‘Is this it? Is this my life?’ I’d been in that jail 10+ times over 3 years. EVERYTHING I did, I did with heroin in mind.’: Former heroin addict shares his fight for sobriety

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“Where to start…I didn’t have the chaotic upbringing most people attribute to people who suffer from alcoholism. In fact, I had a really good childhood. My parents divorced when I was about 3 years old, which I have almost no memory of. After the divorce, my older brother and I continued living with my mother, who was a schoolteacher and worked so hard to provide for the 3 of us. We went on vacations to southern California to see our grandparents and cousins. We went to Hawaii when I was in 4th grade because my mom wanted to take us. She even took a 2nd job working at our local Target to save up the money. She has always been an example of amazing work ethic in my life.

I didn’t have much of a relationship with my dad growing up. Could have been because I was so young when the divorce happened or the toxic anger my mother had towards my father, which trickled down to me. Either way, I don’t know that it was something I was very interested in. So, I became a ‘momma’s boy’ and loved hanging out with her. My brother moved in with my dad when he was a sophomore in high school, and that really hurt my feelings. I didn’t get to see him as much when that happened. So, my mother and I became best friends. Later, my brother decided to join the military and serve a mission for the church we belonged to. When he left is really when I started to push the boundaries of the rules set in the house. I started spending much more time with friends, and in my sophomore year, I started experimenting with prescription pain pills and OTC cough medicine. By no means was it a regular event, but it was certainly something I enjoyed doing.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school—I had broken my collar bone in a snowboarding accident, and back in 2006, there wasn’t as much reluctance to prescribe pain pills as there is now. So, my doctor was giving me a pretty hefty script that went on for 6 weeks. I remember calling on the 6th week for a refill, and they said the pain should be gone and I wouldn’t be getting any more. Those are the first withdrawals I remember having. They were terrible, and I was trying anything to get them to stop, which is when I started buying pills and using them fairly consistently. At that time, I still was in good graces with my mother, and I found out I could get her debit card and withdraw money from her line of credit, and she wouldn’t find out. So, I began doing that after graduating from high school, I would say every other day for the next 4 months. The progression from the lower doses of Lortab and Percocet moved to higher doses of Oxycontin. Which is something I told myself I would never do, but I found myself doing it and doing it exclusively.

Eventually, that line of credit ran out of money, and I kept that hidden by taking the statements out of the mail when they came. My mom found out and kicked me out of the house. I ended up living with my 2 cousins, 1 of whom was married, and their dad in a 2-bedroom apartment. I made a bed on the floor in my cousins’ room and still used every penny I had towards buying Oxycontin. A couple of months later, I found out the cops were looking for me because of the fraud I had committed with my mom’s bank card. She called me one day and hit me with an ultimatum. ‘Either go to treatment, or I will proceed with pressing charges.’ So, as an 18-year-old kid, I decided I did not want criminal charges and went to treatment.

However, the state had already picked up the charges, and I was charged with a handful of felonies for the theft of funds from my mother. I ended up in a very strict and lengthy treatment center in Salt Lake City. It was very easy for me to find the differences between me, an 18-year-old kid who still had family visiting every week and promises of a refined life when I got out, compared to the middle-aged men and women who had been ordered to complete treatment or finish out a prison sentence. That wasn’t me: I was just a kid having fun. Those were the lies I told myself.

man when he was younger and doing illegal drugs
Courtesy of Creighton Park

After 8 months in residential treatment, I successfully completed and moved back in with my mom. Within 6 weeks, I was high again and immediately started where I had left off. That finally caught up to me again, and I was kicked out the night before Thanksgiving with nowhere to go. I slept in the park down the street, and November in Utah is not a warm time of year. A friend of mine picked me up and let me crash at his work for a few hours and dropped me off back at the same cousin’s house where I slept on the couch for a few months. All of this was still not enough for me to quit using and drinking. This story repeated itself day in and day out for a number of months, even years until I was introduced to heroin.

I was doing heroin on a daily basis while trying to maintain a job and pay rent. As you can imagine, it didn’t work out too well. I found myself forced to move back in with my mother—God knows why she let me back in her house—where I attempted to hide it for as long as I could. I started dating a girl, the girl of my dreams back then. I hid it from her, or I thought I did. All the while, I told myself, ‘I am in control of this and can stop whenever I want to.’ What a flat-out joke!

Addicted man in black hoodie
Courtesy of Creighton Park

I thought, let’s get married! Maybe that will help the situation…it didn’t. We got married, and I was high. I pocketed gift money on the side so I would have some cash to pick up more drugs after our honeymoon. I was dope sick on our honeymoon and made us come home early. I thought if we moved out of state that would fix it…instead of doing heroin every day, I was drinking 8 days a week. I found myself in St. Louis finding homeless guys to hook me up with heroin. I moved from Missouri to Michigan: I was driving to Detroit to do the same thing. Eventually, I got my wife and myself kicked out of her uncle’s home with nowhere to go other than back to Utah. EVERYTHING I did, I did with heroin in mind. Immediately, I started using and hanging around old friends when we got back to Utah, and keep in mind…I was not working during all of this and was solely relying on my wife to take care of everything and my drug habit.

Needless to say, I found myself 3 years older and 3 years deeper into this pit of alcoholism. I couldn’t stop. There were no life events that could get me to stop. I picked up my first DUI after side-swiping a semi on the freeway at 11:45 p.m. I don’t remember going to the hospital that night. I don’t even remember being in jail, but my wife bailed me out and got the car from the impound lot, and I manipulated her into giving me cash so I could go find more heroin. A second DUI followed shortly after that, and in July of 2014, I woke up in the ICU after an overdose.

man with his mom
Courtesy of Creighton Park

I remember coming to. My family was there. My wife’s family was there. And I would have done anything to not be. I felt so low, so ashamed that all I could do was make jokes to divert from the seriousness of the circumstances. Due to my overdose, I missed a court date for some charges I had picked up. Good look, huh? I spent 4 days in the hospital, and ALL that was on my mind was, ‘How am I going to convince my wife to give me money and let me take the car to pick up more heroin?’ It consumed every thought, and 3 hours after being discharged from the hospital from an overdose that almost killed me, I was meeting my dealer and getting high.

