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, Tony.
Tony’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. Tony is proof. Read on.
How many years sober are you?
I’ve been sober since October 4th, 1983 – just over 32 years.
How old were you when you started drinking or doing drugs? Why did you start?
My parents were both alcoholics, so I grew up in an absolutely insane household. They were dangerous when they were drinking, but when they weren’t drinking, they were even more dangerous. It was a double edge sword.
At 13, I took my first drink.
What was your drug or drink of choice?
I drank, I did heroin, cocaine, speed, downers. I took it all. I’d take it and then ask what it did.
What was your pattern?
I would get drunk and get into fights. I got wrapped up with gangs and became abusive towards women.
When I was 17, I became a professional musician and never stopped working – I played for decades. As a drummer, I played with top bands in every era. The only time I didn’t use is when I was playing a show, because I wanted to play well.
Otherwise, I was a liar, a cheater and a thief. I’d do anything for alcohol and drugs – they were my god, and they were killing me slowly.
What was your rock bottom? How did you feel?
I don’t know if I can pinpoint a single point that was my rock bottom. I wish there was a definition to define what it takes to turn things around. For me, what it took was the gift of desperation. I was absolutely desperate to make a change – I had enough.
How did you get into treatment?
One morning, I was hungover, my wife of the time was gone – possibly out drinking, I don’t really know. I was disciplining my son and it just went too far. A buddy of mine called a treatment center and I got in. I detoxed and got into a 12 step program. I got sober emotionally, sexually, financially.
How was your family affected by this disease?
Living with an alcoholic is like living with a tornado. There’s no way to figure out what they’re thinking or how they’re going to behave. They become demonic.
My kids have a distorted view of life. They didn’t get to know what a normal life was – their father wasn’t present. Sometimes I still feel that there’s some pain there.
Do you still struggle with addiction? Think about using? Can you be around others at a bar?
When I first got sober, I was around people that were still using. Now, I don’t associate with people who use unless I’m helping them. If I see it going on, I detach. If I go to a bar for a meal, I eat food and then I leave. I don’t feel threatened by drugs or alcohol – but I don’t speak that language anymore.
What was one great lesson that you learned from treatment?
I’m not in charge. I have the gift of a loving God. Without a higher power, I have nothing. Every breath is a gift. My life is a gift. My higher power is my strength, my provider, my best friend. It was that relationship that I developed in treatment that saved me.
What would you tell someone about treatment to inspire them to go?
Have you had enough yet? If not, you’re going to have another. You have to truly have enough of it all – you have to reach that desperation. When you get to that point, it’s time to go.
Just know that there is hope. Whatever your problem, there is hope.
How do you know that you’re never going to relapse?
Anyone in recovery knows – we still have lingering feelings, behaviors and thoughts that aren’t appropriate. But I get help for those specific feelings and thoughts.
Everyday, I talk to my higher power. I pray morning, day and night. I pray prayers of gratitude that I’ve been restored to sanity. I keep a daily discipline. I go to meetings, I have sponsors and I sponsor others and help newcomers. I don’t want to preach, but I try to be helpful and to be of service to others.
I live a peaceful life now, and I’m happily married. I can differentiate real from false. I’m not the selfish person I once was while I was using. And I take it one day at a time.
What else do you want to say?
In order to make a change, I had to receive the gift of desperation. There was no other choice. When you get there – whatever your problem – just know there is hope.