Hi, this is Shane Leonard, the CEO of Into Action Recovery Centers.
I’m sharing my story here in hopes that it might help others struggling with addiction. While my life is unique, my journey to sobriety is like that of millions of others who have successfully overcome addiction. I hope, if you’re struggling with addiction yourself, this may provide you with some encouragement and proof that you’re not alone.
I was born in July 1970 at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska. My father was a staff sergeant in the Air Force, and also an alcoholic—as was his father, and his father’s father, and so it goes. I believe that alcoholism is a disease and I believe it is hereditary. My mother, while not an alcoholic, certainly lived through the negative effects of being married to one. My father did his best and went to treatment while in the military, but unfortunately too late to save their marriage. Ultimately, he moved on with his career and eventually retired honorably after 31 years of distinguished service to our country.
My mom went on to marry three more times, all to men who ended up being alcoholics (one of whom also would likely be diagnosed with severe PTSD these days). At a young age, I was convinced that I would never drink, ever.
At age 7, we moved from Florida to Plantersville, Texas and I sure missed the beach! I recall how much I wanted a better life for myself. My mother always provided, and certainly, I felt loved, but the experiences of my young life had already shaped me in a way that would not reveal itself for years to come.
As life went on, I excelled in school, but opportunities for me and my family were few. We were poor but happy.
My spiritual life, however, took a unique turn with my third stepdad. He was Catholic, as were many of my friends, so I decided to convert and become a part of that church. I recall feeling, for the very first time, that I belonged to a fellowship and felt very close to God, as I understood him. As a young Catholic in Grimes County, Texas in the early 80s, I had the opportunity to do all the things my friends were doing—and one of those things was drinking lots of beer and wine.
By age 13, I was drinking on a weekly basis. All through high school, drinking became my identity. I was good at it and was quickly named the life of the party. All social events, school events, and even some church events included drinking. Even though I was having fun (or so I thought), I had already broken a conviction that I had held strongly just a short time before. My promise to “never drink, ever” had become “always drink.”
As I moved on, I got out of high school and attended college for one year at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas, another community where drinking was prevalent. By this time, drinking was a part of everything that I did socially. Times were different then, and I somehow stayed out of legal trouble. (Looking back, this was a miracle!)
I caught an early break and was hired at a very young age to a prominent engineering and consulting firm in Houston. I quickly learned that to advance in the workplace, I would have to work hard and engage in a little social drinking with my bosses and co-workers. I was good at both and advanced rapidly.
At 21 years old, I was making a great living and about to be married to a girl I had known since the 7th grade. She was and still is, a straight arrow. Not much drinking was permissible in our home, so I drank elsewhere.
At 29 years old, I found myself with three beautiful daughters—and a drinking problem. Because of my family situation, I did not drink at home but instead used work as an excuse.
Well, you can guess how that ended! By age 34, I was getting divorced and now drinking daily to drown the pain and sorrow of what my life had become. I was still highly functioning, but another strong conviction had been smashed: I had vowed to never put anything above my family, yet here I was.
This is the disease of alcoholism and addiction. I began seeing therapists and went to treatment with no success. My family was gone, but at least business was good, so I just kept going, even as things only got worse. More doctors, more treatment and more sadness.
By age 38, I was hopeless. My circumstances had gotten so bad I really did not want to go on living. I had accomplished a great deal in business by this point but was emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. I remember looking in the mirror and saying to myself, “This is it. I am going to drink myself to death or take my own life.”
But then a real miracle happened. I had lunch with a business associate who I greatly respected. Over lunch, he told me his story—and it was eerily similar to mine. He told me he had been sober for 19 years, that there was a better way to live, and that he understood and empathized with what I was going through. This man moved me in a way that all the doctors, treatment centers and hospitals I had attended never could: he put me on the road towards recovery.
My health was poor and quitting cold turkey was unsafe, so I needed to find a facility to detox from alcohol. I successfully completed treatment and was sober for 52 days—and then got drunk again. What a formidable opponent alcoholism and addiction is! But it was the best 52 days I could recall in a long time in my life and I quickly returned to treatment. This time, I was willing to do everything the treatment providers suggested, and the miracle of real recovery and sobriety happened for me.
While in treatment, I knew I had found my life’s work: I wanted to open my own treatment center. Luckily, I was armed with business experience and a passion that felt stronger than I had ever experienced before in my life.
My Sobriety Date is December 10, 2009, and for that, I am eternally grateful! Early in 2010, I co-founded Into Action Recovery Centers, alongside Tony Giammatteo, Ron Diggins (the man that shared his story at lunch), and Roland Hays (my long-time CFO and a non-drinker). Since then, I’ve been proud to work alongside two other valued executives, Paul Dyne and Jon Hansen, who help make Into Action such a warm, welcoming, and successful community.
Together, we pledge to help others while running a successful business that puts our clients’ needs first—always!
Today, Into Action Recovery Centers is the largest privately-owned addiction treatment center in Houston. We have helped over 2000 clients reach amazing outcomes, just like our own. We are licensed by the State of Texas and hold the prestigious CARF 3-Year Accreditation.
In closing, I will say that my experience is the same as millions of people who suffer. I am still in recovery, so it is not necessarily the end of my story, but it sure has been a happy and fulfilling journey. I wish you and your loved ones the same.
Shane Leonard co-founded Into Action Recovery Centers in 2010 with a sincere desire to assist others in recovering from addiction. His goals for IARC are to provide a local resource for quality treatment at an affordable cost in an environment that is most conducive to positive outcomes.
Twenty years of professional experience in mid-market industrial service companies, accompanied by his personal experience in recovery, perfectly positioned Shane to lead Into Action. Today, Shane values recovery as a lifestyle, helping his community, and spending time with his family, including 5 beautiful daughters, 3 fantastic sons-in-law, and 1 super-amazing grandson.