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My Journey to "Inspyr"

Created by John Cawley

My Journey to "Inspyr"

My name is John Cawley and I'm the Founder of Inspyr Gear. If you knew me 17 yrs ago, you would likely think I was incapable of becoming much of anything and certainly not the owner of three companies, father to three kids, and husband to a wonderful and supportive wife.

My use started in the 5th grade. I know it's insane but true. My friend and I were walking on the railroad tracks in Philadelphia when two 8th graders from the neighborhood approached us. They offered us a few hits of their weed pipe. Not wanting to be looked at as a nerd, we both took hits of pot for the first time. I know now that this was the beginning of a terrible cycle that lasted decades.

All through high school we used anything we could get our hands on. There wasn't a weekend that went by that we weren't on one drug or another. If me and my boys didn't or couldn't find drugs to use to at the local party we would not even bother showing up.

Knowing that I couldn't get into any four-year college with my high school performance, I decided to go to a local community college. I met a guy who turned me onto meth on a regular basis. He had easy access and I loved the feeling of being able to go all night and into the next day. That guy died from an overdose several years ago.

Looking back at my personality and seeing how I obsessed with being the first one at the party and the last to leave. My addictive personality was out of control and being fueled not by wanting to be successful but for wanting to be high.

I got lucky because my meth friend went away to prison for beating up someone who owed him money. Not that I needed him to score meth but it was more of a hassle for me and coke was now the drug of choice.

Another decade has gone by and my addiction was taking all my money. At this point I had barely enough money to put gas in my junker and try to make it to work. By work I mean when I was able to show up. In the masonry trade and unfortunately a lot of the trades drug use and alcohol use runs rampant.

I was no different then anyone else who could function enough to feed themselves and feed their addictions. I was the functioning addict; this was my excuse for living the life I was leading.

Many times in a drunken state of mind, I would think about what my life would be like if I was not addicted. What could I accomplish with a clear mind and a purpose in life?

At this point, I had been high for so long I forgot was it was like not to be high on something. Looking back at it now, it seems like a cry for help but like every addict knows, the power of the drug is strong and the cries for help are drowned out by the need.

I was not a very religious person back then but I would pray sometimes for help but rehab and detox was not happening for me. I was too proud and I decided my addiction was going to be cured by me. Twice I got sober, once for 60 days and another time for 40 days but it always seemed to be a tiny voice in my head that said, “I'll be back and you know it.”

In 1993, at the Jersey Shore I happened upon a beautiful girl at a dollar Bud night at a bar in Sea Isle City. As our relationship began to take form, I did not stop my drinking or drug use. I just got better at hiding it.

In 1997, we got married and moved into a house. Unfortunately for my wife, the drinking and drug use began to get out hand when I started my own masonry company and had money coming in. Fast-forward to the year 2000 and my addiction was taking its toll on our relationship and the unborn baby in my wife's belly. The stress of addiction was causing my wife to rethink her decision to stay with our unborn child and me. Little did I know at the time but my wife had already spoken with her family about leaving me and raising our child with her parents.

Between 1993 and 2000 there were so many close calls with the law, strangers and family members that I'm mortified to speak of today and I can not have my three children know. There are just some things that should be left in the past and never to be spoken of again. But those were my choices and I'll live with it.

The exact date was Feb 8th, I'm guessing it was around 4:30 pm when the Holy Spirit came to save my live. It was cold out and the masonry business was basically done and I was down to my last $80. I started partying around 11:00 am and by 4:00 pm I was pretty wacked out.

My wife arrived home from her job around 4:10pm, so we could go to her ultrasound appointment. She opened the door to see me in a bad state of intoxication and I remember asking her if she was ready to go the doctor. She looked at me and said, ”You're a disgrace and you're not going anywhere with me.” She turned around and walked back out the door and left.

Because addiction causes so much selfishness in a person, I didn't seem to care that I wasn't going, it gave me more time to party without a hassle from anyone.
The next thing I remember is going upstairs to the bathroom. I never liked looking in the mirror when I partied because I knew what my face would look like and it was not good. For some reason I did look in the mirror and all of the sudden a warm feeling from the top of my head to only below my shoulder blades came over me. It was a moment that I'll never forget because it truly felt like a weight was lifted off me but I never knew it was there. The beast of burden that addiction creates was gone and I knew it. The little voice in the back of my mind was not rearing its ugly head screaming, “I'll be back.” That voice was gone. The addiction was gone and I knew it.

The first thing I thought of was how I was going to make a difference, not only in myself, but what I going to be able to accomplish for others. The selfishness that consumed me was gone and my new life was on its way. I can remember standing in the pink-tiled bathroom on Beech Lane thinking and dreaming about what my new clean life was going to bring.

When my wife arrived home from the doctor's I was sitting on the couch not speaking but thinking how I was going to get her to believe in me again. I knew she was at her breaking point and I thought that my actions would speak volumes more than the lies I created.

The following morning Feburary 9, 2000 was my first clean day in almost 22 years. This is the day I turned all my energy into making a new life for my wife and our family. I could not wait to get started on my new clean life. What was it going to be like? What adventures would I begin create for my new family.
That was my new addiction, life!!!!

People ask me today how I was able to get clean so fast? I tell them that I never had to go to rehab, never went to a meeting, and never had a relapse. They ask me if I ever drink a little sip of wine or beer? I explain to them that my addiction was taking from me in a blink of an eye and the desire was taken as well. So I never even think about alcohol. I know this isn't possible for everyone but it has worked for me.

They ask me how I went to a bar/restaurant weeks after getting clean, I explain it this way; imagine you're a small child and your around alcohol at a restaurant or party but it means nothing to you because that is not how children's brain works. That's me, it does not bother me if people drink in front of me or my wife has a glass of wine. I'm like a big kid with a new lease on life.

After being clean and sober for 14 years, I finally figured out a way to repay the higher power that came down that cold February day and saved a wreck like me. I was going to use words to remind people to believe in themselves no matter the life they were living, everyone needs a reminder to never give up. I was going to use apparel to spread our messages of self-empowerment and to "inpsyr" others.

At first I thought Inspyr Gear would be for kids and teens but the more we grew as a brand the more I realized that a meaningful life has no age requirements. Inspyr was my way of giving back for the life I got back, for the life lottery that I won.

Inspyr's mission is to help people understand that they have the power to change or stay the same. We are all in this life together and helping others be the best they can be sounds like a noble cause to me.

Partners for Hope raise critical funds on behalf Partnership to End Addiction – the nation’s leading organization dedicated to addiction prevention, treatment and recovery. Every dollar raised on behalf of the Partnership* will help ensure free, personalized family support resources, including our national helpline, peer-to-peer parent coaching, customized online tools and community education programs, can reach those who need them most. Please consider donating to this fundraiser and sharing this page.

*Donations made to Partnership to End Addiction are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. All contributions are fully tax-deductible, as no goods or services are provided in consideration in whole, or in part, of any contribution to this nonprofit organization.  EIN: 52-1736502

Guest Book


1. John
Thanks Mike for the kinds words, we'll keep inspyring as long as we can. Thanks for your support pal.
2. Mike
Great piece! John - your story is very inspiring. Keep up the good work!