- Friends & Family
How long have you been on your recovery journey?
I’ve been clean since February 26, 1995. I went to a meeting once and hadn’t a clue what was going on. That was probably like three or four years before that. I did not even know what it was about or anything. I went because somebody else had to go to a meeting. And I didn’t hear anything at all. I just spaced in the meeting and didn’t know what it was. It wasn’t until years later that my roommate was court-ordered to go to a meeting and I was kind of curious. Because one day, because of the court order he had gotten, he was told he wasn’t allowed to drink or get high. I didn’t think alcohol was a big deal and I said, “You can’t even drink?!” I was still drinking and getting high at the time, and out of curiosity one day I went to a meeting because of what happened with him, and I decided at that time that I wanted to try to get off the drugs. I still wasn’t ready to quit the alcohol yet. It wasn’t until later on that I ended up deciding to quit everything. I woke up one morning… Well, let me backtrack a bit.
My roommate got the house busted because we were selling drugs. I was afraid to live at my own house. So I was sleeping a day over here, a day over there, a day somewhere else. And I was worried about people breaking into my car, and stealing my stuff, because my friends wouldn’t let me bring the quantity into the house because they were worried that they would get busted. I just got sick of living here, there, and everywhere, and not knowing where I was going to live.
Then I was out drinking and came back to my friend’s house and we were smoking coke that night. And it went from February 24th into the morning of the 25th. Somewhere mid-day of the 25th I went and laid down, then I ended up calling my mom because I was having problems breathing, and I was spitting up blood. It turned out that I’m spitting up defecating out blood for three days. But anyway, I ended up going to the doctor’s and they gave me a prescription for antibiotics and codeine cough syrup. I ended up not filling the codeine cough syrup because at that time I had heard enough from NA meetings that I just knew I wanted to quit everything.
So I ended up getting Robitussin cough syrup and I got permission from my mom to move down to her place if I quit doing everything I did. So I gave them my car keys and my pager, and what little bit of money I had, and I started living down there. My mom would go with me to NA meetings. Because my parents lived in the middle of nowhere, that helped me get clean. Because now nobody knew where I was at, I couldn’t get to anybody. I had no money and my parents were taking care of me.
The first two months, I stayed there. Then eventually I moved back to the house where my roommate, who was court-ordered to go to meetings, lived. And him and I started to just hit the meetings constantly.
What is the biggest positive change in your life since you’ve become clean and sober?
Since I’ve started writing some steps in my life, I feel a strong connection back with God again. I think the spirituality aspect of it is the biggest. Yeah, you get financial things and gains and stuff like that, but the spiritual connection you get is the biggest blessing. It really is. I was constantly miserable. I’d wake up with headaches and be hung over, and my stomach was a pool of acid. I was constantly “Forget this!” and “Forget that!” I was totally miserable all the time. And forcing myself to go to a job I couldn’t stand. I was just a miserable person to be around. And I couldn’t remember half the things…my memory is not the best today, but I remember things way better than I could. If you asked me stuff that happened years ago during my addiction, I can’t tell you because I’ve had so many blackouts. I have no idea what happened this time, what happened that time. My car? I had dents in it and I had no idea where the dents occurred. I remember going to different clubs by myself and I’d find myself home and not remember driving home at all. And I knew I had to have driven home because I was the only one there.
What is one important truth that you’ve learned through the recovery process?
No matter what, you don’t have to use. You can go through things with lots of other people in the fellowship. At the time when my grandmother passed, the brother of my sponsor at the time was in the hospital about to pass. And he was going through similar things as me. It let me know that I was not so unique as I thought I was.
I was molested as a child, but it wasn’t until I got into recovery that I was able to hear somebody else go through it and it came back up. Because I had kind of pushed it down so far, I forgot it. It’s like I knew it, but I kind of like denied it. I pushed it down and I never told anybody about it.
The day that it happened, I was just old enough to cross a major road, and on the way home I kicked something and broke it. Before I got home, my mom knew that I had broke something. It had got back to her, and my ass got beat. I never told anybody that I was molested and I just stuffed it down, and kind of just denied it. It wasn’t until I got clean and I was in an NA meeting when some lady was sharing about how her daughter had been molested. The feelings just came up so strong. I just started crying; I got up and walked out of the room. A friend of mine grabbed my sponsor and got me to talk about it. That was the first time I admitted to anybody what had happened. And it hurt when I first did it, and it still hurts a little bit today, but as I talk about the secrets that are inside of me, the pain lessens. “You’re only as sick as your darkest secrets,” they say, and that is so true. When you hide something, it hurts worse. And I’ve learned all this since being clean.
What’s one of the biggest struggles in your ongoing recovery and how do you overcome it?
I have a food addiction. I love to eat, I love food, and it’s hard because I have to check my sugar constantly for diabetes. I have to monitor what carbs I eat and it’s extremely difficult, because it looks so good but you know you can’t have it. And my roommates, they eat candy and cupcakes and make me want to get into it, but I know I can’t.
What part of your life do you find most satisfying since you’ve been in recovery?
I actually own my own house today. It’s not 100 percent paid off, but I’ve had my house for just over 12 years. My car is paid off. I would’ve never have had either one before. Now I’m struggling to keep the house, because it’s bills and bills and bills, but that’s part of life. You get up and face responsibility. And part of what I’ve got now, I know how to say no to somebody. Before, I could barely say no to anything. I would constantly people-please, and I think that’s also part of the reason why I started getting high. I wanted to fit in. And to fit in I did things I would never do before.
