What is this trip about!?
When God works a miracle in your life, you’re supposed to go tell the world about it. This trip is about the healing power of HOPE.
When I started CLTIVATE in August of 2016, my vision was to “cultivate” Charlotte. This city changed my life, and it’s the first place I’ve ever felt at home. I moved here during my first month of sobriety – a job opportunity fell from the sky (another story for another day), and I just knew it was my chance to make things right. New friends began to surround me – the uplifting kind. The kind who hold me accountable. The kind who push me to do better and BE better. The kind who inspire me. My positive attitude at work began to get noticed, and my actual work began to produce results. For the first time in my life, I was a reliable employee, I was making enough money to pay my bills, I was working out regularly, making new friends, going to AA meetings every night, my faith became deeply rooted in the love of Jesus Christ, and the light in my eyes returned from its 26-year vacation.
It wasn’t easy to share my story. It’s full of brokenness, suicidal thoughts, crippling hangovers, encounters with the law, wrecked relationships, and spiritual darkness. Don’t get me wrong…college was FUN. I made lifelong friends there, enjoyed every minute of every party, learned how to get away with doing the bare minimum, and I did what I wanted. Do I regret anything? Honestly…no. I did plenty of wrong – I hurt people with my words AND actions, I pushed my family away, I developed some awful habits that led me down a dark road, and I turned my back on the very God I once called my best friend. I’m deeply and eternally sorry for the things I’ve done, but I do not regret anything. It’s what shaped me into the man I am today.
^^^It feels like I use too many words. I spent my entire life holding everything in, drinking to forget, and using drugs to escape my feelings. I still have no concept of “normal” – writing is just my way of putting these crazy feelings into words. It gets me out of my own head, and it helps keep me away from the liquor store. So please forgive me for taking forever to get to the point. I do have a point lol.
When I shared my story last year, I had no intention or inkling of a thought that anyone would care. I shared my story to let the feelings out that I had been harboring for so many years. When it became apparent that my story had value, and that my broken past was actually worth something, my wheels started spinning. The CLTIVATE idea happened shortly thereafter, and the fire you see in my soul today was ignited. In a matter of months, my Instagram and Facebook accounts were getting bombarded with messages, shirt orders were coming in from all over the country (and internationally), this blog was getting some traction, media companies were reaching out, and it became too much to keep up with my full-time job AND this.
No joke, I’d leave work at 5pm, let my dog out for a minute, and then I’d have to go deliver CLTIVATE shirts all over town til past midnight. Every night. Then I’d come home, write a blog post, catch up on Instagram and FB, update the website, and it’d be 5am and time to drive back to work. For 3 straight months, I didn’t sleep more than two hours a night. Weekends were the same. And the weirdest part… I WAS HAPPY. Because I was honest with my boss from day one about my recovery, about this whole CLTIVATE thing, and about my career goals, she became my biggest fan. I’ll never forget the day she walked into my office and said, “Zack – I’m not going to push you out of the nest, but I think you’re ready to fly.” I left my job on December 23, 2016.
This whole thing has been a whirlwind. I still barely know how to run a non-profit. There are TONS of things on my list that I haven’t been able to accomplish yet. I just keep waking up every day with a smile, because this is the life God called me to live.
<Come on, Zack, get to the point...>
...speaking of points, I’m a huge fan of bullet points and lists, so maybe that’ll help me conclude this thing. Here’s what this trip/journey/mission/whatever you want to call it is all about:
The Lord put it on my heart to GO share His love with as many people as possible.
Hundreds of people have reached out through Instagram asking for help with recovery.
Hundreds of others have expressed a sincere interest in starting CLTIVATE groups/chapters in their own cities.
Thousands have joined this movement, and it’s time to go cultivate real-life relationships.
Several speaking engagements have been lined up all over the country.
People have offered me places to stay all over the country.
Treatment centers and recovery programs have asked me to spend time at their campuses.
I can’t stand the thought of paying rent any longer. You guys are donating to this cause from the goodness of your hearts, and it makes me sick to have to allocate funds for expenses like rent and utilities.
Literally on the 2nd day of CLTIVATE being a “thing”, a total stranger in Arizona placed an order for a sweatshirt. That’s when I realized this is slightly bigger than Charlotte. (Shoutout to you, Jordan, if you're reading this.)
The long-term vision for CLTIVATE includes creating an actual place where people in recovery can go – without the stigma. My hope is to meet awesome people on the road who will help start these groups, and I’m going to trust God to transform this into whatever He wants it to be.
We started a Podcast that’s getting a ton of traction already, and I’d love to go interview people and share their stories of hope with you.
The Lord also put it on my heart to write a book. The kind of book that inspires people to follow their wild, crazy hearts. A book that reveals what it’s like to be sober in a world where everyone drinks, what faith looks like, the ups and downs of life on the road with a German Shepherd, and all the funny stories in between.
I’m not ditching Charlotte. This is home. But when God opens doors, it’s our job to run through them with confidence. The only way to know His plan is to experience it. His plan is so much bigger than my apartment in Charlotte. It has served its purpose, and I’m eternally grateful for the 34 months of sobriety this place has given me.