Submitted by: Susanne Johnson
Gary has been in the recovery process from addiction for 19 years. He had his ups and downs and his times in and out of sobriety, but he always came back. This time around he celebrates one year of continuous sobriety so far, hopefully with much more to come.
Experimentation with alcohol came first, but the drugs grabbed him right away. He was only about eleven years old when he started and all he wanted was to be different than his drinking parents. He didn’t want to go down the same road, yet he still did the same things. At first he would bring friends home after school and sample from his mother’s bottles. He knew early on that alcohol made him comfortable around other people, and it became his social lubricant. That was a powerful thing during his teenage years. Anytime he found himself in a situation with other people, he wanted that feeling. The older he got, the stronger the drugs became, until eventually he had done anything in his life imaginable and available.
Gary left his home at age 12 or 13, and began living in garages. At age 14, he hitchhiked to California to see if the grass was greener and life was better there. It was the same anywhere he went. He came back to Chicago and at age 16, he got involved with the distribution of drugs from Texas to Chicago. At first he sold marijuana, which Gary now believes was a gateway drug.”I ran away a bunch of times in my life. I was always trying to find ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ was… and never found it,” said Gary.
He was defiant at school and locked up at an early age, but never went to jail or prison for drug charges. “I was a very angry, violent young kid,” Gary says. “The most time I spent in jail was for a traffic violation, not a trafficking violation, with 79 days. I was lucky.”
Gary went around the world with the Navy, but he was addicted to angel dust (phencyclidine, a.k.a., PCP)at the time. This was before the military started drug testing. He saw lots of young men just like him that were high from drugs working on million dollar planes on the aircraft carrier. A few smart older ones invested in gold while overseas and brought it back, others invested in hashish and beer and never had any money anything to save.
In 1980, he was in Houston, Texas, and he was getting off a bad run of taking heroin when he turned toward alcohol and became a daily drinker. He had a good, solid and honest job, did not drink at work yet, but always after work was done. A little later he had a successful business set up in Kentucky, had a wife and a baby was on the way. He thought his drinking was a phase and he would get out of it, but this didn’t happen. He was working too many hours, and became depressed about his work and alcohol soon thereafter. At 36, he had a moment of clarity where he realized that he could not stop himself from drinking anymore and called a 12-step fellowship. The man who answered the phone told him, “Come down here and have a look. You can always leave if you don’t like it. If you are a real alcoholic like me though, you can’t do it yourself, you need help.” Gary went and made it to only 3-4 days, but came back again. He did this a half dozen times before he finally got it and he stayed sober for over three years.
Gary moved away to Illinois. He quit talking to his sponsor, didn’t go to meetings anymore, didn’t read the book and worked very hard. “My work became my higher power. I was working 14-16 hours a day and I quit doing the things I needed to do,” mentions Gary. “Money became more important than my recovery and that’s what happened: I relapsed and went back out.” Years later, he came back in and gave it a new try. He stopped the anti-depressant he was taking and was very angry during this time. It took only 80 days of sobriety and he was drinking again. After just six days, he was back to the hospital. This is how progressive his disease became. He went back to the same treatment center that he went to before and this time he made it to a year of constant sobriety. “This is such a great life!” Gary stated,”But I have to be here at the 12-step fellowship every day for a meeting or I will lose it again.” He has a job as a painter again, has his own home and it’s paid for. He spends his time working and in the rooms of the fellowship where he found his friends and loves to help others to achieve sobriety today.