“The first time I had a drink was around 9 years old, I asked my mother to try her wine… and I loved it. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I was 11, that I smoked a cigarette and some weed for the first time with older kids from school. By 12-13 I was getting high and drunk on a regular basis on whatever I could get my hands on. At this young age, I would regularly resort to huffing paint and drinking stolen over-the-counter cough syrup when I couldn’t get my hands on weed, booze or prescription pills. I was put in handcuffs for the first time at 14 when I stole my own mother’s bike. I was constantly ditching school, facing truancy charges at 15 years old. I was hanging out, getting high and drunk with the homeless and running away from home on a regular basis, sleeping on park and bus station benches. Stealing cash out of my parent’s wallets and taking anything of value of theirs to trade for drugs or cash. After getting caught with prescription pills in my backpack and showing up positive for cocaine on a drug test, my parents didn’t know what to do with me anymore. So at the young age of 15 years old, I was sent away to a wilderness treatment center.
Over the next year I was in and out of wilderness treatment, ending up in a sober living home that I was eventually kicked out of for relapsing. I dropped out of high school and moved out on my own at 16 years old. I worked hard to eat, pay rent and survive; but I used drugs even harder. The older I got, the harder the drugs got and the heavier my drinking got.
I met a girl at 17, it was ‘love at first sight’ and we moved in together within a week of meeting each other. She drank and got high like I did; she was also bipolar, clinically diagnosed and unmedicated. It didn’t take long for our relationship to become insanely toxic and dysfunctional. Our relationship had a pull, a passion, an ‘I need you to breathe’ feeling to it. Like the drugs, she had a grip on my heart, my life, my emotions, my everything. I worshipped her and despised her at the same time. She would hit me, yell at me, tell me how much she hated me. We would drink, do some lines and get high just to fall in love all over again every night. We would fight so we could feel something. We would break up just to make up. I would yell at her to get out of my life, delete my number and never talk to me again just to end up blowing up her phone and begging for her back. We would lie to each other constantly, always apologizing and saying it would never happen again. She would swing and beat on me while I called her psycho, just encouraging her to swing harder. We would call each other Bonnie and Clyde, but the way we poisoned each other, the truth was, it was more like Romeo and Juliet.
My drinking got heavy over the course of our relationship. Blacking out became a daily occurrence. There were too many insane moments throughout our relationship to count. A few of those moments include a totaled car, fights in public and jail visits together. Our final arrest together, I remember waking up to the sound of the neighboring cell door slamming shut, startling me awake. I asked myself, ‘how the hell did I end up here again?’ Memories of the night before were flashing through my head. Flashes of cop lights are all I could recall. I had taser burn marks on my arm and chest. I was in an isolation cell, meaning I was being combative and mouthy getting booked in. I was missing a sock, one of my fingernails was completely ripped off, and I could taste dry blood in my mouth. Fear took over my entire body realizing I had no idea what my charges were or what had happened the night before. I obviously started assuming the absolute worst… what had I done? The jail nurse and an officer came to my cell to take my vitals. I asked the officer what my charges were and he told me: assault, resisting arrest, violation of probation and violation of bond. I felt relieved. While the nurse was taking my blood pressure she told me, ‘you are like a whole different person now that you are sober,’ I remember nodding my head and responding, ‘thanks… yeah, that’s what I’ve heard… like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.’
A court ordered separation finally drove her and I apart, and the overwhelming fear that I had of her kept me away, obeying the court order. With or without her, my using snowballed and got worse. I left our apartment and it was not long after I got fired from my job for a no-call, no-show due to another jail stint. A few months prior to our break up, I had rolled and totaled my inherited grandfather’s Jeep in a blackout, my seatbelt being the only thing that saved me from going through the windshield. I was left with no car, no job and no home. For the next year, my daily blackouts continued. When I drank alcohol, I was guaranteed to drink until I blacked out. There was no question about it, and there was no amount of alcohol that was too much. I didn’t get the spins anymore, I never threw up, I just blacked out and continued to drink. Every morning I woke up with the shakes, needing to consume alcohol to make them go away, repeating the blackout drinking cycle on a daily basis. I continued sleeping random places and houses, getting arrested every few months and hustling up money for booze, coke and pills by middle manning drug deals. Finally, I sat in jail for 2 weeks, sobering up enough to decide that it was time to check myself into rehab. I had lost everything in my life, I literally had nothing left to lose.
