ADHD is a pretty common thing these days, with children all across America taking prescribed medication in order to deal with the negative effects the condition has on their ability to concentrate. It’s a double-edged sword, though — while it can hinder rather than help some individuals, for others it can provide them with incredible amounts of energy and razor-sharp dedication.
Jeremiah Campbell — the former addict who founded Brickworks — falls into the latter category. By his own admission, he considers ADHD one of his superpowers, allowing him to stay focused on a number of different projects without losing quality in any one of them. Interestingly, the addict turned entrepreneur doesn’t consider standard-issue motivation to have been a major factor in his success, prioritizing results-independent self-discipline as a means of spurring himself on.
A Complicated Introduction
Getting to the point he’s at now, though, wasn’t straightforward. A tricky childhood was earmarked by medication after medication after medication, which is an unfortunately common trend among people who grew up in modern America. When you’ve got a society that assumes there’s a pill to cure every problem, the chances are a good percentage of your citizens are going to wind up overmedicated. So it was with Campbell, who was pumped full of drugs as a child. As unpleasant as the experience undoubtedly was, it also opened his eyes to a reality many of us are aware of but few of us are keen to comment on: the fact that drug and alcohol addiction is everywhere, and that sometimes the only difference between a high-powered CEO and a homeless drug addict is the fact that the former has money.
Leaving every doctor’s visit with between 30 and 90 Vicodin pills was commonplace in an America that was just beginning to descend into what we now recognize as an opioid epidemic. Campbell was put on Ritalin when he was in fourth grade and Adderall soon thereafter. Unsurprisingly, problems followed; after all, these were serious chemicals, with Adderall essentially being a pharmaceutical version of Amphetamine.
Going from failing various classes to finishing school on the Honor Roll, the young Jeremiah recalls having his pupils checked by his principal, who was worried that the adolescent was using cocaine. Most tragic of all, maybe, was the fact that at base, there wasn’t even anything wrong with Campbell — he was just energetic, hyperactive, in need of more stimulation than many of his peers. But a widespread societal culture of ‘fixing the problem’ led to more doctor’s visits, more questions, and even more chemical coping strategies.
When Campbell got out of high school, he was already an experienced pill-popper, thanks to the bottles upon bottles of Adderall he’d been taking regularly. He fell into selling drugs more or less by accident, with some of his friends letting him know that they’d gladly pay him for some of his medication. Adderall was in high demand among the college-goers in Campbell’s town, as it presented a different option to the Xanax, Klonopin, and opioids which were rampant at the time. Campbell himself soon found himself mixing regular doses of Oxycontin (the ‘poster drug’ of the opioid epidemic) with his Adderall, a dangerous practice which can wreak havoc on the body’s major organs.
Going From Bad To Worse
An emotionally scarring divorce that took place when Campbell was 16 left his father heartbroken and lonely, so Campbell himself became his own Dad’s drinking buddy. Alcohol eventually progressed to cannabis and Oxycontin, with father and son taking turns in the bathroom to ingest the drug. To say the situation was dire is an understatement, but things were about to get worse still.
Campbell’s younger brother passed away at the age of 18 from a heroin overdose. Having spent time in and out of treatment centers, the brother managed to make his way to an assisted living environment — a kind of halfway house to help addicts who have successfully completed their rehab programs to gradually readjust to life in the world. Tragically, Campbell’s brother caught Hepatitis-C, had an argument with a friend, and decided to do one more shot of dope. That shot would prove to be his last, and he overdosed that very night.
Campbell himself was no stranger to rehab centers, having been through five different inpatient treatment centers himself before he was able to acknowledge that he was an addict. A large part of this denial was a sentiment which will be familiar to anybody who has had struggles with addiction. Campbell thought it was enough to go through a kind of half sobriety, by giving up the hard drugs but allowing himself to continue smoking weed, or to continue drinking, or even to only drink beer. And as any veteran of addiction will be able to tell you, that’s just not how it works.
Making A Change
Campbell didn’t like drugs; he liked the effects they had on him. This, too, will ring familiar to a lot of us. At the third center — having done his time with just about any chemical he could get his hands on — he decided to give 12-step meetings a try. The results were life-changing. From that moment on, he realized that he didn’t need to put a needle in his arm or a drink in his hand — he could live without substances, it was possible.
12-step meetings also formed the basis for his burgeoning interest in entrepreneurship. A fellow attendee approached him and asked him if he had a job; when Campbell replied in the negative, he figured out himself that he was done using, that it was time to get his life moving in the right direction.
With remarkable candidness of expression, Campbell doesn’t shy away from the uglier aspects of his early life. He describes himself as a ‘pillowcase bandit’, by which he means somebody who would steal from friends who came to sleep around his house. He made a point to only rob, cheat, and steal from people who loved him — from people who he knew wouldn’t put him in jail.
The Gift Of Desperation
The gift of desperation, for Campbell, is what forms the basis for how he has been able to reimagine life and rewire his own brain. Because he’s been at the very bottom — precisely because of the fact that he knows what it is to have nothing, to be nobody, to be going nowhere — Campbell is able to remain grounded in his current life, even as his entrepreneurial projects continue to flourish and his life continues to trend upwards.
Rather than consider his battles with addiction as a handicap or something that holds him back, Campbell thinks of them as a superpower. If that sounds familiar, it might be because he categorized his ADHD in the same way. This ability to reframe things that society or other people might consider negatives as major positives has proven to be an incredibly important part of Jeremiah Campbell’s own journey, and it goes some way towards explaining just how he’s managed to turn things around so dramatically. As a matter of fact, he starts every single day with the biggest triumph of his entire life — the ability to wake up and have the choice not to drink, not to use a drug.
Spirituality played a part as well. By giving himself up to the will of his Creator (the first step of 12-step groups is to acknowledge that you’re powerless over your addiction, and to surrender yourself to a higher power of your choosing) Campbell managed to weave his own spiritual principles into the business life he was beginning to create for himself. So how does he do it?
Crucially, he pays tribute to an idealized version of himself — one who doesn’t do drugs, one who’s capable of running a multi-million dollar company. He learned to stay away from people who seemed likely to pull him back into the life he’d left behind. Rather than feel satisfied with where he was, he started to align himself with people who were already achieving the kinds of goals he was looking for — hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. While he couldn’t quite picture himself being that successful right away, he had an inner well of grit and determination that wasn’t going anywhere.
Standing Tall And Aiming High
Today, Campbell doesn’t do anything that isn’t going to make him a better man. Hanging out with his children, going to the gym; no matter what it is, he focuses completely on every single step he takes in his life. One goal was to make ten members in his company more than $100,000. Even though he didn’t quite make all ten, he did accomplish the goal with three of them, which is pretty incredible in its own right.
Brickworks LLC is his masonry company, and he treats his employees like old friends. As a means of keeping his life headed in the right direction, Campbell prioritizes giving back to people, helping his employees make more money than they ever could have thought possible. Even though money is an important aspect of how he leaves, at the end of the day, all it is is a way to get closer to the life that God intended for him.
Whether it was hitting rock bottom or breaking through the ceiling, Jeremiah Campbell has always been driven — and there’s no sign that that’s going to change anytime soon. By remaining grateful for where he’s been and what he’s come through, he’s figured out that really, what it all comes down to is how you think about the life you’re leading. Everything can be a superpower if you try hard enough.
Want to connect with Jeremiah online?