My drug use started about 15 years ago. A lot of things in my life were coming to a climax—my marriage was falling apart, my wife at the time had just had a miscarriage, my mother had just passed away, and my brother died of cancer. At the time I loved the release that my drugs of choice—crystal meth, cocaine, and crack—gave me, but looking back I realize it was an easy way out.
In one day I used coke and crystal meth almost 24 hours straight and I knew something was wrong. I felt like I was having a heart attack; my body was essentially shutting down. I don’t know how I managed it, but I drove myself to my doctor who said I had to go to the hospital. When I was in the ambulance, my heart stopped for about 10 seconds, and I don’t remember what happened after that. I woke up in the emergency room and stayed in the hospital for almost two weeks. After the first four days there, I was put in the psych ward because I was suicidal. I had had it with life; I wanted to end it.
I was referred to Phoenix House for treatment. Before I went to Phoenix House, I had to call my employer and tell them what was going on, and I had to call my children and tell them who their father really was. It was devastating to them because they idolized me. My ex-wife didn’t want me to call them after that.
I was in treatment for close to a year and half. I received treatment at Phoenix House Keene Center and did an intensive outpatient program before entering residential treatment at Phoenix House Dublin Center. The programs saved my life. Alice, my counselor at Keene, brought down a brick wall that had been on my shoulders my whole life. I’m also grateful to Linda, my counselor at Dublin. Now, I’m less than a month away from being 18 months clean. I volunteer at the Dublin Center, and I have even been a temporary sponsor for a few people.
Getting out of rehab is not an easy transition. I recently became temporarily homeless, but I have a lot of good friends in the fellowship who have helped me. People in recovery have to be prepared for challenges like mine, but it’s not the end of the world because there are many avenues out there that you can take advantage of. You’re never alone. I’ve stayed clean all these months, despite these obstacles, because of all the techniques I learned at Phoenix House and because I am a survivor.
My faith also helped me get through. The priest from my church visited me while I was in Keene. Many people get involved with Narcotics Anonymous after completing programs, and the third step in the process is finding a higher power—for some people it’s not organized religion, but for me it was my church. A lot of people in recovery need to believe in that higher power, which may mean different things to different people, to take their minds off of drug addiction.
Rehab is a place where you learn to live again. I re-learned how to be good to people, how to be respectful, how not to lie to people. My advice to those struggling with addiction is never give up. Always fight. These programs work—they’ve worked for me, and that’s why I’m at 18 months of recovery. My proudest moment in my recovery was at the NA meeting when I was recognized for one year clean, and now I’m looking forward to getting my two-year medallion.