Many times, we as addicts, sit there and question how we ended up here. We are at the end of our ropes, tired, bruised, beaten and alone. Most likely if you are looking in the mirror telling yourself that you need help you are alone. Most likely you’ve lost everything. Our friends and family back away, some out of pain, some out of fearing your death, and others because they are just too angry to understand that this is not your fault. The majority of society sees us as scum. They offer no help to the addict dying on the street because they say we are doing it to ourselves. They discard us. Survival of the fittest. Employers won’t hire us, rightfully so given most of us can’t work for shit when we are high. So what are we to do? How are we ever supposed to turn our lives around if every turn we take we are belittled and beaten down? It seems almost impossible. But it’s not. Is it easy? Hell no. It will be the hardest thing you ever do. After detox you start to feel relief only to realize detoxing was easier then trying to stay sober. It is not easy and it never will be. But it is WORTH IT.
I have been in your shoes. I was the addict with nothing, on the streets hustling for my next score. My life revolved around using. I chased the avoidance of withdraw. I convinced myself that using is better then feeling the emotional pain of my life. I know what it is like to fight for your life and receive nothing in return. Addiction is my enemy and Crystal Meth is the tool it uses to try and kill me. I spent every day high or trying to come down long enough to get some sleep without going through withdraw. There is a fine balance between both. You all know that balance. It is our daily struggle.
At this point I had already destroyed my car. I couldn’t buy a new one because I couldn’t stay employed. How would I? Even if I went to work I was pretty much useless. I was let go faster then I got hired in most cases. My friends had walked away. My family scared and hurt. Some still had hope, others had given up and walked away. Money? Possessions? I forgot what they were long before. I was a 5’9, 85 pound shell of skin and bones with one thought and one thought only — get high. Then in 2004, I was asked to leave school by the administration at my college. They took away my scholarship and told me the only way I could come back was to get help. That was it. That was the last thing I had left. I hit rock bottom. Broken and left for dead. I came to peace with the fact that I had lost the biggest war of my life. I surrendered.
That is all that I needed. I finally admitted that addiction was bigger than me. I finally realized that I needed something bigger then me on my side. I finally realized that I could be stronger then my addiction, that I could control addiction instead of addiction controlling me. I looked in the mirror and said it is time to climb. With my tail between my legs I left school and went back home fearful of what my family’s reaction would be. I had done nothing but hurt them. But believe me when I tell you it doesn’t matter. Your family would do anything to have their child/sibling/cousin back. The person you were before your addiction ruined you. Do not be scared to ask them for help.
My mom welcomed me in with tears. I detoxed at home because in-patient rehabs were months out on intake (a problem this country needs to fix but that’s a whole different blog). After that the healing began. Seeing the world through sober eyes is one of the scariest things I could have ever faced. I didn’t know how to function in the “real” world. I had to reteach myself everything. My memory, gone. My health, non-existent (minus the no drugs part). It was like being born as an adult, thrown in to the world and told good luck. That alone is enough to make any addict run right back to using. This is why you immediately need a support system. NA, Rehab, Sponsor, Family, Friends… They are your biggest allies. You cannot do it alone.
It took 6 months for me to be able to fully function on my own. I had gone from 85 lbs. to 120 lbs. It took another 6 months to get back up to my current weight, approximately 170. I was able to eat normal. I got and kept a job. I begged and pleaded and was allowed to return to school. I still wanted to use every day but I knew I could be happier if I stayed sober. My emotional and mental scars? They will take a life time to fix.
Once I could function I began the process of physical repair. My short term memory was gone. Sleep? My body didn’t know how to do that anymore. My mouth and teeth are still in repair 12 years later. My heart is permanently damaged, I aged it 20 years older than me. Other organs were damaged also. My skin permanently scared. My lungs were so damaged I could hardly breathe just going up and down steps. That’s what 2.5 packs of cigarettes a day will do to you. My eyes showed no color. I still ask myself every day how I even survived.
Days turned to weeks, weeks months and years. Since 2004 I have managed to reclaim my life. My memory is repaired (as much as it can be). I graduated college with honors. Started a fraternity at my college. Made a good name for myself. I worked my way up from sweeping floors of automotive service shops to my current position – Marketing and Sales Director at one of the biggest automotive dealerships in my area. Got a new car, got a motorcycle and any other toy I could think of. I met a woman, bought a house, got married. Unfortunately that ended in divorce. But that’s ok, because I didn’t know what love really was until I met the woman I am with now. I have two wonderful boys who I work my ass off to be a role model for. I’ve rekindled most of my friendships. My family and I are closer then we have ever been. I have a wonderful home.
The best part? I did it. I overcame every stigma that society has. I crushed the “you will never amount to anything” attitude. Every success I had made me feel that much better, gave me that much more strength. I pulled myself from dead on the streets to alive and fighting as an advocate for addiction relief. I look in the mirror every day and I am proud of my scars. My scars made me who I am today. If you were to look at me you would never know I am a recovering addict. I do not hide it however. I speak freely despite the looks I get and arguments that come of it. Unless you are an addict you will never fully understand. I have everything I could ask for.
Do not get me wrong. I am not perfect. I have plenty of white chips in between my black chips. There are times where the addiction wins a battle and I start to go backwards. But those times are manageable. All I have to do is remember what I was and what I am now. It doesn’t take long to realize that you do not want to go back to the edge of death. Will my addiction take my life one day? I do not have that answer. I would like to think no but I will always be an addict. It never goes away. What I do know is I have people who love me and a life worth living for and I will do anything to never lose that again. My next step? I am in the process of opening a Non-Profit for Addiction and Recovery. It is time to help those like me. It is time to show struggling addicts that there may not be a cure but there is hope. All you have to do is ask.
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