I grew up in a loving and supportive middle to upper class home in Alabama. I had everything I needed and much of what I wanted. I was a good athlete, I ran with the ‘cool crowd’ and I was always surrounded by family and friends growing up. However something just wasn’t right.
From the time I was a little boy I distinctly remember feeling alone, less than and terrified of everyday life. In the face of all this, I was able to hold it together and push through…until the summer before my 8th grade year. That’s when everything changed for me.
Being generally bored and underwhelmed with life as an everyday 13-year-old, I started to gravitate toward the older rebellious crowd. Where I grew up, they weren’t hard to find. That summer, I smoked weed for the first time and I could finally exhale. I had found my “solution.” For the first time in my short life, my racing thoughts began to slow down and I finally felt “part of” instead of “apart from.”
Although it was brief, I got some relief from my thoughts. Relief from the misery that my brain produced on an almost daily basis. At that moment, a shift occurred inside me. I had a new lease on life. I had found my solution. From that day on, drugs became the focal point of my life. If I wasn’t using, I was planning and procuring my next use. I wish I could say it was all bad. I’d be lying if I did.
Although I led a double life that consisted of dishonesty, manipulation and selfishness, I had a blast getting high early on. I can remember house parties, hunting trips, ball games, beach trips, concerts etc.
I can remember thinking things like ‘At last I feel alive! Life is no longer dull and monotonous!’ It was like I saw the world in color for the very first time.
I became physically dependent on dope for the first time in my life; it became harder and harder to keep up appearances and function in my day-to-day life.
Like a “good addict,” I managed to fly under the radar and avoid any serious consequences over the next few years. I graduated high school by the skin of my teeth and then moved off to college. This is when my lifestyle began to catch up with me a little bit.
I was introduced to new drugs and new ways of getting high. Before college, the dope wasn’t readily available to me around the clock, so I wasn’t yet an everyday user.
Well, all that was about to change…
I became physically dependent on dope for the first time in my life; it became harder and harder to keep up appearances and function in my day-to-day life. I returned home from college for Christmas break and I was a wreck. I had lost 40 lbs in less than 5 months and I was a shell of my former self. My mother confronted me immediately and – for the first time – I had been found out. The cat was out of the bag.
I agreed to get help. I withdrew from school and entered treatment. I knew I was spiraling out of control, but I simply hadn’t experienced enough pain to seriously consider sobriety. I loved dope too much. It did too much for me. The pros of using still outweighed the cons. Needless to say I used again the day I left that treatment center…that was 11 years ago.
Since that day, I’ve been back to inpatient treatment 12 more times. I’ve had 5 stays in psych wards. I’ve been hospitalized for overdoses; I’ve been arrested and and locked up numerous times. The party has been over for years.
My disease progressed to the point where I was homeless, sleeping in my car and begging for change in my hometown. I honestly can’t say why it’s taken me so long to embrace the gift of sobriety and give myself the life I deserve. All I can say is I’m so grateful to be alive and to have another chance. A lot of people simply do not get the number of chances I’ve been given…and I don’t take that lightly. Although I haven’t been clean and sober too awful long, my life has purpose today. I am useful and I can be a son to my parents, which is such a gift.
I still tote around a good bit of guilt and shame for my past, which I am currently working through in the steps, but probably the biggest blessing I’ve received in sobriety is the ability to use my story to help someone. Now I know all of that pain and suffering I endured was for a reason…and I can use it to inspire others and give hope to those who have been through what I have.
I am finding in recovery what I was searching for in drugs for all those years. Peace, contentment and purpose. I am finally free today and I’m so damn excited to see what God has in store for me next.