I’m from Maryland originally, and I grew up in Baltimore. My addiction was an ongoing battle; I started drinking alcohol when I was 15 and that progressed to cocaine, heroin, and pills. I come from a good church-going family, and when I got into drugs my parents just kind of had to let me go and find my own way. Sure, they were there for me, and they helped me if I needed clothing or something to eat, but they wouldn’t put any money in my pocket because they knew it would just go to drugs. Nobody in my family, on either side, had ever abused drugs or alcohol. I hear there’s a gene for addiction, but it must have missed a couple generations and just gone for me!
I first went to prison when I was 20. When I got out, I went to treatment, but then I relapsed and ended up back in prison. It kept going like that; I tried to get clean several times but just kept going in and out of prison for the various crimes I’d committed while high, or while trying to get high. But this last time, I wound up back in prison for two and a half years, and I was in there with nobody but lifers. I started to open up my eyes and think, “Is this what I want for the rest of my life?” So I decided to turn my life over to my higher power. I knew I had to get better. I won an appeal in court and got myself to Phoenix Houses of the Mid-Atlantic’s program in Maryland, called The Next Step.
Of course, I had already tried treatment maybe ten times, but it had never really sunk in before Phoenix House. The reason it finally worked was the program itself; those people were so caring that they made me start to care about myself. They taught me to think about the things I’d done and to accept responsibility, because acceptance is a big part of recovery. So the members of the staff and my counselor, they all helped me along with that process. I started to see a brighter picture of my life, and I realized that I had good qualities, and that good things could happen to me if I just straightened up. And I was right—good things happen to me every day now.
After I completed treatment, I acquired an apartment and a sponsor with whom I work daily. I have two and a half years clean, and I go to meetings five times a week. My mom and dad are still living, and we get in touch every week and catch up. It’s amazing how they never gave up on me throughout my addiction; they just kept me in their prayers and waited until those prayers were finally answered. Back when I was using, I thought I had so many friends, but they weren’t real; I have real friends now. I still stay in touch with the people from Phoenix House, because they helped me get where I am. A lot of the clients there look to me as a role model, and seeing how far I’ve come inspires them to do well in the program.
I have a volunteer job, doing work to help families in need. We’re getting ready to serve 700 families, giving them toys and clothes for the holidays. That’s the best part of my recovery: giving back. It’s a blessing every day just to help somebody like that, give them a kind word, and see the smile on their face when they walk out with a new coat or a pair of shoes. That’s what I look forward to—that and sharing my experiences, sharing hope. I try to give back what was given to me, and that all started at Phoenix House.
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