I started smoking pot the summer before middle school. It was a good time. I didn’t fall in love with it but it was fun. The DARE program had instilled in me that drugs are bad but I thought: “Yeah, they’re not so bad”. I met a girl who liked to “robo-trip”, which means you drink a bunch of cough syrup, and I started stealing a couple of my mom’s Oxycontin. That was the first time I did pills. Once again, I didn’t fall in love with them but they were a good time. Some people say: “I fell in love instantly”. I never really fell in love with any one particular drug the first time I did it.
When High School started, I had a lot of fears, doubts, and insecurities. I never felt like I fit in. I thought if I was cool people would want to be my friend and they’d like me. I started selling pot to my friends. I thought I was cool because I was a drug dealer. I started hanging out with the older crowd, using harder drugs, and skipping school to get high. My Junior year, I moved out. I moved in with my drug dealer and a couple of our friends. One of them worked for Magic Hat brewery, so half of our fridge was just beer. I started drinking more and I smoked opium with them a few times. When our lease ran out, I moved back in with my mom. As I got older, I started selling more pot and making more money. I didn’t care about school. One of my friend’s parents had a bunch of morphine pills and I said: “I’ll get a hundred of them and make even more money”. I ended up losing money on them because I did them so much. That’s when everything spiraled out of control.
I got hooked on the pills. I had to wake up and use them. I would sleep for sixteen hours a day. I didn’t go to school for a week and they kicked me out. I had even more time to do what I wanted – which wasn’t good. I would drink and drive because I didn’t think I’d ever get caught. I was unhappy a lot. I had no more money. At that point in my life, I based my worth on what people thought of me and how much money I had. A lot of my friends left for college and I felt even worse because I didn’t even finish High School. It was a really bad, dark time.
I got a job at a seasonal resort and they gave me my own housing. After the season ended, I moved in with my mom again and she just watched me decline. I had a lot of anxiety. I was using benzodiazepines, which don’t mix with alcohol. It was a rough six months. When I went back to my job at the resort, the chef said that if I was doing drugs they would fire me. I detoxed for nine days at my mom’s house. It was horrible. For a couple of months, I was okay. About halfway through that year, I started drinking a lot. I’d wake up drinking and drink at work throughout the day. Alcohol brought me to my knees. It destroyed my body a lot quicker. At one point, I was about a hundred pounds. I went to the doctor and I said: “I feel weird”. She said: “You’re skeletal. You’re starving. You shouldn’t feel right”. A week after that season ended, I was living on a buddy’s couch. I made no plans and I didn’t really care about anything.
One night, I got a DUI as I was going to get more alcohol. It wasn’t my intention but I almost drank myself to death. I blew a .35 and I found out that you die at a .4. The DUI was a blessing in disguise even though it didn’t feel like it at the time. A few days later, my brother and I went up to see my mom. My car was registered to her because I didn’t like having it in my name. She had the car towed because I lost my license. The next day I woke up to an intervention and I went to rehab for the first time. I was twenty three.
Rehab wasn’t good. I didn’t want to be there. I toughed it out for the twenty-eight days. It wasn’t good because people who had progressed further in their illness were telling me how much they drank and how many drugs they did in a day. I thought: “Oh, I don’t have a problem. I don’t even do half that in a day”. The first night I got out, I went to hang out with one of my friends. He said: “I can’t believe they made you go to rehab,” and we got pretty drunk. I ended up getting my car and my license back and working nights at a restaurant. That’s when I went back to drinking a lot. I thought if I moved, things would be okay, so I went to live with my grandparents in Westbrook, Maine. The only stipulation for me to live there was that I couldn’t drink. Twenty four hours after arriving, I was drinking. I made it a week before they found me passed out in a lawn chair.
