I have not put a mind-altering substance in my body since January 26, 2014. Because of my recovery, I am able to be a husband to my wife, a father to my children, and a grandfather to my grandchildren. I am employable today, and I work as a Certified Recovery Specialist. I have found purpose in my life, recovery has given me that purpose.
My addiction started at age 11, when I could get beer from the fridge for my grandfather. The first time I tasted alcohol, it was repulsive. But, it did something that I instantly connected with. Alcohol took away that hole I felt that I had, a hole I felt I was less than. My addiction progressed into my teen years, I soon found myself tossed out of multiple schools. By 18, I found myself couch surfing, and living where I could. I was incarcerated for the first time at 20 for fighting and underage drinking. I thought it was cool to have been in jail – even marking the wall with my initials.
I was so far into addiction when my first child was born, I didn’t even go to the hospital when she was born. Over the next 20 years, I tried to white knuckle and get sober. I had to sell a successful bar business because my cocaine addiction almost took my life.
My addiction led to more trouble at home and more arrests. In January 2014, I lost my best friend. I was out of work, losing my home, losing my wife, and I was suicidal. On January 26, I tried to end my life. I failed, and woke up in a jail cell. On the second day of detox, I was sick and praying to die. I was laying on a concrete floor, because the cold on my face made me feel better. I tried to get to my bunk so I could tie a knot and hang myself, but I couldn’t get up. I tried to hold my breath, but that didn’t work either.
I asked whatever was out there to give me some kind of sign – just something as to why I should live. When I opened my eyes, I saw something that I hold so dear to this day. You can call it a divine intervention, a moment of clarity, a coincidence, whatever you want. To me, it’s MY gift of desperation. There were those initials, painted over, faded, but recognizable. Here I was 25 years later, in the same place, doing the same thing over and over. I knew that I had to change.
This is why I am sharing my story. I got accepted into a diversion program and began rebuilding my life and living in recovery. I go into jails now and talk to individuals about substance use and assist them with re-entry. Recovery has given me purpose, the guy that couldn’t be there for his daughter when she was born got to walk her down the aisle and give a speech at her wedding. I was there when thousands stood up and told the world that it was time to end the silence around addiction in Washington, DC. Every day is a blessing. Every day recovery continues to bless me. I will be traveling to Ghana, Africa this fall to visit recovery programs to give my experience, strength, and hope to others. For me, recovery has allowed me to be the person I always knew I could be. We are all just stories in the end. Make yours a good one. Start today, and change your story. I am a face of recovery; I have peace of mind and try to give this gift to all that are willing.