Addiction recovery story anonymously submitted by Hunter F. and published by Mark Perlman
I had been high for almost three weeks straight. Unless I was sleeping or en-route to the dope man’s house, I was high. If I wasn’t high, I was absolutely miserable. I’m going to skip all the back story; for a 36 year old guy, I had been stuck in a revolving cycle, with drug addiction ruining me every single time. This had been going on for 20 years. Now, I was screwed. People wanted to kill me and not just one person. Three. I was homeless, broken and wanted by the police for almost a dozen charges, half of which were felonies, all from one situation in which I had been entrusted to do the right thing. Instead, I robbed them blind.
Not having quite literally anywhere to go, anything to do, nowhere to sleep, no food to eat, water to quench my dying thirst, or anyone I could call, I was feeling really hopeless. There was not one available resource for those in need, and I could not find anywhere for me to lay low and try to carry on using. All the shelters were full and I could not be seen on the street. Not one person, family or friend, wanted to speak to me or deal with me. They’d stopped answering their phone the first week I relapsed. I was about to break down mentally and physically.
It was all sinking in, my world closing in on top of me. In spite of all the issues, I was so thirsty and had the worst cottonmouth from the drugs; it was hard to even swallow. Thankfully, about to choke on my tongue from thirst, I found a bottle of what was hopefully clean water on the ground, next to a trash dumpster. So, I picked it up. Since I had spent all my money on drugs, why not. It was par for the day. I drank it all.
There wasn’t enough I could steal, and find time to sell, to fuel my habit. I was too scared to rob a store, and every other avenue of income sources was dry. It usually takes many years of me using to get to somewhat close to this point of disparity. For yours truly, three weeks is all it took. The last ride on the merry-go-round, six years as an active functioning addict, wound up resulting in a brief stay in a mental health facility prior to where I was at the current moment. But this time, I had crossed all the lines in the sand. All the ‘not yets’ and ‘that can never happen to me’ things that I said would never turn into reality, did.
The decisions and choices made were mine. No one forced me ever to do anything. So, for me, I’ll pass at the blame game. Squatting there in the alley about a block away from the last known drug dealer I had not ripped off, I was hiding, to make sure I wasn’t seen. I was scared, but more determined to figure out how to not get murdered or seen by the people looking for me, while I’m out scoring. I vividly remember how scared I was. A sane person wouldn’t be in this situation at all and the only thing I could think about; was scoring one last hit.
Less than 24 hours prior to this, two streets over, I had been chased by an ex-dealer with a gun. He wanted to “talk” to me about the 200 dollars worth of drugs I had stolen. Yet here I was. The deal went down without a hitch. I made my last score. Gave him my ten dollars, my cell phone, watch, headphones and a battery charger. I gave him everything to barter for a bigger amount of drugs. I got probably $60 worth of drugs for all the last of my worldly possessions. I was so happy in the moment I that could continue to get high. It was sickening. With some pep in my step, I left the dealer, white guy walking in the hood, blocks from where I had almost been shot. Not even a block away, I found an abandoned house. I went behind it and did what I did best.
I stayed there the rest of the day and night. About 400 feet from all sorts of drug dealers, gunshots, police and others like me, lurking around. I wasn’t the only one who knew about the abandoned house, and the whole night was a horrible experience. I couldn’t leave for fear of worse outcomes, so I dealt with the enemy as they presented themselves.
Finally the next morning, having the knowledge of the Rooms and Recovery beaten into me; and also knowing there is a better way of life, I realized I was going to die very soon. Maybe even the same day, if I stayed where I was or in the city period. That was crystal clear. I never had been so certain before, and I was scared. So I was motivated and saw that I had only options: Get help or die. The feeling I had was so dark and empty that I broke down. The only thing I could think of was my poor parents. They would be so hurt. Just knowing I’d relapsed would tear them apart. If I died, that would send them to the grave early. I was tired of being a horrible person and I wanted to live.
Safest place for me? The Police Station. So, I made the decision and started walking. I figured, if I spotted an officer, I’ll hand myself over and see what they do. Of course, that didn’t happen. As I walked the two miles to the police station, I did my best to stay hidden from as much traffic as possible. Broken, humiliated and not caring anymore, the jail cell; 3 meals, shower, food and no one trying to kill me immediately, sounded really good.
In the lobby of the police station, I walked up to the Reception window and after handing my ID to the desk Sergeant, I awaited the doom. Told to be patient, I sat down and that’s when it really hit me. Thinking of the last three weeks, all the damage caused and what I had just thrown away was sinking in. I was aware there was no-way out now. I knew my life was going to change forever; and it was going to get way worse before it could ever have the chance to get better. I was waiting for what I imagined to come, and sure enough it came; twenty minutes later. As several officers came out and put me in handcuffs, I looked at the wall. It was 8am. I had run out of the last of my drugs at 8pm the day before.