My dad and stepmom picked me up the next day. When we got to Burlington, Vermont, my dad said: “Where do you want me to drop you off? We can’t deal with you anymore. Do you want us to bring you to a shelter?” I had a hundred dollars so I got a hotel room and I called rehab. I got in a few days later and I decided to do sober living. The first time I had refused. I found a sober house in Portland, Maine. It wasn’t bad. The guys were alright. I had a good time there and I made some friends. But I had a reservation. I thought: “Things just got out of control. If I stay clean long enough, I’ll be normal again”. Four months after I moved into the sober house, I had saved up enough money to get an apartment. I drank the first night I got out of the sober house. I remember how fast it progressed. I had to be in the apartment October 1st and my grandparents came on October 6th. I had already blacked out for the third night in a row. Within four days I had gone from drinking just one to blacking out again at night. It was another seven months of hell and relapse. I kept thinking: “Things just got out of hand. This time I won’t let them”. Sure enough, things went back to getting out of hand.
I called my dad and said: “I need to go back to rehab”. I had to argue with him and it took me a week to convince him. I actually wanted to be there. When I got into detox, it was the best feeling I’ve ever had. I was done. I got out of detox on March 1st of 2016, which is what I consider my clean date. It was the first day I didn’t have anything in my system. I was ready, willing, and able. I actually tried to stay longer but the insurance wouldn’t cover it because it was my third time. The way I found the Process Recovery Center was just happenstance. One of the aftercare guys knew Amy Cloutier. My mom doesn’t have a lot of money but she helped me get into Rise Above sober living, which is partnered with the Process Recovery Center. I moved into the Spalding house on March 30th. From the outset, I did everything I was supposed to do. I wanted to stay clean and I didn’t have any more reservations. I steered clear of people who were there for the wrong reasons and tried to be around people who had a decent amount of clean time. I got a sponsor, went to meetings every day, and did the ninety meetings in ninety days. I actually think I did a hundred and twenty meetings in a hundred and twenty days. I didn’t want to stop going to IOP. Eventually, I had to get a job. I eased back into the “real world” and moved into one of the sober houses on Pine Street. I tried to stay grateful that I had a bed and that people cared about me. I ended up at another house and stayed there for awhile and now I manage my own house. It’s great because I like to help out the new guys. It helps me. I like to see the light come back in their eyes.
At the sober house in Portland, they basically just stuck a bunch of addicts in a house and gave them drugs test once in awhile and that was it. There wasn’t any kind of structure or any sort of recovery. No one followed up. I like how the Process Recovery Center has structure. They also really care. Chris, Justin, and Ryan get to know all of the clients. I’ve seen them have conversations with people to see how they’re doing. All the techs are like that, too. Everyone that works for the Process – or is involved with Rise Above sober living – cares so much about everybody. It’s amazing. They took us out every Saturday. They took forty of us to play laser tag. They took us to Spooky World. They want to keep the clients happy and show them that you can have fun in recovery. I went snowboarding for the first time in eight years because of the Process.
Now I do what I am supposed to do. I have a sponsor; I text him every morning and every night. I go to meetings regularly and I write step work. If things come up in my life I try to talk about it and work it out. I don’t instantly run to drugs and alcohol. I had a little bit of heart break a couple of weeks ago and I am working through it instead of running from it. I try to stay grateful for everything and to never forget what brought me here. I complain that a red light is too long but five months ago I was riding my bike through eight inches of snow. I try to remember how bad things were and how bad things would get if I ever decided to use.
When I was younger, I never really knew what I wanted to do other than sell drugs. All I wanted was money. Since I got clean, I really love helping people. I’m actually trying to work in the field. My plan is to go back to Vermont and try to open an IOP and a sober house – one that cares like the Process Recovery Center – for people who want to get clean but can’t because there are no resources.
There is hope – you’ve just got to want to change. You can’t just put the drugs down and expect to get better. You have to actually do the work. Drugs are just a symptom of the disease. They mask your pain. I didn’t start with the drugs and instantly fall in love. I went to drugs to escape reality. If you’re willing to do the work, the rewards are infinitely better than you can even imagine. Try to challenge yourself every day. Yesterday’s challenges will become today’s norms. You’ll be amazed by just how far you can go.