The disease of addiction began to manifest itself in my life long before I ever picked up a drink or a drug. In hindsight, it is clear to me that many of my childhood behaviors and ways of thinking were paving the way to a self-destructive lifestyle that would eventually become unmanageable. My drug of choice has always been “more”. If it was something that made me feel good, I was never able to enjoy it in “moderation”. I was the kid that ate all of his Halloween candy within a couple of days, while my brother and sister made it last for months. I would spend my allowance almost immediately on frivolous things, while my friends and siblings saved theirs and put it toward something meaningful. These behaviors were somewhat harmless, but they inclined themselves to a certain mindset and behavioral pattern that would later take everything away from me.
I grew up with a very loving and functional family. I went to private schools and had parents who provided me with everything I needed to follow any dreams or passions I had. I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s degree in Architectural Engineering and a Master’s degree in Structural Engineering. I say these things not to toot my own horn, but to show that this deadly disease doesn’t care who you are, where you come from, or how successful you are.
I was fourteen years old the first time I drank. I was hanging out with a life-long friend of mine and we decided it would be a good idea to hit his dad’s liquor cabinet. He had a couple of drinks – enough to get a buzz – while I took a shot of each type of liquor in the cabinet and threw up for the next two days. I continued this type of behavior throughout high school, but was always able to pull it together just enough to get by.
During my freshman year of college, I moved from weed and alcohol and into the world of narcotics. Some of my fellow students were taking Adderall – and other similar drugs – to pull all-nighters and study for tests. When I took it for the first time, I fell in love instantly. By the end of the semester I was eating stimulants like skittles and staying up for a week at a time. For most people it was a study-drug, but for me it was a way to catch a buzz, play the guitar better, and talk people’s ears off about stuff they didn’t care about. My friends began to distance themselves from me and I began to miss all my classes; I was either too high to care or crashed for two days after a bender.
I was able to clean up my act enough to get through college and graduate school, but it was a constant roller coaster ride. I was continuously struggling to keep my addictions at bay, rather than addressing the core issues. When my use of one particular drug got too out of control, I replaced it with another drug that I deemed less harmful than the last. It’s clear to me now that this mindset was created by my disease, and was never a feasible solution. Each phase of this vicious cycle stole another piece of who I was until there was essentially nothing but emptiness left.
My rock bottom did not entail homelessness, unemployment, and a constant hustle on the street to feed my addiction, but I still felt the same overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and loneliness that I imagine every addict must feel. My low point was in April of 2017 when I lost the job I had worked so hard in life to acquire. I spent seven years in school and another four working to get where I was, but my addiction was stronger. Ignoring numerous pleas from my employer to seek help for my addiction, I created enough wreckage at my company to leave them no choice but to let me go. At this point, I had a mountain of debt, no job, and a plethora of shattered relationships that were seemingly beyond repair.
I sought treatment when I was fired from my job. I had never been before and had a very skewed perception of the work that was in front of me. I thought I would be able to go to rehab for a few weeks and leave with a better life and no longer be plagued by my disease. I was wrong and, thankfully, I had the right people in my corner to urge me to seek further treatment after the two week residential program I completed. I was directed to the Process Recovery Center, and this is where it all changed for me. I learned that my disease of addiction actually had very little to do with drugs and alcohol, and the substances were merely a side effect of the real issues. Addiction is a mind-powered disease that doesn’t allow me to enjoy certain things in moderation. If I enjoy something, I will take in as much as I can until it renders my external life unmanageable and leaves me broken inside.
In the ten months that I’ve been in recovery, I’ve learned to identify thoughts and behaviors that are controlled by my disease. The difference now is that I know to avoid any action following these thoughts, or immediately recognize my mistakes after they occur, and learn from them. If I had one piece of advice for anyone new to recovery, it would be to stay away from any behaviors that rent mental space and leave no room to focus on recovery. Things like gambling, sex, relationships, and money seem to be common themes among many addicts who have slips. If you can be honest with yourself about what’s healthy for you, and honest with others in everything you do, you’re likely to be held accountable by this honesty, and will have some success in recovery.
Today I’m finally finding some peace and serenity. I can honestly say that I’m happy with the life I have. God willing, I’ll have a year clean and sober at the beginning of May. This is truly a miracle for me, never having had more than five days free from drugs and alcohol previously. I have the privilege of being a house manager at Rise Above Sober Living and am looking to get back into the engineering field. The difference this time is that I have God by my side every step of the way, along with a newfound knowledge of the disease and an amazing network of like-minded people in recovery who love and care about me. If I can do it, anyone can.