I’ve always wanted to write down parts of my crazy life, so here I go. I was born 6/22/78 to Rick and Darlene in Roaring Spring, PA. My parents were young (20 and 17 years old), and I always keep in mind that they did the best they could with what they were given. I was born with many problems with my health. My legs were 3/4 backwards, my bladder was outside of my body and I had a double hernia. So I spent a lot of my early life in hospitals. The doctors had no clue what to do with me. I have more memories of the children’s hospitals of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia than I do of playing with my childhood friends, but that’s ok. I wouldn’t change any of it.
As I sit here and think about things, I think this was where my addition started in life and caused my use of pain meds later in life to spiral out of control. With my bladder problems came wearing diapers until I was 11 years old, and kids can really be cruel when it comes to picking on someone’s weak points. Again, that’s ok because I wouldn’t change any of my story. From birth to age 12, I really have no good memories and I always have felt that my life began when I was 12. My mother did the best she could dealing with one broken son, another healthy son born in 1982 and an abusive husband. But at the end of the day, humans can only take so much. So she left in 1989, and then the horror of my addiction and my nightmare began.
Now left in the hands of my drug dealing, drug and booze abusing father, the fun began. After years of my health always getting the best of me, the doctors finally figured out a way to fix me when I was about 12. We were so excited! I was to be the second person to get this surgery at the time. It was great idea, and I was willing to do whatever it took to never have to wear diapers again. It was a rough couple of years until it was all finished, and but my life has been much better physically ever since. My father always told me I wouldn’t make it to the age of 21 due to my health, so that has always messed with my head and given me a hopeless attitude. My father never was my father. He was our friend and our worst nightmare. There were days when we couldn’t wait for him to get home and then there were days we would pray he wouldn’t come home. With him, you never knew what you were going to get. But I do believe he did the best he could raising two boys and battling his own demons.
At this point, I was 12 years old and I believe that I was addicted to my pain meds before I even knew it. Then there was my first drink. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the way it tasted, the way it felt in my stomach and, most of all, how good it made me feel. This was the beginning of the whirlwind of my life. I had found my new best friend and I had found my demon.
They say in recovery meeting rooms that if you don’t take the first one, you won’t get drunk. Boy, I wish I would have known this that night. We were at a wedding reception for a family member, and my father said I should go ahead and try it. “You won’t like it,” he said. And I didn’t. I LOVED it so much that I had a couple drinks. That night, I unleashed a demon I will battle with forever. With no female in the house to keep us in line, the homestead became a party house for the next 15 years. My father used to sell weed and coke for extra cash, so there were always different people around. Seeing this growing up, this was all I knew, and I always thought this was what I wanted to do in life. With the house being a party house, there were always people passed out around the house and always chaos and confusion going on. Most of the time, my little brother and I were left to fend for ourselves. Again, I wouldn’t change any of this because without it I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Since the house always had different people everywhere, didn’t have any food and was always dirty, I had the bright idea that I would move out into the shed, thinking that it wouldn’t follow me. Boy, was I wrong. I know today that I am the chaos and I am my demon, so I take it with me.
I was living in the shed in the backyard, so I did whatever I wanted even more than I did before. I came and went as I wished and I decided that school just got in the way of my partying so I really didn’t go too much. I was around 15 years old by this point in my life and I was already a mess. I was a drug addict and alcoholic and I was out of control in every aspect of my life. No one told me no or said that I shouldn’t do what I was doing. I started selling weed at this point too. I became exactly like my father and I always said I would never be like him. I grew up by an amusement park so it was a good place for me to hustle. Between selling at the park and my shed, I had cash all the time and people around so life seemed fun. I never knew that really it was bad. After some time, the party moved from the house to my shed, and I became the one to go to for what you needed. I also became the one passed out on the floor or in the yard. Boy, I bet our neighbors just loved our place. Then, I moved out for a spell when I was 17 years old. I went on an acid and cough syrup binge for about a year. That time was just crazy as I look back. Out of my element, I went back to what I knew best, which was the shed and hustling.
