Today we’d like to introduce you to Samantha Myles.
Samantha, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Where do I begin?! I wanted to act from the time I was five. There was, and still is, something so magical about movies to me. “Back to the Future” was my favorite, and to this day I drive a stick-shift because Marty Mcfly did. Bad idea in Los Angeles, however, it brings me joy – so I continue to purchase them despite swearing in 10 East traffic that the next car I own will be an automatic.
I loved doing talent shows and skits in school. Despite having “the bug” I was strangely shy, and my heart would beat out of my chest when performing; but the feeling I got from being somebody else in an imaginary circumstance forced me to push past my fears. I had an agent at eight but never booked anything because I couldn’t fully get over my shyness. My mom was fed up driving from Torrance (my hometown) to Hollywood for auditions – and that ended any chance of success as a child actor.
My second choice career option was to be a newscaster. In my fifth grade yearbook, we were asked, “where will you be in 15 years?” and my answer was “a news reporter on television.” Exactly 15 years later I was. Let me back up, however, and explain what led to starting my own business. In high school, I began having panic attacks. They came out of nowhere and I started to experience depression. My dad died the day before my 18th birthday and I sunk deeper into pain because now it was a combination of chemical and situational depression. I had never done drugs or drank alcohol as a teenager. I was afraid of it and didn’t think that would ever be a part of my life. Peer pressure got the better of me and I had my first drink at 18. This was a significant moment because I felt like I could finally relax and breathe. The stress of my life slipped away and the thoughts that ran through my head suddenly quieted down.
A lot happened in the interim, but because this is an article and not a memoir, I will give the cliff’s notes. I started to drink to self-medicate. I was attending the University of Southern California for Broadcast Journalism, working part-time as a tutor, and had a part-time internship on top of that. All the while feeling heartbroken that I was pursuing journalism when my heart really wanted to act. The logical part of me knew that I needed a steady income, and acting wasn’t going to provide that. The stress of all of this was constant, and as time went on, the more I began to self-medicate to cope. I knew the amount of alcohol I was drinking wasn’t “normal,” but I convinced myself this wasn’t going to be a problem. Once I graduated and the stress of school and a full schedule was gone, so too would be my over-drinking and I would be able to go back to a glass of wine with dinner. My family and friends started to notice something was wrong. My pride refused to admit I had any sort of problem and to get them off my back I traded a drinking problem for a drug problem in hopes it would be “less noticeable.” Pain killers upset my stomach so I never took them after sports-related injuries, but kept them in a drawer in case of emergency. The day came when that “emergency” happened and I needed to feel relief from my emotional pain, but needed to function better than I did on alcohol. I’m a goal setter and an overachiever, and had I not been so hard on myself, I may not have ever turned to drugs for comfort. I for whatever reason didn’t get crippling nausea that prevented me from taking Vicodin in the past, and it was the beginning of the end from there.
I was hooked and when I ran out of my own painkillers, I started buying them. I had moments where I thought, “can this really be my life?!” This wasn’t supposed to happen to ME! I was an athlete and straight A student. Drug addicts and alcoholics do not look like me. I had let the stigma get to my head that people with addiction were “not good people” and must deserve the life of struggle and misery they had. That’s what movies and tv shows portrayed, so it must be true, right?? I was naive and refused to accept that this was taking over my life.
After a year and a half after graduation, applying to news stations all across the country, I was offered a job in a tiny town called Alexandria in Minnesota. I had to look up where this was seeing as I had never heard of it but took the job offer. I had convinced myself that I could now quit taking opiates because I finally “made it.” This is how an addict’s mind thinks. It convinces you everything will be “okay,” but let’s first have one more dose of opioids and we can deal with everything later. I ran out of pills once I had picked up and moved across the country and began to panic. I had no idea what “withdrawals” were, and why I was so incredibly uncomfortable and experiencing the most crippling depression of my life. The craving was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life. I tried to “doctor shop” and explain why I needed Vicodin to deal with a bum shoulder. My shoulder was fine. I was not. I think that doctor saw right through me, and even though I had become a master manipulator thanks to my addicted mind being in full overdrive, I was not successful in convincing him to write me a script. I began drinking again and my life continued to spiral out of control. The only good thing that came out of this experience was that I fell in love. I had been in an eight years relationship with a man when I moved to Minnesota. I was not only hiding a drug and alcohol problem – I was hiding the fact that I was gay. I had never acted on my feelings for women up to this point. I chose to sweep it under the rug and hoped maybe it would go away. So looking back, it wasn’t a surprise that I self-medicated. I was not allowing myself to be “me.” I was a “straight” newscaster when my heart and gut told me I was an actress who happened to be gay. I was an addict and alcoholic and just could not face it or admit it at the time. I had made friends with someone who turned out to be my first female love. We had connected eyes and I knew something was there. Her boyfriend was best friends with the man I was casually dating – someone I had interviewed for a story – and she and I became best friends as well. She would introduce me to people saying, “this is Sam. She’s on the news,” and my heart would pitter-patter. I wanted so badly to feel like a “somebody” and she did that for me. We had an affair despite neither one of us ever having a relationship with a woman.
