Raul Cartagena

Raul Cartagena

“My emotions for coping have always been anger. I was always an angry man and my kids really took the worst of that. I wasn’t violent toward them but I was just quick to anger, emotionally distant and didn’t talk with them enough. And there was this one day after I’d been sober for a while, and my youngest daughter comes running through the kitchen and knocks this huge cup of water off the table and it goes everywhere. And she looks at me and she has this look of terror on her face. Like the world was about to end for her. Like oh my god, he’s going to be so mad at me, you know? And I remember that look in her eyes and it still tears me up inside when I think about it… because it showed me how much pain I put them through. No little girl should have to be afraid like that, especially of her father. Anyway, she looks over at me and freezes and instead of what I would have said before I just said, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s just water. Go get a couple of towels and we’ll clean it up together.’ And she looks at me and says, ‘I like this daddy better.'”

“That’s a moment that I relive in my head over and over. It empties me so much. And to have my children know that I’m gonna be there for them like this, to have them know that now, means everything to me. That’s what this deal has done for me. I’ll never again take that for granted.”

“I was anti-treatment the first 6 years of my sobriety. I believed that anyone could get sober if they went to a 12 step fellowship, grabbed some literature and a sponsor and worked the steps. I was that guy. And I went to carry the message to this treatment center and starting meeting all these different kinds of people and I started learning my limitations. There were some people I just couldn’t reach and I just couldn’t understand why. And then I would see those same people have good clinicians work with them and it blew my mind what they were able to do to help them. After that, I was offered a job at a treatment center and there I really saw the power of clinical work mixed with the 12 steps. A clinician can’t necessarily keep you sober but they can help you start thinking straight so you can take these steps and really have an experience with them. So I fell in love with treatment but only after I saw it work.”

“Unfortunately, there is going to be failure in this business. Even in my personal recovery I’ve lost a lot of people. There was one guy though I will remember until the day I die. He was a client at a treatment center and I had the pleasure of taking him through the work. When we did his 5th step it took about 3 hours and we really got in deep and found some real defects of character. At the end he looked at me and said, ‘Raul, this is one of the best moments I’ve had in my life. But I want you to know that I’m gonna use again. It’s not because of you, you’ve put in so much effort and helped me learn so much about myself. And I know God is the answer and all that. I just know that eventually I’m gonna use again.’ He discharged about a month later and 6 months after that he died of an overdose. And after I found out, I was at work in community and it really just caught up with me. I felt the deepest of sorrows. You know that crying that isn’t surface level but you’re crying from the inside out? I cried like that. I don’t understand why some get it and some don’t. We sometimes say the ones who do the work get it but it doesn’t always work that way and we just don’t know. So I just try to give my time to every addict and alcoholic I work with. And I do that because I owe it. I was spared and really shouldn’t even be living the kind of life I am living today. I owe it.”