Some of the most amazing people in the world have suffered from this disease, came out the other side, and have gone on to do amazing things with their lives. I am proof that we can change.

My name is Travis Curley, and I am a person in recovery.  I am 29 years old.  I have been in recovery for sixteen months, and god willing, I have a lifetime of sobriety ahead of me.  I have to admit that when I heard about this project I got pretty amped up.  My goal here is not to try and sell or promote recovery, some of it may not even pertain to the current addict/alcoholic.  Of course, it would be wonderful if someone who’s still sick and suffering hears my message and sees that there is a way out, but this is also for the rest of the world.  To the world of “normal” people who are uneducated about addiction.  These are the people who have only heard the horror stories of addicts condemned to a lifetime of use, abuse, criminal activity, disease, and all the other stigmas that come along with the alcoholic/addict.  This writing submission is to prove we do recover.  This is my story!

I don’t have a crazy story about my childhood or a bunch of horrible things that happened to me when I was young.  To be honest, I absolutely loved my childhood.  My mother and I lived with my grandparents till about the age of four.  I didn’t know my biological father, but that never bothered me at all.  My mother gave me more love than any two parents ever could.  My grandparents gave me more love than any kid needs.  I had everything I needed and most of what I wanted.  Life was good, really good.  When I was about four years old my mother met who is now my father.  A personal hero of mine, he raised me as his own and continues to be the best father a kid could ask for to this day.

If you would have looked at me throughout my school years I doubt the words addict or alcoholic would of ever came to mind.  I got great grades in school without ever having to try overly hard.  I Loved playing sports, I was a varsity Letterman in football my freshman year.  Sure, there where the crazy weekends getting hammered with friends, but I don’t think I would of called it out of the ordinary, it’s just what we did.  We certainly weren’t trying to hurt anyone.  Just blow off some steam and have some fun like most high school kids do.

I guess my journey really begins when I was 14.  I broke my hip and tore some nerves in my leg.  I wish I could say I had a cool story for it, like I was hit by a truck while saving a baby or crashed jumping a dirt bike 80 feet, but that’s not the case.  I pretty much just fell in a hole.  This is when I got my first taste of painkillers, and my love affair with opiates began.  I got relief that I’ve never felt before and the allergy of addiction was triggered.  However, it wouldn’t be until I was about 17 or 18 that I really started abusing painkillers.

I don’t want to talk much about my history of using, that’s not the point if this.  However, I feel some of the story is necessary for you to understand where I was and what I went through, compared to where I am now and the man I am today.

It seems like overnight my “casual” use of painkillers turned on me.  Before I knew it I was a full-fledged addict.  I needed it.  I craved it.  I obsessed over it all day every day.  I was absolutely willing to go to any lengths for the next high.  When the pills weren’t cutting it anymore, it was on to more serious drugs.  From the first use I was in love.  I was numb.  I was its slave for about the next decade.  I did whatever was necessary for the next one, the next hit, the next drink or the next high.

I could compare myself to a tornado ripping through the lives of my family, friends and loved ones.

I could compare myself to a tornado ripping through the lives of my family, friends, and loved ones.  I had zero remorse for my actions and ended up hurting the ones that loved me most.  All of my “I’ll never due that” quickly became “I have.”  I’ve done terrible, unforgivable things to everyone I came in contact with.  Some of those things were robbing, stealing, forging, manipulating, violence, committing crimes, and the rest of the actions that come with addiction.  I’m not saying that the stigma I obtained was wrongly placed.  After a decade or so of alcohol and drug abuse you tend to get a reputation, and not a good one.  People don’t want to be seen with you.  They are cautious when in your presence.  I became deemed unemployable and for good reason.  I probably robbed every one of my employers one way or another while I was in active addiction.  Friends turned their back on me, girls wouldn’t give me the time of day, and family had just about given up all hope.

