My name is Dennis and I am a person in long-term recovery. I came into the world in a car at the corner of 22nd & Passyunk Ave in South Philly and it has been a bumpy ride since that hot, August night. I wish I could blame my addiction on my childhood, but I can’t…and I won’t.
I had my first drink at the age of 7. While I did not become an alcoholic that day, I knew I had found something special! This magic elixir made me feel funny, handsome and outgoing. I had to have more.
My alcoholism started, as I look back, in high school. I was a weekend warrior and drank to excess every chance I got. I thought it made me popular with the girls and with my fellow athletes. Weekend parties were the norm, and my house was party central most of the time. My parents were away many weekends and the only request made of me was not to call them if I got arrested, which I didn’t…yet.
Alcohol was my solution. It was my answer to feeling awkward, to feeling ugly, to just feeling. I used alcohol to hide that I thought I was and became the person I thought others wanted me to be. I was the life of the party, until the party became a necessity.
After high school, my friends grew up, got married, got good jobs and created a life. I continued the “good times” well into my adult life. I sought out people who still wanted to relive the glory days and just have fun. Getting married didn’t stop me. Getting married a second time didn’t stop me. Getting married a third time didn’t stop me. After all, if they didn’t want to party, I didn’t want them around. Three divorces later, it was all THEIR fault. After all, I’m a nice guy, right?
I was a terrible husband, father, son and brother. It wasn’t my intention to be, but this disease had such a hold on me that little else mattered. I burned through money and relationships and left a broken-hearted family in my wake. I didn’t care. I wanted to do what I wanted to do.
I bounced from job to job because I would call out sick and my car always had a flat tire when I went out for lunch. I was unemployable but truly felt like I was a great employee and the companies I worked for were lucky I wanted to work for them.
I should be dead several times over. I put myself in situations I don’t know how I walked away from without a bullet in my head. I ripped off drug dealers because I thought they owed it to me because I spent thousands already. Why not throw me some freebies?
I would seek out the seediest bars because I thought I was better than the people in there. At the end of the night I was going home to my nice, warm house, while they were going back to their crack houses without water, electricity or heat.
Then something happened.
The day came when I never left those houses I thought were beneath me. I didn’t leave because I couldn’t. I couldn’t face others. I couldn’t face my family. I couldn’t face the girlfriend I had let down, yet again. I couldn’t and didn’t want to face myself
I tried to take my life on a few occasions. Once in a hospital, the doctors told me I would be dead before the weekend was over. I laughed it off because I believed I was bulletproof, and had Phillies tickets for a game the following week. It was that night that God came to me and told me I was going to be all right. I had that “White Light” experience where my life flashed before my eyes and I was granted another chance. You would think that was enough to stop me. It wasn’t. Addicted people, like myself, have a short-term memory. We forget the bad times. We forget the 500,000 times we couldn’t control our drinking and drug use and focus on the ONE time we did, or at least thought we did.
The last time I thought about ending my life, I was standing on a bridge looking down. Not thinking about the hurt and heartache I would cause those left to deal with the aftermath, but rather that it wasn’t high enough to kill me, and it would just hurt. I didn’t want to hurt. I wanted it to stop. I checked myself into a Psych Ward and began the road to recovery. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to live either. Not the way I was. Thank God I had a girlfriend and some family that didn’t turn their backs on me, as they could and should have.
My recovery journey has been one of struggle, but it has also been one of many blessings. Finding my purpose in life has been an exciting ride. The people I have met in recovery are some of the greatest people I could ever associate with. Going from an unemployable person to where I am now makes my head spin. I speak at rehabilitation centers, prisons and hospitals to help spread the message of recovery.
When I first came into recovery, I did not mention my past because I felt people looked down on, and judged the recovering person. Then I did something I hadn’t in a long time. I told the truth. I explained my journey from addict to person in recovery and the business owner decided to take a chance on me. I am now the office manager for an insurance agency that is the second largest in growth for the company in the past year.
I have learned that I am worth the good things in my life. While some relationships may take time to heal, as long as I know I am doing the next right thing and helping another person in recovery, there is always a chance to mend broken fences. Today I have a relationship with my higher power that I call God. Although I tried to take myself out of the equation, the fact is that God isn’t done with me yet. I have work to do, and to show others that, yes we DO recover.