Crucial Skills®

A Blog by Crucial Learning

Crucial Influence

Change Anything: Overcoming Addiction-Part Two

Michael Vitali

In last month’s Change Anything column, we published an inspiring story from Michael Vitali. This month, Michael shares the specific strategies he used to overcome his addictions.

I started smoking cigarettes when I was eleven years old. Since then, I’ve abused every drug on the market: speed, heroine, meth, LSD, prescription drugs. You name it—I’ve been addicted to it. My pursuit of temporary freedom started me on a twenty-year downward spiral in which I alienated my family, lost friends, sabotaged my career, experienced homelessness, and served multiple jail sentences.

After years of denial, I finally admitted that I was an alcoholic and drug addict, and realized I could not continue my current lifestyle without suffering the consequences. When I was released from prison, I started making changes I knew would be necessary to get my life back on track. To change my life I knew I had to make changes in every area of my life. Here’s how I succeeded.

Personal Motivation: Love What You Hate—In prison, I found myself saying, “This is not your life!” I cried to God for help and made a commitment to never lose control of my addictive personality again. After my release, my sponsor gave me advice I’ll never forget: “Anything you put before your sobriety—whether it’s your family, friends, or job—you will lose.”

I remind myself of these experiences often and make my sobriety my number one priority and focus. Whenever I see people drinking, I say to myself, “Drinking is not for you. You can’t handle it. It’s not an option.” I try to focus on what I really want out of life, and that picture doesn’t include drugs or alcohol.

Personal Ability: Do What You Can’t—I began attending AA meetings three times a day. I also engaged in group therapy and counseling. In these sessions, I learned about chemical dependency and the techniques needed to live a joyous and substance-free life. Specifically, I learned how to relate to other human beings, basic life skills such as making coffee and cleaning, and most importantly, how to control my anger and emotions through talking through my problems rather than taking drugs and alcohol.

I also went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. I started a successful career doing leadership development for an organization that provides housing and treatment for youth with behavioral and emotional problems.

Social Motivation and Ability: Turn Accomplices into Friends—I stopped hanging out with my partying friends—or rather, they stopped hanging out with me because I only wanted to go to AA meetings or out for coffee. My friends from AA became my support network. I learned from them how to behave and interact with people again. In fact, one of my AA friends offered me my first post-prison job.

I also called my sponsor daily to report on my progress and receive encouragement. My mother sent “I Believe in You” cards to me. They simply said, “Dear Michael, I.B.I.Y. Love, Mom.” Among other things, support from friends and family motivated me to stay straight.

Structural Motivation: Invert the Economy—I recognized the physical and psychological costs of my bad behavior and decided I did not want to lose control again. The fear of returning to prison constantly motivated me to stay sober.

Structural Ability: Control Your Space—After prison, I moved in with my mom. I knew she was the only one who would get all of the drugs and alcohol out of the house. In college, I lived alone so I could maintain control of my environment and be less stressed. I never went to bars or parties where alcohol was served, and I always made sure I had a car or a bike so I would be able to get to my AA meetings.

I have not had the compulsion to drink or take drugs in twenty years. I use my past experiences to constantly improve the quality of my future. The changes that have taken place in my life are difficult to put into words. When I reflect on my life over the past few years, I can honestly say I like what I see. What was once dark, foreboding, and full of despair has become a joyous and rewarding life.

Editor’s Note: Similar stories of inspiring change will be featured in our upcoming book about personal change due to be released Spring 2011. If you have an inspiring story of personal change, please send it to and include “Change Anything Story” in the subject line of your e-mail.

Develop Your Crucial Skills

Image for

What's Your Style Under Stress?

Discover your dialogue strengths and weaknesses with this short assessment.

Take Assessment

Image for

Subscribe Now

Subscribe to the newsletter and get our best insights and tips every Wednesday.


Image for

Ask a Question

From stubborn habits to difficult people to monumental changes, we can help.

Ask a Question

5 thoughts on “Change Anything: Overcoming Addiction-Part Two”

  1. Tweets that mention Crucial Skills » Change Anything: Overcoming Addiction-Part Two --

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Joseph Grenny and Joseph Grenny, Crucial Skills. Crucial Skills said: Crucial Skills: Change Anything: Overcoming Addiction-Part Two #newsletter […]

  2. Richard Howard


  3. Tamra

    Congradulations! Thank-you for sharing your story. It is encouraging for me to hear a sucessful journey. It is courages of you to go public. But you are reaching out to so many who need guidance. Im proud to say for myself I have been sober for 5yrs.

  4. Lois

    Was the book of stories of “inspiring change” ever published? If so, what is its title? I would love to read it!

    1. Editor

      Hi Lois,
      The book referred to in this article is Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success. More information about this book can be found on our website: and it an be purchased at online book retailers such as, Barnes and Noble, etc.
      Crucial Skills Editors

Leave a Reply

Get your copies
The ideas and insights expressed on Crucial Skills hail from five New York Times bestsellers.


Take advantage of our free, award-winning newsletter—delivered straight to your inbox