I believe that one of the biggest misconceptions about addiction is…”Once an addict, always an addict” is a lie. Since 1935 and the beginning of 12 Step programming there have been many addicts/alcoholics who have gotten clean/sober and have found a new way to live. Becoming a productive member of society is not an easy task, but definitely one that is attainable. I began my journey into recovery on July 7, 1995. I will soon be celebrating 19 years clean. Some of my biggest fears in early recovery were about me changing, me letting myself and others down and my reality of being a failure remaining true. My self-worth and what little self-esteem I had was clouded by years of feeling worthless and being told that I was never going to amount to anything.
Before getting clean I was a true misfit. I believed that I was never going to get my life on track. I came from a dysfunctional family system that included a drug addict father and an emotionally unavailable mother. My father disappeared when I was 5 years old and my mother became a single mother of 3 children. She did the best she could with what she had, but this left me to be on my own and life was a lot to figure out. I always felt that I needed something to help me cope with life on life’s terms. Drugs were the answer. I never imagined that eventually they would become my problem. Drugs worked for a long time…22 years of active drug use, this ended when I was 33 years old and I could not continue living the way I was living. Although I had a pretty decent life (married, child, house, college degree, etc), there was always something missing and I felt miserable.
At the end of my road, I was suicidal more times than not. I was living a double life and could not get myself together. I had gone through multiple jobs/careers in an attempt to reinvent myself which always ended up as a failure. My last days of using drugs landed me in such a state of desperation that I reached out to a friend that I knew was living a sober lifestyle. I believe that God placed his name on my heart because he was the craziest of my friends growing up and he was doing something different with his life. After my last time using, he convinced me to attend a 12 Step program and there I found others who had found a way out. While on the journey of recovery I encountered many trials and tribulations, but found no excuse to use any mind/mood altering substance to mask what I was feeling. I have incorporated my recovery program into many other areas of my life. I have been nicotine free for the 18 years, caffeine free for the 15 years. I have had periods of no compulsive shopping and have had many miracles take place in my life because of the process of recovery.
This is not to say that life on life’s terms is going to stop. I have also had tragedy take place over the past 19 years. I have had relationships end, suffered the loss of loved ones, and experienced changes in careers. About two years ago my greatest tragedy took place when my 21 year old son (Keith) died from a heroin overdose. He battled with the disease for a short period of time and on June 9, 2012 the disease won. His fight was over and my decision to stay clean and continue carrying this message of hope got even stronger. I truly believe that I got clean and stayed clean because of God’s grace and mercy. It is with this belief that I get through the days of grieving my son’s loss. Also, I believe it is important to mention that I have reestablished all of the relationships that were lost due to my active addiction. My mom and dad are in my life now, and so is my immediate and distant family. I have acquired a new family in my 12 Step program too. I have been able to achieve anything that I have put my mind to. When I began my recovery process, I had a BA in Business Management. Today, I have a MSW from New York University (NYU) and I am a business owner. I am truly blessed to have found recovery, and today I know that there was “no” mistake in me being an addict. I am truly living a life beyond my wildest dreams.
Over the past 19 years I have come to a place of believing that I can do whatever my mind focuses on and allows me to engage in. I have been in the field of addiction services for the past 17 years and have gone from working in a mental health facility to being an owner/director of a private practice (Breath of Life Counseling Services, LLC). Currently, I am growing and expanding into multiple counties in New Jersey and one of my goals is to have an office in every county of the state.
Today, recovery is a daily part of my life. I believe wholeheartedly in this way of living. I know that if I can get and stay clean anyone can. Also, I believe when people begin to understand that addiction is a disease like any other, that there is help, and that people can change, our society will have the ability to look at addicts from a whole different perspective. As long as I continue attending 12 Step meetings regularly, praying/meditating, and helping others, I have an opportunity to continue my sobriety and possibly help others to do the same.
One of the major reasons I have decided to speak out and make myself visible through this project, is that I would not want anyone to experience what I have been living through these past two years. Losing a child to an overdose or any death is an absolute tragedy, but it does not have to be that way. If we all take a risk and allow ourselves the opportunity to speak out and touch someone, we may be able to save that “one” life.