“I lived in Texas until I was 8. I did most of my growing up though in Chicago, where I lived until I was 28 when I was sent to treatment for the last time. I’m an only child of my parents. I do have step brothers and sisters but I’m the only alcoholic/addict in my family that I know of. So I wasn’t raised by wolves or anything like that. I have a loving mother who gave me all that I needed and made sure I went to school. So I had a pretty normal childhood in that respect. I think substances started to kind of crop up and be an issue in 7th Grade. I grew up in the inner city so I was exposed to drugs and alcohol fairly early. Alcohol and weed were kind of normal. Just kind of experimenting and having fun with friends. Looking back though, I was always the guy that was still standing at the end of the night and still wanted more. The phenomenon of craving was real from when I started. From the beginning I knew I was a little bit different from my friends in that respect because I always had the unique ability to take it just kind of to that next level. I ended up being the guy that would show up at your one year old’s birthday party with Jack Daniels and cocaine. That was me.
“I was smart enough to really get through high school no problem but after I made it into college, I started to get consequences for my using. Stopped going to class, got kicked out of college and had my first bout with being homeless. I joined the Marine Corps as kind of a geographic change. And I just thought that something wasn’t going right so I needed to fix that. It ended up just making me a more disciplined drinker really more than anything else. I was introduced to 12 Step Recovery in the Marine Corps in 1992. My first meeting was on a beach in Hawaii. I’d kill to be at that meeting today but at the time I was just thinking, ‘What the hell is this? Why am I here?’ I was not thrilled about it about treatment or recovery and I probably stayed sober for a week after that first treatment. When I got out of the Marine Corps I went back to Chicago and me and some buddies of mine we opened a bar and we lived above it. It was the perfect place for a budding alcoholic and drug addict. Unlimited access to cash, all the alcohol I could drink and my cocaine use skyrocketed at that point. I was surrounded by alcoholics and drug addicts or guys who drank like me and used like me but eventually even they began to push themselves away from me. From there I started to lose jobs. I always found a codependent woman to take care of me so the woman that I was with at the time kept trying to get me to straighten out. I would go to psychologists and 12 step meetings but just kind of blended in and avoided any real solution.
“One weekend I got a hold of some money and I disappeared and my fiancee called the wedding off. We were supposed to get married in three weeks and I just couldn’t understand why she would leave. Never mind the fact that I was an out of control addict and alcoholic. So that kind of began my last run. I wasn’t allowed to be in my parents’ house and I was spinning out of control. I’d lost the job of course. I knew I was either going to die or it was going to continue to get really bad. I was always on the verge of going to jail going to prison and I could just tell that the heat was on and the gig was about up. Finally I called my stepdad and I said, ‘Look I’m ready. I’ll do whatever you want me to do’. He told me to come to the house that night at 7 and I could do an assessment for a bed at a treatment center. And I was kind of surprised that they knew the problem was that bad. Of course I had been burning every bridge but in my mind I thought I was playing it off. I got to my parents’ house that night and the funny part is that was the Thursday before the Saturday I had been scheduled to get married. So wedding presents are literally arriving at my parents’ house and family was flying in from out of town because they still had tickets booked. So it was this surreal moment where my old life was right in front of me but also going away. On June 20th was my last drink and the day that I flew off to Minnesota and so my sobriety date is the same as the day I was supposed to be married.
“When I got to treatment I didn’t really want to get sober. I wasn’t excited or happy about it but I just didn’t know what else to do. My motivation was that I wanted my stuff back. I wanted the apartment back, the girl back, the dog back… she had taken the dog, you know. It had really all went away in the course of that weekend. So I thought I’d do 28 days and then I’d go back and get everything back. While I was in treatment though I talked to my ex and she told me that she didn’t want me back. She said she’d always love me but she’d never trust me again. My family came to the family program which ruined my life because now there were boundaries. My mom said she was going to side with whatever the professionals were saying. Should I choose to not do what they were saying then she was going to be done with me but as long as I was doing the right thing she’d be there. Which she has been. The day they gave me my aftercare recommendation in treatment I thought for sure I was going to have to go to extended care and go do art therapy or something like that. But my counselor said I needed to go to a sober house, I needed to pay my own way, to work forty hours a week and to work a program of recovery. At that point in my life I was borderline offended at the thought of having to pay my own way and do you know do that kind of stuff. But I had this voice in the back of my head that said to do what these people were saying for a year and if at the end of the year it was horrible then I could go back to doing it my way. And so I went to a sober house in St. Paul Minnesota. I didn’t want to be there at all and at first felt like I’d been cast of the face of the Earth. Funny thing now is that I miss that place every single day.”
