How do I put into words something that can only be lived? My brothers and sisters in recovery, you know exactly what I mean. The ones who need recovery, I hope you experience the magic someday.
I wasn’t your typical candidate for alcoholism, cannabis-ism, prescription pill-ism, heroin-ism or whatever you got-ism. I was on the honor roll every quarter in high school. I played sports. I was accepted to a phenomenal college. My future radiated with possibilities.
A person with a severe substance abuse problem? That would never be me. The stigma Heroes in Recovery seeks to dissolve was alive and well. I thought drunks and junkies lived under bridges and mindlessly talked to themselves. That could never be me.
College didn’t last long. Neither did my clean criminal record. A high-speed police chase, against interstate traffic, at night and at 120+ mph, precipitated my first attempt at sobriety. It was a miracle I didn’t injure someone.
Shortly after that, I was the feature on the 5 o’clock news. The headline read, “High Stakes Poker Bust.” My picture graced the caption next to the newscaster’s head. My family felt incredibly embarrassed. I thought it was cool.
One night I attended a friend’s birthday party. While there I drank too much, smoked hashish and downed benzodiazepines. On the way home, it started to rain cats and dogs. My friend observed that I was swerving. In a moment of sheer grace, I suggested we put on our seat belts. A few seconds later, I collided with a car head on at 55mph.
I remember thinking that I’d just killed someone. In a split second, my life spun down the toilet of addiction. I saw a prison cell with my name on it. There would be no “get out of jail free” cards this time. Fortunately no one else was seriously injured except me. Surgeries introduced me to painkillers. Painkillers introduced me to heroin.
One day I gazed at a shadow of nothingness in the mirror. For months I’d tried to quit. Each failed attempt seemed to compound the problem. I reached out to my mom and asked to go to treatment. That night I lied to her for the last time. I asked for money for Suboxone and bought dope instead.
Heroin detox was brutal. A physician’s assistant told me it had been years since the hospital observed withdrawal symptoms like I had. However the pain of detox pales when I look at the life I have today.
I stayed in treatment. I did everything they suggested. I work there now and was recently promoted. Last March I bought a house. I have a girlfriend I love. I have friends who care. My parents constantly remind me how proud they are.
The only price I had to pay to live a life I don’t deserve was total surrender to a program of recovery.