A Look into the Lives of Those Who Sought Drug Abuse Treatment
Behind substance use disorder is people – people with real stories of struggle and triumph.
Drug and alcohol addiction stories are usually shadowed by short, faceless segments on the news. But there’s a deeper, human element in each story that is too often untold.
These are their stories. Read about their journeys, and learn how drug abuse treatment has played different but essential roles in their lives.
“I was in active addiction since I was 13. I started doing heroin and continued using until I was 33.”
“In 2005, I was out getting high and fell 20 feet and broke my back and my wrist, but I stayed out. I was only 70 pounds at that point. My family had to prepare my funeral. I told my mom I was going to die from this disease, that it was my destiny.
“In addiction, you live in the past of what it was like when you were a kid, standing on the corner drinking 40s or hanging out in the bar. It’s the only disease that convinces you that you don’t have a disease. It’s cunning, baffling, and powerful.”
“I was hanging out in Kensington in the freezing cold, and I suddenly had a moment of sanity. It was like my head and my heart were both suddenly on the same exact page, and I thought, “What are you doing? This isn’t good.
“I had been to 11 rehabs before that day. But that time, I walked into the crisis center, and it was the first time I finally said, ‘I don’t have a home and I haven’t had one in four years. I’m dying and I need you to help me.’ And they did.
“I had a social worker who really fought for me. People would treat me badly. In their terms, I was just a junkie. But my social worker told me, ‘We’re going to fight really hard for you. I need you to fight hard for you.’ She sent me through detox. I started going to meetings and hanging out with girls who lived in the recovery house.”
“Thank God for my family. One of the things that breaks my heart is that I was not always there for my family as much as I feel I should have been. I was really being driven by addiction. They supported me through my entire journey.
“Now, I’m going to college to get my associate’s degree in social work. I don’t really know what else I would do if I didn’t work in the recovery field, my sponsee calls me every day at 4:30pm, and I have a group of women in recovery who I know are always going to love me, who will always be there for me.
“I would say to anyone who thinks they have a problem: There is hope. Don’t give up on it. You are loved. You are somebody.”
“There’s a couple different ways that obsession happens. Some obsessions are just unwanted, repetitive thoughts – they feel like a really intense craving. Then there’s the type that happens but doesn’t have that feeling behind it. It’s just a thought. For me, I could be driving down the road, completely sane, thinking, ‘Oh I’ll just stop for a couple beers.’ And it could end up ruining my life.”
Patrick’s road to recovery has been long and difficult, but in the end, rewarding. His substance use began when he was a teenager. And like many types of progress, his improvement did not always happen in a straight line.
“I got in a fight with a cop at 16 years old. My first rehab was at 17, got kicked out of it after 10 days, then back in there 3 months later. I had 6 or 7 months sober, maybe even a little bit longer. Then I went back out and drank.
“I got sober again when I was 24. During that period of time, I had 11 years’ sobriety. At 35, my wife and I went through a divorce – and a lot of stuff happened. I just drank. It would take me 10 years to get more than 30 days sober.”
“I was in and out of Alcoholics Anonymous, that was constant. I would go to meetings and nothing would happen, I would still want to drink. Really bad obsessions. That went on for about 10 years. I lost everything. I lost a really nice house, my car was reposed, and my 401k was gone.”
Even though Patrick had hit bottom after bottom, he was unable to stay sober. Eventually he decided to ask for help from his father, who had 28 years sobriety.
“I showed up at my dad’s house with two gym bags. I finally said, ‘This is it. I’m spiritually broken – I can’t do this anymore.’
“I was able to stay sober for 9 months – meetings every day, praying every day, really in the middle of the program. But the day came when I drank again’.
“I went into rehab for about 10 days, and I just kept thinking to myself, ‘I’ll do anything, please God, I do not want to drink ever again.’
“After rehab, I went to another meeting. A guy there recommended I go to someone’s house that was having a Big Book study. I went to the house, and he started talking, and everything he was talking about, I was like, that’s me – he knows what I’m going through. So, he started taking me through the Big Book and the steps, and I started to get freedom from stuff that was causing me to drink.”
“It was primarily my self-centeredness, my ego. And I don’t mean like egotistical. I mean selfishness, resentments, fear, the things that engulf people with drinking problems. The steps are designed to look at that from a different point of view. There’s got to be that internal surrender for sobriety to happen. It helps for you to be other-centered. Gets you out of yourself. It keeps you really connected to other people.”
