Zach’s Story

Zach’s Story

“I used to have a family. I had a son. Looking back at it all now, I can see where God was kind of knocking on my door, trying to get my attention. But I wasn’t ready yet. And he had to peel away everything, even to the point where I lost my family and my son and almost went to prison. Of course when I first starting drinking and using it was all fun and games. But my mom has this little frame of pictures of me through the years. You can see that something changes in me around 7th grade. Around that time the color in my face starts to change and my eyes slowly start to sink in. Despite that though, I was pretty good at keeping it hidden for awhile. When my mom figured out something was wrong I got sent to Military School. I think I came out of there worse than when I went in. From there I was in and out of college, jobs, relationships and legal trouble. I was drinking really hard, taking adderall and other pills when I could. I eventually got in a relationship and we got really into coke and crack and eventually speed. We ended up having a kid and shortly after he was born, we started using again and CPS got involved. They took my son away for 10 months and even though we didn’t get high during that time, my drinking got way worse. They also had us going to meetings but I had no idea what the program and steps were. I was just getting my paper signed and trying to get my son back. One guy at the meetings tried to sponsor me and I wish I had listened to him and let him help me. But there was just no willingness on my part. So my story is about to get way worse.

“We got the kids back and about a month into it we used again. At this point I was seeing shadow people anytime i’d get high. I would tell myself they weren’t really there but it got to where I couldn’t differentiate what was real from what wasn’t. So along with thinking people were out to get me, I got it in my head that someone was trying to kill my son. I started seeing things moving in the house. So one night it got really bad and I picked him up out of his crib, got in the car and took off. We lived out in the country in Central Texas and I was just driving down country roads and trying to get away from the people who were after us. I started thinking that someone was in the car with us and so I stopped in the middle of a dark country road, pulled him out of the carseat and I took off into a field, running with him in my arms. And eventually I saw what I thought were people in the field. I asked them to watch him and I told them I was going to lead the people who were chasing us away. Unfortunately, it turns out there were no people in the field.

“I ran for about five hours after that, hopping barbed wire fences the entire time., running through cow pastures. I remember asking people who weren’t even there to shoot me and just kill me because I had got it in my head that I had not only left my son but also done something horrible to Erika, my son’s mother. I was running through fields and I was already dehydrated when this whole thing started and it was literally five solid hours of running. I remember being so thirsty I drank out of a cow pond. Eventually I come upon somebody, an actual real person. I asked him to shoot me and he said let’s talk first. He stayed on the other side of this barbed wire fence because of course I was clearly out of my mind. He somehow convinced me though to get in his car with him and go turn myself into the police. When we drove past the place I left my car on the road it was swarming with cops all around it. I told the driver to slow down, that this was where I needed to get out. I went to talk to the cops and the first question they asked me is, ‘Where is your son?’ His mother had reported him missing. And as soon as the words came out of my mouth that I had left him in a field with some people, I knew as I said it that this wasn’t right at all. It dawned on me what I had done and that maybe none of what I had thought was real was actually real.

“So they put me in cuffs and threw me in the back of the vehicle and we drove around to different fields trying to find out which field I left him in. But they all looked the same. They had dogs out looking for him. They smelled his car seat and were looking around in fields trying to find him. Eventually they did and somehow, despite being out there alone for that long, he was okay. I think they said he had a scratch on his leg and was a little dehydrated. So they took me to jail and on the way there I’m just thinking of what I’ve done and what could have happened to my son and that I’m going to be in prison for the rest of my life. I didn’t try calling my mom and I didn’t try calling Erika because I had almost killed our son. I had stabbed my own family in the back. So I didn’t want to talk to anybody and I was just kind of resigned to just sit in a jail cell. My bail was half a million dollars but they eventually agreed to reduce it and let me out if I would go directly to treatment. Josh Slay from Brazos came and talked to them and he was a big part of me getting out.