Fast-forward to 11am, after a lot of confessions without a lawyer, I wrote statements, did my best to account for all my wrongs, admitted to everything. I was done. I wanted to help the police do their best to assist the people I had harmed. I wanted to pay for what I did, in all aspects of the phrase. I figured for sure that I was going to be in jail for a while and it was going to be the first time. I’d been in a holding cell twice before, once as a juvenile and once as an adult. But NEVER to general population. Hey, what do you know? Another lovely, “never,” that I’m managing to check off.
So, I go to see the commissioner and what do you know, he lets me out on my own recognizance. I begged to stay. He refused. The only reason that I had been booked and arrested was due to an open warrant, a year prior, for a failure to appear for a traffic ticket. Wow. No other options, I would receive a court date for all other matters. I had to make the call that I never made, unless I was in a life or death emergency. My parents are members of AL-ANON, they are not enablers. When I’m using, they ignore me. Completely out of my life. This time, by the grace of God, when I called my Dad, he answered. After many borrowed phones, and hiding outside of the Jail, staying close, still fearful for my life, they found a “Crisis Outreach Program” sponsored by the state.
My poor father, having not talked to me in over a year, at 76 years old, got in his truck within the hour and drove two hours to pick me up and take me directly to a fire house to meet the Crisis Worker. My parents are the best people in the world. Sitting there, waiting for my elderly dad, as much as he’d kill me for saying that, I knew it. The feeling I had that day, the whole experience made me realize that I have no, “next time”. Just one use. And game over. Once my dad arrived, picked me up and before letting me in the car, he informed me that we were going to stop and eat but then go directly to the destination where I was going to get out and get the help from the Crisis Team. Agreeing to the terms, I got in. All I could think about was my poor parents and all my poor choices.
I knew I wasn’t that guy. I want to do good. Be good. Be Loved. That day in my dad’s truck, I knew, would be the last time I disappointed myself or let my parents die with their son a junkie. Just for Today, by the grace of my Higher Power and thanks to the 12 step fellowship, I know I will stay sober. One Day at a Time!
My 12 Step experience
I personally don’t think it matters how “bad” or deep one’s rock bottom is, in order for them to recover from whatever it may be. I’ve heard it and I’m sure you have as well; random people in the rooms say false things like:” You have to hit rock bottom, in order to successfully recover.” I believe this is not necessarily the case and know that there are many souls out there that can prove those few wrong. But, it does prove true for me. I didn’t quit drugging and drinking before it ruined my life. I waited until LONG after I had screwed up, ruined everything, everyone around me and had made any bad situation much worse, before I ever once sought treatment. Not just one time, but, repeatedly. Time after time, year after year for more than two decades. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relapsed or tell you how many rehabilitation centers I have been to. I stopped counting after 10 centers. There is always one place though, despite wherever I am in my recovery journey, where I know I can go and have support, when I need it the most. That place is Narcotics Anonymous.
It doesn’t matter the back story of how I got to NA, but I was a BAD addict. I NEVER had enough. From the first time using, all the way up to my last use. No matter what I had or how much of it I had, I was never satisfied. I was introduced to the Rooms of AA and NA when I was 15 years old. I got in trouble during high school, was expelled from the school, put on probation as a juvenile and ordered to attend Outpatient Addiction Treatment classes followed up with 5 NA meetings a week. My first Probation officer was the worst. Since my first encounter with NA at 15 years old and up to the time when I was in my early 30s, the longest consecutive amount of clean time I ever accumulated was 16 months. The rest of the 20 some-odd-years, have been spent stuck in a revolving door, constantly in-and-out of the Rooms, rehabs, homeless shelters, the streets and every-where in between. Every single time I got sober, somewhere, deep down in my soul, I knew I wasn’t done. I had a reservation, that I could manage it sooner-or-later. I always’ had figured there was another way to do it, even though I couldn’t successfully use drugs for more than a year with-out destroying my life entirely. I’m a smart guy. I thought I could sooner or later figure out how to successfully use and live a life of something or another.
I stopped having any real friends, relationships and distanced myself from everyone possible starting when I was about 24 years old. I had screwed enough people over that no-one wanted to be around me and I just was not focused on having relationships. I had pushed everyone away. Even in the Rooms, I was distant. Many people in Narcotics Anonymous tried their hardest, and I could tell they were trying hard to be my friend. People in NA always invited me to all sorts of events, different meetings, sponsor-sponsee socials and other activities. The Rooms, even though I was keeping everyone at a distance, were there ONLY place, with the only group of people that I felt like I could be me and was not being judged for any of my past faults.
My last run, the entire month of it, was a humbling experience. At the end of the month that I was using 24/7, I was completely broken, beaten, homeless, on the run from drug dealers who,( at the writing of this, still want to kill me), as well as hiding from the police who would be soon charging me with 4 felony charges. I wanted to die. If I hadn’t sold my gun to the drug dealer for drugs, I probably would have considered killing myself with it. Not pretty smart, looking back on that. I sold a gun to a drug dealer, for drugs, then several days’ later, I ripped him off. Now, he hunts me with the same weapon. All I wanted to do was disappear. Sadly, being a realist, I knew I was at a crossroads. Either I was going to save my own life or kill myself somehow. There were no other options. Get help & disappear or die.
