Growing up, I had self esteem issues. I was the youngest of three and I always thought I had something to prove. I had a fear of being judged and not being good enough. I always felt alone, even in a crowd of friends and family. As a kid, I was so rebellious that no matter what someone said to me, I had to go against the grain. I was the loudest kid in the room but I didn’t want you to look at me. I was an antisocial extrovert. I picked up my first drink at ten years old and I began to use every day until I was twenty-one. It wasn’t normal behavior but I thought it was because everybody else was doing it. I grew up in the Oxycontin epidemic. I’m not sure anybody knew how bad the problem was until it came to a head. I can remember being in High School and being dope sick in homeroom. I felt like the system had given up on me even though I had given up on it. I remember knowing that what I was doing was wrong… but I had absolutely no control and I didn’t have the capability to solve it.
My substance abuse progressively got worse. I was stealing from all of my loved ones. My family learned that I had a problem and I was always ruffling their feathers. Eventually, they said: “You have to leave”. At twenty years old, that’s a tough pill to swallow. I went to a treatment center but I didn’t complete it. I got thrown out and I went and I used. My parents let me back in the house for a week because I needed clean urine to get into another facility…and that’s what I did. I went into the facility, completed the thirty day program, and went into a halfway house. I used with three weeks left and I got thrown out. I remember the pain I was in when I relapsed in that program. It was so disappointing and frustrating. I felt so let down and I knew it was going to be even worse for my family. I had tried to get clean from the age of seventeen to twenty-one…over and over and over again. I tried to get clean at home and I tried to get clean at meetings. I tried to get clean through all kinds of different remedies but none of them worked. I never believed in complete abstinence. I never bought into a twelve step program or going to meetings. I never bought into anything. I always wanted to do it my way…and my way ended up with me using. My best thinking always landed me in another program.
On the car ride home from the halfway house, my mother, sister, and I didn’t even speak. I just cried the whole way. They say when the pain gets great enough, something will change…and something changed inside of me that day. I said: “I don’t want to do this anymore. I can’t live like this. I can’t continue to keep lying, stealing and manipulating”. So I went to a meeting that night. My parents dropped me off at a train station and I met my sponsor. I got a twenty four hour keychain, a service position, and I raised my hand. I let people know how I was doing. I’ve been clean ever since. That was July 22nd, 2007.
I went to two meetings a day for the first one hundred and eighty days of my recovery. I went to my sponsors house every Monday night to write Step work. We ate dinner, checked in, and shared with each other. It was a way for me to get connected with other men and let other people know how I was doing. It helped me get honest and it helped me get comfortable around others. I could never get honest with anybody. I always had to lie because I was never comfortable with who I was as a person. I had a fake persona based on who I thought you wanted me to be. It wasn’t until I started those Monday night meetings that I was truly able to open up and be okay with myself. For the longest time, I had no idea who I was. Those meetings helped me discover the man I’m supposed to be and the reason why I’m here. I truly believe that I’m here to help addicts. There have been so many moments in my life where I’ve needed so much help from other people, and I’ve always gotten it. No one ever turned my phone call away. No one ever turned their back on me. No one ever gave up on me. That means something. So I truly feel like I’m obligated – it’s my mission and it’s my duty – to give back what was freely giving to me. Whether it’s demonstrating how to find peace of mind, sponsoring men, taking men to meetings and commitments, taking phone calls from family members, or whatever it is, I truly believe I am to be of service to other addicts. Nobody can identify more with what they’re going through than a fellow addict.
I still go to meetings, men’s groups, and Step groups, and I still go on commitments. I stay active in my recovery. It’s a day at a time program and you need constant vigilance to maintain what you have. You also need to give it away. That’s why we do service. We always have to remember where we come from. The day we forget where we come from is the day we go back there.
I never thought I would be in the position I’m in today. I never thought I would be running a treatment facility with my best friends in the world or that I would meet my future wife and her one year old son. When I met my fiancé’s son, I found out that his birthday is the same day as my clean date. Although the dates fall in different years, the significance is the same. I have been there for the weddings of my siblings and I have been able to be there for friends and family through loss. I don’t really know how to point out monumental moments in my life because they’re all blessings. Maybe I don’t live an extremely exciting life on paper but, to me, all of that stuff is a big deal.
Addicts are everywhere. We’re on Wall Street, we’re taking your order at Dunkin Donuts, and we’re doing the oil change on your car. From the jailhouse to the White House, addicts are amongst us all. Sometimes our anonymity hurts us because of the stigma. But we don’t want credit from the outside world or from people who don’t understand us. It’s not about getting recognition for the work that we do. It’s not that recognition would defeat the purpose, it’s because it’s not why we do what we do. We do it because someone else did it for us. Who are we not to give that back?
For people who are experiencing pain, I would say that it does get better. It always rains before the rainbow. Through the clutter, there is clarity. I truly believe that you’re going to be okay. If you don’t believe, then believe that we believe. It’s okay to be afraid. People have a fear of the unknown all the time. That’s just a feeling. Feelings aren’t facts. They’re temporary. This too shall pass. I know, for me, every time I break down a wall of fear, I feel like my spirit has expanded. I feel free and like I am that much more okay with who I am. I don’t feel like a prisoner in my own mind and my own body anymore.