THE BLOG
11/15/2012 01:53 pm ET | Updated Jan 15, 2013

From Addict to Entrepreneur: How I Overcame My Greatest Obstacle

The news is filled with stories about young tech entrepreneurs that make millions from selling their Internet technology to the big tech giants. Though these stories are inspirational, they portray an image of success that few people can actually relate to.

At a different spectrum of the United States, there are young people who are addicts and alcoholics, who have made poor decisions in life and can't relate to the successful entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley: They don't code websites, don't have an Ivy league education, and have tainted records because of their mistakes.

The obstacles that young people face seem insurmountable. But no matter how bad it gets, no matter what mistakes you've made in the past, and no matter how old you are, you can overcome anything, become successful, and lead a respectable, healthy life. I say this because I overcame my battles with addiction, a battle that raged for more than 22 years. After winning my battle, I now run one of the largest holistic rehabilitation centers in the United States and help thousands of people every year beat their addiction and start a new promising life. This is the story of how I did it and what I learned throughout the process.

My battle with addiction

At the age of 14, my girlfriend broke up with me to be with one of my best friends. Overcome with grief, I sought comfort from any source that I could find and found my first beer. Instead of facing my problems, I learned to run away from them, and soon, beer lead to vodka, which lead to cocaine. Drugs became my way to escape any problems I had with family, money, relationships, or friends.

My battle with addiction raged for more than 20 years and four different treatment centers. It wasn't until the age of 38 that I finally hit rock bottom: I could no longer play sports, I could no longer enjoy football games, and I could no longer hang out with my friends -- all because of drugs. I was ready to become sober and found Narconon, the treatment center that changed my life.

I found a higher purpose

Narconon saved my life. After graduation, I had to make a choice about what I wanted to do with my career: I could either go back to selling things (I was a terrific salesperson for GM), or I could dedicate my life to helping people. I realized that I was given a second chance at life and thus, found my higher calling: a dedication to helping people beat their addiction, just like I did.

I opened up my own Narconon center and saved more than 6,000 people throughout the course of several years. It felt great to help people and make a true difference in this world.

The non-tech entrepreneur

Throughout my time leading a rehabilitation center, I studied and learned what techniques and methods were effective, and what weren't. I dedicated myself to my craft and developed my own course, different than any other curriculum in the industry.

Inspired and powered by my higher calling, I took a loan from the bank and started my own rehabilitation center that followed my own curriculum. Three years later, I run the largest holistic rehabilitation center in the United States that helps thousands of people every year recover from addiction and start a new life.

Lessons learned

No one is going to do it for you -- you have to do it yourself.

I've learned that nothing great is ever handed to you in life. When it came to addiction, no treatment center could have helped me until I made the personal commitment to do it for myself. Once I made that decision, I was able to utilize my intrinsic motivation to become sober.

Similarly, entrepreneurs succeed because of hard work and determination, not because of luck or a great idea. My business has succeeded and grown because I have dedicated my life to help rehabilitate people. It's not about the money; it's about the lives my company saves and the positive impact we make in society.

Play to your strengths and experience.

After I became sober, I didn't try to learn how to code and build the next Instagram; instead, I evaluated my strengths and passions and decided how I could best utilize my skills to create a product for people that I understand and can relate to.

Early in my career, I was one of the top salespeople for GM. I utilized my sales abilities to get a loan from the bank to start my own rehabilitation center. I then utilized the same sales abilities to show people why my curriculum is different and has a better chance at helping them beat their addiction than any other curriculum in the industry. It was my abilities that got us our first patients, which allowed us to grow to where we are today.

No matter how large the obstacle, you have it in you to overcome it and succeed in life. Use my story as fuel to light your fire, overcome your obstacles, and make a positive impact in society.

Per Wickstrom is the president and founder of Best Drug Rehabilitation, a rehabilitation center focused on helping people beat their addiction through holistic and natural methods.

For more on addiction and recovery, click here.