For many addicts and alcoholics this is where the story ends for them.  They just can’t seem to get it.  They beat they’re head against this same wall always leading to the same three ends.  Which are jails, institutions, or death.  I’m batting two out of three on that list, and was well on my way to three out of three until something changed.  I don’t know the how or why, I can’t even tell you it was my doing.  I didn’t get sober on my own will.  I didn’t stop using drugs on my own will.  Left to my own devices I would have just kept killing myself and destroying everyone around me.  Something did for me the one thing I could never do for myself.  Something told me enough is enough and gave me the strength and courage to ask for help.  You can call it Divine intervention, you can call it higher power, you can call it any damn thing you’d like.  I’m just going to call it GOD.

The day I asked for help, all the family members that I have robbed, cheated and hurt so many times, stood there at attention with open arms willing to offer whatever help they could give.  That in itself is a miracle to me, and still hard for me to believe.  How could these people that I have walked all over for so long still have hope for someone like me?  How could they spend even another second of their lives on me?  Again, that’s not a question I have an answer to.  All I know is I never understood exactly what true unconditional love was until I got sober and saw who was still there with me.

The day I asked for help, all the family members that I have robbed, cheated and hurt so many times, stood there at attention with open arms willing to offer whatever help they could give.

When I finally admitted defeat and asked for help, it was my aunt’s ears it fell on.  That day she practically took me hostage and was by my side every minute of the day making phone calls to detoxes and rehabs with me.  Now, having no insurance and no money doesn’t make it easy to get into those kinds of places, but due to the effort and persistence of my aunt (and the great state of New Jersey) I was able to get county funding for a detox.

This is where my recovery journey began.  This is where I began to find out things about myself.  What I was.  Who I was, but more importantly who I wanted to be and what I wanted to become.

I was nervous about going to rehab after detox.  Not so much for the experience, but because I knew that the word would get around that I was in rehab.  Maybe people who didn’t know I was an addict would hear I was in rehab and think less of me.  That’s the delusion I lived in.  I honestly thought that people didn’t know I was an addict, and they would hear about me going to rehab and have a negative opinion of me.  As if I didn’t spend my entire adult life giving people reasons to form these opinions.  Haha, it still makes me laugh to look back and see how twisted my thinking was.  I still remember pulling up to the rehab I went to after completing detox.  I was scared out of my mind.  I thought everyone was looking at me, judging me, and these were fellow addicts.  That’s the type of egotistical bastard I was.  All these people were going through their own struggles and battling this disease.  Yet, I still believed they were all laughing at me, talking about me, whatever it was, it was about me.  I quickly learned this was not true, and actually felt very welcomed and embraced as a result.

Rehab is where I was introduced to the methods of recovery.  It’s where I was introduced to what came to be my solution.  I met some amazing people.  Some still in my life today, some haven’t done so well, and a lot have died since then.  However, there were a few people in particular that just had something about them.  Maybe it was a glow or just an extreme love for life.  I’m not sure, but I can tell you this much.  I wanted what they had.  I honestly believed that they once were where I was, and they have recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body.  They were doing great things with their lives not only in recovery, but in society.  It was then that I realized I had a bigger purpose.

Once out of rehab I jumped into recovery head first.  I heard a lot of do’s and don’ts per say at meetings I attended.  I listened when people spoke about obtaining years of sobriety only to go back out again.  I tried to pick up the consistencies in their stories and learn what not to do.  This is my first go round at recovery.  I thank God that relapse is not part of my story.  Whenever I speak I make sure to mention that relapse is not a requirement for recovery.  I took suggestions and tried to live by spiritual principles.  Early on, just waking up and trying to do the next right thing opened my eyes to a life beyond my wildest dreams.  There was a time in my life when that sentence would have meant money, power, cars, women, and all of the other falsities that came with my egotistical illusions.  I am grateful now to know the true meaning of “a life beyond my wildest dreams.”

