.” I'm like, “but it's my tagline though.” So, yes, it's something that I'm working on, but that's the politically correct terms.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:21:53
Nico Morales 00:21:54
Was I ever diagnosed? I think so. I am not a fan of doctors, not a fan of clinicians [or] physicians. I've never had good experiences with them. So, . . . I remember going to a treatment center once and the guy was like, “Yeah, your son, he's strung out” and tells my mom. “Thanks, bro, that's nice” [I said]. But actually, on paperwork no, I made it a point to make sure that I never went on paperwork, mainly because there [are] outcomes. You get treated a certain way whenever you're in a medical facility and you have that type of paperwork. For instance, my hip replacements that I just recently . . . got done, had I had opiate use disorder on my medical history, they wouldn't have given me any type of painkillers, other than Tylenol. So, there is a whole different realm to this stuff when you're playing this game that you don't even know. So, no, I made sure to keep all of my stuff off paperwork because, one, that's the way I was raised. You just stay off papers no matter what. You don't put nothing on paperwork ever. Everything goes underneath your mom's name.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:23:18
Right. The say if it's not in writing, then it didn't happen.
Nico Morales 00:23:21
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:23:22
Nico Morales 00:23:23
Yeah. And the other part is the future aspect. I had this gut feeling like, look, if you get into a car accident, say you change your life right now, you get into a car accident, they're still going to treat you as you were, as an addict. So why would you even want that? I'll go deal with this stuff other places. The other thing about being clinically diagnosed is they need that clinical diagnosis to refer you. So, I knew that if I never fell under that stuff, they couldn't refer me. And if they can't refer me, then they can't lock me up. They can't send me places that the system is built to send you for help. So, no.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:24:05
Wow, that's some pretty good insight on your part to make sure that your . . . paper trail is not one that needs to be cleaned up later as you started to make that turnaround. So, I want to hear a little bit about what triggered the need for the hip replacement. And I also want to hear about how old [you] were [when] you . . . hit rock bottom.
Nico Morales 00:24:40
Cool. The rock bottom question. . . When I hit rock bottom, I didn't have anybody around. It was actually my 27th birthday. Didn't have nobody around. I just broke up with the girl that I was seeing. She was tired of me drinking all the time. I’d taken some time off of work and I was drinking day in and day out. And I told you guys earlier that my sister was really important to me. Right. This birthday was one of the breaking moments because I lived a life that just wasn't safe and wasn't healthy, I'll put it that way. I also have people out there who aren't a fan of me and they don't live by the rules that I live by. So, there was some other things going on in my life where I was very paranoid. This specific day, I got up, I went and got my drink, came back to the house. I wasn't going to do anything. It was my birthday. I was just going to get drunk. I didn't know that I had previously made an agreement with my sister and my mom that I'd have a meal with them. I spaced out on making that arrangement. So that afternoon I drank all day. That afternoon I wake up because my mom's inside the place that I'm at, the building that I'm staying at, and I'm sleeping on this cot at the time and she's like, son, something just told me just to look, not react, because I kept a gun with me all the time at that point. And I'm sorry, I still am a shoot first, ask questions later, individual the way that I functioned.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:26:31
Nico Morales 00:26:31
So, at this time I remember I looked up and I thought it was a dream that my mom was there and I was just like, oh, having this conversation. She's like, yeah, we're here to take you to eat. Your sister's here. But she saw that gun and she's real scared. That was a significant moment for me because my hand was on the gun. I was ready to go. I didn't care who was coming through the house. And that was my little sister. That was the first person that walked through the house. And she walked back out, called my mom [and] was like, “Yo, Nico's passed out. He's got his gun on him. I don't know what to do.” So that's when my mom came into the house, when she got there. So that was a very rock bottom moment. You're that bad dude, you're that far gone that you think everybody's out to get you. And at the time there's a couple of people who were, but not anything significant, right?
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:27:29
Wow. Like sleeping with your hand on the trigger. That could have potentially ended poorly.
