I’m a firm believer that this is a disease and that people are born with it. Even at a young age, before drinking and drugging came along, I would chase feelings. I stole from stores – stuff that was completely unwarranted and unnecessary – and I did it for the adrenaline. Toward the latter end of High School – my Junior year – I started drinking and smoking weed regularly. I ended up not graduating and moving on to opiates. All of my closest friends were doing it and, as the habit started to build, I had a sense of fear about going down the path of addiction. I saw it effect my family and the people I knew. So I turned away. My friends ended up doing dope and I started hanging out with a whole different group of people. I switched from opiates to heavy, heavy drinking. I would only use opiates occasionally. That went on for four of five years.
I was a functioning addict for awhile. I was working, making money, and living in my own apartment. It was a big juggling act. My girlfriend didn’t know about it. She didn’t realize how bad things were getting. I ended up getting a DUI and I couldn’t drive. As soon as I got my license back, I thought it was a good idea to use opiates instead of going to parties and drinking. I started to get sick and become chemically dependent. I couldn’t do anything without using. It was running my life. All the money I was making was going toward drugs. At one point, I didn’t pay my rent for four months. It just progressively got worse and worse.
I was a proud person. I wasn’t ready to admit that I was like my mother and the people I used to hang around. There was a sense of pride that kept me sick for longer than needed. I was under the mentality that I could do it on my own. I would get Suboxone and detox myself and then use again. It was a perpetual cycle. Ultimately, a friend reached out to me and said: “Look, I know what’s going on. There is help out there”. The day he reached out to me, my stepfather called and said: “We need to have a life talk. I’ll be at your house in ten minutes”. He had never been to my house before. I just remember that moment of defeat. Everything I was juggling for so long had hit the ground and I couldn’t do it any longer. My step-father said that my girlfriend didn’t want me at the house anymore. He said: “You haven’t paid rent in four months. You don’t pay any of your bills. You don’t do anything. What are you going to do? Where are you going to go?” I remember that cliché sobering moment. He said: “You need to get on a plane tonight and go to Florida”. So that’s what I did.
My friend picked me up at the airport. I brought three Suboxone with me and detoxed on his couch. I’ll never forget that week. It was brutal. But I remember people telling me: “You’re suffering now to not suffer later. You never have to suffer like this again if you just do a few simple things”. That was my first introduction to meetings, a sponsor, the steps, and working on myself. It has been over five and a half years since. Knock on wood, but I didn’t have to go through the relapse shuffle. I was literally willing to do anything I had to do. We weren’t privileged kids. I didn’t have insurance, a family that could send me to treatment, or any of the resources that most kids have. I didn’t have the luxury of taking it lightly. It was really life or death for me.
I stayed in Florida for six months. I didn’t want to rush it. The whole time my girlfriend was still living in Massachusetts. It was very tough. When I got six months under my belt, I came home. I went back to work for my step father doing construction but I got depressed. I wondered: “What next? What do I do with my life? Is this why I decided to get clean?”
My friend from Florida called and said: “I have this aviation company. There’s an opportunity for you here”. I couldn’t leave my girl again, so I went to her and said: “I want to move to Florida and start a new life”. She agreed.
The aviation company was a way for me to find myself. It gave me the sense of self-worth I was dying for at that moment. That’s when the ball started rolling. I didn’t look back. I just wanted to work on myself and be a better person for the girlfriend who stuck by me and the mother who always had my back. Instead of being a selfish, manipulating person, I wanted to live a life of honesty and establish myself.
I worked at the aviation company for a year and a half but it wasn’t fulfilling. I remember having talks with people: “You’re sure you want to give that up to go work as a tech at a treatment center? It doesn’t make sense. This is a career you could have for the rest of your life”. But if I had to do that for the rest of my life, it would literally be like a prison sentence. That’s how I felt. So I took a position in a treatment center that ended up steamrolling into an administrative role. Then I transitioned to the Process Recovery Center to work with more of my best friends. It is incredible how God works despite the path you try to set forward for yourself. He’s like: “No, I don’t think so. I’ve got something else planned for you. I’ll reveal it to you when the time is right”. And everything just works out.
Sometimes I think back on where I was five years ago. I had no idea what I was going to do for the rest of my life or if I was going to die. It’s cliché, but my life today is beyond my wildest dreams.
Don’t lose hope. You never know when it’s going to stick. Relapse is part of recovery. It’s an unfortunate part – I wish everybody got it on the first attempt – but that’s just not the case. It’s not realistic. Sometimes it takes more pain. Pain is the ultimate motivator.
The world is yours. You just have to do a few simple things. You don’t have to be amazing at calculus. The only requirement is honesty…and that’s it. In active addiction, I could manipulate any situation. It took years for me to undo all that stuff. Just give yourself time. Have faith. Hang on for the ride. You’ll surprise yourself.
Addicts are great people. When we can fine tune our focus and our purpose in life – when we can switch gears from using to being productive members of society – watch out! Just watch out. It’s hard to hold us back once we get the wheel turned. It’s not money – it’s not any of that bullshit – what drives us is helping people. It’s getting to look back on life and say: “Yeah, I made a decent living for me and my family, but I got to help a ton of people”.
I’m just waiting for what’s next. You never know what life holds for you. I don’t put limitations on it anymore. I used to be scared to dream. That was part of my disease. I never wanted to feel rejection. I would break through one ceiling and consider myself lucky to have done that. Now I just don’t put any limitations on it. If I just keep plugging away and trying to better myself…who knows what’s to come.