Recognize that you are not alone: It’s essential to understand that many others have faced similar challenges. You are not alone in your struggle. Seek support and connection by attending meetings. Smart Recovery is a highly regarded program with meetings available nationwide. In the beginning, it’s crucial to build a network beyond your immediate family.
As a part of my series about people who made the journey from an addict to an entrepreneur, I had the pleasure to interview Ken Cox.
From humble beginnings in Missouri, Ken Cox has conquered a life full of hardships and has come out on top. He’s the President of Hostirian and a solutions-focused Senior Executive with over 20 years of solid success in the software, SaaS, telecom, and e-commerce industries. Ken Cox is an expert when it comes to helping companies with outsourced IT projects, IT infrastructure, compliance, marketing campaigns, sales strategy, or M&A activity.
In his impressive career, Mr. Cox has held top leadership positions at Hostirian, Rivercity Internet Group, Mpower Communications, and Midwest Micro Systems. But that’s not all there is to him. Ken Cox is also a recovered addict with eye-opening insights. During his journey to recovery, he discovered a passion for boxing; Ken owns a boxing gym where he teaches young kids how to spar. It’s all about knocking out challenges and helping individuals find their power and purpose.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you describe your childhood for us?
I am from Missouri, where my mom came from an abusive family, so I was born homeless. My mother and I lived above a bar before she met my stepfather. Essentially, I grew up in a bar. My stepfather was an abusive alcoholic. I had a lot of free-range as a child and got into a lot of trouble in high school with drugs.
Can you share with us how were you initially introduced to your addiction? What drew you to the addiction you had?
Starting at age five, I began drinking and had a lot of freedom to do as I pleased. As a stage manager for bands, alcohol was ubiquitous in the entertainment industry, which marked the beginning of my career. Transitioning into IT in 1999, I relied on alcohol to make an impression and build connections by treating my coworkers and partners to drinks, occasionally even visiting casinos. This behavior was ingrained in the company culture and I was rewarded with success; rewarded for my instigative behavior.
What do you think you were really masking or running from in the first place?
I believe I was masking and running from deep-seated abandonment and self-worth issues. Growing up without a biological father and facing comments from my siblings about my real dad created a challenging environment. Additionally, I suffered from a painful hernia during the first six months of my life, which likely influenced my development. Trying to understand masculinity without relying on alcohol proved difficult as it had become ingrained in my personality.
Can you share what the lowest point in your addiction and life was?
The lowest thing I’ve ever done was having my daughter hear me falsely blaming my wife for things that weren’t her fault. It surpasses even the nights I spent in jail; the way it affected my family remains the most regretful and distressing thing I’ve done. It forced me to confront the truth that when I drink, I lose control over myself.
Can you tell us the story about how you were able to overcome your addiction?
Overcoming addiction has been an ongoing battle for me, but there are a few key elements that have played a significant role in my recovery. One crucial aspect has been seeking counseling and having someone supportive to confide in about my personal struggles. This has provided me with immense strength and guidance.
Another transformative factor has been my shift in mindset, which I largely attribute to my involvement in boxing. I had been searching for a boxing gym for quite some time, as I wanted to incorporate exercise into my life. Finally, I found a gym that resonated with me, and I quickly developed a deep love for the sport.
However, as the gym was nearing its closure, I realized that boxing had become a lifeline for me. I was determined to keep it in my life, so I made the decision to purchase the gym from its previous owners. This turned out to be one of the most profound and positive experiences of my life. Initially, I opened the gym with the intention of catering to individuals like me, who were interested in learning how to spar. However, when covid hit, we had to shut down that gym and open a new one. This gym happened to be located across the street from a mosque. Eventually, young kids started approaching us, asking if we could teach them how to box. Hearing their stories and connecting with these children from different countries was incredibly eye-opening. It gave me a fresh perspective on life and a sense of purpose.
While I never found myself particularly drawn to traditional AA meetings, I have found Smart Recovery meetings to be immensely beneficial. They have provided me with a supportive community and valuable tools for my recovery.
How did you reconcile within yourself and to others the pain that addiction caused to you and them?
We are still navigating through this process of recovery, but I’ve discovered a powerful technique that has had a profound impact on me. It involves confronting and acknowledging the feelings I never want to experience again. One of the most effective ways I do this is by reading aloud the instances I’ve documented in my notes, where I made choices that brought me discomfort or pain. For example, I remind myself of the time I had two beers at dinner and didn’t enjoy them, or the incident in November when I yelled at my wife and felt absolutely terrible afterward. Every morning, I recite these occurrences as a reminder of the person I strive not to become that day. This practice serves as a form of affirmation, holding me accountable for the behaviors I want to avoid and allowing me to be more conscious of my efforts. I firmly believe that self-mantras play a crucial role in recovery because they are unique to each individual and tailored to their own journey and needs.
