I started using when I was sixteen years old. I wasn’t accepted and I didn’t have a lot of friends. The people I hung around were drug users. That’s what made me feel normal and accepted. I always felt out of place and awkward. I was using to fit in and portray a tough image. It started with alcohol and pot and progressed to heroin. I became an every day IV user.
My mom put me in a treatment center when I was seventeen but I didn’t make it. I went to another one when I was twenty-one, but I didn’t stay sober. I went to another one when I was twenty-two, but I didn’t stay sober. I never took it seriously.
At about twenty-three, I joined the army. I got in trouble – thank God they gave me an honorable discharge – but I got kicked out for using drugs. I moved to Florida in September of 2008 and entered a half-way house. I have been sober ever since.
My father died from addiction when I was sixteen. I drew a timeline when I was in my second rehab and I saw my drug use spike around the time of my dad’s death. It took me a long time to deal with it, mainly because I don’t do well with grief, but once I got sober, I was finally able to cope with the experience.
I wanted it this time. I knew that it was better than what I was doing. That was the big difference. I wasn’t being told to go do it. I chose to go do it. My mom helped me. She said: “Here’s two weeks of your rent. If you relapse, I’ll always love you… but don’t call me”. I didn’t relapse.
There is a big difference in who I am today. I am honest. I am finishing up my M.S.W. and I get to help other addicts. I’m not stealing to support a habit. I actually have real friends. I also got married; I’ve been married for 8 years. I can have genuine relationships.
You don’t necessarily have to hit rock bottom to get help. I don’t know if I hit my bottom, but I’m scared to find out what it is. That’s why I got help. I wasn’t that bad, to be honest, but I didn’t want to get worse. A lot of addicts wait until they hit rock bottom and they don’t have to. Why make it worse? Rock bottom is when it’s too late to reverse the effects.
In the beginning, it’s okay to do it for someone else, as long as you change your motivation slowly over time. It’s progress…not perfection. I’m still not perfect. I use meetings and sharing to deal with my emotions. That’s why I have a sponsor and a support group. That’s the most important thing: talking about stuff and getting it out there and not stuffing it. Stuffing it was something I did for a long time. I come from a place where showing emotions doesn’t equate with seeming tough. However, the reality is that stuffing it isn’t healthy so I have to use those coping skills or else I wouldn’t still be sober.