About 11 years ago I discovered heroin. I had just got a DUI, on my 21st birthday, and I had to stop drinking–it was destroying my life–so well done by me switching from alcohol to heroin. By my own standards I was a fuck up in life, failure at everything I ever wanted to accomplish and I just needed some sort of substance to help me feel better about myself, numb myself or just forget everything all together. See I was going to be in the NBA, or so I dreamed, it was all I worked at from the age of about 8 until 18 and I never even got a major scholarship offer even. I was destroyed and did not know how to deal with that sense of failure. I had also been sexually abused by a neighbor as a child, but I am not going to use any of this as an excuse, plenty of people in the world failed at things or were abused in some way and never turned to alcohol or drugs, they just dealt with the problems and moved on.
So I am going to fast forward about 8 years, because once I started dabbling in snorting a little heroin here and there, we all know how that story ends–within 6 months I was shooting up everyday. I would have stretches of time where I would get sober because someone who loved me asked me to, or demanded me to and I loved them so I would try for them, but it was never for me. That is why I kept failing over and over again at sobriety, because in the back of my mind I knew I would be back and usually planned to be back. I would get “clean” and then reward myself with getting high once a month or whatever. So I never was technically sober. I think I went one stretch of about 3 months but it was the same deal, I hated it and was working towards being able to get high again–that was my light at the end of the tunnel, that is what I was working for, was my RIGHT to get high. I was pathetic. And looking back on it, when asked by one of my best friends why I kept going back to it or thinking like that, it was because who would I be without heroin. It had become a part of me, in my mind it defined me, I did not know how to live without it. Not just physically or mentally, but if you do something long enough it becomes a part of you embedded in you. I had a huge fear of change. It also meant I would have to deal with the emotions and failures that led to this 8 year binge of fucking up even more–because that is who I was. It was just so easy for me to be the fuck up that I perceived everyone thought that I was. Heroin WAS my existence of 8 years. It was all I thought about, all I talked about and everything led back to it. EVERYTHING I did was for heroin. Every breath I took was to talk about it, every thought I had was how would I get it again and every action I took was leading to me getting it. The best comparison that I can think of, and even this is an understatement, but heroin addiction is very similar to being an obsessive, overly protective boyfriend. It is all you think about and it makes you act crazy and do things you would never in a million years normally do. Say things you could never imagine saying. And think things you never thought you could possibly, truly think and believe. I once made up my grandmother died, so someone would feel bad for me and allow me to go get high. One time I agreed to give up my full parenting rights and any custody claims if I could just go get high (Thank God that check was never cashed–my wife and I are still happily married and stronger than ever). But you get the point. Looking back I am so ashamed and embarrassed of the things I did or said, and ever since the day I decided to get sober I try and atone a little bit every day. It has got a lot better in the last year or so, but at first I mentally just beat myself up and punished myself every day, really, really hard because of how embarrassed I was, hoping I could make things better and change the past. However, I just concentrated on bettering myself every day in some way, shape or form. Be a better husband today, be a better father, take better care of my body and take better care of my soul. I started doing all of those things and focusing all of my energy on those things and the results really are amazing. As ashamed as I still am, I actually owe my addiction a thank you. So many people live life without a full appreciation for just the little things, but what I have learned is that it is the little and simple things in life that are the biggest, most important parts. I died about 4 or 5 times “officially” and God only knows how many more times when I was alone and no one called an EMS or medic. By all rights I should be dead and gone. So sitting here just being able to love my wife and kids, just living and seeing a beautiful day or experiencing incredible like watching my wife give birth to another child– I honestly am one of those cheesy people that believes, and I actually know, that every day is a gift and for me a miracle.