“I’ve been going pretty regularly for the past year or two into jails to meet with people who have a drinking problem. Even though I was never in jail, I can relate to some of them who are near low-bottom with their drinking. When I talk, I describe my experience and what happened to me with my recovery. I say to them like I say to my sponsees, ‘We’re going to go through this book. Line by line. Page by page. And we’re going to have a load of work to do.’
“I get a lot of contentment from helping other people. Companionship. Because of that, I have freedom from my addiction.”
Patrick found freedom by surrendering, taking the steps through the Big Book, and clearing the path for his relationship with God. By doing so, he reclaimed a part of himself that was missing while he was drinking.
“It starts with surrendering. And the first thing in surrendering is asking somebody for help. Whatever that help is. And hopefully you get to a place that can offer the help you need. It’s worth it.”
“I wish I had some story to tell you about my horrible, abusive, and neglected childhood. But I don’t. I came from a normal family. We literally had a white picket fence.
“Growing up, I had a lot of insecurity. I fought with eating disorders. I couldn’t cope with looking in the mirror. When I was about 15, I started drinking. As soon as I drank, I became a different person. That, to me, was freedom – but it later became prison.
“It was my idea to bring drinking to my friends. We went to a competitive high school and most kids saw drinking as a social faux pas. When we started doing it, everyone else could pick it up and leave it alone until the next time. I couldn’t do that, which baffled me. Why could everyone else stop after the weekend and I was left obsessing about drinking all day every day?”
Jules’ alcohol use started affecting her everyday life. It hindered her from doing the things she loved, it certainly damaged the relationships she had with her loved ones.
“I just kept lowering and lowering my standards. When I went to college, it really took off. I joined a sorority, made friends with drug dealers. I was free to drink and use the way I wanted to. It made me feel powerful, like I was unstoppable. And then it stopped working. My alcoholism had progressed to the point in which I couldn’t get drunk anymore. The solution I had found to deal with life had failed me. I had a miscarriage; I was so out of touch I didn’t even know that I was pregnant. I felt alone, confused, and broken. My University asked me to leave and everything came to a halt. It was the catalyst that led me to surrender.
“I came home and I decided to find a therapist for treatment. I told her all of my problems and she said I was an alcoholic. ‘No.’ I said. ‘I have highlights and a French manicure, there’s no way I’m an alcoholic. Aren’t I schizophrenic or something?’ I didn’t know I had this body that worked against me. Once I started drinking, I couldn’t stop. If I did manage to stop, my mind told me that I could drink like normal people.
“My therapist introduced me to my first sponsor who sent me to my first 12 step meeting. I had every excuse not to go. But once I got there, I stayed. I reluctantly kept going. There was something about the people there that I couldn’t put my finger on that kept me going. I know now that it was the light inside of them – the sunlight of the spirit – that spoke to me.
“Getting sober at 21 wasn’t easy. All of my peers were still at college partying while I was embarking on a spiritual journey. It was the most difficult and most brave thing I have ever done.”
“The twelve steps are about spirituality. They’re not about sobriety. They’re about growing along spiritual lines, and sobriety is a by-product of that. Living by spiritual principles is not something that other 21-year-olds were doing. The recovery community was different then, too. There weren’t as many young people in recovery as there are today. I had to start my life from scratch. Everything that I believed in, everything that I was about, and my perception on life had to change.
“My recovery has been a journey. As a woman, part of my journey is about finding my voice and figuring out who I am. After nearly a decade of living in recovery, I can tell you that long-term sobriety is not for the faint of heart. A lot has happened in these nine and a half years. At three years of sobriety, I buried my best friend in the world. It broke my heart and healed me in innumerable ways at the same time. I sought spirituality and a connection with my higher power with a desperation that I never had before.
“The challenge for me now is not to fight urges to drink, but to stay passionate about recovery and excited about spirituality. Long-term sobriety is about constantly seeking – seeking to grow, seeking to help others, and seeking what my truth is and living it. It’s about self-reflection, remaining teachable, staying humble, and not compromising my morals regardless of the worldly consequences.”
Jules’ recovery has been as much about finding herself and living her truth but rather about reclaiming her life from alcoholism. Now with a new life, she has her confidence back.
“My sponsor told me a story once. She was getting her hair cut and this little girl next to her looked at herself in the mirror and said, ‘Oh my God! Look how cute I am!’ And I just thought to myself, that’s how I feel every single day. I’m finally comfortable in my own skin. I know and accept exactly who I am – flaws and all.”