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Turning Struggles into Strengths

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Turning Struggles into Strengths

Turning Struggles into Strengths: My Fight Story of Battling Addiction and Finding Hope in Recovery

Hello. My name is Michael. I am a recovering addict. I am 52 years old. I started using drugs and alcohol at the age of 12. I had behavior problems and emotional problems before I started using drugs and alcohol. The drugs and alcohol made them worse. I am the problem. I have the disease of addiction. I was the third child out of 4 and I never really felt like I was good enough. I pissed the bed till I was about 13 and had all kinds of allergies as a child. I wasn’t real smart like my older sister, and I wasn’t real good in sports person like my older brother. My younger sister was the baby, her talent was music and art. She could do nothing wrong in my parents eyes.

It was like I naturally found my place by being in trouble all the time. I got attention that way. I played some sports because my father made me and it was expected of me by my father. He was a big jock growing up. I liked ice hockey the most because you were allowed to fight. There was a local lake that used to freeze over every winter where we played ice hockey. It was the parties there that I really liked. People were drinking alcohol and smoking weed all over every night. It was great. I found a place where I felt comfortable with these people. Soon I found these people and booze and drugs everywhere. In the county park right behind my house where we moved to when I was in 3rd grade I remember the guys coming home from the war in Vietnam smoking weed and shooting up drugs and drinking alcohol.

This park became a place where I did all kinds of drugs. At 13 we were drinking all kinds of alcohol and smoking weed. By 14 we were taking pills. By 15 speed pills and meth was always around. First we were snorting it then we were shooting it. All kinds of pills, uppers and downers were everywhere. Mixing it with coke every now and then. Smoking opium and hash all the time. I loved Quaaludes and drinking and smoking weed all together. Dropping acid started in 9th grade and went on to be a weekly thing for me for many years. There was a large of kids from 3 or 4 different high schools all doing this together. I stopped play all sports by the time I was 17 and being what we call a … “Head” … was the cool thing to be. We were full blown drug addicts by 18.

I had been in trouble with the law quite a few time by now and was about to get my first felony charge. I was expelled from school at the end of 7th grade and not allowed to go back for 8th grade. It was a small catholic school and I hated it. 8th and 9th grade at public school is when my drug and alcohol habits started to turn into addictions. I was expelled from 9th grade, but they graduated me to 10th grade. I went to a vocational technical high school where everyone was doing drugs and drinking … what we called partying. By 12th grade I was a junkie. Snorting and shooting up crank or meth, and other drugs, dropping acid and taking pills and smoking weed and other substances and drinking alcohol all the time. I was expelled from school and not allowed to graduate. I got into some serious trouble with the law. My lawyer made a plea with the court. My shop teacher made an agreement with the school administration. If I went into the military and graduated basic training they would give me my diploma. I did.

My drug and alcohol addiction just got worse. After 2 years in the service I was discharged. I don’t know how, but I got an honorable discharge and ended up in a local prison for something I did while I was out of my mind on alcohol and drugs one night. Another felony charge. I came home from Colorado where I was stationed in the Army and served time in prison. Back in Delaware my addiction in full swing I tried to find a job. I couldn’t keep a single one. My brother said I change jobs like most people change their underwear. I couldn’t keep an apartment. I moved from place to place. From state to state. I couldn’t keep a bank account. I couldn’t stay in a relationship. I got arrested for petty things and DUIs. I racked up 4 DUIs from 1986 to 1999.

I have always been what I call a smorgasbord drug addict. A garbage head. I would do any and all drugs. Then I found cocaine. I had used it a little early in my drug career, but now it became a monster, or demon in my life that I had to feed. Snorting at first then I started smoking coke. First what we called free-basing. Cooking the coke ourselves then came the CRACK explosion. Cocaine and alcohol was all I cared about. I would smoke Heroin to come down from my Cocaine binges sometimes. I smoked everything now. I didn’t like needles anymore. Smoking got me high quicker. This went on for many years. I tried to stop in 1986 when I was arrested for DUI, went to a few AA meetings. In 1990 I went to a drug and alcohol rehab for 28 days. In my mind I went there for my cocaine addiction. Stayed sober for 3 months and went back out. Got another DUI in 1992, went to an outpatient counseling center once a week for 2 months. I never told any of these people the truth about my addiction, never.