“Before I got released I signed over my legal rights to my son, to allow him to be adopted by a family member permanently. I didn’t want to do this but the other option was that he would go into the foster care system and I didn’t trust that at all. The family member was my second cousin and they had actually been trying to adopt prior to this. So it was kind of like a godsend for them. And honestly it was a godsend for my son and for me too and I’m grateful that he gets to have a better life now. But it was still the hardest thing I’ve ever done. That was the lowest for me, having to give up on ever getting him back. But that’s what led me to treatment and into recovery. The sad part though is that even after all that, when I first got to Brazos, I remember thinking I would stay there for 90 days but when I got out I was still going to have a nice cold beer. I still couldn’t get the idea out of my head. And that’s how it was until I started doing the work in there and seeing things differently…”

“So I was facing 25 years for a crime which I would not receive a slap on the wrist for most likely because it wasn’t a drug charge, even though it was drug related. It was a very serious thing. I was already on probation so things weren’t looking too good for me. But once I was at Brazos I just tried to put all that aside and to start doing the work. At first, I felt like I was smarter than them and I would just trick them into thinking I was cured, even though my heart wasn’t in it. But once I decided to do it, I was really thorough with everything. A lot of people struggle with wanting to hold back from telling everything on their 4th Step. There are those things we want to keep secret. And for me, I had no option but to tell my deepest secrets because that’s what had landed me in there in the first place. Everything else was easy to write down after that.

“And before that, at the 3rd Step, was when something started happening. I started to feel something changing inside me. Like I said, God had always been knocking and I had always ignored it. But by the time I got to Step 3, after everything that had happened in my life, I made the decision to open the door. I was malleable to it. From that point on, I really applied myself to it all. I didn’t know if it was going to work in real time, but I started to feel some sort of hope that this might work in my life once I left treatment.

“I got out and went to a sober house. They pushed me toward a strong home group that works straight out of the book, so it fit with what I had been learning at Brazos. I kept doing the deal and working a program. Went through the work again with a new sponsor and kept doing what got me here. I’ve missed a nightly review here or there but mostly stayed with it. I sponsor other guys now. A lot of the guys that approach me aren’t truly willing to do the thing and sometimes you have to drop them till they’re ready. Recently though, one of my guys really started to get this deal. He’s got it, not just like the 4th Step moment where the light is coming on but he’s really got it. He calls me, meets with me and he’s getting free. And so that’s been so cool to see and be a part of.

“I have a good job and I’ve worked my way up into management. Being reliable was something I was never that good at but I am now. Also, I try and be a lot more caring and to be there for others, you know? Not just in the program. I talk to my mom every week. It’s not something she asks me to do but after those years of her wondering if I was even alive, it’s the least I can do. To stay connected with her and let her know I’m alright. I own two reliable vehicles, about to pay off one of them. I’m still active in the program. And really, that’s how Brazos helped me the most. They actually use the book the way it was intended. It’s not about a triggers list or just attending meetings or any of that. It’s about having a spiritual experience from working the steps. Really getting connected to God. I think everybody who actually works a program looks at God differently. But for me, that belief that I always had, now it’s a real thing. Through more and more conversations with Him, I know he is there. Steps 3 and 11 are huge for me. I also experience God in other people. I started seeing that he works through imperfect people. Because a lot of times like it’s easy to look at people and situations in my life and say that they aren’t doing it right and that they have nothing to teach me. Just realizing in those moments that God put you here for it. So there’s that.

“As far as my past and everything that happened before, I still feel some guilt around it. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t, but man, it’s nowhere the level that I did. Also, the more I tell my story to people, the more I see how there is value in it. It’s my strongest weapon. I know it’s a little cliche to say that but I know my story hits people pretty hard. And as a result, I can reach people. Sometimes I take meetings to Salvation Army and these guys are older than me, hardened and probably slow to listen to someone like me. Then they hear my story and they are quick to come talk to me after. So that makes letting go of the past easier.”