I’m proud of myself and where my life is today, and it’s time for me to speak openly about that.

My name is Jesse Chapman, and I'm in long-term recovery.  My sobriety date is August 20th, 2014. When a friend of mine told me about this project, I was immediately interested. She was a person who I had the pleasure of meeting in a treatment center a little over a year ago. I took an interest in this project because I believe that the stigma surrounding addiction is one of the things responsible for keeping people stuck in the cycle. Hopefully, my experience can help someone else.

I don't want to spend too much time focusing on my past or my background because honestly, today all of that seems pretty irrelevant. I will provide a summary, and then I would like to focus on recovery rather than my upbringing and active addiction. I was born and raised in Upstate New York. I grew up with a loving, supportive family. I never wanted for anything as a child, and my parents did a great job raising and providing for me. When I became old enough to make my own decisions, I often made the wrong ones, and where most may have learned from these mistakes and moved on, I soon became caught in the cycle of addiction. It started with smoking pot and drinking and soon evolved into harder drugs. Eventually, after some years I ended up struggling to survive as an IV heroin user.

My addiction often left me homeless, jobless, and penniless. It was often at this point where I would clean up my act for just long enough to get the basics back and then I would give them away again. I would run to rehab after a run-in with the law or enter detox when there were family problems. However, I never had any serious commitment to a lifestyle of recovery. Partly because I never really understood what recovery meant. To me living in recovery was hanging out in church basements and separating yourself from the rest of the world. I thought it was people desperately holding on to one day at a time and struggling with all their might not to get high. The type of recovery that I always saw portrayed in films or even what I witnessed in my community was not something I wanted. I feel like recovery is often portrayed that way to the general public. It's always made out to be these weak-minded people with such little self-control. It's funny when I look back on that. Now I realize that it's quite the opposite. But I guess that's the problem, because of this negative stigma and all of the misconceptions about recovery, no one knows what it is. When we don't understand something, we just put it in with what society has told us it looks like, or what it looked like in the movies. Then you create this image, an image that becomes reinforced.

Recovery isn't the same for any two people, and therefore it's often not going to look the same. It's something very individual and personal. Yeah, a lot of the stories sound the same. But those are the stories of active addiction. The stories of recovery are often very different. Recovery is figuring out what works for you and doing it, and not just doing it once but, living it often changing things along the way. It's a journey that I'm proud to be in today. With my recovery, I have become all the things that you don't think of when you hear the term drug addict. I am a responsible, productive, caring, member of society.

The people I hurt the most during my active addiction was undoubtedly my family. I know the things that I did but, I can only begin to imagine the pain and suffering they endured. When my family first encountered the reality of my addiction, they all had their own opinion on how I should get better. My mother thought placing my faith in God would be the answer. My father thought willpower alone should be enough to keep me from traveling down that road again. However, it took me a long time to figure out who I was and what was right for me. Something I'm still figuring out.

Recovery is figuring out what works for you and doing it, and not just doing it once but, living it often changing things along the way.

When I finally wanted recovery bad enough, I began my journey figuring out exactly what that meant. I started to read books about recovery. Even study research and statistics that have been compiled. Also, I began to journal. I found that writing down my thoughts, my opinions, and my beliefs were one way help me figure out what I wanted. In the beginning, I felt a little ostracized by what seemed like the majority of the recovery community. I'm an atheist and therefore had a difficult time relating to a lot of other people. In past attempts at recovery, I kept that a secret. I was fearful of how my peers may view me. However, through all my journaling and self-examination I realized that honesty was something essential to me. When I finally chose to be honest about this, I got a lot of support. Many people felt the same way but, we're also too scared to say anything. Now, of course, there were some negative opinions as well. I refused to let them impact how I lived my life. There was also my little mantra I would say to myself pretty much daily. “Using is not an option.” Anytime I would encounter a problem or difficulty I would remind myself of that first. Once I got that out of the way, I would begin to examine what the options were. I still use this to get through tough times. Through things like this and the support, from family and friends, I have managed to continue my journey.

Today, I'm developing into a pretty decent person. I'm there for my family in a way I have never been. I'm a reliable employee at work. I am kind to people I meet, even willing to lend a hand when I can. I have done things I would have never done before, such as volunteering in my community. I must say my life today is unbelievably better than it ever has been. So now I feel it's time to take a little bigger step out of the shadow. I'm proud of myself and where my life is today, and it's time for me to speak openly about that. I believe that communication is critical and being honest helps inform the public. I'm hopeful that in time the stigma surrounding addiction will slowly slip away. I feel the more open people are in talking about addiction; the more people will survive. I don't enjoy feeling ashamed when I say that I'm in recovery. Unfortunately, because of the view addiction has in our society, I sometimes do. The future can be different. The shame and embarrassment can be removed if we work toward it. I cannot change my past but, I can do my part of creating a better future, not just for myself, but for everyone.