“So I’m from Daytona Beach, Florida. I grew up in a perfectly normal family and my parents are still married today. I don’t know that there was anything that really led to me wanting to drink, except maybe to gain acceptance with friends and all that. Throughout high school I just drank at parties. It didn’t really get out of control for the first couple years and for the most part I maintained good grades. I still participated in sports and skated and surfed, all that good stuff. Once one of my buddies turned me on to coke it went downhill from there pretty quickly. Within about six months it turned into an every weekend kind of thing. Then eventually it became a four or five times a week and I started losing focus with school, starting cutting classes and that’s when grades starting dropping. I barely finished my junior year and ended up dropping out 2 months into my senior year with the plan to get my GED and go into the army. So that’s what I did. In the army, the culture is one where people drink a lot. On the weekends that’s just what you’re gonna do- go party and drink absurd amounts of alcohol. So I drank a lot but I was able to manage, for the most part.
“I was deployed overseas and when I came home I continued on with my duty assignment in upstate New York. We were really close to Canada and I was under 21 so we would just drive up to Canada where the drinking age is 19. We’d get trashed up there and then try to drive back across an international border. We were full of great ideas. So we did that one night and we had to work the next morning. I was too drunk to drive so I just pawned the keys off on my other buddy who was also definitely too drunk to drive. I passed out in the passenger seat and he ended up falling asleep at the wheel and we hit a tree at roughly 55 miles an hour. My face was caught in between the dash and the windshield and it pretty much shattered my face and skull. I had to have 7 reconstructive surgeries and that is where opiates came into play. Even when I stopped needing them for pain as much, after getting used to taking these ungodly amounts of pain medications, when I didn’t have them my anxiety levels would go through the roof. And even though I was taking the amount prescribed, at one point I started crushing and snorting them so that might have been a bad sign.
“Around this time they started cracking down on doctors and I couldn’t get the pills anymore so I had my first detox. Once I got really sick from withdrawals for the first time, I realized how bad the habit had become. I ended up going back to drinking and doing coke and during that next period I also ended up getting married and ultimately having a kid. I went to EMT, fire and paramedic school and after school I got a job in Daytona Beach Fire Department there but it didn’t last too long. The marriage didn’t work out either and my daughter and I ended up living with my mom, who has always been willing to help me out. Throughout this period I was going from suboxone to painkillers to smoking crack and eventually, my mom cut me off and said I was going too have to do something different. I went to treatment in Texas for the first time and when I got out of that, I found heroin. Over the next few years I went to treatment a few more times, ended up doing some time, getting on probation and even then, when I knew I would get stuck with a felony if I didn’t stop using, I kept doing it. I had always thought once my life got really bad I would be able to pull myself out of it when I really wanted to. Once it got extremely bad though, instead of trying to change or thinking I could change, I ended up just feeling like this was how it was going to be. Something just flipped inside me. I didn’t really have any fight in me anymore. I was content to be miserable and go on to the bitter end. I figured I’d do it till I died or got locked up and I just didn’t care anymore. When I would think of my family or my daughter, I would just suppress it all. The next high and how I was gonna get it was my only focus. I didn’t have enough time or enough wherewithal to even look at the reality of the path I was on and the life I was missing out on. And I spent 6 miserable years like that.”
“So I ended up all alone. The only way my family would take my calls was if I told them I wanted to get help. When I finally told my mom I was willing she helped me get into treatment in Austin. They helped me detox and dry out and there were some people coming in and explaining addiction and the illness and Step 1 in a way I hadn’t heard before. I don’t think it was detailed to the extent that Brazos eventually did but I do remember realizing for the first time that I didn’t really have a say over what I was doing. That’s when I started to understand the insanity and powerlessness of it and all that. So I felt like I was done at that point. I had gotten a taste of being homeless, my family seemed finished with me and I was pretty beat down. I got a sponsor and went through some of the steps but when I got to making amends I just wasn’t willing. So I started shooting dope again in the sober house I was staying in and was about to get kicked out and be homeless again. But instead, I went to Brazos.
“My first day there I left against staff advice and walked down to the nearby gas station. I tried for 4 hours to call someone to come get me and no one would. I remember being in tears at that gas station that there was not one person in the world who would come get me. The little white van eventually came and brought me back to Brazos. I was pissed off and hated being there the first week or two. But they started forcing me to get up and start going to groups. They pretty much pushed me into snapping out of it and I started doing the work. And I think what happened was that I had an experience with the 3rd Step… with God. I did the 3rd Step prayer under that big tree out behind the place and I felt his presence in a way that I couldn’t fully explain. Something was different and from that moment on, I fully bought in. I wanted to do the rest of the steps, even the inventory. I went through all 12 Steps in 22 days, with the exception of doing all my amends because most of those people were in another state. After I got out, I think the next big experience I had was going to a treatment center and getting to speak with the guys there about what Step 1 was. And I knew that because Brazos had helped me finally see it. I firmly believe that they saved my life because they told me the truth. They didn’t give a damn about how it was going to make me feel, they were willing to tell it like it is. If they would have left me any wiggle room to not take my life seriously, to not be totally accountable and to not participate in the program, I would have taken it. A lot of places do that too. They tell you that you have a disease and that it’s not your fault and go too soft on you. Brazos did that but then told me that I did play a part in it. That I had been a screw up and incredibly selfish. And that I had to take responsibility for it and do something different. I had to face the truth. But then they told me that there was something I could do to fix it all.
“Family didn’t allow me to be around them until had about 6 months sober and then my mom brought my daughter out to see me. I didn’t get to go back home and see them until I had over a year sober. Being back in my daughter’s life after not being there for so many years has definitely been amazing. But honestly, it’s been a slow process. Not even necessarily on her part but on mine. It’s just taking me some time to feel comfortable being a dad again and to learn how a sober dad shows up in his kid’s life. In June though I got to be home again and see all of them. I got to make a lot of amends on that trip too. One of the biggest was with my brother and sister in law. My part of the amends, me owning how I had shown up in their lives, only took a few minutes. After that though it was another 2 hours. Because they wanted to let me know what I had done to them. My sister in law told me how she had had to prepare my brother for the fact that I was eventually going to die in my addiction. And that it would probably be better to just write me off and forget me, to save them pain. That was tough to hear. But those relationships are getting better. I work in the recovery community now too and I get to try to help others get better, both at work and in the program. I have 4 sponsees. And I’m even in a healthy relationship. Really, I’m just getting to experience life finally, a life I could have very easily have missed out on. And it’s pretty good.”