I’m from Cuyahoga County in Ohio, born and raised on the inner city streets of Cleveland. It’s been a tough life, but that’s not said for sympathy. I feel the hand I was dealt made me strong enough to fight the plague beset upon my hometown. Cuyahoga County has managed to top the list of overdose deaths in our country and there is no end in sight. Being in long term recovery has blessed me with the opportunity to help others through public service. I attend Opiate Awareness meetings in many communities and see firsthand the devastation drugs has caused from many fronts. I see families ripped apart, first responders that have grown emotionally traumatized, loved ones full of regret over not knowing how to save a life, and I see those addicted. We are the ones at the heart of this nightmare, the effect. In general, society shouts from social media pulpits to let us die, to rot in hell, to just disappear. If only we could close our eyes and vanish, what a concept.
Yet, here we are. Based on the many nights I’ve sat with others like me, I know that no one wants to turn into the animal they become because of drugs. Those lucky enough to make it out of active addiction alive have a long, hard road ahead of them. I want to elaborate on that because that road is too often overlooked.
When you finally do decide to get clean, you have just begun to engage in the hardest journey in your life. There are so many things to do, so many things to repair; but on most days just not using again is all your broken spirit can muster up the strength to fight. You want to stop using and try to get professional help, only to be met with waiting lists at treatment facilities, insurance problems, and endless thoughts of just grabbing another bag of dope to escape because that is the only thing that seems to make sense in your warped mind. You fight through and finally get help, get detoxed, and enter treatment. You come home and have to look at the casualties your active addiction created. There are often legal issues, pissed off family members, responsibilities of raising children you live in constant guilt of hurting, and physical damage to your body. You try not to get overwhelmed, you are taught to take it one day at a time. You go to meetings where people just you talk about how they stay clean, but you feel like you are on a deserted island. Active addiction taught you to not trust anyone but your drug dealer, so to walk in a room full of strangers and bare your soul seems insane. Yet, you continue on this road because it took every ounce of fight you had to get this far and you may be afraid of dying or some consequences. Your old using associates keep calling or trying to message you, to pull you back into the misery they still live with. Your family tells you how proud they are of you for getting clean but whisper in the other room about the validity to your claims that you are in fact, clean. You walk into rooms of familiar faces and the silence is deafening. All these things going on and your feeble mind keeps whispering that relief is just a phone call away. You fight so hard, you fight in ways no one else will ever understand. You begin to wonder if it’s your fate to just die from this disease because everything around you tells you it’s inevitable.
Now hear this… It is not inevitable. No one is destined to die as an addict. We make a choice. It’s not an easy choice, but we still choose. All our lives have value and purpose; we have to decide what that means. If you even remotely understand what I’ve said and you are searching for that purpose, keep looking. After over twenty years of trial and error, I’m at peace. I’m clean and in recovery. Many lives have been lost but I am still here and it’s not because I am meant to die in active addiction. I have told my daughter that if for some reason that is how I meet my end, to not be ashamed of it. I have no intentions of going out that way but I also know the power this disease has and will not pretend it will ever go away. Hope lives in the fact I am here and I am clean and free from active addiction, just for today. All the worries and damage of the past take a lifetime to mend, but it begins with putting one foot in front of the other and doing what needs to be done instead of giving in to the fear. It’s okay to be afraid, learn to respect it not give in to it. Trust this process. The odds may not be in our favor, but I have never been one to buy into the numbers game. Take a chance, choose life!