“If the drugs and alcohol weren’t going to kill me, the things I was doing while under the influence of them would have.”
I grew up in a nice neighborhood, with nice parents; got along with my siblings (for the most part) and had lots of friends. I can’t say I had any real problems, besides the occasional schoolyard scrap and average adolescent defiance. If I had had any understanding of addiction at the age of twelve, I may have thought twice about smoking that first cigarette. Over the next two years this progressed to smoking weed and hash daily, and the occasional acid and magic mushroom adventure. It didn’t take long for school, family, and anything else positive in my life to lose priority.
I moved out at sixteen and began to engage in criminal activities to support the habit that I wasn’t even aware existed. Over the course of the next twenty years, I abused alcohol, cocaine, opiates, and basically anything I could get my hands on.
I did achieve some levels of success in various areas of my life (i.e. relationships, businesses, fitness, and hobbies), but they always seemed to be short lived, and I couldn’t figure out why. I could blame everyone else or just plain bad luck, but very rarely did I hold myself accountable. I managed to hide my alcoholism and addiction for the most part, and I know now that most people just assumed I had a mental health issue. The denial ran so strong within me that I couldn’t, or at times, chose not to see the problem. It’s funny how that works: when I was doing drugs and not drinking, I was just glad I wasn’t an alcoholic; when I was drinking and not doing drugs, I was just glad I wasn’t an addict. And when I was doing both, I was glad I wasn’t either. I guess somewhere inside of me I knew that if I really chose to see the problem, I was going to have to do something about it. I was never confronted by anyone about my substance abuse…until I arrived at the hospital one day after attempting suicide. My secret was out.
For the first time ever I spoke openly about my drug and alcohol abuse during my obligatory 72 hour stay in the psychiatric ward. One of the psychiatrists on staff connected me with ADAPT during my stay and I felt a sense of relief knowing (thinking) that things were going to be all better now. I had no idea what recovery looked like, but it seemed like a better option than death.
I saw a counselor once a week, and life seemed to be getting better. But after a few months I grew bored, agitated, depressed and started to fantasize about getting high.
I’ve had some tough battles in my recovery: after the suicide attempt and hospital visit I spent two more years in and out of detox and treatment centers. I absolutely thought there was no way to recover, and I honestly believed that people who “claimed” to have recovered were lying!
Nearing the end of my drug and alcohol career I was estranged from my family, I had lost my house, my car, my job, my girlfriend, my body, my soul…and all hope. It wasn’t until I finally encountered an amazing addictions peer support worker at a Detox center who I really connected with and who I actually believed cared about me, who treated me with respect at a time when I viewed myself as complete garbage, giving me that little piece of self worth, making me feel human again, and at that point in my life, when I had absolutely nothing left to lose, that was enough to make me want sobriety so bad that I would do anything at all. I started attending 12 Step meetings everyday, attending church, eating healthy, exercising and volunteering in the community. The first week of sobriety felt like a month. The first month felt like a year. Then the first year felt like a minute. I couldn’t believe I had actually made it that long!
There were many struggles, not everyday was perfect, some days I didn’t even get out of bed, but I didn’t drink or do drugs. The volunteering really helped me to get out of my slumps, and made me feel like a normal and positive contributing member of society. The 12 Step groups kept me connected with so many other people in recovery, which was very comforting, as all of my addiction and suffering had been done alone. There was a certain discipline to setting my schedule to attend a meeting everyday that kept me focused and in return that focus played out in other areas of my life. Today I am sober/clean, reunited with my family, employed and still trying my best to have a positive impact in my community. I’ve learned to accept help, face my problems, and not create the chaos I used to. As I look ahead I truly believe the possibilities are infinite if I just stay on track. For an addict and alcoholic like me, I’ve come to accept the fact that my personal recovery journey just may be a lifelong process, so why not enjoy it!