Looking back at it now, I can see what I couldn’t or did not want to see then. The shame and the guilt for everything I had done were too much for me to deal with, and the only way I could change those feelings was to put a substance in my body. It was such a dark space, and I didn’t even think about how all of this was affecting my wife. Couldn’t have cared less to be honest. I just needed what I needed and everyone and everything between me and it had to be moved.

In January of 2015, I found myself in handcuffs and being taken to the county jail with new charges and pending charges still over my head. I had pushed my wife too far; I knew we were done. I was sentenced to 8 months in county jail. I remember trying to call her, trying to keep that relationship alive, and for a long time, she would not answer. All the while, I promised to myself and anyone on the outside that I was done with drugs forever. I TRULY wanted and believed that I would be. After 5 months, I was released with good behavior, and who saved me? The women who I had put through some much sh*t. She picked me up, she let me live with her, and I promised her I was changed and was not going back. I got a job, I started working, and I was trying to do better, but when I got my first paycheck, I found myself calling someone who I knew could get me heroin. Within 10 days of being released, I was high. 20 days after that, I was arrested again and back in jail.

Now, let me try to express this accurately: jail was obviously not a new place for me. I had been in that specific county jail 10+ times over the course of 3 years. But I felt different walking in, hands behind my back in cuffs. I was completely broken down. There are many physical rock bottoms in my story, and I kept digging past them. This…this was a spiritual rock bottom. I remember staring at the cookie sheet on the wall that they called a mirror and saying, ‘Is this it? Is this my life?’ Somebody has to know a better way.

So, I called my mom, who had an active restraining order against me and who I had not spoken to in 2 years. I don’t remember the conversation, but for some reason, she answered. and in some form or another, I asked her for help. Now, even after that phone call, I was still stuck in jail and withdrawing from heroin. For anyone who hasn’t been to jail or experienced withdrawals, well they are not enjoyable, and the jail does not provide anything to make them easier. So, I heard there was a guy in my dorm who had snuck some heroin in when he got arrested. Use your imagination on how, but don’t think for a second that I let that stop me from using. I used for the last time in a county jail on July 26th of 2015. I spent the next 100 days in jail and was released to my mom, who drove me to a treatment center. I spent the next 2.5 months in residential and was introduced to the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

man and his friend
Courtesy of Creighton Park

When I got to treatment, I don’t know that I was wanting to get sober long-term. I thought I just needed a break from the world and then I could go back to doing heroin like a gentleman. But as I stayed, as I was challenged and forced to listen, I heard dudes telling my story and talking about having 6 months, 1 year, 5 years sober. I remember thinking initially that they were full of sh*t. No one who used and drank like me could EVER achieve that amount of time sober. They did, and they looked happier, and their lives were better. I continued to listen and continued to remain willing. I wanted what they had. So, I did what they did.

Now, here we are. September of 2021. Still living in the chaos of a pandemic, and I am still sober. The amount of anguish and pain I constantly tried to avoid by getting high is no longer a space I live in. Today, I get to walk through the good times and the bad with a sliver of dignity and maybe even some grace. Today, I have a 4-and-a-half-year-old boy who has never seen me drunk, loaded, or high. I have a fiancé who loves me, despite my history and my shortcomings. She loves me and supports me in all I do, and I certainly don’t deserve her. I have noticed amongst my sober friends; we tend to marry up. And that is an understatement in my relationship…she is SO FAR out of my league.

sober man smiles at newborn son
Courtesy of Creighton Park
sober dad with young son in the water
Courtesy of Creighton Park

I have my family back, and they actually invite me over for Sunday dinners and family events. They don’t worry about me showing up intoxicated, they don’t have to hide their valuables. Today, I am employable and reliable. Today, I own a house as a first-time homebuyer and am a student about to finish my associate’s degree. I have goals and aspirations and have tools to help me reach them.

Most importantly, I have the ability to show up for people in my life today. As a member of AA, I still do today what I was suggested to do 6 years ago in treatment. I attend meetings regularly, 4 per week. I read some pages from The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous every day. I pray to a higher power of my understanding and answer the phone when it rings. AA has given me all the things back that I lost during my use, but more importantly, it has given me values, principles, and traits that allow me to try…TRY to be a good human on a daily basis. The less energy and time I spend thinking and worrying about myself, the happier I am. So that is what I try to do, Serve Others, Trust God, Clean House.

man gets sober and takes a photo with woman
Courtesy of Creighton Park

I will end with this: if you are someone suffering, or you know someone who is suffering from substance abuse, mental health. or alcoholism please reach out. There is hope for people like me. We can recover. WE DO RECOVER. And I continue to stay sober physically and emotionally by giving away what was freely given to me. There is no shame in asking for help. So, please…ask for help. Get involved and engage in your own recovery. Life is not always amazing, there are still struggles. As a man in recovery, I get to show up during those hard times instead of avoiding them like I used to. Life still happens; it doesn’t stop challenging us when we get sober. Sticking with it in the good times and the bad, that is the key.”

sober man his family all together
Courtesy of Creighton Park
Sober man in white shirt
Courtesy of Creighton Park
man becomes sober and has a happy life
Courtesy of Creighton Park

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Creighton Park of Greater Salt Lake City. You can follow his journey on Twitter and Reddit. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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