By this point in my life, I was a hot mess. I was 18 years old, selling drugs, drinking and drugging 24/7. So far in my life, I had no real issues with the way I was living. Then, I encountered my first legal issue. I had been on a bender for two or three days with someone I knew. We decided to wait for some guy to come out of a bar, jumped him and then left the scene. I caught some charges and spent some time in jail for this, but it wasn’t my fault. We felt like we had to jump him for the things he did to my friend. This was what I told myself to make it all ok. So now with my jail stripes on, I thought I was just the s**t. Everything in life that was actually bad was what I was taught to think made me cool. Trying to be “cool” would run the next couple years of my life.
By this point in life, I was 18 years old and out of control. I had plenty of drugs and alcohol and I was doing as I wished. I started hanging with an old friend who was always in trouble with the law and had spent most of his life in detention homes. I remember one time when we were about 15 years old, he was in one of those homes, and we went to see him. He then decided to run from there. We probably were four miles from his house and he turned around and ran home. He made it there before we did and we were on bikes. Man, he could run fast. The cops came, and there was a huge fight with them. I had a pound of weed on me, which they took. Thank God that they just took it, and I didn’t hear another word about it. The fight ended with my friend getting cuffed and put into the car. He then proceeded to kick out the back side window and tried to run again.
I tell this story to let you know how crazy this kid was. I was running with him, so no good was to come of this friendship. His brother and his brother’s girl moved in next door to my house. Now, the party crowd got big and was between two houses. The cops came a lot during this period of time. One day, we were making tea, eating paper and brownies. For some reason, the cops came, and my friend beat the piss out of the two officers. Backup came, and he went to jail for a month or so. When he got out, he needed a place to stay. So my father let him stay with us. It wasn’t a big deal because there were 10 people already squatting there anyway. The house was out of control at this time of the story, with all of us partying 24/7.
Then I had my next run-in with the law. There used to be wing cook-offs on Thursdays at the park I grew up near. We had been drinking for who knows how long and decided we were going to go to it. With the high prices of booze there, I thought it was a smart idea to fill a cranberry juice bottle with juice and vodka and take it with me. The security guard saw it and disliked my friend so he called the cops on us for being publicly drunk. We got arrested and went to the station. We just did some paperwork and we were left go. To this day, I don’t know why they let us go. Walking home, we were drunk and pissed off at the guard for getting us in trouble. We hit every bar on the way home. I didn’t get carded because I always looked older and the people at every bar knew my father. It was no issue that I was 18 years old. We got tanked and had the bright idea to go back to the wing party and start arguing with the guard. He tried to reason with us, but we weren’t hearing it. We started beating the guard down and, when we looked up, we saw that everyone at the wing party was fighting each other for no reason. An all-out riot was unfolding. We realized the cops would be coming and thought we should get out of there. So we took off and ran to my house to hang out and reflect on the fight. But the cops showed up there, like they knew who started it all. We got arrested for the second time that night, and again they let us go after some more paperwork. My point to this part of my story is that I was out of control. I didn’t see that anything good was going to come if I kept on this path. After all, we thought it wasn’t our fault we got arrested twice in one night. It was the guard’s fault for calling the cops. It was his fault that I am still not allowed at that park to this day and I have a charge on my record for inciting a riot. In the months to follow, there were lots of fights and cops. But in the end, my friend went to jail for a couple years due to his past and current brushes with the law. It was never our fault we got into trouble. It was always someone else who caused it. Who were we kidding? Things eventually calmed down for a bit, but it wasn’t long before I was bored and met some new friends. This started another fun and disruptive chapter in my life.
Now, I was about 19 years old and I found a new group to run with since my other friend was doing time for our actions. We were a group of Lakemont outcasts, partying it up on 29th Street. It wasn’t too long before this group became out of control too. We lived in this big apartment building, and everyone there loved to party so we fit right in. This place didn’t last too long before we got tossed out due to not paying rent and having the cops called a lot. But I have so many crazy stories about this place. For me, partying was still sort of fun at this time. Later, it became the job I most hated. The people I was running with helped take me to a whole new level in my addiction. By the end of my time at this place, I was in too deep. I needed to drink and drug just to function. There were a lot of pills, drinking, acid and of course chaos. Chaos was my middle name. It fueled the fun, and people thought I was either cool or crazy. Either way, I loved it. One afternoon after eating some acid and partying in the woods all day, I was walking back to the apartment. I thought it would be a good idea to call a colored man by the name he would hate most. Needless to say, I was in no shape to defend myself in the situation I had put myself in. I got my nose broken with his first shot and, after a bit of a scuffle, I was weak from the blood loss and gave up. Going in the house with my tail between my legs, I had my friend’s son help me with my nose. This son was only five or six years old. As I sat here and thought about the things this boy saw before he was old enough to think for himself, I knew it was just wrong to ask him to help. But that’s how crazy my addiction was.
