Check out our interview with author and motivational speaker Ed Kressy.
Ed is the author of “My Addiction and Recovery,” detailing his incredible story of his addiction to methamphetamine, his arrest by the FBI, and then his journey to recovery. Ed went from being arrested by the FBI, to being recognized with a community service award…by the FBI director! He is now a highly sought-after motivational speaker, telling his story around the country!
Ed had every reason to fear and mistrust law enforcement: deep in meth psychosis, he became certain the FBI engineered a conspiracy against him because he inadvertently befriended a 9/11 hijacker. After getting on the road to recovery he chose to pursue a life of giving to society, including volunteering inside maximum-security prisons and jails to help others struggling to cope with addiction. Ed helps incarcerated persons develop skills for employment, entrepreneurism, and self-advocacy.
Follow Ed @authoredkressy
Hi Ed, please tell us a little about you?
I’m almost certainly the only person ever who was once arrested by the FBI, then recognized with a community service award by the FBI director! Thanks to God, and to amazing people—many of whom are or were incarcerated, and many in law enforcement—I escaped devastating depths of meth addiction and conspiracy beliefs. Today I’m so fortunate to have achieved my childhood dream of becoming an author.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
The 3 S’s—Spirituality, Service to others, and Self-improvement. If whatever I’m doing falls into one or more of those 3 S’s categories, chances are I’m on the right path.
Who is your role model?
MLK, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi…any woman or man who sacrifices to make life better for humanity.
How did you get started into the business?
My dream since I was a kid was to become an author. I loved reading, being creative, and using my imagination. However, I was bullied, ostracized. Lacked discipline, perseverance, and belief in myself.
Instead of pursuing my dream, I indulged myself as an overprivileged, selfish white guy, whose poor choices devastated myself and those around me. I became a heavy drinker at age 16. Soon after I got into heavy drug use: marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy.
In 1996 I got addicted to meth. Sank into psychosis, became hopelessly entangled in conspiracy beliefs. I’d had a friend I’ll call “Omar”. Omar was my roommate when we trained together in kickboxing in Bangkok, Thailand. Years later, I became certain Omar had been one of the 9/11 hijackers. That he’d in fact been an undercover law enforcement agent who infiltrated the terrorists, and as a result I was being pursued by the FBI.
In psychosis, I was threatened and harassed by disembodied voices called the “Boolean Operators”. As protection against government agents that I believed were after me, I toted a .357 pistol. I was sure my family, celebrities, and people at the highest levels of government were all in on the conspiracy against me.
My poor decisions cost me nearly everything: my career with the “Best Company in America to Work For” (according to Fortune magazine), my home in San Francisco, all my relationships…even my beloved dog. I spent huge amounts of money fueling the narcotics trade and sex industry and burdened the welfare and court systems.
Once, FBI counterterrorism agents interviewed me about my friend Omar. To my shame, I showed up to that FBI interview after being up all night on meth. I collect-called my family in the middle of the night from a jail cell, screamed curses into my mother’s answering machine, abused my dog.
I could go on and on about the wreckage I caused. How my poor choices hurt society, hurt those who loved me the most.
In October 2007, I was steps away from long-term homelessness, incarceration, and even death. I had little more than the clothes on my back, was cheating welfare, shoplifting to survive, and I hadn’t showered or brushed my teeth in months.
I finally found the strength to quit doing drugs and got into long-term recovery.
How has this changed your life?
The adversity I faced forced me to search for God, accept help from amazing people, and transform myself from selfishness to service. As a result, I’ve achieved my childhood dream. Most importantly, others are inspired by my story to transform their own lives.
I learned to use adversity to my advantage. I worked very hard, faced my deepest fears, pursued a spiritual path. I’m so fortunate to have volunteered inside maximum-security prisons and jails. I’m grateful to law enforcement—the FBI and police departments—for the chance to help them better serve communities affected by addiction and incarceration. I’m blessed to have been a speaker for MIT, Cisco, Google, and LinkedIn.
Today, my wonderful family has me as the best son/brother/nephew/cousin I’ve ever been (while still very far from perfect, of course).
I achieved my childhood dream of becoming an author. You can find my work in The Washington Post and in my book, “My Addiction & Recovery”
Tell us about your work as an author and about your book “My Addiction and Recovery?”
Thank you so much for asking. Let me ask your readers a question: Do you have a dream going back to when you were a kid? Did something get in the way of your dream?
For many of us, the answer to both questions is Yes. You’ll find in my book, inspiration to achieve your dreams.