I had managed to lose that job in six weeks. I had never ever been fired from a job and I was in shock. I never was intoxicated or high on the air, but I had made careless mistakes that led to me being fired. I had gotten a speeding ticket in the company car, I got in an accident in the company car (I had assumed I was at a four ways stop that turned out to be a two way stop – the one and only time in my life where I was at-fault for an accident), and being the one-man band that we were in the beginning of our newscaster careers, I had dropped the camera during an interview. The tiny news station where we made minimum wage pay couldn’t afford to keep me on staff. The shocking moment of finding out and being humiliated that I had crashed and burned so quickly came with a sigh of relief that I could finally return home to my drugs. I had this moment I’ll never forget as I saw the woman in my rear-view mirror as I had packed up my car to make the long drive home to Los Angeles, tears streaming down my face as I left my love behind, but my fingers gripping my steering wheel in excitement because I was more in love with drugs than I was with anyone or anything else. How sad this was. This wasn’t supposed to be my life. I was supposed to be stronger than this. What I later learned about addiction was that it wasn’t about strength or willpower. I have both in spades. This is about a chemical imbalance in my brain that was going to rear its ugly head regardless.
So how did I get to where I am today? I am an actor and an entrepreneur. I started my own recovery coaching company where I work one on one with those struggling with addiction and create a treatment plan designed specifically for them. I meet with them in the privacy of their homes either in person or online. We set goals, we track moods, we look at obstacles and triggers, we determine who or what needs to be included in this process for them to be successful (for example: rehab, detox doctors, therapists, various programs, etc). Every person is unique so I realized that a cookie-cutter method to sobriety (or in certain cases abstinence from whatever substance is making their life unmanageable) would not work for everyone. I struggled for years before I was able to kick my addictions. I was good at everything – why wasn’t *I* able to “get” this whole sobriety thing? It was trial and error and going to rehab and getting kicked out of rehab due to relapse, and going to therapy, and joining a twelve-step program, and taking up chanting and exercise to try to regain the serotonin and dopamine in my brain that opioids robbed me of. There is so much stigma attached to this disease that only 10 percent of the 23 million Americans who are suffering with addiction seek help. When Covid hit and relapse rates went up 33 percent, I had a light go off in my head. Something needs to happen to help more people that are suffering. I didn’t survive an opioid and alcohol addiction and celebrate year after year of sobriety only to sit back and watch more and more people overdose and die. My idea to bring recovery to people’s doorsteps who want help in a safe and private atmosphere was born, and “By Your Side Recovery” was launched. I never thought I would be a business owner. It has not been easy, but it is part of my life’s mission. My fear in going public with my story is that it would be career suicide. What if somebody doesn’t cast me because they know I’m gay and/or sober? Too bad. Their loss. If they don’t want to work with me because I am living my truth then they aren’t somebody I want to work with anyway. I’m tired of hiding. If my story can help even one person with their addiction or sexuality, it would be worth the cost of my acting career.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has been the most jagged and bumpy road of my life getting to where I am today! But it was worth every ounce of struggle. Had I not suffered the way I had in my addiction, I wouldn’t have the compassion or ability to help someone else. I had a difficult time getting my foot in the door as an actor and a more difficult time kicking an opioid and alcohol problem and starting my own business. I hated when I would be asked, “so what do you do for a living?’ I would reluctantly say, “I’m an actor.” More often than not the person would pause, shake their head and say, “acting, huh? Tough business.” It was very difficult not to snap back in sarcasm, “ya think?! Doesn’t everybody roll up to Hollywood and become a star?!” I would more often than not shrug my shoulders and say, “indeed it is.” I think had I responded with, “I’m an astronaut, more people would believe that was how I earned my living than saying I was an actor.”
