I'll start off with saying that I don't normally talk about this part of my life. I am not ashamed of it, but I have found that when you tell people you are a recovering drug addict a snap judgement is made. I can't say I blame those people, but in any case it's easier to just avoid the conversation all together unless it is relevant.
That being said, Michelle shared a dark chapter of her life not so long ago in hopes of helping people that might be going through a similar situation and after seeing the overwhelming positive response the post had, I thought sharing my dark chapter might also be helpful to some people.
I'll spare you the gruesome details, but at the age of 14 I was arrested on my high school campus for possession of narcotics for sale. I had a pretty hefty addiction to heroin and crystal meth and I had a stiff liking for just about any pills I could get my hands on. I had been using very heavily for about 3 years. Now I'm sure a lot of you are thinking how could you be a drug addict at such a young age? Well, let's talk about it.
Addiction is a disease. You are born with it, or you are not. An alarming amount of people suffer from it, even if they don't even know it. That doesn't necessarily mean they are drug addicts, it just means that they have become powerless over an addiction and their lives have become unmanageable because of it. It could be anything - shopping, sex, video games, food, etc. or in my case - drugs. Drug abuse just happens to be the most widely destructive because it is mind altering, in most cases illegal, and a lot of the time your body can become physically dependent on it.
Now, in my case, my addiction caused me to do a lot of things I'm not proud of. I lied, I cheated, I stole, I hurt people, just like any respectable drug addict would. But at that age and especially with that kind of addiction, I didn't care. I just wanted to be numb. I hated everyone and I just wanted to be left alone. I wanted to escape from what I thought was a living hell. Which is funny now that I look back on it. I didn't have a bad childhood. I grew up in a loving middle class suburban family. I had plenty of friends. I played sports and was good at them. But for whatever reason I wanted to escape that. I started hanging out with gangs, selling drugs, fighting a lot, all with little regard for the potentially life ending - or at least life ruining consequences. All things considered I was very lucky to have been caught when I was, although at the time I felt very differently.
I was obviously expelled from my school and spent quite a bit of time in rehab and began my journey of recovery. Of course, as a young rebellious 14 year old kid I had no plans of staying sober. I continued to sell drugs, fight, roll with gangs, and was arrested more times in my early years of sobriety then I was when I was using. I figured I would stay sober until I was 18 when my father would no longer have any legal influence on my life.
But as time passed, I realized what a mess my life was. I mean, what 14 year old is detoxing from amphetamines and opiates at the same time in the substance abuse rehabilitation wing of a hospital? As I reluctantly began to work my way through the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous I realized that I had created quite a bit of wreckage even though I had little to show for it. I remember being in and out of court for the first year or two dealing with my felony charges and wondering if that was what my life was going to be like from then on. It was daunting. I had to learn how to live again. I had to learn how to feel things and deal with pain and depression without the help of narcotics. I had to feel all the feels and get through it. Sounds easy, but to a 14 year old who spent most of his puberty on drugs, it wasn't.
Early on in the program, I was told I would never be able to use drugs or drink alcohol ever again for the rest of my life, and if I did, I would surely end up in jail, rehab, or the morgue. I was told that I would never fully recover from drug addiction and that this nightmare of a disease would be with me for the rest of my life doing pushups in the back of my mind. And if I didn't do everything I could to fight back, it would undoubtedly destroy me. Some strong things for a 14 year old to hear. Especially because all I wanted to do was get high and all these crocks with their sobriety chips and 'higher powers' were bonkers anyways. It wasn't until I started to hang out with older people that had what I wanted that I started to realize how much of a piece of shit I truly was and that a change really did need to be made. Not only did I need to not use drugs ever again, I needed to repair the wreckage I had caused, and spend the rest of my life repaying my debt to society and working relentlessly to be the best person I could be. Again, a tall order for a 14 year old to swallow. Forever is a long time.
You see - by nature addicts are selfish. They are masters of manipulation. They are self destructive. And our disease will convince us to do just about anything to get what it wants.
So for the next 4 or 5 years I spent every day chipping away at my darkness. Letting a little bit of light in one day at a time. Making amends to those I had wronged. Being selfless wherever I could. Graduating high school ON TIME by some miracle. And I eventually got to the point where I could live a somewhat normal life and not every day was spent fighting a darkness that never seemed to go away. I stayed busy. Got passionate about other things or 'switched one addiction for another'. Occupied my mind and my hands any productive way I could. Because I knew that if I didn't, very very bad things would happen.
I still struggle every day. I still crave every day. I still fight every day. I still struggle with depression and social anxiety. Even though it has gotten a lot easier over the last 12 years, the darkness still haunts me every day. But it doesn't control me. I combat it by being selfless. Going out of my way to do nice things for people that may or may not deserve it. Working hard and trying to be the best at everything I do even though my cynical mind knows I am far from the best at anything I do and I never will be. I surround myself with good people that will push me to be better and rid my life of the poisonous ones. I don't sit in self pity. I don't feel sorry for myself. I take responsibility for my life. No one else can control me. No one else can hurt me if I don't let them. I have gone through just about everything life can throw at a young middle class Californian and more all in sobriety. And I'm still here. I'm not in jail or rehab. And I'm not dead. In fact, I am in a place in my life that I never thought I would be in. Now my biggest problem is that it's hard for me to stop working long enough to enjoy my accomplishments. It's also incredibly difficult for me to accept compliments and praise. But thats a whole nother battle.
I will end with this by saying I do not regret my life's path. And I again am not ashamed to call myself an addict. It forced me to grow up a lot faster than most people, and because of that I like to think I got a head start on life. There are people from my high school that are still wasting their days partying and getting loaded and that is their choice. But I choose to be happy. I choose to work hard and feel accomplished. I choose to build a life I can be proud of. And I choose work to be a better person. I get to remember every great moment of my life. I get to enjoy the little things. I get to be happy. I get to be free. And that is a better high than any drug can give me.