I went without work for a long time due to a major spinal surgery, and was using heavily throughout that time, even up to five hours before I went into surgery.
Nine months later, I was lucky enough to have two friends who needed help and hired me into their restaurant. I went into this job telling them that I didn’t want anything to do with the cash flow, because I knew I was going to actively steal money from them. This didn’t matter anyway, because two weeks later I was already stealing as much as I could. Even on camera, I was actively stealing from servers’ purses and the safe. I had gotten to the point where I was convincing myself that I’d get away with it, but blatantly stealing anyway. They finally sat me down to talk and see what was wrong with me, and for the first time in my life since I was 13 to then, age 39, I decided to tell someone my secret.
“I’m not on pills, I am a heroin addict. That’s why I’ve been stealing from you. I’m a junkie. I’m scared, and I don’t know what to do.”
Within an hour, I told each member of my family with a phone call saying, “Mom [Dad][Brother][Sister], I just got fired from my job. I am a heroin addict.” And they would immediately hang up.
I turned my phone off, threw it down, and began crying. I remember driving back and forth down Eastern Ave. along the river thinking, “If I just took a hard left and crashed in the river, all my problems would be solved.”
I remember sitting through my first NA meeting, hearing someone talk, and realizing I wasn’t alone. Someone else had the same exact story as mine. From then on, I found that through coming to CAT, getting clean and listening, I had finally found my people. These are the people I needed to surround my life with. There’s nothing that these people would say that I couldn’t relate with. For the first time I felt welcomed and loved by people who accepted me for who I am, an addict who royally screwed up his life. I surrendered everything in my life: my job and my friends and I withdrew myself from society.
To see other people’s lives change is gratifying and makes life worth living. To be able to speak my story in front of people all over is unbelievable. I own a car now, which is unbelievable, because back then, I would have sold it in an instant. Now I pay money for guitar lessons. It’s one of the things that gives me something to live for.
Today I go to five or six meetings a week. I was asked to come to CAT to tell my story. I am now the director of a sober living household. I do peer mentoring, work a program in NA, and I sponsor my own group. Recovery is my #1 priority in life. It comes above all else. If I don’t put recovery in front, everything that I have achieved will have been for nothing. Whenever I get a call from CAT, I never hesitate to pick the phone up.
Just don’t give up. I know what it’s like feeling like there’s nothing out there for you. There is. Your legacy doesn’t have to be that you were a junkie, addict or alcoholic. Your legacy can be that you were able to overcome your struggles, and that you are now a role model for others. Anybody can achieve that.