In regards to my addiction recovery coaching company, I knew NOTHING about starting a business when this process began. I had to Google what LLC stood for. Now my company is launched and LLCed and I have swallowed my pride in asking other business owners what they have done in moments where I feel stuck. It wasn’t the creating a curriculum or working with my clients that was difficult. It was dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s and marketing and learning how to build a website that felt like the biggest challenges in the beginning. My belief is that there is no obstacle too large that you can’t conquer if you believe in yourself. Shut out the naysayer noise (which trust me – comes with the territory both in the acting and addiction world) and power through it.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am an artist and a business owner. I think one of the coolest things about life is that you don’t have to fit in a box. You can do more than one thing it’s your life. Do what sets your heart on fire. I figured out at five that I was passionate about acting, but it took my life falling apart to realize how passionate I was about recovery.
A friend of mine sent me a YouTube video where this guy was saying, “how can you make the worst thing that happened in your life, the best thing that happened in your life?” I sat there with a puzzled look on my face and thought, “what is this man talking about?!” Then a light went off in my head. It took me years and years of struggling with my addiction and yet I very rarely got the opportunity to help other people. I just wasn’t meeting anyone who was trying to get off of opioids and alcohol, but I knew they were out there. I have sponsored people, but that only pertains to the 12 steps, and I knew of a myriad of ways to achieve sobriety. I am certainly not knocking 12-step programs as they have saved countless lives, but not everybody wants to kick their addiction that way. I wanted to start a company that brings recovery to them if they so choose.
When I got sober it felt very public. I went to rehab, I went to meetings where I had to announce that I was an alcoholic in front of strangers. I didn’t know that recovery coaches existed, and when I finally did get clean and sober, I had done it on my terms. This was my sobriety and nobody else’s. I want other people to feel the same way. Perhaps my clients and I will discover that they need 12 steps and/or rehab, but they may learn as we work on this sobriety puzzle together that maybe a program like SMART recovery, or church, or sometimes even something as simple as yoga can get them to rid their addictions. I pride myself on having a tailored plan for each individual so they feel seen and heard and take charge of their own life and recovery. What works for one person may not work for the other so never give up because there is always a solution, and my company, “By Your Side Recovery” will help you get there!
As far as my acting career, it has ebbed and flowed, but over the years I have done independent films and tv shows, won two awards at Outfest, and most recently this past winter did a Michael Bublé Christmas music video that was a lot of fun and wound up getting 3.9 million views! I consider myself lucky that I have followed two of the things I have been most passionate about in my life. It wasn’t easy, but I woke up every morning knowing that I took a chance on my dreams and work toward them every day.
Do you have any advice for those just starting out?
I think my advice for anyone starting out is to go easy on themselves and give whatever they are working on time to blossom. Nothing amazing in my life happened overnight. In fact, the things I wanted the most were the most difficult and emotionally exhausting ones. There were so many hurdles and plenty of times when I wanted to throw in the towel, but I’m so grateful I didn’t because success eventually came. It’s my belief that if you are showing the universe that you are working toward something and you are putting your whole heart and soul into it, it will eventually reward you for it. I think we are constantly being tested to make us stronger. I am not a big fan of this and sometimes look up at the sky and shake my fist while saying, “are you freaking kidding me?! Haven’t I proven myself enough to you?!”, but then realize that the universe is always working for me, not against me. There are plenty of times I don’t get what I want. But imagine how boring life would be if we always got the things we wanted when we wanted them. We wouldn’t appreciate them the way we do when we put our blood sweat and tears into them.
So if you are passionate about something, it is something you think about every day of your life, you HAVE to face your fears and do it. One of my favorite quotes is, “shoot for the moon – even if you miss – you will land amongst the stars.” There are so many cool success stories like Oprah’s and Thomas Edison’s and Michael Jordan’s that started with a ton of failure in the beginning. They refused to quit. Other people in their shoes may have given up from exhaustion when a massive amount of success was just right around the corner.
- Website: www.byyoursiderecovery.com (my addiction recovery coaching) www.samanthamyles.com
- Instagram: @thesamanthamyles (my personal) and @byyoursiderecovery for my company
- Youtube: https://youtu.be/1LfuBZqXa-4 (this is the link for the Michael Bublé music video I just did called “The Christmas Sweater”
- Other: www.imdb.me/SamanthaMyles
Both main image and black and white photo were taken by Stephanie Girard, “The Christmas Sweater” photo credit to Warner Records, Michael Bublé and Neon Cat Productions, Logo is property of “By Your Side Recovery”, and other acting photo is Neon Cat Productions.