In 1996 I got another DUI and did a state mandated course for DUIs which was 8 weeks long twice a week. My cocaine addiction was through the roof at this point. I remember people I used to just drink with at bars used to make fun of people who used CRACK and call them CRACKHEADS. Meanwhile they all just snorted cocaine. My CRACKHEAD friends used to call me a … CRACKMONSTER ! In 1999 I got another DUI and a month later was arrested with crack cocaine and crack pipe. I sold everything I could and put the rest of stuff I owned in storage and ran away. December of 1999 another drug addict and I drove to the Florida Keys where I was homeless. I had my jeep and some clothes and about 2500 dollars. I wandered around down there drinking all the time but was able to stay away from drugs. Got a few jobs waiting tables and sleeping in a tent. I was completely lost.

I met a gal who owned a restaurant and she helped me after I got into an accident in my jeep there. She rented me a truck and I drove home to Delaware to turn myself in June 2000. I had a few warrants out for my arrest. My mother let me sleep in the basement and said no drinking. It wasn’t a few days till I was drinking and SMOKING CRACK AGAIN !! I think the first time I thought about killing myself I was 12 years old. Once I started using drugs and drinking alcohol, as long as I was high, I didn’t think about that. Off and on through the years it did knock on my door. The idea of Death that is. I love the song by Simon and Garfunkel … Hello Darkness My Old Friend … I’ve come to talk with you again … I\’m sure a lot of addicts can relate to it. Well on Feb. 11, 2001 I was arrested. I was put in prison and waited for a court hearing. I did not try to get out. I surrendered. I was willing take a good look at myself for the first time. I spent 2 months in prison and got out. Court put me on probation and gave me some fines. No treatment center, no rehab. no direction on what to do. I was lost. I was unemployable.

The night I was released from prison I walked to a pay phone and called my Mother and she said … Did you escape? … I said … No, they let me go. Can you please come and help me ! Pick me up and give me a place to stay. She did. It was March 31st, 2001. She brought me to an AA meeting the next day, Sunday morning April 1st, April Fools Day. I WILL NEVER FORGET THAT. I rode around on a public bus all day Monday thinking about how am I going to fix my life and stop my addictions? I remembered AA.

I had the bus driver drop me off at a local church where I knew an AA meeting would be that night. I sat and waited under a tree till they all started pulling in that night. I saw a man in a big green pickup truck park and go in last. I got up and followed him in. First I looked into the back of his truck to see if there was anything to steal, old habits sometimes die hard. I was scared. He became my sponsor in AA and I stayed sober for 12 years. I got a job and started working. I worked my program. The AA program. I went to meetings. I worked the steps of the program. I became a sponsor myself and helped other men get sober. My life got better. Much better. I still had challenges and everyday stuff to deal with though.

This is when I found out that I’m the problem.

It’s the way I was programmed to think. The way I programmed myself to think. All the years of being told I was no good. All the drama and trauma I had experienced in life. All the negativity. All the damage I had done to my mind through the years of drug and alcohol abuse !! At 10 years sober I stopped going to meetings and stopped talking to my sponsor and stopped sponsoring other men. I stopped praying for God’s help. Life became overwhelming again. I lost my job that I had for 10 years. The company closed down. My brother had a brain tumor and was not well. My father was suffering from chronic depression and was physically falling apart.

I lost my home in bankruptcy and foreclosure. I started drinking again. I know now that if I had stayed close to my AA program that I would not have relapsed. I found work again but had started drinking alcohol again. On June 12, 2015 I was charged with my 5th DUI. June 13th, 2015 is my new sobriety date. I have 274 days sober sitting here typing this today. I’m waiting on my trial which is March 31st, 2016. 15 years from the day I got out of prison. The state is trying to send me back to prison. I don’t know what’s going to happen on the day of trial but I am sober again. I am back in AA and have reconnected with all my friends there and am making new ones.

I am active in the AA community and fellowship. Tomorrow is another day to fight the fight. I will never give up !! I go to a Christian church now and love it. It adds another level to my sobriety. Something I didn’t have before. I accept whatever happens at trial. This is the short version of my story … lol, there are a lot of war stories that I’m leaving out, maybe someday I’ll write a complete history.

I’m sure anyone who reads this will get the idea though and if you have gotten this far, Thanks for taking the time to read my story. Michael P.S. It is not over yet !!

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