Nico Morales 00:27:40
Very poorly, and that would have been horrible. So that was a rock bottom moment and all. On top of that, they came into a building that it was an abandoned building that I was staying. So, it wasn't even like . . . it was a room that they walked into. They walked into a building that had trash all over the place. Bottles. I have my cot, my hot plate.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:28:04
Was that your living arrangement at the time?
Nico Morales 00:28:07
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:28:07
Okay, just a real quick story. I had an uncle who was overindulged in alcohol, and he used to have a sofa behind a liquor store in Los Angeles, and that was called his office. So, when my family wanted to find him, the first place to check was his office. Like I said, it was a sofa behind the liquor store. Yeah. So, with that being rock bottom for you, is that in any way tied into your wake-up call? What was it that kind of made you realize I need to do things differently?
Nico Morales 00:28:49
No, . . . unfortunately, that wasn't part of my wake-up call. That was a guide into my wake-up call. But my wake-up call happened when I couldn't move one morning, . . . probably about a year, a few months after that, started putting stuff together . . . I still live in that building, that abandoned building. I still live here. I just remodeled it. I say that because I moved into some other rooms where I started clearing out space and started taking over this property. In that, I started feeling better, so I stopped drinking. But when I stopped drinking, my body started to hurt a lot, and I realized some of the damage that I caused to it. One morning, I wake up and I couldn't move. I could sit up, but I couldn't move my legs. What the heck is going on? I could wiggle my toes. I could bend my left knee. I could lift that up, but my right leg . . . I couldn't lift it up. I couldn't bend my knee. I couldn't do anything. I feel something, like, loose. And my understanding is that my hip popped out when I was sleeping, and I couldn't move until I popped it back in. So, I had to pop my hip back into place on my own. Wow. That was a moment that I was just like, hey, something's messed up.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:30:31
I don't know that I would even know that it was out of socket or how to push it back in. Okay, so you had to push your hip back in the socket?
Nico Morales 00:30:46
Yeah, and then after that, I'm unable to walk. Sitting down to use the restroom is difficult for me. Daily living quality of life had tremendously dropped. I couldn't walk upstairs. When you climb up the stairs, you do [what’s] called the crossover. I couldn't do that. I had to walk upstairs sideways. I couldn't move my legs, high knees. I couldn't get high knees up whatsoever. I could move my feet, like, vertically two or three inches off the ground. And that's when I was like, something's really got to change, Nico because the other side of this is I've done a lot of things to put myself, my life at risk. And I've seen a lot of other individuals do the same actions that I sit here today that even sat there afterwards to me was the indicators when I had the time to sit down. Dr. McDonald I really assess, like, what are you doing? Let's put these facts in place. And facts are, you shouldn't be where you're at right now. I know a lot of people say that, but I actually got doctor's note to prove it. What I went through, there's a 1% success rate. And that's a huge fact. That was one of the things that they told me. Yeah, that's a huge fact. Right. But that means that there's a reason that I'm here.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:32:26
So back up. One of the things you went through and the 1% success rate, what was it that you went through and the success rate of what?
