I started drugs at eleven. Acid was free and legal; it was my first drug. From eleven to sixty-three, there’s not a drug out there I didn’t like. As I got older, I got into opiates. I also got wiser obtaining them – I could play a doctor; I could manipulate a hospital; I could get them cheap. I began the road to opiates at fifty years old.
At sixty-three, I came to on the deck of our house. My wife was trying to get me up. It was during an ice storm. According to her, I was blue. She carried me into the tub and turned on the shower. I saw her sitting – balling – on the toilet. My Di doesn’t cry. That’s probably the first time I ever thought I had a problem. Before I would say, “I don’t have a problem with drugs. You do. I’m happy”.
That day, I made a decision to research what was available for me – to understand how I could hurt my Di so much – and what I could do about it. I did online research on several places; the Process Recovery Center was one. I made the call one night – late – and got Zack on the phone. I talked to another one, too. I was talking to the two back and forth and there was no commitment. Just talk. Zack ended up challenging me. He said, “Wes, if you don’t schedule a date and hold to it, you’re just gonna keep finding reasons not to do this”. I had been talking to him for about a month; I liked him. I knew he was real. He cared. I never saw him, but I knew his heart. So I picked February 13th, not knowing Valentine’s Day was the following day. I scheduled it with a friend who had been clean for twenty-something years. He said, “I’ll take you up. No problem. I’m glad you finally realized it”. I think I said something like: “Wait a minute, you don’t understand! I’m going up there just to see what it’s all about”.
On February the 13th I gave my wife her Valentine’s card and her Valentine’s present, and she asked, “What are you doing tomorrow?” I told her I was committing myself for thirty days. She started crying again, but it was a different tear: joy. She said it was the best Valentine’s present I could give her.
I didn’t sleep much. I had done a little research on the place. I had seen the techs and the counselors. I liked them because they were addicts with a story. They were real and most of them sounded happy – which I didn’t think was possible. As my friend dropped me off and I started in the front door, I had a quick change of heart. I went running up the hill to catch him, but I couldn’t.
I reluctantly settled in and began the process of 1.) not using, and 2.) listening to other people -trying to understand just exactly WHY I was even there. I didn’t want to get clean. I had a house, a car, a dog, and a motorcycle. My kids turned out well. I thought I was good. As I began to sit in meetings and go through the different sessions, I started to see through other people that maybe I really did have a problem with drugs, and maybe I could be happy without them.
On my first night at the house, a tech came up to me and asked, “You thinking about leaving?” He said, “You’ll get what you put into this program”. I was like, “What will I get?” I looked him square in the eyes. He said, “A life of hope, a life of living clean, and a life where you are happy with yourself. Others who love you will be happy with who you are…not worried about you”.
What he said stuck with me. At that point, I realized I had to humble myself and listen. I began taking it day to day, and each day was different. As I sat, listened, and learned, I started coming to grips with my emotions. Another tech advised, “don’t be a slave to your emotions”, i.e. “channel” them into a positive so they don’t control your day. Guilt and anger were the two big ones. I started realizing some of the things I had missed and some of the things I had done. In my insanity, I thought nobody knew. I came to realize that those I kept around as friends were either people I could get high with or who didn’t call me on it. When somebody confronted me, I usually ran them away.
A lot of questions were still coming up. I just kept listening. At first, I was mainly listening to the people who worked at the Process. I wanted what they had. They all have a higher purpose and every one of them is there because they really care. They wanted to help me find what they found, but the only way was to listen to their advice and submit to their authority and expertise. I came to start caring about the people who were with me and trying to understand and help them, too.
I learned about the 12 Steps when I thought, “I can do this! I’ll do three steps a week. I’ll be done in a month. I’ll get my Mr. Clean certificate, get out of this place, and go home”. I bought the book and the first paragraph said, “you need a sponsor”. That was a tough phase. For me, asking another guy to help me was a sign of weakness. One of the techs asked: “Are you praying about it? Why don’t you try that. I know you’re praying in the morning now”. So, I did.
Out of the blue, I went to an odd Saturday afternoon meeting. That’s where my now-sponsor was speaking. He was older than me, which was good. It was nice to see someone older. As I heard him speak, I really identified with a lot of things he was saying. I came to respect his honesty and his knowledge. At the end of the meeting, I got up to ask him, and found an excuse to walk back to my chair. I went back to ask him, and found another excuse to go get some water. After probably ten times – no exaggeration – he looked at me and said, “Can I help you?” I asked him and he agreed to be my temporary sponsor.
On day twenty-three, I decided: “I’ve got this. I’m gonna go home seven days early”. I talked to my sponsor and he said, “Do a pros and cons list”. I worked on that until about midnight, and I know his ears were ringing. As I was doing the list, I noticed the cons of leaving early were outnumbering the pros. It was a losing battle. I got up the next morning, prayed for wisdom, and found I had a very clear understanding during my yoga practice. I’ve found that yoga really helps with my meditation and my quiet time with my God; not only to hear what He’s saying to me, but to hear what I’m really feeling.
I stayed one more week, which turned out to be good because I was actually able to help someone. That’s when I found out not only do I have a higher power, but I also have a higher purpose. It’s one of the greatest feelings you could ever have – when you really know you helped someone. It was one of those “WOW!” moments. Staying that extra week, God being in control, my sponsor holding me accountable… all those things led me to find something else I treasure a lot.
My sponsor keeps saying: “Be proud”. I don’t want to be proud. I’m the same as the next addict. I’m still struggling with it. I can’t stop the vultures from flying over my head. I still want to get high at times. Not as much now – which is pretty cool. But I’ve found that through the tools I’ve learned – reading, putting pen to paper, speaking up – I can chase them away. They can’t build a nest.
I’m still working on it. I’m close to six months. It honestly scares me. It just takes one and I’m done. I truly believe that with all of my heart and soul. It’s a healthy fear for me. So… I’m not going to do the one. I gotta shoo the damn vulture away, because picking up again does scare me.
The visual I have – it broke my heart and was probably one of my lowest points – was when my wife came to visit me and I watched her taillights disappear down the road. I don’t think I’ve been that lonesome in my entire life. I was literally in tears. That visual is something I keep whenever I think about using again.
I still have hurt, pain, anger, and insecurities. I never realized I was a sensitive person. It’s a matter of another phrase: “If your day’s not going as planned, hit the reset button and start again”. That’s another thing I’ve found; there’s not a moment in my life when I can’t stop, reset what I’m going through, think it through, and then come to a conclusion; either 1.) I can’t change it, so I need to accept it, or 2.) I can change it, so I need to pray for the wisdom to differentiate between the two.
Life is good now. I’m clean and I’m happy. That’s something I find baffling: I’m joyful. It’s really good so far, but it’s only today.