So with my nose doctored up, the party was back on. Like an old dog licking his wounds, I started feeling better. The better I felt, the more pissed I got about this guy getting the best of me. So I grabbed a 2×4 and went out for round two. Let’s just say round two went in my favor. This fight earned me my crazy stripes among a bunch of social outcast losers, and I loved it. It was just more fuel for me to act out of control. Being out of control was normal to us. Anything else was boring and didn’t feel like living. What sick people we were! So after a couple months, the party ended at this place, but we found an apartment in Lakemont and the party was back on.
We were the three gimps. I had gut problems, another was missing a leg and the other has M.S. So we had money coming in at the beginning of every month. At our new apartment in Lakemont, we had a 1/4 keg in the tub to break in the new place with a good ole party. But this apt didn’t last long at all. That night after one crazy party, it was 3:10am, and the pizza shop across the street blew up! IT BLEW UP! It was like being in a movie or something. Needless to say, it leveled the block, and we had to move. We lived in some motels until we found a place. The gas company footed all our bills for the new place and also gave me $5000 dollars to not sue them. This was a bad idea to give a 20-year-old addict $5000.
So now, I had another new house and was armed with lots of cash. This is where it got bad, as if it wasn’t already bad or out of control. There was a lot of coke, weed, mushrooms and booze around at this time. I pretty much partied away this money real fast. I did buy my first car, a Suzuki Samurai. This was bad idea because I didn’t even have a license. But I didn’t care because I thought I was unstoppable. One night while bored at the house, I decided to go for a cruise and stopped to pick up my buddy. We went for a drive out in Turkey Valley, and that’s when it happened. I wrapped the jeep around a pole, and my friend got hurt real bad. The frame of the roof smashed him in the face, split his lips and knocked out all his teeth. I will forever feel horrible about this night. They charged me with my first DUI, leaving the scene (because I tried to take off on foot), bodily harm to another person, driving without a license, not having registration or insurance and underage drinking. This was one week before my 21st birthday.
I was facing all those charges and it was my first experience with really bad trouble. I was scared, so I did the one thing I did best. I ran from the law, thus starting another new crazy chapter of my life. I went on the run for the next two years. I had moved back into my father’s house at this point in life and was out of control with the drugs and drinking. I was also growing and selling mushrooms, and it seemed like the party money would never run out. We lived hard and played hard. I had trouble with keeping a job so I always bounced from job to job. I started working the third shift cleaning restaurants. It was ok at first since it left my days open to party. But then it became a problem because I didn’t want to stop so I was showing up hammered or stealing booze from the places we cleaned. Then my father started cleaning with us and he ended up being asked to start his own company. He is great at taking care of hardwood floors, so that’s what we did. Now the whole house was partying during the day and working at night. No one was at these place to keep an eye on us so we were taking the party with us wherever we worked. My father’s truck always had a cooler of beer in the bed of it. It was fun at first. I eventually ended up getting caught drinking stolen booze and getting fired by my father.
When we would stop at the convenience store on our way home for some food, there was this girl who seemed to hit on me all the time. I didn’t notice it because I wasn’t looking for another relationship other than the one I had with my addition. After everyone kept telling me that this girl liked me, I gave in and gave her a call to invite her over. She went to school with my brother so she fit right in at the house and partied just like we did. The phone call to invite over forever changed my life because it began an eight year nightmare.