Nico Morales 00:32:33
Oh, so the success rate is being alive, okay. The amount of narcotics that I consumed, the narcotics that I was consuming, the frequency and volume that I would consume them at. Then in addition to that, the way that I got to my definition of sober and that I've maintained sobriety. All of that stuff combined had a 1% shot of being successful, okay? And I did it. Apparently. I had to get out of my own ego because, look, I'm not a superhero. I'm not superman. I'm not bulletproof. That's not why I made it through all these things. I made it through all these things because there's somebody else who needs to avoid this pain. There's somebody else who's going to do something greater than I've ever done. And they need to hear my story so that they can avoid that path, so they don't follow down that route when life gets difficult, so that they don't have to rely on healing themselves through these poisons that we have available to us. That's where I'm here, because I know that there's somebody who's going to hear me at some point in my life and their life is going to be changed. And that's the purpose for mine. So, when I came to that realization and I accepted that my life is no longer my own, it is an offering to this world of what not to do, how to solve problems in proper, healthy ways. That's what really made me change. That's what made my life change. And that's what caused me to get my hips replaced. So, you had asked earlier, and I don't want to glance over it or miss it. I chose to get my hips replaced because I realized that I have value to add to this world. I realized that when I got my hips replaced, I could travel, and I could go tell my story. I could inject hope into communities that I could stand and walk strut and tell people, “Look, I don't care what your bad choices were. You could walk tall too. Your stuff could hurt in the past, but it doesn't have to hurt forever. There's ways out of this.” So, when I came to that realization, like, I need to get my hips replaced so that I could be the best offering out there, that's what really got this whole movement started, this whole thing changed. And that's when I found purpose. That's when I found value in myself. That's when I found, like, oh, shoot. You're a plethora of knowledge for a whole group of individuals who [don’t] have to feel pain anymore because you solve it for them.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:35:17
Absolutely. So, I want to hear a few things. One, I want to hear about your definition of sober, and I want to hear, what advice you would give college students that are trying to mix academic life with drinking? But let's start off with your definition of sober and how you've recovered.
Nico Morales 00:35:43
Got a great question. My definition of sober is different than probably you actually even said it your definition. You never touched a drop. I admire people like that, doctor, so thank you. You encourage me by saying that. My definition of sober means that I do not ingest or inject or consume any type of narcotic, whether that's legal or illegal. I also do not consume any type of caffeine other than coffee. I don't consume certain sugars. There are certain things that I just don't eat, like, fast food, to me, is a substance. So, my definition of sober, I do not eat any type of fast food. My definition of sober, I only consume water and coffee. I'll drink juices and teas every once in a while, but they can't have too much caffeine. My definition of sober doesn't include any type of Nicotine in it, but that's my definition of sober. Really what I have come to the realization of is that people think sober is abstaining. I'm like, well, if you're abstaining, then you got to abstain from lots of things, because the definition I'm sorry, not the definition. One of the indicators of substance use is a definition of substances is a mind altering chemical, mind altering substance. Well, caffeine alters your mind. Sugar alters your mind. Tylenol alters your mind. The sages that people put out there alter your mind. There's things that we have that aren't drugs that alter our minds. And when I read that, I was like, shoot, even these people who were supposed to be guiding me into a path of recovery, they're sitting there with five, six monsters a day. I'm like, no, you just replaced your addiction that's all you did.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:37:49
Nico Morales 00:37:50
And I wasn't okay with that, personally. I wasn't okay with exchanging out a spoon that I cook my dope on for a fork that I eat my food with. I can't find comfort in those things. And for me, defining sober means what am I seeking to get immediate gratification from and do I need to? Because sober means, hey, I'm prepared and ready to go. That's what sober means to me. I'm not in any want. I'm not in any need for things if I choose to consume it's by choice. So, my definition of sober is nothing mind-altering, legal or illegal.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:38:34
Wow, that's a pretty high standard there.
Nico Morales 00:38:38
Oh, yeah. I barely meet it, too. Don't get me wrong. There's a bag of candy in there that I got earlier and I'm like, who's going to give me a reese's cup? Really? Almost match this whole thing. But I've also learned that I know that probably tomorrow I'm going to feel bad. My body is going to feel bad about it. My brain is going to misfire. I'm probably going to have a headache. Okay. These are the gives and takes, right?
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:39:05
. . . Did the substance use at all interfere with your college life? And if so, like, how so?