These days I’m able to show up for family.  I’m able to be the son, brother, grandson, nephew, uncle that I was never capable of being before.  It’s still surreal to me when my family calls me to talk about they’re problems or ask for help, or when people ask me for advice.  I make sure I spend time with my grandparents, or build motorcycles with my father.  I take my mother out to eat, and call my brother.  I hang out with my sister and nephew.  My little sister is probably my favorite person in the world.  There were quite a few years that she straight up disowned me.  Wouldn’t even admit she had a brother.  To be able to make amends to people like her in my life, and grow to have stronger relationships than we ever had, is probably my single greatest gift of recovery.  These are all relationships that absolutely fell by the way side while I was still active.  Today, I do my best to show up for all of them and try and do the next right thing.  For a long time, I was just a junkie with nothing to offer.  That has changed.  I give everything I have to anyone in need.  I’m not saying I don’t fall short because I do often.  My ego, pride, and self-will still get the best of me sometimes.  However, today I’m able to recognize when these things crop up and do my best to fix it.  I’m a trusted employee.  I show up for my company to the best of my ability and they know if there’s something that needs to be done.  They can always count on me.  I’m able to help friends, or sometimes even complete strangers for that matter, just because I know it’s the right thing to do.  I do this without any hidden agenda or self-seeking motives.  I spent my entire life, only willing to do for others if it somehow benefited me.  There always had to be a means to an end.  Of course I never realized it then, but looking back now it's absolutely been the case.  Not so anymore.

I think one of the biggest misconceptions about addiction is once you’re an addict, whether you’re recovered or not, you’re condemned to a “second class” living.  I know for a while, I believed that I didn’t deserve much.  I got a second chance at life, and I should just be happy that I got that much.  I think most people believe, even though I am sober now I will never amount to much.  Yes, I am beyond grateful for my second chance at life.  However, why does that mean I have to settle for anything?  I do not accept that!  There’s no reason I can’t have a great job or a great family.  Do amazing things.  I’m not okay with just settling.  Yes, I try and live by spiritual principles, but I do that in conjunction with trying to provide myself a fulfilling life.

It’s not until we speak can our voices be heard and a new light shed.

I get to wake up everyday blocks away from the ocean.  I can surf everyday if I’d like to.  I can spend quality time with my father building choppers.  I can go skydiving with my mother.  I can sing in a band.  I can hit the beach, and go to bike shows with my sister and nephew.  These are all things I’ve learned I love to do since getting sober.  I would have to say that’s one of the biggest gifts recovery has offered me.  Finding out who I truly am, what I truly love and enjoy.  Until I know myself, how can I honestly have anything to offer anyone else?  Recovery has afforded me the opportunity to find myself and be able to give all of myself to others whether it’s with family, friends, or with love.

I truly believe the “I Am Not Anonymous” movement can be beneficial for everyone inside and out of recovery.  Hopefully, other people struggling with this disease can hear a message of hope.  Can you identify with the feelings, and fears that I once had too?  Can you see that there is a way out?  We are not condemned to a life of misery.  I hope this message also reaches the public.  The “normal” people who do not suffer from this disease.  The people that have prejudices towards us with addiction because of horror stories they have heard.  This is to show we do recover.  Some of the most amazing people in the world have suffered from this disease, came out the other side, and have gone on to do amazing things with their lives.  I am proof that we can change.  I believe, it’s not until people hear our stories will this stigma be broken.  It’s not until we speak can our voices be heard and a new light shed.  I am here to speak.  To put a face and voice to this movement, and tell you there are thousands of people just like me.  These are amazing people doing amazing things.  Many are probably in your life, and you don’t even know it because we are so used to keeping our identities in the shadows.  I hope this sparks a thought in people’s minds.  A spark that says maybe this stigma could or should be broken.  A spark that says maybe people should form their own opinions instead of just going with the general consensus.  I can only hope that there are more sparks like myself out there, and eventually the stigma of addiction will ignite and be burned to the ground.  With it, a new conception of our kind will rise and take its place, a positive honest conception.  I am Travis Curley and I refuse to be anonymous!