Our country is experiencing a drug epidemic. 100 people die a day from drug overdoses. Heroin is taking out entire cities. People are becoming hopelessly addicted to painkillers. Meth labs are everywhere. But all is not lost. There is hope. There is healing. Today we are sharing with you a story of one of our friends, David. David’s story is one of devastation and fear but also hope and inspiration. This may mirror your life. This may mirror the life of your loved one. We want you to know that addiction can be treated and a fulfilling life can be had. David is proof. Read on
What is your background? How did you start doing drugs or drinking?
I had a pretty normal childhood the first 10 years of my life. I grew up in Wisconsin with 3 siblings in a fairly affluent household. We went on family vacations, spent summers on the lake – really, there were no abrupt changes until I was about 11 or 12. That’s when my family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee and things started to become a little more chaotic. My dad started arguing more, he was restless, irritable, and discontented. I really didn’t understand what was going on. At the time, I felt isolated, alone, and I didn’t didn’t know where to turn. My parents didn’t discuss with us what was going on; there was no honest communication. As I got a little older, I started to smell alcohol on him when he came home at night. I’d later find out that my dad was an alcoholic. When I was in middle school, a friend of mine introduced me to marijuana. I remember that when I smoked it for that first time, I felt like I finally found the answers I’d been looking for for my emotional problems. It was a euphoria, and I felt I was able to escape those feelings of isolation.
What happened after that?
I continued smoking marijuana on a daily basis all through middle school and high school. In high school, I started drinking on the weekends – but marijuana was still my drug of choice. During that time, my dad went to rehab. He was gone for an entire year, working on himself. When he came back, there was some peace in our house; he and my mom worked on their marriage. But I continued to isolate, and I still had a hard time communicating. My solution was to turn to drugs and alcohol.
How did your disease progress?
After I graduated high school, I went to junior college. I began doing cocaine in addition to smoking marijuana and drinking. I ended up flunking out of college, getting a restaurant job, living with friends, and partying non-stop.
How did you get into treatment the first time?
When I was 22, I hit my emotional rock bottom. My family thought I had a problem, many of my friends stopped hanging out with me because of the way I acted when we were out. My parents ended up doing an intervention on me with a counselor. They called me over one day to talk and they had my bags packed, ready for me to go to treatment. At the time, I really didn’t think I had a drug problem, but I knew that I had a lot of emotions to deal with; when I was under the influence, I numbed my feelings – when I wasn’t under the influence, I couldn’t wait to use again. I hadn’t conceded to myself that I had a problem with drugs or alcohol, but I was ready to get some emotional help. So I went to treatment.
What happened after that?
After I went to treatment, I really felt like I knew how to deal with life on life’s terms. I went back to college at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, graduated and got into the pharmaceutical business – what I always wanted to do. I stayed sober from 22 – 29 years old. I had no desires, no compulsions to use, and really lived a normal life for a while. When I was 29, I got a promotion and moved to Louisville. I started to miss my home group, I felt isolated, and I stopped going to meetings. I was getting sick again, but I didn’t realize it until it was too late.
How did you relapse?
One night, at a work function, people were pressuring me to drink. I remember someone saying, “You can have one, it’s ok.” And I thought I could, so I started drinking. Over the years, I started drinking again when I thought it was “appropriate” – mostly social events. I kept telling myself that if I was drinking at social gatherings, I wouldn’t get in trouble. Eventually, I started drinking on a daily basis again, and I started using prescription pills. Because of my job, I knew exactly what to say to doctors to get prescriptions for opiates, benzos, and really anything I wanted. I knew the language. I felt better about taking pills than doing anything else because they were FDA approved and I knew how and where they were made. I had some really great things happen in that time period – I was married, had children, got promotions. But I had some terrible things happen – I was divorced, had tense relations with my kids, I switched jobs every time I thought I was close to being “found out” or fired. When I was successful, I’d curtail my drinking, when I was down, I’d self-medicate. I’d go to meetings for a while, and push back into periods of recovery, but I just couldn’t put any real time together.
When did you finally make a change?
Eventually, in 2012, my life really started to unravel. My ex-wife got remarried and I was resentful. The family dynamics were changing, and I medicated to relieve the pain. I faced some major consequences – I had 3 DUIs within 8 months. Believe it or not, none of those DUIs involved me drinking – it was all because I was taking some many prescription drugs – all of which I was prescribed. I couldn’t go a day without using, and I physically needed it to survive. It was on February 13, 2013 that I used for the last time. I crawled back to the meetings and I conceded to my inner most self that I could no longer use drugs or alcohol successfully. I admitted I couldn’t drink like others. I realized that it changed by brain chemistry – I became compulsive and obsessive. I asked God to take it all from me and take the desires away from me.
What has happened since that day?
I’m now able to live life on life’s terms. I’ve developed tools to deal with feelings and tons of friends in recovery to help when I feel like I’m struggling. I pray, I meditate, I read spiritual literature, I sponsor people. And now, I’m working as an addiction treatment specialist.
What’s the biggest thing you learned about yourself?
- To thine own self be true. I tried to get sober for my family, for friends, for jobs. It’s an inside job, I had to do it for myself. I have to want recovery before everything else in my life, or I will lose it.
- I had to get completely honest with myself; admit things to myself and people around me. I still make mistakes, but now I also make amends.
What would you tell someone about recovery to inspire them to get help?
There’s hope in recovery. You know, when you’re using, there’s such a sense of hopelessness and despair. But recovery is possible. Our disease is what it is – but if you surrender and ask for help – help is out there. There’s another way; there is a solution. Call, get help, and transform your life. It’s a miracle to live in recovery.
What keeps you sober day-by-day?
No matter what comes down the pipe, I have tools, friends, and support to help me get through it – without the drugs or alcohol. I try not to get too far ahead of myself, and I take it one day at a time. I manage the day by asking God to remove to the obsession, I ask for guidance, and I help other people.
What else do you want to say?
Recovery is a beautiful way to live. I never thought I’d live without drugs and alcohol – it’s amazing to me that I can wake up and not have to use. It blows my mind away. Now, I’m a believer, and I want to help others. Give it a chance, give it a try. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.