When you stopped your addiction, what did you do to fill in all the newfound time you had?
My new-found time is dedicated to boxing and creating single-service businesses and products. I am also writing a book about how I used the boxing mindset to overcome addiction.
What positive habits have you incorporated into your life post addiction to keep you on the right path?
I have embraced several positive habits that have helped me stay on the right path. Each morning, I start my day with affirmations, reminding myself of who I do and don’t want to be, and my commitment to recovery. Additionally, incorporating exercise into my routine has been instrumental in maintaining my well-being.
Having a strong support group has played a crucial role as well. Surrounding myself with understanding and empathetic individuals who share similar experiences has provided me with a sense of community and encouragement. Furthermore, I have learned the importance of forgiveness — both for myself and others — allowing me to let go of the past.
Practicing gratitude, although it may be challenging at times, has been transformative. Taking time to appreciate the positive aspects of my life has shifted my perspective and brought me a renewed sense of joy and contentment.
Engaging in self-reflection and seeking therapy have been invaluable. I regularly meet with my therapist every two weeks, utilizing this safe space to delve into deeper aspects of my journey. For processing the traumas I have endured, I have found EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to be an incredibly effective therapy technique.
Can you tell us a story about how your entrepreneurial journey started?
From a young age, the concept of buying low-cost items and selling them for a higher price was ingrained in me due to the low-income neighborhood I grew up in. The entrepreneurial spirit was always present. At the age of 14, I took my first step by starting my own LLC. I was working at a pizza place that had a broken gumball vending machine out front. It sparked an idea, and I approached my manager with a proposition: I offered to purchase a vending machine and suggested that we share the profits. This venture marked the humble beginning of my entrepreneurial journey.
As I grew older, my ambitions expanded. While working in the entertainment industry, I established a business focused on video production, leveraging my creative talents. However, my path eventually led me to the IT industry after an accident that made it impossible to hold a camera. It was after this transition that I joined forces with my partners and embarked on the creation of Hostirian and MyEmailService.com. These ventures marked significant milestones in my journey as an entrepreneur.
I have encountered both successes and valuable lessons. Each experience has shaped me, fueling my desire for continuous growth and innovation. The journey continues, and I am excited to see what the future holds as I persist in pursuing new opportunities and making a meaningful impact.
Why do you think this topic is not discussed enough?
I believe one of the main factors is shame. As addicts, we often carry a heavy burden of shame, feeling that our actions are deeply shameful and painful to confront. It becomes difficult to open up and talk about our struggles.
However, through my interactions with the kids at the boxing gym, I have come to realize the power of sharing our pain. By giving away our pain, not only do we help ourselves, but we also have the potential to make a positive impact on people around the world. It would be incredibly selfish to withhold these stories and not shed light on powerful journeys. In today’s society, it’s disheartening to hear that many men feel it is unsafe for them to express their emotions openly. This shouldn’t be the case. I have been sharing my stories for a long time, and it has been immensely beneficial for my own healing and growth.
Something also worth highlighting here is the importance of familial support for those compelled to share their stories. The impact of addiction and recovery extends beyond the individual struggling with it; it also affects their loved ones. Having a supportive family can make a significant difference in the healing process as they navigate their own emotions and experiences alongside you.
Can you share three pieces of advice that you would give to the entrepreneur who is struggling with some sort of addiction but ashamed to speak about it or get help?
- Recognize that you are not alone: It’s essential to understand that many others have faced similar challenges. You are not alone in your struggle. Seek support and connection by attending meetings. Smart Recovery is a highly regarded program with meetings available nationwide. In the beginning, it’s crucial to build a network beyond your immediate family.
- Believe in yourself and push forward: At the start, you may need to convince yourself that you can overcome this addiction and achieve a better life, even if you feel otherwise. Your mindset is critical. If you don’t believe in your ability to change, it becomes difficult to make progress. So, be resilient and push yourself when needed.
- Explore trauma-based therapy like EMDR: If you suspect that your addiction is rooted in childhood trauma, I highly recommend considering Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. EMDR uses rapid eye movement to help uncover deep-seated belief systems that shape your identity and past experiences. It allows you to reframe and recreate the narrative within your mind. Personally, I have found EMDR to be an incredibly transformative therapy, leading to fundamental changes in how I think about manhood, emotions, and overall well-being.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!