“So I got into the sober house and for about 6 months I sat on the curbs of 12 Step recovery. I would attend meetings and sit in the back and smoke but didn’t really dive in. I didn’t work a step or have a sponsor or anything like that. After a time, I began to feel the darkness of relapse coming towards me. I just knew it was coming. I told one of the guys I was sober house with that and he said that maybe I should get a sponsor. And so I asked a guy to be my sponsor. He said to meet him at Starbucks and we would figure it out. So I showed up and I’ve got my flight log from treatment and said, ‘I’m on Step 6 and 7. I did my 5th Step in treatment and we can probably just pick up from there’. He laughed at me and said he wanted me at at least 4 meetings a week, that I needed to get a job in my home group, that I needed to carry the message with him and that we were gonna go through the big book from the very first page through page 164 and work a step when it says to work a step. I thought it all sounded extreme but said I’d try it.
“I started doing what he told me to do and some funny things happened. That dark cloud of relapse kind of disappeared. I got that job at the home group and was a greeter. And when he made me be a greeter it probably saved my life. Because people started remembering my name. They started coming up to me. They wanted to do stuff with me. And man, I’m not a huge God guy. But I remember sitting in my home group one night and I look up and I see my sponsor, I see his sponsor, I see that guy’s sponsor and so on. And all of a sudden I got it. There’s all these guys and they’re successful. They hold jobs and they pay their bills. They’re good guys, they’re good family members, good fathers, good husbands… they’re all good members of society. And I realized that if I could just get behind these guys and do what they do, then I was going to get what they got. And that instilled a real hope in me. I resigned from the debating society. It’s a well worn path and I realized that I just wasn’t that unique. Just do what these guys did in the rooms and out of the rooms and I was going to have a similar good experience. I knew I needed to change and I knew these guys were the key to it. And that was that Step Two moment for me where I had hope and was finally ready to do this. Again, my motivation for recovery was that I just wanted the heat off my back. That’s why I don’t necessarily believe that initial motivation counts for a lot. The question is are we willing to do the work. It doesn’t matter why. Because again, my motives starting off were less than pure. But the reality is is that I ended up getting amazing results and an amazing life as a result of simply doing the work.
“Today I have an amazing relationship with my parents. I’m a good citizen and a good employee. To the best of my ability I’m a man of integrity who tries to bring light into the world. I fail at times but more often than not I do pretty well. I’ve dedicated my entire personal and professional life to helping others access recovery. And I can’t imagine doing anything else. Working in this field brings out the best in me and it’s truly a gift to have a job where I get to not only help people but I also get to work with other alcoholics and drug addicts in recovery every single day. I think one of the things that I love about Brazos is that when I interviewed for the job, one of the first questions they asked me was what my program of recovery looks like. Unfortunately, that isn’t how a lot of treatment centers operate. And that is a testament of the kind of people that I work with. They’re accepting of my flaws and my mistakes and I think that because I can be real with my employers about the reality of who I am, that I also get to be real with the clients conversely. And I can meet them where they’re at. I’ve learned to be able to take a deep breath and just be there beside clients who are in crisis and whose addict/alcoholic ego is alive and in control. I then get to be a part of the change that happens in their life and that keeps things from becoming too mundane. There has to be a magical component to it because otherwise why would we stay? There has to be a sense of awe. And that’s the miracle of the newcomer. Even when we don’t see it within ourselves we can see it in them. I need to be awake to that. And sometimes I need to be reawakened to it.”