By the grace of my Higher Power, while hiding in the alley that day, I made the decision to save my life. I knew I had to make a decision and I didn’t want to die. That was simple. I thought I did, but staring death in the face in that alley, with the drug boys out looking for me, I called my NA sponsor. I should mention that, of course, I hadn’t ever called him before I relapsed or during the ordeal. It’s always suggested to pick up the phone and call someone. That was much easier said than done, every time up until now. I will mention that during the entire time I was using, once my absence was noticed in meetings, my NA contacts were calling me, leaving voice-mails and texts, which I would ignore. Too embarrassed to talk to anyone and announce that I had relapsed once again, was the last thing I ever wanted to do. Yet that day in the alley, I was able to call my sponsor. He answered within a few rings, just like he had when we were actively communicating. Not knowing what I had been up to, I gave him the shortened, cliff note version and laid it all out. A good sponsor that he is, there was no scolding me or making me feel be-littled. The minute I talked with him, I felt a little better. He gave me some suggestions on what he would do in my situation and in the end; I figured the safest place for me was in an institution. I decided to turn myself in, knowing the police wanted to speak with me and I had a warrant issued for my arrest. I figured they would charge me and either I’d be sent to a hospital ward or jail. At least I would be safe from being a homicide victim or harming myself.
My trip was ending and a new journey was beginning. The road of life for me, after the police station that day was very bumpy and long. Years’ later, my poor choices are still seen and felt among myself and those I hurt. Doing the right thing isn’t easy. I was released from jail on my own recognizance the very same day I called my sponsor and turned myself in. I had not envisioned ANYONE letting me out of a jail. Turns out, due to the justice system and due process, I was able to make bail on my own recognizance. While my case was being reviewed by the commissioner, and he was determining bail, I pleaded to be kept in the jail. I explained my situation. The commissioner heard my plea to stay in jail and the reasons why, but in the end, two very longs hours later, I was released from the detention center. Understanding my plea for help, the Commissioner was kind enough to point me in the direction of a community outreach service that helps those struggling with addictions. Surprising my sponsor for the second time in one day, he picked up my phone call, came in his truck and picked my derelict butt, back up. It was very easy getting connected with the outreach service. The service workers were amazing; within five hours of being released from jail, I was being assessed by professionals and was preparing mentally for my journey that was to come, praying hopefully that it wasn’t just a waste of time and hoping that I could figure out how to get my life back together.
Once I got to treatment for the 100th time, (exaggerated) I was scared. This last run had been surreal to say the least. One month prior, I had been sober for 5 months. Then, all of a sudden, 30 days later, I had completely ruined my life, or at least that is what I thought, at the time. However, I WAS scared. I was depressed. I had NEVER felt as low as I did this last time. I couldn’t eat, sleep, talk or do much of anything. It was as if I had lost my soul. I was in a state funded treatment facility, and knew no-one. I went as far away from where I had just left as possible. Across the entire state. I was determined that I never wanted to use again. I had never felt like I did there in the first few first days at the rehab center. I would do anything and everything different. I would only do exactly as suggested by anyone with authority, as long as they had my best intentions in mind.
The facility was way out in the country-side, and for the first month of the eight month treatment program, we were not allowed to ride the “Druggy buggy” (client van) to any outside NA or AA meetings. We had to stay on grounds and attend classes and the outside meetings that were brought in by Intergroup. It was there, in that rehab center, in an 8pm Narcotics Anonymous meeting, that I realized I had overlooked one step, my entire life. That night, I became willing to turn my will and my life over to the care of god, as I understood HIM.
Somehow, for all the years, I had figured I had worked all the steps properly. I’ve now learned how gravely wrong I was. I made it back to the Rooms of NA this time by the grace of my Higher Power. For the past two decades, I had insistently voiced to all previous sponsors that I had the first 3 steps worked properly. I had them down pat. Or at least I thought I did. I knew I had a problem(1), I knew my higher power could help me(2), and I thought I could change it(3). In the looking glass, it shows, I had the first two correct, but not step 3. I had never let go completely and became willing to turn my life over. I had control issues then and if I’m not careful and working the steps constantly, I start trying to control everything all over again in the future. Today, with the help of Narcotics Anonymous and the fellowship, I know I don’t have to pick up a drink or a drug. The drugs, my screwed up, thoughts and behaviors are the problems. The 12 steps are the solution. Today, I am grateful for sobriety. I am also extremely blessed to be alive, where I am at, and who is in my life today. I still have a long way to go.
I wish I had “Gotten It” earlier in life, but now I’m convinced that everything happens for a reason and I am grateful for where I am at.