Nico Morales 00:39:27
I went to college twice. I had two freshman years. I went to freshman year when I was 18. And yet at that point, I was already I was moving drugs. I was a drug dealer at that time. I also worked a full-time job as a construction worker. So, when I went to school, I had to go do that freshman orientation. They take you through all this stuff. I was just like, yeah, this isn't for me. Let me find some new customers and get up out of here. That's how I perceived it. That's how I saw my schooling. [It] was this is a place where I can find some new customers, whether that was for construction because their parents needed some work or that was them because they needed to play with their nose, smoke something, whatever it was, I could supply it. So, I didn't have an interest in school. It really interfered with school. In addition to that, I lost the full-ride scholarship, like two years prior to that. I'm sorry. A year prior to that, in my senior year, I lost a full ride scholarship for wrestling. And I threw that away because I was like, yeah, I don't need to go to school. I'm just going to sell drugs. That that's, that was my mentality. It's easy money and I'm good at it. So, it interfered a lot. It stopped me from going to school, actually. Then after I dropped out of college, I go back to school when I'm 30. I'm sorry. 28/29. So about 3 years ago, I went back to school. I graduated last year. Bachelor's in business. Yeah, a Bachelor's. Check this one out, doc. I got a bachelor's in business without paying for it. My school was completely free. I graduated with honors Cum Laude and on the Dean's list.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:41:19
Wow, what a change of events. From laying in an abandoned building, embracing that abandoned building as home, sleeping with your finger on the trigger, to graduating cum laude. You have apparently regained your ability to focus. What!
Nico Morales 00:41:55
Substances had an influence on that, too? Not because I was taking them, but because I was adamant about recovering what it had taken from me. There was no way that it was going to go ahead and rob [me]. It wasn't just me that it robbed. Like, I know I'm smart. I don't need a degree to tell me that. I personally was like, I know I'm smart. I know how to hustle. I don't need a piece of paper that tells me this. But the world needed to understand it. And more importantly, my mom wanted a degree. So, part of my journey was to make sure that she got a degree, too. So, when I graduated, that was her gift. I gave her my degree and I said, “We're done. I'm finished with school. I don't need to do this anymore.” And, I did it because I wanted to show everybody that I could. So, substances had a huge influence on that portion because watch this. I'm not only a best-selling author, I did that before I graduated school. Now I have a bachelor's with honors. I'm looking at some of the people that were looking down on me in the past, like, “Yo, what's up?” My chest is a little bit more out. “How are you living, dog? Did you graduate with honors?” Substances had a huge influence on that as well, not for the use of them, but because I was adamant that I wasn't going to lose everything that it had taken for me.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:43:20
Alright, so you talked about this best-selling author. Tell us about your book. What's the title? And what will students, or anyone for that matter, get when they read it?
Nico Morales 00:43:34
Great. Thank you for letting me plug this in. The book is called Five Things to Know Before You Get Sober. It can be purchased on Amazon. If you type in that Five Things to Know Before You Get Sober, it can also be purchased at nohaloNM.com. What you'll get out of there is the five things that I believe anybody should know before they attempt sobriety. Those five things are: (1) it's a choice, (2) It's uncomfortable, (3) You're going to get to know yourself, (4) You're vulnerable during the transition, and (5) There is a joy in recovery. Those are five things that I believe anybody should know before they get sober. The readers can know that I took all of that stuff from my own lived experience. Alcohol, opiates, I've also stopped using crack. I smoked that for a little bit. So, in all of these high-level drugs, (acids, I've taken that for a while too), I say that because out of all those drugs, I saw these five common traits happen every time I had to make a choice, and it was super uncomfortable to go through the withdrawals period. I got to know myself better each time, and I was vulnerable during that transition, but there was joy each time I did it. And now I can say that that's just a part of my life. It's not my life anymore, and it's a part that I can share with readers. So, if you're looking for insights on what you should do before you get over, or if you have somebody that you care about that you love and is struggling with one of these use disorders, get it for them. It's from lived experience. The best review that I've received from so far is it was like my cousin was dropping me off to rehab. I was like, yeah, that's the point right there. That is the point.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:45:30
Wow, this is exciting. So that's a huge win. Writing a book is a huge win. How do you celebrate successes or wins in life? So many people associate alcohol with celebration. So how do you celebrate wins?
