My drug addiction started with a broken heart. I had dabbled in drugs before; growing up, I’d smoke a little weed and drink a little liquor. By the time I was 23, I started sniffing and selling cocaine. But I didn’t become an addict until I went through a bad breakup at the age of 27. I felt devastated and I couldn’t get high off the coke, so I took to crack. Eventually, I started smoking it daily.
After about a year, I went from 185 pounds to 105 pounds. I was evicted from my apartment and lost custody of my daughter. That was the worst moment of my addiction, but I didn’t realize I’d hit my bottom. I started selling drugs on the streets of Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
At some point, I just got tired of that lifestyle. So, in 2006, just before Christmas, I went to detox in Manhattan. I was there for five days; they referred me to outpatient treatment, but I never even made it to the program. I went straight back to the streets. About a week later, I came back and I was referred to a higher level of care. That’s when I began residential treatment at the Phoenix House Career Academy.
Recovery didn’t stick the first time I went to Phoenix House. After about four months, in April of 2007, I relapsed and walked out of the program. By the time I got to the corner, I was like, “I really shouldn’t do this,” but I kept going anyway. Your pride does that to you. But when I got to my enabler’s house, I called the facility and tried to get back in the program.
On May 12, Mother’s Day came, which was also my birthday. The next day, I got a call from Phoenix House saying they had one bed available at the Prospect Place Community Residence. I told them it was mine. This time, I was determined to get it right. Less than two months later, I became the House Coordinator. I bonded with my peers and we started going to N.A. meetings together. The counselors and staff were supportive and down-to-earth. While I was using, I had a very manipulative cycle; I once had a girlfriend tell me I could talk the devil into buying a gallon of gasoline and a book of matches. But at Phoenix House, I finally had people who stayed on my behind and wouldn’t let me manipulate my way out of every situation. I completed treatment on May 13, 2008 and I’ve never looked back.
Shortly after that, I got my CASAC certification and became an addiction counselor. I had spent my career in construction, working in the New York City Parks Department. But I wanted to do something to pay it forward. I started working for several programs, including OASAS’s largest program in the state. Today, my greatest reward is seeing my clients successfully complete treatment and move on with their lives.
I am also grateful to have a wonderful support system. I’ve kept in touch with my peers from Phoenix House; I still talk to a couple friends every day. My mother is also a great source of support. For years, she was in denial about my drug use, but once I admitted I needed help, she was completely on board. I’ll never forget when she brought me a full-course meal on Thanksgiving while I was in treatment; she did the same thing on Christmas. In addition, I’ve reunited with my daughter, who is now 32. Our relationship is better than ever.
Today, I have six years clean. I don’t look at it like I should be congratulated. Recovery is just about me doing what I’m supposed to do. All the negative behavior addiction involves—lying, cheating, conniving—it wasn’t for me. Life is too short to be messing around.
Find out more about the programs and services offered at Phoenix Houses of New York, or call our toll-free number today: 1-800-378-4435.