At this point, I was on the run from the law, and my life was spiraling out of control faster and faster. I added the one thing I thought my life needed: a girlfriend. Boy, was I wrong! She was just like me. She liked to party and loved the chaos. This was a recipe for disaster in the years to follow. She moved in with us at the homestead, and it wasn’t long before our relationship went from good to just plain crazy. I was without a job and on SSI for my health, so all we did was party. It wasn’t long before she tried to change how I was living, but I wasn’t having some woman change me. So we fought about it all the time. We decided we needed to get out of the house and be grown-ups. I traded my home stereo system for the first month’s rent in a trailer park where she knew the owner’s daughter. He also owned a junkyard, so I also started working there pulling parts. I didn’t make much money with this job and the SSI. I needed to pay bills and support our habits. I started selling meth. Then, it went from bad to worse. I was selling a pile of it a week and made lots of money. But like every dealer that is a junkie too, I stopped making money and using my profit. I was staying up for days and not eating for a week at a time. It wasn’t long before the using affected my job, so I lost this job too. That was ok though because I was still selling enough to pay the bills and party.
I never was good at staying in one place for very long and I started disappearing for days at a time to go play with my friends in Lakemont. This always caused a fight when I would get home worn out and sick from too much partying. There were a lot of black eyes and bloody lips by this point. I think the last fight at this house was when I came home after a long bender. She wanted to fight, but I wasn’t hearing it. I tried to leave, and she put a 16-foot extension ladder through the windshield of the car. THAT WAS IT! I had had enough of this crazy b***h. I was done. We broke up, and I moved back home for spell. It wasn’t long before we hooked back up, though. This was only the first breakup of many. We fed off of each other’s sickness and chaos. We had to have each other because misery loves company. The years to come just brought more pain and more misery.
I was raised with pain and misery so that’s what I thought life had to be. This girl brought me the most misery I had ever seen. Now looking back, I caused that for myself. I loved pain and still do. My opinion is that pain helps you remember you’re alive. It wasn’t long before we hooked back up, and the battle began again. This time I bought a fifth wheel camper and a piece of ground at a campground to live in. It was nice at first but it was in the middle of nowhere. So as always, I was disappearing for days at a time. I started working construction in Johnstown and therefore was driving 45 minutes each way to get to and from work. I still had no license and was driving our only car. I was leaving at 5:30am and not getting home sometimes until midnight. If there was a bar anywhere in between my points of destination, my car would inevitably end up there. There was this old coal miner bar in the section of town I was working in, which was not good for me. I was leaving work at 5:00, heading straight there and telling my girl I was working until 8:00 or 9:00.
After a while of this, she got stir crazy. She was stuck in an empty campground with only our dog and no car until I got home. We were always fighting at this place due to my actions, and I really didn’t care. One day, I was late getting up for work so I was in a hurry and a deer ran into the driver’s side door of my car. I was late to work and hung over, which was strike one with my boss. That night, I was pissed off about the deer and my door so I stopped at the bar where the doubles were singles. This was a bad choice. I woke up parked in a cornfield. I went home thinking it was the next day, but it was not. When I got home, my girl asked me, “Where have you been for three days!?” I had no clue where I had been, and she was pissed. We were fighting worse than ever. As I usually would, I disappeared for days. Returning home after a number of days, I had to smooth things over with her as well as my boss. This was strike two. Of course, this wasn’t too hard for me since I was such a great liar. I went back to work and did the same dumb things like stopping at the bar and not coming home until late.
Strike three came one night after I was at the bar all day. We had finished the job we were working on very early in the day, and I saw this as a free pass to do as I chose for the remainder of the day! I don’t remember leaving the bar but I do remember waking up behind the wheel of a car that was in mid-air and landing nose first into a cornfield. I was startled because I had no clue what was happening. Then I realized where I was and what had just happened. I got the car out of the cornfield and I wasn’t too far from home so I drove the car, which was smashed up pretty bad, the rest of the way home. She was sleeping when I got there so she didn’t see the car and I went to sleep. Morning came, and I was awoken to her yelling, “What the hell did you do last night!?” In all of the confusion of waking up, I didn’t remember what had happened. I looked out the window and saw my car with the front end pushed up to the sky. To this day, I can’t the car even made it home. Not wanting to tell the truth, I told her I hit a deer. She didn’t believe me, but I stuck to my story. Now I had no car and was 45 minutes away from my job. I had to quit, and we had to move.
