“Will it make our boat go faster?” That’s a question Great Britain’s 2000 Olympic rowing team asked itself every day for months prior to winning gold in Australia.
As a writer, your boat might represent writing a memoir and publishing it, for others, it could mean landing a new client or launching a course. So when faced with a decision about what to do more or less of, frame it around the boat question.
In this interview he explains:
- How he overcame his heroin addiction
- Why he decided to write a memoir about his painful personal story
- How to make decisions faster
- What his writing process looks like
And lots more.
I start by asking Brian how he overcame heroin and started writing a memoir.
Bryan Collins: Brian, it’s great to talk to you today and great to talk to another Irishman as well. You’re actually living not too far from me, about an hour away. And I believe you are currently in the final stages of getting a book ready. But before we get into the book, maybe you could start by giving a bit of an introduction, who you are, and your story, and you how you got into writing and publishing the book Bonus Time.
Brian Pennie: Brilliant. Thanks, Bryan. It’s great. Well actually, I think we’re only 20 minutes away from each other. It’s very close. I’m in [Banchardstown 00:00:36]. But yeah. So where to start? It’s a long story, so I’ll give the summarized version of it. So, I spent 15 years of me adult life up until I was 35 years of age as a chronic heroin addict. For 15 years, I was a chronic heroin addict. And really a very functional addict for most of that part. And really, what I tried to tell people is a lot of people can’t really relate when I talk about myself as being a heroin addict. But I was a very functional heroin addict.
Brian Pennie: And what I used to tell people as well is that drugs were not my problem. I had a of childhood trauma in my life and operations when I was a kid, when I was a baby, and alcoholism in the family. And for me, growing up as a kid, it was just stress and anxiety. I would just always have this state of fear and agitation in my life. And I came from a pretty disadvantaged area, a very working class area, with a lot of drugs. And I started dabbling in drugs. And I found heroin at 16, 17 years of age. And it was like I found the solution to life. And I got caught up in it. Thought I was too clever to be a real addict. I got caught up in the whirlwind of self-deception and lived for 15 years as a heroin addict, much of that not believing I was a real addict. And then basically, me whole life fell apart the last few years of my addiction.
Brian Pennie: So, to cut a long story short, when I was 35 years of age, I was nearly dead. Let’s call a spade a spade. I was nearly dead. My body was giving up. And I stopped functioning. I lost every relationship in my life. I lost my job. I lost my health. I lost everything. So it was really time for me to sink or swim. And that was the first time in my life I actually sought professional help. When I couldn’t get into the detox facility or any detox facility, any that were available wouldn’t take me for insurance risks, and I would have been prone to seizures because I didn’t have the drugs in me system.
Brian Pennie: So I ended up doing detox at home. And I wound up having a seizure, a full-blown convulsive seizure. I bit mmye tongue, a bit split down the middle of my tongue, ended up in the hospital. And I’ll never forget, I had an awakening moment in the hospital where I thought I was brain damaged. It was like the world didn’t make sense anymore. Words didn’t make sense, concepts. I was looking at a fire extinguisher on the wall. It was a red fire extinguisher. To me that night, it wasn’t a red fire extinguisher. It was just like, I knew the word “red,” and I knew the word “fire extinguisher,” and they didn’t go together.
Brian Pennie: And I remember thinking, oh my god, you’re brain damaged. Game over. And I was waiting for this panic attack that used to haunt me all my life to come over me. Well, it never did. And I realized that that was a pivotal moment in my life where I just stopped fighting with my own mind. I surrendered to life, and I just stopped fighting. And a couple of weeks after that, I got into a detox facility, I got off drugs, and then I just had this perspective shift. My mind went very, very quiet. And I