‘How did I end up here?!’ I awoke in jail to the sound of a cell door slamming, no idea what happened the night before.’: Man beats life-long addiction, says ‘as long as you’re still breathing’ there’s hope for recovery

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“The first time I had a drink was around 9 years old. I asked my mother if I could try her wine and I loved it. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I was around 11-12 that I smoked a cigarette and weed for the first time with some older kids from school. By 13-14, I was getting high and drunk on a regular basis with 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 and 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. I was sleeping on park and bus station benches. I was stealing cash out of my parents 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 treatment center in the wilderness.

Courtesy of Terin DeVoto Noonan

Over the next year, I was in and out of wilderness treatment. I ended up in a sober living home, which 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.

Then, 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 worshiped her and despised her at the same time. 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. I would yell at her to get out of my life, delete my number, and tell her to never talk to me again just to end up blowing up her phone and begging for her back. 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, truthfully, was more like Romeo and Juliet.

Courtesy of Terin DeVoto Noonan

My drinking got heavy over the course of our relationship and blacking out became a daily occurrence. There are too many insane moments during 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 which meant I was combative and mouthy while getting booked. I was missing a sock, one of my fingernails was completely ripped off, and I could taste dry blood in my mouth.

Courtesy of Terin DeVoto Noonan

Fear took over my entire body when I realized 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.’ Pathetically enough, I felt relieved. While the nurse was taking my blood pressure she told me, ‘You’re like a whole different person now that you’re 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 the relationship apart and the overwhelming fear I had of her kept me away and helped me to obey the court order. But with or without her, my using snowballed and got worse. I left our apartment and it was not long after I was 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 grandfathers’ Jeep in a blackout, my seat belt being the only thing that saved me from going through the windshield. So, I was left with no car, no job, and no home.

For the next year, my daily blackouts continued. There was no amount of alcohol that was too much. I didn’t get the spins anymore. I never threw up. Every morning, I woke up with the shakes, needing to consume more alcohol to make them go away, repeating the blackout drinking cycle on a daily basis. I continued sleeping in 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 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. It’s like a switch is flipped in me I can’t explain. I want more, more, and more and nothing in my life will stop me from consuming it. 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.

Courtesy of Terin DeVoto Noonan

I woke up from my blackout sitting in Glenwood County Jail shaky, sick, and terrified. Withdrawals were causing sweats and insomnia. There were 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. Finally ready to listen and do whatever it took to escape the insanity. Begging for a miracle, the miracle to not use anymore. Promising myself with every day I could stay sober, my life would get a little better and 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. Getting released back into the world, broke, with no place to live. Taking my decisions hour by hour, minute by minute. The non-stop mental battle began to keep from picking up that first drink or drug again. 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 way 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 getting f***ed up, arrested, and playing roulette with our lives.

Every day 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 8.5+ years sober now, not a day goes by I don’t feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude to be alive, sober, and happy. 8.5+ years worth of 24 hours is such a miracle to me in itself!

Courtesy of Terin DeVoto Noonan

I began sharing my story publicly on Instagram and Facebook in January of 2018. 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 survivors guilt. That was a spiritually awakening moment and 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 to speak and reach those out there still struggling.

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!”

Courtesy of Terin DeVoto Noonan

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Terin DeVoto Noonan of Fort Collins, Colorado. You can follow his journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more inspiring stories about addiction recovery: 

‘I bumped into an old childhood friend. ‘What have you been up to?’ ‘I’m in rehab.’ I laughed, thinking it was a joke. Soon after, I asked him to meet me. I warned him about my appearance.’

‘I wasn’t the stereotypical addict on the streets with no teeth, begging for money. I had children. I was functioning. I’d get up, eat, go to the gym. Then, I’d go on a bender for days.’

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