We had no money to pay bills, no car and were out in the middle of nowhere. We needed a plan so we drove the broken car as far as we could to get it toward Altoona. It almost made it before the motor blew due to no radiator fluids. I called the junkyard for them to come get it, and then we called her mother. We made up some crazy story as to why we couldn’t live up the mountain anymore. Her parents decided to help us move from there into their house in the attic. This was a bad idea and started a new chapter of fights, pain and chaos!
I won’t bore you with the stories of fights and chaos at her mother’s house but I will say it was crazy 24/7! I got a job at Outback Steakhouse, and we wanted to move out. But remember, I was still running from the law. It had been two years of looking over my shoulder and ducking every time I saw the cops. The day I finally got caught I was helping my buddy move. He had forgotten his house keys so he climbed in the window, and the neighbors called the cops. Out of 12 of us helping him, I was the only one with warrants. The crazy part was that I had given an ounce of weed to my girl that morning so I didn’t have it on me. Thank God. I did, however, have the rent money for our new place from my SSI and new job. I went to jail for two months for running from the law, and she had no money for rent at the new place. Fortunately, the landlord was a friend of mine so he let her move in anyhow until I got out and got back on my feet. Some years later, I found out that also she did some things for this rent loan that would forever mess with my head. Needless to say, this was just one of many times she cheated on me.
The two month sentence I spent in jail was the longest I had ever been clean since I was 12 years old, but that was not what I wanted. The same day I got out of jail, I found myself doing the same stuff I had prior to going to jail. I had picked up right where I had left off. Now out of jail, jobless and a full-blown addict, I needed work. I returned to the junkyard where they put up with people like me. I was back in the same old cycle: job, jobless, house, no house, fights, black eyes, hospitals, jails and psyche wards.
I was just falling farther down the rabbit hole. I’m going to spare you all from details and get to 2004 when I had my first encounter with recovery. By this point, I had become a cutter. I was now living in Williamsburg with our friend. My girl came home from work one day, and I was in a blackout, sitting in bed after cutting myself all over my body. After walking in to see me covered in blood, she started screaming. It woke me and I saw what I had been doing to myself. I was out of control. I went to the hospital and was there for two weeks. I then decided to go to rehab.
I was now at a treatment center for my addition. These people were telling me I couldn’t party anymore and I had to change the people, places and things in my life. I also had to go to meetings. I was in shock. I needed a whole new life. I put in my 28 days and was set free to try to live life sober. It was destined to fail from the start. I moved back in with my girl and our friend where there was always a party. Deciding I needed to move out, we moved back in with her parents. That wasn’t a good idea either. All they did was party too. So I needed a job. I went back to Outback to work as a dishwasher. They were willing to give me a second shot, but I had to prove I wanted to be there. So I had to wash dished for three months before I could move up. After saving some money, we moved out on our own again to a trailer in Lakemont. It was nice for a while to be sober and work, but I wasn’t doing anything that rehab told me to do. I was doing well at work, and we were doing well at home for once so we thought, “Let’s get married.” Boy, that was my first really bad choice in sobriety. My second was to buy a new truck and to buy a house. We moved into our new place, and then I got promoted at work to kitchen manager. Life was great, or so I thought. This was the beginning of a new bottom.
Now life seemed to be as it should. I was sober, owned a home, had a nice truck and had a great job. But my Higher Power had a different plan than I did. I was managing a restaurant and working 70 hours a week. But I wasn’t doing a thing for my sobriety. All my defects were at their primes, and it was just a matter of time before I convinced myself that I could use again successfully. I started a marijuana maintenance program after a year of being clean. I was told by the wife that I was no fun anymore because I worked too much and that made me angry. So that’s why I tried smoking. Of course, this wouldn’t last too long. Since I was an addict, I would need more at some point.
Since I was working so much, I wasn’t paying attention to my home life. She was getting bored with not partying because she was an addict too. However, she would never say she was. It was always me who had the addiction problem. We had moved her mother in with us because her dad had died and she had lost everything. I think this had a big part in the actions to follow. The two of them started going out, gambling and hanging with the wrong crowd. This was happening while I was busting my a** at work, so I had no clue it was taking place. I got a phone call one day from the bank that my account was $500 in the hole and then I got a call that my truck payment was four months behind. I was in shock because I thought she was paying all of these things.