I honestly do not know what “clicked” or changed in my mind for me to get clean, but for me it just happened as simple as that. I went from one day thinking and obsessing just as I did everyday for the previous 8 years, to just being done. It felt like a weight was lifted off of me. The urge to get high was gone and I was finally ready to start a new adventure in life, and that was learning to live sober. I think the hardest part, that comes with quitting anything, was just learning to live life and what to do with your time instead of getting high. Learning to embrace emotions that I previously masked or numbed by getting high. At first, it just learning to occupy that time that consumed nearly every day for the previous 8 years. Once I figured that out ( I started to obsessively clean, my house had never been so clean and sanitary), I needed to find a way to “release” and give my self some closure to that period of my life. I really went all in with getting tattoos, that was my thing, it was a release and told a story of me killing that part of me and starting a new chapter of my life. The next thing I started doing was gardening. There was something about doing something and nurturing it everyday and seeing results right before my eyes. It was extremely gratifying. I grew fruits and vegetables, it was incredible. And once I started to rebuild my self and what was important to me, I was ready for a new challenge. As I mentioned earlier when I was younger I was an athlete, so I rediscovered that part of my life. I started to run. I eventually started to run every day. This was probably the biggest turning point in my recovery, because, while I had long since decided to turn my life around and going back was not an option, I found myself still rebuilding my mind. Heroin steals EVERYTHING from you. It steals your ability to feel anything. My brain had forgotten how to be happy. By exercising I was forcing my self to be happy again and really appreciate what I was now doing with my life. When you exercise your brain releases endorphin’s and you cannot help but feel happy and accomplished. I had a drive in life that I had never had. I had a perspective on life many never experience. Life had humbled me and I some how survived everything and came out on the other side the best version of myself I could ever possibly be. I was an a gardening, work-a-holic, tattooed, obsessively clean (no pun intended) health nut, who loved deeper and worked harder than I could have ever imagined in my life. Heroin took everything away from me, but ironically gave me a life I never could have imagined as well. If I had never spiraled down that path I would probably be some grown up version of a frat boy, who either never got married or treated his wife like crap and only cared about getting drunk on the weekends. Now I do not drink, I do not do drugs and I live the fullest life I could have ever imagined. For anyone who thinks that getting clean is impossible, look at me. I was shooting a gram of heroin a day and had no desire to ever quit. It was all I wanted to do and it was how I wanted to die. I did not care, it was the ONLY thing important to me in life, hell it WAS my life. As I said earlier, my world revolved around heroin. I’ve morphed and evolved into the person I am now. It didn’t happen over night, I just bettered myself every day. My advice to anyone still struggling and wanting to make a change, just do it. You can not be at the bottom of the mountain and hope to be at the top in just 2 or 3 little steps, it is a long hike. But each step of that hike is more gratifying than the next. I have been sober since December 12, 2013, which is a little over 2 and a half years. I never went to a meeting ( I did not have a license), I never went to rehab, I just decided to do it on my own. Prove everyone wrong, prove the world wrong. Do it for YOU. I truly believe the first step is just to live your life right, and I do not mean by being clean, but by doing things the right way. We have to learn to be good people, most of us made a living by lying, stealing, hurting those we loved. Just start simple by doing those simple things, concentrate on being a good person and the rest will fall into place.
The last thing I will mention is this, no matter how hard it gets to stay on that right path and live life the right way do not give up on it. Remember how it could be, how it was. We are stronger for our struggles and can appreciate even life’s short comings because we have been so humbled. If having a crappy job or not being able to afford luxury items or whatever is the worst thing you can say about your life, you are doing pretty well. Remember being in that same position but also being dope sick, and unmotivated to even get out of bed everyday except for finding the energy to hustle in some way to get your dope. Remember that strong hold dope had on you and use that to motivate yourself to never go back. After I did get my life together I just concentrated on the things that meant the most to me, loving my family, being healthy and living a happy life. I worked a pretty crap minimum wage job but was just happy to be alive. There were days where I was so upset I wasted all those years on dope and thought to myself that this is my punishment , I will live a meager life and always have to have a lowly job, which I was actually OK with. If that was my punishment for all the BS I did, I could live with that. In all other phases of my life I could not have been any happier. If I deserved this, so be it, maybe it was my new challenge, I rebuilt everything else and now it was time to rebuild that. I stuck with it while I got clean and stayed clean and just tried to stay positive because it was the ONE area in my life that I was coming up short. Even when it was hard to stay positive I just had to remind my self what things could be like and to be thankful. And I did. I continued to grow as a person, I tried to grow spiritually and again stay positive and get better in some aspect of my life everyday (notice a common theme here, I know I keep repeating myself). I tried to help people in my old circles, I usually got ignored but I tried nonetheless, but I told them I was not trying to change them or preach to them–I was just letting them know there was another way to live life. I knew as much as anyone else that an addict will never listen or respond to threats or preaching about the values of being sober. We have in our minds what we want to do and how we want to live our lives and no one will ever change that, except ourselves. I wish more people cared to listen but I would be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t understand, I was no different. In fact it usually pushed me harder into my addiction. So I would take the approach, you remember how bad I was, now look at me, it is possible to change, I mean I was super junky. But living life the right way, it will all eventually pay off in one way or another. Maybe not right away, not today or tonight or a week from now, but if you are committed to a change, it will happen. Several months ago I interviewed for a coveted management position at my job. About 150 other people applied as well, I am sure many of whom were more “qualified” or had been with the company longer–Well I got it. When I got the call that I got it I cried and I still get emotional writing or thinking about it. It was a culmination of everything, getting clean, staying focused and just working my ass off. It was just the ultimate payoff for everything I have been through. I am not sure if my story will help anyone out, but I want people to know that there is hope for anyone. There are endless possibilities if you take control of your life. Remember it is YOUR life, it doe not belong to heroin, like we all feel when we are in it. I have not been able to help many people that I personally know, but if my story even touches or helps one person, that is more than enough for me… I am living, breathing proof that there is hope and that life is possible beyond addiction… #VoicesInRecovery