Clean Date: July 1, 2018
From: New London, OH
As a child I was happy-go-lucky, high energy, maybe a bit ADHD but I was never officially diagnosed. I definitely always had a smile on my face, I always had positive energy about me. I was just happy to be alive.
My journey to addiction was kind of started for me. Both of my parents are addicts. My dad was into all forms of drugs and alcohol. He was very scarcely present throughout my childhood. I saw that from a young age and developed a resentment towards him and towards the whole idea of drug use. Then watching my mother go through dry alcoholism spells where she would sober up and dry out for a few months, get her act together, get to a place where she was reasonably comfortable, and then she would start drinking. And it would turn into a regular habit.
I think what really pushed me down that path was the fact that my mother manipulated me into supporting her habit for her. I always had jobs growing up. I’ve always been very ambitious and goal-oriented, and for a great number of years my mom would manipulate me into giving her my money and she used it to support her habit. Once I started to realize that the money that she was supposed to be saving for me, the money that she was supposed to be paying me back and putting into the bank account for me for college, for a car, that’s when I really started to become bitter, angry, and resentful. That was when the whole disease and selfish thinking started to set in for me. It eventually developed into a full-blown addiction.
I remember vividly the passing of both my grandparents on my father’s side. They took me under their wing ad raised me. When my grandfather died it was pretty hard for me, I was fourteen and my grandmother only lived another year and a half, two years after that. I had moved to a different town after my grandfather passed and I was just getting into high school when my grandmother passed away. With all of the other factors in the equation leading up to the same moment in time, my grandmother passing, realizing my mother stealing money from me and that my dad was probably always going to be a druggie and alcoholic, I just said, “Whatever, I’m going to see what this is all about.”
It started innocently enough. I decided I was going to smoke some weed and see what that was like, and obviously I loved it at first. And that was the beginning of what led me to become an addict. Obviously there were a lot of things that happened between the first time and the last time that I used. It progressed much faster and further, but it’s a progressive disease.
For me, being in active addiction was either having the time of my life or it was just absolutely hell. I don’t remember exactly when or where I stopped enjoying it. There was a long period of time when I really didn’t have any feelings one way or the other about using, it was just something that I was doing, something social for me. It was something I did to fit in with a certain group of people that I thought I wanted to associate myself with. I always justified that for a long time all I did was smoke weed and I would drink alcohol, but eventually it just got to the point where I was doing it to hide from myself or run from myself. To bury my feelings. I had a lot of stuff that I went through from a young age that I didn’t necessarily have the tools to know how to deal with. So it turned into this thing where marijuana and alcohol were crutches that I used to walk through life without dealing with the feelings inside of me. It got to a point that I was just really in pain and that’s all it was. I was just trying to put a bandaid on a broken bone over and over and over because I didn’t want to have to go to the doctor and get it re-set.
They say every rock bottom has a trap door. When I first came to recovery that’s something I heard quite often. When I got some significant clean time under my belt, I realized it’s very true. I can think of multiple rock bottoms and for me, it wasn’t necessarily always a material rock bottom. I was always what you could call a high functioning addict or alcoholic. I always held down a job, I always kept my bills paid for the most part. I don’t think that my addiction ever directly affected my ability to provide for or take care of myself.
For me it was more of a matter of being emotionally and spiritually bankrupt, and that’s what my rock bottom looked like. I would self-isolate, I would self-harm, I would self-medicate to the point where I pushed all the people who actually cared about me as far away as possible. I would end up being exactly where I thought I wanted to be: alone. Every time I found myself in that position, it was devastating. I can remember sitting by myself in my house, drinking and smoking, either watching TV or playing some kind of video game, just absolutely hating every second of it. It would push me to drink a little more, smoke a little more every time the feelings would start to bubble up. With more time that passed, the more those feelings would resurface and the more I would have to drink, the more I would have to smoke to try and mask those feelings. Very quickly it turned into a vicious cycle for me. My rock bottoms were scattered all throughout my active addiction.
The thing that brought me to recovery was my best friend. He went MIA on me for a while towards the end of my youth. The last year and a half of my using was when I progressed into harder drugs. He kind of disappeared for a while and I didn’t know what happened. He just reappeared one day and came over to my house, and we were smoking and drinking, and then he kind of just dropped the fact that he was struggling with heroin addiction. He was fighting withdrawals, and then he disappeared again for quite a while.
One day, after all of that happened, I had gotten involved with cocaine and methamphetamines and I got really into my own head. I was using meth, I was tweaking. I was very paranoid of what other people were doing and saying, what they were thinking about me. Alex, my best friend, called me one day out of the blue, and there he was finishing up a detox program at a treatment facility in South Florida. He called me two or three times of the course of a week and he just worked on me and gradually convinced me to move to Florida, to leave my old life behind. He had this idea where we’d both do treatment, we’d both do halfways for a bit, then we’d get a place together.