Needless to say, this burnt my trust, and I lost everything. By the time I found out about this, it was too late. I didn’t even care at this point because I had had enough of trying to please her. I saw my chance to get out and I left her, giving her everything that was left. I got an efficiency apartment and went on with my life. My life had become all about work, so I was a mess inside. By this point, my character defects were running my everyday life, and I was pissed 24/7. Then I caught a bad case of depression. I got rid of the wife who was making me angry, so it was only natural to get rid of the one other person who made me unhappy: my boss. I quit my job about two months after leaving the wife and I started selling drugs again. It wasn’t long before bad became worse. I was always good at building myself up but I was even better at taking myself out. And I was headed to a new bottom. The last four years of my active addiction was probably the worst it had ever been. There were many jobs, fights, run-ins with the law and periods in jail and institutions.
The beginning of the end of my rope came in September of 2010. I was living with my ex’s aunt and uncle at the time and was doing worse with drinking and benzos. We had been partying all day, and I guess I decided to leave when my ex showed up. I was always good at falling asleep behind the wheel of my car. This time, I wrecked into someone’s yard and got arrested for my second DUI. Using this as an excuse to take my partying to a new level, the weeks to follow got even worse. I was working at Olive Garden, and it was my day off. My ex’s uncle needed my help with fixing a roof, so I got up early enough to drink two 40s and eat some zanis before proceeding to help. It was a bad idea to mix those drugs together so early in the day and then get up on a roof. I fell off the roof, 25 feet down onto a gas meter. I split my head pretty good and broke three ribs. I woke up in the hospital two days later without a clue that it even happened. You would like to think that this would be enough for anyone to stop using. But for me, this just made a great story at the drinking table and bragging rights for how crazy I was. But I was actually sick.
I was now on pain pills for my ribs and was drinking 24/7. I was knocking on death’s door. My last week of drinking was the worst. I got into a brawl and some guys got really hurt. Somehow I escaped charges, thank God. I was still facing my DUI and was out on bail at the time. My last night was rough with 151 and plenty of drugs. I woke up sicker than I had ever been in my 20-year run with addiction. I had had enough!
I walked to the hospital and I remember crying tears of joy and tears of pain on the way there. I knew that this was my walk to a better way of life. I spent two weeks in the hospital and asked them if they could get me into rehab. They did, so I spent 63 days at a treatment center. I knew I still needed more help because I had no clue how to live life sober. I had never been sober in my adult life for any amount of time. They found me a bed in a Dual Diagnosis halfway house outside of Pittsburg. I was scared to death to move away from home but I knew I had to in order to learn about myself, my sobriety and how to live right. I spent six wonderful months there and received lots of therapy. I also got close to some great people there and enjoyed the area, so I decided to stay in the region for my recovery. I got hooked up at a 3/4 house in Canonsburg and ended up managing it for about seven months. I was doing great with my work and my program and was doing my steps to learn how to live life the way it was meant to be lived. Remember my second DUI? Well, it caught up with me about eight months later. They gave me time served for rehab (which had never been done before) and gave me 90 days of house arrest. It turned out for the best since I was facing a possibility of six months in jail.
Then my higher power gave me the love of my life, and she came with a present: Kane. I was finally sober and now I had the gift of a family. This was something I never thought I would have. Since meeting her, we have had our troubles, but I wasn’t promised that life would be easy just because I was sober. We got through it because I didn’t pick up. Life has changed so much today, and there are times when I just can’t believe it. Today, I have two great jobs, a wonderful group of sober friends and an even better family thanks to my higher power, rehab, 12 steps and meetings. I also thank my sponsor, who helped me with my step work and just plain doing the best thing.
I sit here to write my story to show that there is hope in the darkness of addiction. If you have the desire to change and the will to listen to people who have done the work to achieve sobriety, you can do it. I also sit here to tell you that I have not had any drinks or drugs for TWO YEARS TODAY!