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, Jim.
Jim’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. Jim is proof. Read on.
How many years sober are you?
The last time I used was 2004, but I don’t wear my sobriety as a badge. I consider myself one day sober, and take my sobriety day by day.
How old were you when you started drinking or doing drugs? How did you start?
There’s not a lot of people in my family with addiction. I grew up in the suburbs where drinking was socially accepted, and everyone did it for a “good time.” It was all for fun. Eventually it progressed from drinking on the weekends for a good time to getting into more things to have an even better time.
By the time I went to college in the Northeast, it had progressed even further. There are certain things about my personality that are great qualities in business, but also great qualities for an alcoholic. I have a type A personality, an ego, and self-centeredness.
What was your drug of choice?
I always started with alcohol, but that would lead to more. I did cocaine – and really anything that was readily available.
How did your disease progress?
I got married in the mid 90’s – by then, I hadn’t suffered any repercussions. I hadn’t had any arrests, I hadn’t gotten a DUI. I was living in Manhattan, was married, was having success in my job – and we eventually had a child. I wasn’t suffering any consequences for my actions. In fact, everything was great.
But my partying got more extreme and I was coming home later and later. I was filling a hole with drugs and alcohol. I never had enough. The more I filled it, the bigger the hole got – and I had the need for more and more.
How did you get into treatment?
In 2002, I went to treatment for the first time – mainly just to get everyone off my back. The next few years, I was in and out of treatment. It was mainly as a way to say, “See – I’m really trying.” But I wasn’t. It was like trying to fix a bullet wound with a Band-Aid.
I went to treatment six times. But treatment was just a break from routine, it wasn’t a solution. The 30 day treatments didn’t talk about significant changes for the long term.
When did you finally make a change?
In 2003, I was going through a divorce. My wife told me I was not allowed to see my daughter anymore. I needed financial support. All the shame, and despair, guilt and consequences were catching up to me.
That finally prompted a change.
What did you discover about yourself while in treatment?
Recovery provided me a blue print. I learned how to throw the bag on the table and look at everything that was going on with my addiction. I discovered that I needed to treat my characteristics – the parts of me that helped my addiction – like my ego and self-centeredness. I learned how to take a personal inventory everyday and that I needed ongoing treatment for those characteristics.
How was your family affected by this disease? How is your family now?
As I mentioned, I went through a divorce while in the midst of my addiction. It was such a wake up call when I thought about never getting to see my daughter again.
Now, I’m still great friends with my ex-wife. I’ve since re-married to an incredible woman and have 5 kids. And my daughter that I thought I was never going to be able to see again – we’re so close. She knows my past and where I’ve been. She comes to me for advice – to talk about boys and her first date. Last night, she sent me a text – because 15 year olds text more than they actually talk sometimes – that said, “Thanks so much for everything, Dad. I love you SO MUCH.”
This wasn’t supposed to happen like this. I wasn’t supposed to ever see her again. I really thought it was going to be my end. But now, in recovery, I get to be a father. It’s such a blessing in my life – knowing where I came from and knowing all the struggles I went through made me who I am today.
You know life isn’t perfect: I still have my everyday problems with everyday life, work, my kids, finances. But now, I don’t get drunk or high. Not today. It’s really just one day at a time.
What would you tell someone who is in denial about their addiction?
You may be in denial, but if you’re addicted, you’ve lost your power of choice. You’ve lost your power of choice to say no. I always thought I could say no – it wasn’t until I had all the exit doors blocked that I realized that I needed help.
What would you tell someone about treatment to inspire them to go?
Most people don’t want to go to treatment. There are always fears of the unknown and trying something new. Going to treatment means giving up your freedom to make your own decisions, at least temporarily. No matter how miserable you are this is hard. But there are really only three options when you’re struggling with addiction: Jail, death, or treatment.
If you get the help you need, and you hang on – there is another side. I know how dark it can be – it’s hard for anyone to grasp how dark it can be. But no matter how bad it is, it can be really, really good on the other side. The possibilities are way beyond your imagination.
Step one is to ask for help and then having enough willingness to take that help. The door to recovery and a new way of life swings open and might slam shut never to open again.
What keeps you sober day-by-day?
Gratitude. I pray every morning. I look for opportunities to help and connect with other people who are struggling with addiction. I have a journal that I write in every evening to do a self-evaluation, to see what I need to fix.
My brain is conditioned to break life into pieces to start one day at a time.
What else do you want to say?
I live with an enormous amount of gratitude. Everyday I can focus on becoming the person I want to be. Drugs and alcohol led me to where I am now. And I can tell you, from my own story – that if you surrender, ask for help, follow instruction, work each day to be honest, open minded and willing to change, there is a life that is awaiting you that far exceeds your wildest dreams. One day at a time.