I was on unemployment at the time, I was laid off from this job and I thought it wouldn’t hurt. I can go, I can sit in treatment, and I can save up my money until my unemployment benefits end. Then I could just restart in Florida because I knew I was miserable in Ohio. I thought just changing where I was at would make me happier, it would make my life better.
I didn’t like recovery at all when I first got to treatment. I was very stubborn, I thought, “I got this all figured out, I’m going to do this my way, I’m good.” Things didn’t pan out for me the way that I had hoped they would. I ended up having to go to halfway and staying there. I thought that I could do all of it on my own, and I tried doing it that way, and it didn’t work out for me. I did end up relapsing a couple of months after I got out of treatment. I needed that, I needed to be in a position where I had to stay in halfway. I needed to be in a position where I had to figure out the hard way that I didn’t have this all figured out, and I did need help. That’s when I found my way to sponsorship, and once I found my way there the smallest little bit of willingness and trust helped me really discover recovery and what it’s all about. That’s when everything started to turn around for me.
Life for me in recovery is awesome. It’s not always easy and that’s just the nature of life and reality. Life is difficult, life is hard, but life in recovery has taught me that I can remove a lot of the difficulties, a lot of the hardships that I put in my own way. Life in recovery has shown me that for a great many years I was my own worst enemy. If I had to sum it all up in a single statement, life in recovery is all about living in the solution and realizing that for every problem I have there are multiple solutions. Being in recovery is putting my selfishness and ego aside and trusting that there’s a group of people that just want to see me succeed, that there’s a group of people that have answers to things that I might not necessarily know.
As long as I’m trying to live in the solution, even on my hardest days, life is going to be okay. It’s just all about being at peace with myself. As long as I’m doing everything that I can in my power, making the right choices and trying to work towards a better and happier life for myself, I can trust my head. Recovery gives me the ability to help myself by helping others because at the end of the day you’re always going to get back from life what you put into it, nothing more and nothing less. We all have to reap the fruits of the seeds that we sow in this life.
If I were to give any advice to a struggling addict, I would probably start by saying that I’m no better or worse than anyone else in the entire world, addiction or otherwise. With that being said, I think that it’s really important for me and maybe someone else who’s in recovery who may be struggling to always remember that it is important to look over your shoulder to the past. You have to be careful doing that though because that’s where we can trip ourselves up. When you look into the past, it can only be to look and see how far you’ve come, even if it’s only for a single day. You have to be willing to give yourself space and credit where it’s due because even if you just made it this day without picking up or using, that’s a miracle, especially early on in recovery.
That’s the most important thing, just remembering where you come from and always keeping in mind how far you’ve come because every day on this journey is difficult. While things do get better in time, especially earlier on, it’s really important to take inventory of just how much effort you’re putting into trying to make your life better and happier. It will get better, and it will get happier. There’s no way that if you try your best every single day of your life to do the right thing in every single area of your life that things are going to get worse. There’s an ebb and a flow to all things, there’s going to be good days and bad days, but if you try your best every single day to be the best you can be, things are going to get better. There’s always a solution that you may encounter. You just have to make it a habit to always be in that solution if you want to be happy and free from your addictions.
If I were to give advice to families struggling or watching a loved one in active addiction, it would be that addiction is something that they have to face themselves. They have to decide for themselves that they have to try and overcome. The best thing that you can do from the outside is to just show love, even when it’s the most difficult to do. That’s probably the most important. I’m a firm believer that when people deserve love the least, they need it the most. That’s really the best thing you can do for someone who’s sick and suffering.
Just offer them some love, even if you have to establish boundaries to protect yourself. You’re not going to put yourself in a position where you’re going to allow yourself to be manipulated or taken advantage of or hurt. Just do anything you can to show that person that you still care, because chances are they’re having a hard enough time just loving themselves. So that’s the one thing that’s going to mean the most to someone who is still sick and suffering. Seeing that there’s somebody that’s outside of themselves who loves them and believes in them, probably more than what they do themselves.
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned from recovery is that it’s okay for me to not have all of the answers. It’s okay for me to know always know what to do, and it’s okay for me to not always know how to deal with the feelings that I’m feeling at any given time. Learning how to reconnect with that higher purpose, reconnect with society at large, reconnect with the people and loved ones in my life that I pushed away from me for so long is what it’s all about.
It’s all going to be all right. Just do what you have to do for yourself because at the end of the day you’re the only person who has the power to change your circumstances. Once you realize you have all the power to change every circumstance in your life, that’s when you start to realize that there’s nothing you can’t do if you set your mind to it.