I completed my fourth inpatient rehab, 90 days, then went onto a sober living home. I got to 10 months sober, then relapsed yet again. My life spiraled out of control faster in the next 30 days than ever before. The way I react to alcohol, when that first drink hits my lips, something happens to my brain; a switch is flipped in me that I can’t explain. I want more, more and more and nothing in my life will stop me from consuming more. It’s the only thing I think about, how I’m going to stay drunk and get high next. Everything in my life can be crumbling around me, relationships getting destroyed and I WILL NOT STOP until I am physically stopped… usually meaning a few cops, handcuffs and a jail cell. And as usual, my relapse ended me up in Glenwood County Jail.
I woke up from my blackout sitting in Glenwood County Jail shaky, sick and terrified. Withdrawals were causing sweats and insomnia. There was overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, fear and shame. Sitting in the 8×10 cell, telling myself, ‘I need to do this, I need to get sober, I have no other choice… I don’t want to die.’ I was mentally ready to run back to my comfort zone, to drinking, to what I knew best. But I was spiritually willing to do anything to not pick back up, to break free of the toxic and self-destructing pattern I was stuck in. I was finally ready to listen and do whatever it took to escape the insanity. Praying to whatever was out there, whoever would listen. Asking for help to no longer live that way, to rid me of the misery. Begging for a miracle, the miracle to not use anymore. The miracle I needed more than anything else in that moment, to save me from myself. Promising myself that with every day I could stay sober, that my life would get a little better and that I wouldn’t always feel the way I did in that moment. Because in that moment, I wanted to die.
I stepped out of Glenwood County Jail with nothing but a few loose one dollar bills and three cigarettes in my pant pockets; missing a shoe, blood splattered down the front of my ripped white t-shirt and zero memory of my arrest. I was getting released back into the world, broke, with no place to live, taking my decisions hour by hour, minute by minute. The obsession of the mind took over every bit of my being. The non-stop mental battle began to keep from picking up that first drink or drug again. Leading into this moment my relapse was filled with drunken blackouts, bottomless bottles of vodka and rum, motel rooms and sleepless benders with dilated pupils. All the chaotic events strung together that led me to this rock bottom that left me mentally and spiritually broken like never before. This rock bottom had me sweating myself off as a lost cause; destined to be a drunken, drug addict, jailbird for the rest of my miserable life. In that moment, I faced the biggest decision of my life. Either go back to the lifestyle, with no guarantee of ever making it back out alive; or fight for my life with everything I had. I had to fight.
There was a time when I didn’t know of any other way to live; jails, institutions and death were all the future held for me. But as addicts, as long as we aren’t six feet under, there is still hope! ADDICTION IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE. To those still struggling, always remember that! My life is better now than I ever could have imagined. The truth is, the worst day in recovery will ALWAYS be better than the ‘best’ day using; there’s no pride in being out there getting f*cked up, arrested and playing roulette with our lives.
Everyday clean and sober makes me feel blessed. I am a husband to an amazing woman. I am a proud father to a beautiful 19-month-old baby girl. Even with over 8 years sober now, not a day goes by that I don’t feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude to be alive, sober and happy. 8 years worth of 24 hours is such a miracle to me in itself!
I began sharing my story publicly on Instagram and Facebook about 5 months ago. I had a few people in my life that were close to me pass away due to drug use. And although I had many people in my life die due to drug abuse in the past, with these, I felt an overwhelming amount of survivor’s guilt. That was a spiritually awakening moment, I decided I couldn’t let anyone else die without feeling like I didn’t do everything in my power to affect some kind of change. The hope with sharing my story is being able to speak to and reach those out there still struggling.
Since starting to share my story, I have had an overwhelming amount of people reach out to me. Some from my personal life, many of them complete strangers. Some showing their support, some sharing their own past stories of pain and struggle; some even asking for my advice on addiction and sobriety. The responses I have gotten are truly amazing. The amount of people I have had reach out to thank me and tell me I inspire them is unbelievable. Being told I inspired someone to change their life for the better is just… SO INSANE. It’s truly the most amazing feeling. Anyone out there struggling with addiction, just know, your addiction does not have to be a spiritual or physical death sentence. As long as you are still alive and breathing, there is still hope for you. And I promise you… you are worth it!”
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