Submitted by: Jamie Thompson
When I was 19 years old and in college, I was a victim of a very heinous hate crime where I was abducted and raped repeatedly by some men that didn’t like the fact that I was gay. I don’t know how but I was able to get away because they had every intention of killing me. At one point one of the guys dropped a bat and I was able to pick it up and hit the guy and I took off running and then I went blank. I don’t know how I got home or anything. That incident caused severe PTSD, which is getting better now. Every night I have nightmares and terrors. When I was 27 years old, I got drunk for the first time and passed out, and that was the first time since I was 19 that I didn’t have the nightmares and terrors. So, it was instantaneous that alcohol became my escape and about a year later I realized it was an issue. But the self-medicating was helping me from having so many flashbacks. At that point I was still quite functional.
At first, I was able to just drink at night, but it quickly progressed to me being passed out 24/7 and I drank about a gallon of liquor a day.
I would wake up long enough to chug and black out again, then wake up and crawl to the bathroom, then to the next hiding place to find my stash to do it all again. That progression happened within two or three years.
I was in a relationship with a girl to whom I was engaged, and because of me being blacked out most of the time, it wasn’t a good relationship. She was afraid to leave me because she recognized that I was actively trying to kill myself. She would call EMS two or three times a week. Almost every EMS personnel in all of Boston knew who I was. They would take me to different emergency rooms long enough to sober up, then I would pick up something on the way home. I had amassed a good savings at this point, so money and working were no issue. At one point the fiancé was breathalyzing me randomly because she was wanting me to stop. I would lie to her and say that I wasn’t drinking then I would pass out. So it was obvious that I was not sober. I switched to heroin, but I didn’t like it as much as I liked alcohol. There were several times they would call the ER and at least five times I was DOA with complete systems failure. My mom was told 75 or 80 times that there was no way I was going to make it. I still have scars from the PICC lines throughout my entire body. After three years of drinking, I was on a transplant list, but I wasn’t really on it because I couldn’t stay sober long enough. I was diagnosed with advanced cirrhosis at 32 years old.
One February day when the girl had moved out, I woke up with my head in my best friend’s lap. She was saying, “Wake up T, wake up!” My other best friend was on the phone calling 911. They had flown in from Austin and Atlanta to help me. I was in the hospital for three or four weeks and then my parents took me back to Austin, TX where I entered a rehab facility. It was a great 30-day program, but I wasn’t ready. I relapsed on the day I was released. For the next few years I didn’t really care. I tried to get sober, but it was forced.
I managed to get a job in Washington, DC, where I was being housed at the George Washington Hotel. I had relapsed hard there. A friend’s brother who is a Capitol police officer came and removed me from the hotel and he drove me to the hospital and checked me in with his badge because he didn’t want this to end my career. No one knew I was in the hospital, except for my parents, because of the badge check-in. I was grateful for that. While I was in detox there, I started researching various different rehabilitation centers and I found Michael’s House in Palm Springs. I loved the fact that they have a LGBTQ track. I had never really been able to talk about being the victim of a gay hate crime. Within two days, I was in California and immediately welcomed at Michael’s House. I felt safe for the first time since I was a kid. I felt accepted.
Susanna, a residential counselor, had such a lasting impact on my life on my sobriety. I started opening up and it was an amazing experience. I started leading the nightly meditations, and then my peers voted me to be the peer group president for a couple of weeks. For the first time, in a long time, I felt like I was doing something right and I needed that terribly. Up to that point, I had been successful in my career, but it had been awhile since I felt this way. I found my sense of worth at Michael’s House. I have been sober ever since then, which was January 2014.
Since then I have been very successful with my career. I am now the Chief Learning Officer with a start up in Austin, TX. I have my own house with a dog and a cat. I am very close to my niece and nephew which means a lot to me. For a period, they didn’t even know who I was. Now they visit me on the weekends and they look up to me. My parents trust me now and I can step up and help with the matriarchal duties like holiday planning.
I owe it all to Michael’s House. One year after I completed treatment there, I went to the doctor for my yearly check-up and they tested all my liver enzymes and they were all normal. My liver went from advanced cirrhosis to completely normal. My pancreatitis was also healed. I don’t believe in God, but I do have a Higher Power, but either way, that is just miraculous to me. I should have been dead. Michael’s House helped me save my life.
If that means going to a meeting, I go to a meeting. I love the Galano Group here in Austin. If not drinking means playing video games, I play video games. If it means calling and talking to my nephew, I do that. I just started teaching him how to code so we work through coding problems. If that is what keeps me sober, then I am going to keep doing it.