Nico Morales 00:45:53
It's a great question. I am still learning how I celebrate wins, mainly because that's part of my self-care process. I'm not very good at celebrating myself. What I have learned to do is take myself to a nice meal. I usually like to try something that I haven't tried before. That's one of the ways that I like to celebrate that I have the opportunity to experience a new experience. To me, that's something to celebrate. I hope that everybody takes this within context, because I have lived a life that is different than a lot of other people. So, the way that I celebrate is a lot different than a lot of other people too. But I call it ink therapy. I like to go get tattoos. That's how I celebrate. That's what I do personally, is get a meal, get a tattoo, and get back to work.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:46:52
Get a meal and get a tattoo. Okay, so I want to know your favorite place to eat, and I want to know your favorite tattoo.
Nico Morales 00:47:03
Well, favorite place to eat. Shoot, man, that's a difficult one because I think it goes on types of food. Right now, one of my favorite places to go to is called Gobble This. It's in Old Town, New Mexico. It's in the center of Albuquerque. My buddy owns it, and he's Salvadorian, so he cooks a bunch of Salvadorian food. That's one of my favorite places to go right now, and mainly because the homie owns it. So, I can just slide up in there like, “Yo, let me get that seat in the back.” He's like, “Go for it, Nico.” Gobble This is the name of it.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:47:39
Nico Morales 00:47:40
So that's one of my favorite places to eat. Favorite tattoo? I do not have a favorite tattoo, actually. I have many tattoos all over my body. One that means the most to me would probably be a saying that my grandmother gave me a lot of sayings, and I got a lot of tattoos of her sayings. One of the first ones that I got, though, because it meant so much to me, was free to be. She used to tell me, Nicolas, you're free to be whatever you want to be. Whatever you want to be, you are free to be. So, I share that with you guys, especially since you're college freshman. You're free to be whatever you want to be. So, what is it that you want to be? Because you're free to be.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:48:26
Where can we find you on social media? And then I will switch into your final parting words.
Nico Morales 00:48:44
Cool. You can find me on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, at “No. Underscore halo NM (nohalonm.com). That's the word. N O underscore halo. Like, angel has a halo. NM. Like New Mexico or Nico Morales. Either way it works.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:49:03
Alright, the name of the book.
Nico Morales 00:49:05
Again, the name of the book is Five Things to Know Before You Get Sober.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:49:10
Five Things to Know Before you Get Sober. And you can find that on Amazon. And then final parting words.
Nico Morales 00:49:17
Final parting words. You are an amazing human being who adds tons of value to the community that you're in. That community requires you to be the best version of yourself, whatever that means. At that point in time, that's what we need you to be. No one's expecting you to be perfect. You weren't created to be an angel. It's okay to have no halo.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:49:45
Amen. I love it. Alright, well, thank you so much for joining me on Academic Survival. I know that this will have so many nuggets in here, so I know that this has the potential to be life-changing to a student, to someone in their community, or anyone else who may listen. So, thank you so much for joining, and I'll see you next time.
Nico Morales 00:50:14
Thank you for having me.
Dr. Shandra L. McDonald 00:50:21
That's it for today on Academic Survival. If you're want to share your story on how you survived your freshman year of college, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be back next week with more ways to survive your academic journey. Until then, happy studying.
Nico Morales was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was an athlete, opiate user, alcohol drinker, and now is an author. Nico grew up with both parents in a middle-class household. They exposed Nico to traveling, different cultures, and Church.
At a young age, Nico experienced trauma that he repressed. Mental unrest led to an exploration of substances, eventually propelling him into opiate use disorder. By 22, Nico was living out of his truck and spent most of his time finding odd, sometimes illegal ways to make money to support his drug habit.
After seeing others close to him pass from overdoses and recounting the times he came near-death, he recognized there was a reason he was still living. He put down the needle, but unfortunately picked up a bottle, causing the cycle of addiction to repeat itself. Due to the extent of Nico’s alcoholism, he found himself staying in a building with only electricity. After exploring different counseling techniques that were not successful, Nico turned to a faith-based recovery modality. In doing so, he found a love that he had never experienced and a dependency on something that made him truly whole. He now uses his lived experience to share topics and tools that he picked up through trial and error. Nico opened No Halo LLC in 2019 (a brand for sober living), has published a book, and loves green chile.
Visit www.NoHaloNM.com for more info.