My name is Randy and I am a person in recovery. What that means to me is that I have a life, and people who support me as I live without having to use substances. I can plan, I have goals and dreams, I work hard and get to see many of my dreams come true. Before recovery it was the exact opposite. I couldn’t plan, I couldn’t hold a job, I couldn’t complete my education, I couldn’t do anything except for relapse. I didn’t want to use substances but I didn’t have any way to stop.
My story started out just like many others around me. My friends and I would have a few drinks when we could sneak some liquor from one of our parent’s. In early adolescence, when I was trying to figure out things like how to kiss girls, drinking made me feel more comfortable. It became apparent that drinking or using something was a priority for me especially when socializing.
During that same period in my life, in what seemed like a blink of the eye, things quickly went wrong. My father lost his job, there were serious financial issues, we lost our home and my parents split up. Just to add more chaos, my aunt, who was dealing with a mysterious illness, was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS from injection drug use.
I was already using substances to find comfort and feel like I fit in. I am sure there was a way to cope with all of the things happening around me but when I was faced with increased family instability and uncertainty, my reaction was to use more. I found myself around adults, who knew how to sell drugs so they could continue their habit. I quickly picked up on the technique and found a way to perpetuate myself to continual use. In all the chaos of my family life, this actually seemed like a way to gain independence. I could provide myself with the means to escape whenever I wanted and for however long I needed. Looking back at it, I was only entrenching dependence and vulnerability that would stay with me throughout my life.
I made many attempts at recovery but they all failed miserably. I had periods of abstinence and made progress in my life but I always carried the hindrance of substance use with me. Ultimately, I reached a point where I became completely non-functional. It was in this state of misery that I was told I’m going to be a father. “Poor kid” I thought to myself, to be born with a father like me. While I had resigned myself to my condition, I was going to try one last time to straighten out… I wanted to be a father to the little girl that was on her way.
There were long lines for treatment. They told me to call every couple of days to try and get into rehab. I would relapse and lose my place on the waiting list. Finally, a clinician told me I should go to the emergency room and say I was suicidal to get placed immediately. It sounded insane to think that anyone would have to do that to get treatment. Another relapse and I took the suggestion. I admitted myself to the ER as suicidal (even though I wasn’t) and I was placed in a drug rehab.
In drug rehab I felt like every moment of my life was controlled and scrutinized. It seemed like everyone was put on medication and I know I was given medications that I didn’t need or want – when they caused anxiety and despair as bad as the drugs I was trying to get off of, I left. I would go to four rehabs in total with similar experiences in addition to half a dozen outpatient programs.
I finally found a simple group that met once a week. I felt like I could actually breathe there. I could talk about the stuff going on in my life and get support and insight from people who wanted to help me and had gone through the same thing. I gained some traction. I was present in my daughter’s life. I completed my college degree and I even started a career of my own choosing.
My life started to come together and my daughter, who I had seen so seldom, was now coming to live with me. I went from being an estranged father to being a full-time dad and a pretty good one at that. I had a lot to be grateful for and I didn’t want to jeopardize it.
Recovery gave me the ability to deal with issues that I had never been able to face but had affected me profoundly. Early childhood sexual experiences, which were emotionally painful to recount, were finally processed enabling me to accept and heal. Acceptance allowed me to cope and gain self-confidence enough to understand that I don’t have to live with feelings of worthlessness and fear which had contributed to so many of my poor decisions.
Today, I am able to enjoy the many beautiful things in my life. I would not want anyone to go through my experiences but I am glad that I have them as they have made me into the person I am today. As it turns out, that little girl has a good life filled with healthy experiences and people who lover her including her dad…and you know what, so do I.