You’ll journey with me on my quest to get clean, become an author, and overcome my conspiracy beliefs.
You’ll read how incredible people helped me: A person at the highest level of the U.S. Intelligence Community, incarcerated men and women, my Uncle Jupiter, 12-step sponsors, off-duty police officers, the Tigers’ Cave Meditation Group, the “Breadwinners” Toastmasters-style group in women’s unit of county jail, the Krav Maga Institute, Epic Church, the FBI, and many more.
You’ll read about my ah-hah moments, how my addiction affected my relationships with my family, and what are the root causes of addiction.
Best of all, you’ll get to know the “Boolean Operators”, the disembodied voices who were my worst tormentors, but eventually became my closest companions.
Where we can buy the book?
Thank you again for asking. You can get my book on Amazon, or wherever books are sold. All profits are donated in service to communities affected by incarceration and addiction.
What mindsets helped making you so successful?
The mindset is to have a clear definition of success. I define success as having a spirit constantly turned to God, a heart full of only love for all life, and no thoughts other than of gratitude and blessings for others. Also the courage to triumph over the deepest fears.
So, you could say I’m on my way to being successful 🙂
What would say are the greatest lessons you learned so far?
Like George Harrison said: Everything can wait except the search for God
Any advice to entrepreneurs out there?
Get involved with organizations that teach entrepreneurism to people who are/were incarcerated. E.g. nonprofit Defy Ventures, and an organization called Hustle 2.0. You will find that our sisters and brothers who are/were incarcerated will teach you about life and entrepreneurism in ways you never imagined possible.
What book should every entrepreneur read?
Stride Toward Freedom, by MLK. You’ll draw lessons and inspiration from Dr. King’s reflections on leadership, spirituality, overcoming obstacles, psychology, perseverance, justice, building an organization…much more. If you’re looking to create a movement that changes the world, you’ll find a blueprint in Dr. King’s book
How’s your business got affected with this COVID-19?
The 12-month period ending in May 2020 saw 81,000 deaths from drug overdoses. This is the most overdose deaths in any 12-month period in recorded history (data from this CDC website). We as a society lost 81,000 opportunities for people to turn their lives around and contribute as much to society as I do, if not far more.
Yet we in the recovery community can help turn the tide. We can inspire others by sharing our stories of triumph over addiction: online, in zoom meetings, Facebook groups, by reading and commenting on blog posts about recovery. We can do so in ways that are positive and supportive, as we surround ourselves with positive people. All these things and more, we can accomplish during these challenging circumstances of COVID-19.
To paraphrase MLK: The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but at times of challenge and controversy…character is shaped and tested in times of adversity.
Now tell us about helping people about addictions and recovery?
To me, recovery is about achieving one’s dreams. The point is not simply to quit drugs (or another addictive behavior). Quitting is simply one step along the journey.
It can be a long and difficult journey, to achieve one’s dream. To undertake it, it helps to have faith in God. It helps too to hear and share stories of triumph. Stories help us form connections, see ourselves in others, and get ideas for newer and better solutions.
It’s important to be solution-oriented. For the addicted person, drugs (or the other addictive behavior) are often not the problem. Rather, drugs are our attempt at a solution. When we quit using drugs, our problems don’t just go away. In fact, they often get worse…at least initially. Because we have no more solution.
How do we find new solutions? Again, stories. Read books by people who overcame similar challenges as those you face. Listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, read articles. Soak up all the stories you can. Not everything will resonate with you, of course. But you’ll be challenged and inspired. Eventually, you’ll pull enough elements from enough stories to have the solution that works best for you.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
The ongoing decision that my challenge is not so much to change my circumstances, but to change myself.
There’s a great story from the life of the Prophet Muhammad, how he taught that the “Big Jihad” is the battle within ourselves. The “small jihad” (according to the story) is battle against people, against circumstances. This is my interpretation of the Prophet’s teachings, of course…but when we look up the word “Jihad”, we find it is defined as a spiritual struggle. (Note: My fellow Washington Post contributor Qasim Rashid explains it much better than I in this excellent Opinion Piece).
The Big Jihad played out in my life. When I quit meth in 2007, I discovered: Just because you’re done with drugs, doesn’t mean drugs are done with you. For years, I was dogged by conspiracy beliefs, suicidal depression, and paranoia about the FBI.
Yet others have faced far worse than I, and triumphed. Sure, to this day, I hear the Boolean Operators, and will believe my friend Omar was an undercover counterterrorism operative, that there’s been government intercession in my life. But when I see how others triumphed—people such as MLK and Mandela, yes, but also contemporaries such as Tara Westover, Mary Karr, and Augusten Burroughs, to name just a few—I’m inspired.
