- Friends & Family
I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in a small and very religious town in Texas. I had a lot of issues and conflict about knowing my true self and I was physically and mentally abused by my father.
When I experienced alcohol for the first time at the age of 12, I felt relief. I didn’t like the taste of it but I did like that people thought it was cool and I felt like I fit in for the first time in my life.
I found weed at the age of 18 when I went to college at a party school, in the 80s. By the age of 20, I would be smoking weed every day. Weed would be my solution for my anxiety and other issues including my sexuality.
At the age of 25, I was teaching school where in the 80’s you would be fired for being gay. I became depressed and turned to more smoking daily and other drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy when available. My depression began to worsen so I decided to seek therapy. After a couple of sessions, I decided to tell my therapist I was gay. This would be the first time I ever had said it out loud. I felt better until my next session when my therapist explained to me that she had a conflict of interest because of her religious beliefs (she was married to a Baptist preacher) and couldn’t see me again because of being gay. She referred me to a new therapist who was very “gay” and very out. I lasted two sessions and would quit. It was too much too soon. I was put on anti-depressants but I turned more to drugs and drinking to escape the pain.
I moved to Los Angeles when I was 27 to get away from conservative Texas. It was much easier being gay in LA in the 80’s. The drinking and smoking weed did not stop but thought I was functioning in day to day life. My career in social services began to take off and I became very successful. I was always helping others but neglecting myself and my own issues. I would try crystal meth for the first time at the age of 34. Three days later I was still partying. That experience took me to a level that I had never been before. It made me feel confident, like I had no worries and could handle anything. I also knew my experience with this drug could get me in trouble if I wasn’t careful. So, I made a decision to only do it a few times a year. I knew I was in trouble when I began obsessing about the next time I could have that experience with meth. I tried using meth occasionally, which led to every weekend. Then the weekends turned into every day. I felt like I made a deal with the devil. Using meth was the answer to all my issues. I was very comfortable having sex and not feeling guilty. Meth built my confidence in every way. I thought I was functioning fine for the next six years. My goal was to do the “maintenance” program so I would never come down and could be productive. I became the Executive Director at a $3 million-dollar agency and lived on the beach. I thought life was great as long as I could function and continue my addiction.
My addiction finally caught up with me in December of 1999 one week before Christmas when I was fired from my job. I was devastated and would blame everyone else but my addiction. Looking back, I saw my mood swings, missing work and having major conflicts with everyone.
This should have been the time to admit I was an addict and seek help but instead I used it an excuse to say “F— it” and stay in denial. My addiction progressed and I became an IV user and drug dealer. I fell into the hardcore “pnp” scene. I would even become a hustler. People could hire me for sex as long as they had drugs and money. I was doing all I could to survive.
In 2006 I started to get really sick and tested positive for HIV and was diagnosed with AIDS with a CD4 count of 53. My body and organs were shutting down. Doctors said I was close to death and wasn’t for sure my body could take the meds and its side effects. I started taking meds and got better but that didn’t keep me from going back to my addiction. I thought why stop if I am getting better. The mindset of the addicted brain told me that this would be my life forever and I surrendered to that feeling.
The L.A. County Jail became my home for three weeks after I was arrested for dealing. I just knew when I got out of jail I was going to stay clean. Forty-five minutes after my release I was back home getting high. I thought my life was ruined with a felony so I said f— it again. I started losing my friends and family. I denied that I had a problem during an intervention with my friends. I was way too deep in my addiction to listen to anyone. I moved back to Texas after I finished my probation, thinking changing people, places and things would work. I was wrong. I fell into the “party” scene quickly and started dealing again. At the same time, I had my family convinced that I was clean and sober. They gave me a car and talked about giving me a condo because they were so proud of me. One night before dinner with my family I got busted. After missing for two days, my family found my mug shot on the jail website. They were done with me. My mother wouldn’t even take my phone call.
After 30 days in jail, I knew I needed to change but I didn’t know how. I had never been to an AA or CMA meeting or to rehab. My probation officer said I had to go to treatment. So on July 7, 2011, I checked into Homeward Bound. I had nothing to lose so I gave it a try. I was told to be willing and honest… honesty being a huge problem for me. The more honest I was with myself in treatment, the more possibilities I saw. I was introduced to 12 step meetings where I saw people experiencing sobriety. These people were just like me and I felt hope for the first time in years. I had a big problem with the idea of a religious God because of how I was raised. “Agnostics in Recovery,” a 12-step pamphlet, helped me to see that my Higher Power could be anything with energy. I chose the universe and nature. It was a great moment was when I realized something bigger than me could help me create a new life. I completed treatment and worked the STEPS and got excited about life. I have been clean and sober ever since.
I moved to a sober house after inpatient treatment. I had about 8 months clean and a girl knocked on the door asking me if I could take her dog. She had relapsed and wanted to go back to rehab. She had no one to take the dog. Her family had stopped talking to her. The only place she could take it was to animal services where the dog would be euthanized after two weeks. I tried to help her find a place that could take care of her dog while in rehab but there was nothing out there. So, I decided to take her dog, Jayde, who I have to this day. Jayde has changed my life forever.
I continued to have friends around me relapse that had dogs and no place to have them care for while they got help. I started thinking that I should do something about this need and start my own program. Maybe this would become my purpose and destiny in my new life?
I went back to school to get my substance abuse counseling license and continued to think about this program I wanted to create. I kept hearing, “build it and they will come” from the movie “The Field of Dreams.” Through the power of the program and me not being in the driver’s seat, I created a non-profit to help addicts and their dogs while going into rehab so they don’t have to give them away. I was trying to come up with a name for my non-profit and was watching Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday,” with her friend Nate Berkus. Oprah asked him, “What in life really matters to you?” He said one of the things mattered to him most was that dogs mattered. That was the moment when I knew they name of the name of my organization, Dogs Matter. It would be the beginning of an unbelievable journey.
My first year of sobriety was challenging but with the guidance of my higher power, my program and staying busy, I made it. Working through the steps, slowly brought my family back into my life. When I picked up my one year chip, fourteen members of my family and friends showed up; one traveling all the way from New York to Dallas. This is a miracle of the program. Not a drink or drug would make me feel as good as having my family back. I lost my mom to cancer six months later and was devastated. There were times in my addiction that the only reason I didn’t give up and take my life because I didn’t want my mom to have to bury me. She was everything to me. But this program taught me to be grateful for the time I had with her. During our last conversation, she told me she could die in peace knowing how I had changed my life and she didn’t have to worry anymore. I’m so grateful for that experience. Through the program I was able to forgive my dad for the past and make amends for my wrong doings. We would enjoy a close, loving and sometimes challenging relationship up until his death two years ago. This is another miracle of being clean and sober.
Dogs Matter is in its third year and we have fostered almost 70 dogs. We have become an award winning non-profit organization that placed first at a Social Services Innovation Competition in North Texas, receiving $20,000, Dogs Matter has been nationally recognized featured in the American Kennel Club Magazine for our services. Dogs Matter is planning a chapter in Austin, TX this year and Palm Springs, CA in 2018 and hopefully more cities where need. My amazing life and success is all based upon putting my sobriety and program first and being spiritually fit and ready to receive the miracles the Universe provides me. I can’t wait to see where life takes me from here.That’s my story.