My dad’s a retired cop, and I was against drugs at one time. I never set out to go get high. But I ended up getting introduced to marijuana at a young age. I was with my cousins in West Virginia, and we were sitting around a campfire. My aunt and uncle were sleeping, and my cousins pulled out marijuana, and because they were smoking it I had to try it. I figured if they were doing it, I could do it. I got introduced to greens on a job. Somebody else was smoking it, so I had to try it. It was the same thing with cocaine. I was introduced to cocaine on a job.
Somebody else was doing it, and I tried it. You know, they say marijuana is not that bad, but marijuana and alcohol are both gateway drugs because once you start accepting that, it becomes easier and easier and easier to accept the other stuff. You’re addicted, and you don’t realize it.
Was marijuana a gateway drug for you?
Yes. I loved marijuana. From the time I woke up in the morning to the time I went to bed I smoked that stuff. At one time I was smoking probably about two ounces a week, and I was drinking almost a half-gallon of rum a day, and periodically I was doing cocaine. Cocaine wasn’t my main drug of choice, but if it was there I would do it.
Is there a piece of advice that someone shared with you along the way that has helped you on your road to recovery?
Stay away from slippery places. Because I know when I get around people that are slippery, it’s so much easier to get pulled back into it. If you go to a bar, sooner or later you’re going to have a drink. Now I have gone to some since I’ve been clean, but I know if I’m in the right space or not. If I’m not in the right space, I won’t go to the place. Sometimes, though, I like to watch live bands play music. You can’t get away from everything. You can’t just hide your life away. You have to live your life.
What would you tell someone who’s at the beginning of their recovery journey? What kind of advice would you give them if they are afraid that they can’t do it?
I thought that way myself at one time. I never realized I would get 20 years clean. And gradually, as the days mounted up… It gets better. It really does. Advice? I’d say just don’t think of it as forever. Just think of it as that particular time, and when you feel like you want to do something stupid, call somebody and hang out with them. On the weekends, when it was my hardest time to not get high, I went to three meetings every Friday night. I would sit there and go to one meeting and the next meeting and the next meeting. And I would hang out with my sponsor and other NA friends, just the people I knew weren’t using. Just to get over the feeling of it, because eventually the feeling lifted. And get a commitment if you can, because that gives you a pattern where you start doing stuff. It changes your negative pattern into a positive pattern.
I ended up taking a coffee position with my group. I was afraid to take the position, because back when I was getting high I was given a key to a job and I used to go back to the job site, get food, and eat it. Then I would lock up the place after I had cleaned it. Somebody told on me and I got fired from the job. When I got the coffee position, they gave me the key and the alarm code. I was so afraid to have it, but I ended up doing it. Then my car broke down and I had to catch buses to get to the NA meetings. It took two buses to get there, and then after I got done making the coffee the buses stopped running. I had to humble myself and ask somebody for a ride home all the time. Every Friday night at 11:00, I’d be asking for rides home. But people every week, no matter what, gave me a ride home because I showed up. Because they knew that I showed up to open the meeting up, to get it set up, and they knew I was working at getting things to help the meeting. They knew I was serious and they helped me out. It was humbling. It was very humbling, because I didn’t like to ask people for things. I still have problems asking for things today.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
The first time I went back to church, I remember it was Easter Sunday. I took my roommate and his mother. And when we left, I turned the car on and the radio played “Get back to where you once belong.” And a cold shiver went up and down my spine. And I remember it because it’s like God was telling me through the radio to get back to God. I was originally brought up to believe in God and then, somewhere through the mix and getting wrapped up in drugs, I threw everything out. I had countless addresses over the years. I probably lived in like 15 places in like 7 years. Because it was always somebody else’s fault. It wasn’t the fact that I didn’t pay the rent. It was their fault. They didn’t do this and they did that. I was always blaming somebody else for my faults. It wasn’t until I got clean, and looked at my own actions through writing steps, that I could say, “Hey. It wasn’t all those people. It was my own fault.” And that’s another big blessing; realizing your accountability. I don’t have to blame somebody else today. I can sit there and say, “I’m sorry. It’s my fault.”
Another thing is all of the different spiritual awakenings I had when I got clean. All the different songs on the radio before, when I’d be stoned and banging my head to the music and not knowing anything they were saying. Today I actually listen to Christian music, and I listen to other music, too. But the words have meaning to them. If you sit down and just take the time to actually hear it, they’re speaking messages. And before I was so obliterated and didn’t even know what the messages were. I had no clue there were messages in this stuff. It’s totally different. That’s all I can say.
So many people go back out because they stop doing what they were doing. They stop going to meetings, they stop talking to people and staying connected. My old sponsor says, “A banana that gets away from the bunch every time gets skinned.” And what really helped me is when I finally… I ended up changing sponsors, but when I changed sponsors I found a sponsor that had a story that was so similar to mine that we just connected. And I finally opened up and told him everything about myself. It was painful at first, but through the pain, you come out the other side. You grow. And it’s such a blessing. I can sit there and talk to anybody about me not getting high anymore and not be embarrassed. People thank me and shake my hand. And when I see somebody struggling I don’t criticize them. I say, “I’ve lived where you are at. I’m not criticizing you. I’m just telling you that I used to do this and I used to do that, and I’m not judging you because I did it myself.” I say that to people, that’s how I come across to them. Because if you sit there and come across as condescending to them, it’s just going to turn them off and they’re going to have an attitude.