The Boolean Operators and my beliefs might not change. But, I can choose to view my beliefs as growth opportunities, and the Boolean Operators as angels. I can battle the selfish, overprivileged white guy I once was, to become a servant to God and my fellow humans.
It’s a tough decision, to change oneself! But very well worth it. I’m grateful to those who showed me the path.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Outside of my connection to God, the most rewarding part is when audiences show me that my work resonates with them. That they further believe in the power of second chances, find more hope for transformation in their own lives and the lives of others, have deeper faith in themselves and God.
Parents have told me their children find healing. People who are/were incarcerated tell me they find freedom. Successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople tell me they find meaning in service to the incarcerated. FBI executives tell me they are inspired to be of better service to communities affected by addiction. Of course, it’s not just because of my work. But I like to think my work contributes in some small way.
I have a very good friend, she’s a successful executive at well-known tech firm. After we met, she started volunteering part-time as a director for a nonprofit that serves youth victims of sex trafficking. I like to think my work played some small part in my friend’s decision.
What is your favorite healthy food?
Coffee, healthy for the soul in those pre-dawn hours with God
And your favorite cheat food?
Vitamin I…ice cream 🙂
What’s next for Ed Kressy in 2021?
Improve myself, so that more people are inspired by my work to achieve their dreams, find deeper meaning in their lives, and be in greater service to God and their fellow humans
What is your own definition of happiness?
Constant self-improvement, deepening spirituality, the people around me benefiting from what I offer
How is a normal day in your life?
Daily practices are very important: meditation, breathwork, fasting, nutrition, writing. And, my newest daily practice: every day since November 3rd, I’ve gone for a dip in a river. I live in Massachusetts, so that water is cold! But the health and spiritual benefits are remarkable.
Daily practices form a solid foundation to withstand the inevitable storms of self-doubt that assail us when we pursue a path of achieving our dreams. And that’s what it’s all about, achieving our dreams.
What is your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Waking before dawn, meditating, brewing a strong cup of coffee, being with God. Having thoughts of love for others. From there, a dip in the frozen river, a dish of ice cream (a big dish), a nice walk, a comfortable fire in the wood stove, connecting deeply with others. One day I’ll adopt a dog, that will make Sundays truly beautiful.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Nelson Mandela. He was on par with the greatest leaders in history (in my opinion), yet to my knowledge he was not necessarily a spiritual practitioner as was MLK, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus, and other great leaders. I would ask Nelson Mandela about his spiritual beliefs.
Best advice ever given?
Best advice recently given: If you’re not going to be worrying about something five years from now, don’t spend five minutes worrying about it today
Do you support any charity?
Defy Ventures, entrepreneur and employment training for currently and formerly incarcerated men and women. Also the Pelican Bay Volunteer Alliance, wonderful human beings who do similar work in Pelican Bay State Prison with an organization called Hustle 2.0.
A friend of mine, Darren Prince, is a remarkable person with a remarkable organization called the Aiming High Foundation. There’s a wonderful group called Chucky’s Fight, which I wrote about in The Washington Post (here’s the link). Darren and Chucky provide scholarships for people seeking treatment for addiction.
I’ve been fortunate to have been allowed to serve nonprofits such as the Wounded Warrior Project, American Red Cross, and Boys & Girls Clubs. Volunteering has been a major part of my recovery…the San Francisco Fire Department allowed me to be a volunteer first responder, for eight years. I volunteer for the FBI and police, helping them better serve communities affected by addiction and incarceration.
The point is not that I’m some great person…far, far from it. The lesson is: society gave me a second chance, and society benefited. I went from a gun-toting, cop-fearing, welfare-cheating drain on my communities, to a community servant. So many of our sisters and brothers, if given the same second chances, can accomplish at least as much as I…if not far more.
Name 3 things you can’t live without.
The 3 C’s—coffee, chocolate, ice cream 🙂
Seriously: God, love, fear (as a tool to be overcome)
Where do you see yourself and your career in 5 years from now?
A humble servant: of God, people overcoming addiction/incarceration, and others seeking life transformations
What do you think of Social Media?
Like fire: it can warm your home, but it can burn your house down
Where we can follow you?
Facebook and my website, www.authoredkressy.com
Bear D’Egidio, whom I consider an Instagram artist, built me a beautiful Instagram mosaic, here’s the link
Quote: It’s better to conquer oneself than to win a thousand battles (attributed to the Buddha)
Tv Show: The Sopranos