National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month (Recovery Month)
The 2009 theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Learn, Together We Heal,”
“The Recovery Month observance highlights the societal benefits of substance abuse treatment, lauds the contributions of treatment providers and promotes the message that recovery from substance abuse in all its forms is possible. The observance also encourages citizens to take action to help expand and improve the availability of effective substance abuse treatment for those in need. Each year a new theme, or emphasis, is selected for the observance.” RecoveryMonth.gov
I figured what better way to kick off Recovery Month and the return of the Work-in posts than by sharing my story of recovery.
My Past Life
Part 1 of 2
I began drinking at an early age at family parties. The adults would give the kids a sip of their drinks thinking it cute to see us act like a drunken fools. They would laugh about it without thinking about the consequences it might have on a child. By the time I was seven or eight years old I had been drinking regularly and started smoking marijuana. My family lived on top of a halfway house, today known as re-entry programs, where convicts released from prison would live out their parole. My sister and I would run errands for them and they’d pay us with joints. I began going to house parties where kids would steal liquor from their parents and hang out getting plastered all day while the parents where at work.
In eighth grade, we moved next door to a liquor store. I became friends with the owner and he gave me a job as stock boy. I would steal little bottles of Bacardi; Puerto Rican Rum (dark). So in school I was the shit- because I would always come to school with alcohol. I smoked cocaine with my grandfather for the first time at the age of thirteen, but hated it. In high school my using began to escalate. My mom was a single parent with four kids of her own —and a foster parent. At one point, we had 13 people living in a three-bedroom apartment and my mother couldn’t support us all. At fourteen years old I joined a gang so that I would be able to sell drugs to support my habit and gave any left over money to my mom.
I was kicked out of my high school half way through my freshman year and sent to an alternative high school for the “bad” kids. That’s when I got into PCP, (Phencyclidine is classified as a hallucinogen and has many of the same effects as LSD, but can be much more dangerous.) I loved the hallucination and the feeling of being in my own not-so-little world. It started off as just curiosity but then I just enjoyed the high way too much. I start selling “happy sticks” so I could smoke my PCP everyday. Along with all the other drugs I used.
I want to add that during all this drug use I was also, as every other queer kid growing up, struggling with my sexuality. Dating girls and having sex with boys. At sixteen I thought I came to terms with my bisexuality. I loved having sex with both women and men, and I still do, but of course I couldn’t let my family or friends know this. But this is a whole other story. I’ll get back to it later.
In my senior year, I stopped using drugs (but I still drank) because I wanted to join the military. I even made the honor roll, which totally blew me away. The alternative school was a blessing; Chicago needs more of them. After graduation, I joined the Army Reserves and served six years (1989-1995). My time in basic training in the Army was the best time of my life. This was the first time in my life that I knew what it felt like to truly believe in myself. I was pushed to my limits and beyond; and I succeeded.
During that time I married a woman, knowing that I shouldn’t have. After three years, we knew it wasn’t working and we divorced in 1993. I started exploring my sexuality more and I went to places like Berlin. I started dating this bisexual woman, Heather, who helped me tap into my bisexual side. I moved to Boystown, Chicago’s Gayborhood, and that’s when my drug use started again. When I first started going around the bars and meeting new people, the first things I learned were where the best places to party were, the best places for sex, and where the drugs were.
Drugs were everywhere. Of course, I saw the opportunity to make money, and get high while doing it. Within three months I was selling ounces of cocaine every other day. I was making good money, but I was spending it just as quick as I made it on buying more drugs, and crap I didn’t need, but just wanted. It was easy money; easy come easy go.
I was free. I was out there with gay men, doing what I thought were normal things. I was sitting on top of the world. Then that “one night” came. I did meth at an after-hours party for the first time. For me, crystal meth was a taboo drug, like heroin. There was a tray being passed around. I was told that it was cocaine. I took a bump of it and it burned like hell. I knew that it wasn’t coke and one of my friends told me that it was meth. I was so pissed at first, but felt so good after a while. I was sold.
A couple weeks later I met this guy who was a hardcore meth user. His excuse for taking meth was that it calmed down the side effects of his HIV medications. I didn’t believe him, but he was cute, so I didn’t care. So I ended up selling more drugs to support both our meth habits. But it got to the point that, for months, I didn’t know what it was like to be sober or without any chemicals in my system. Of course the relationship with him didn’t last, but my relationship with meth kept going strong. I was living with a friend and doing more drugs than I was selling. I became my best customer. I was paranoid most the time; I always thought that someone was watching me or was after my drugs. I wouldn’t even trust my clients. I couldn’t even have sex any more, I would rather get high. That was a scary way to live, but I couldn’t escape it. The drugs were controlling me now.
In the last month of my past life, I couldn’t even breathe out of my nose. I would take a bump and it would fall right back out. When I started hallucinating that my mom was dead and her spirit was talking to me, that’s when the reality set in that I was fucked up. But I still couldn’t stop using. I would spend my nights crying and praying for someone to help me stop.
Then came the last day, I was making a sale with a former client. I woke up that morning with the feeling that today was the day I was going to get arrested. Was it just my paranoia, or was the universe telling me something? Was it was my greed and addiction, or my wanting to stop using that made me go to a drop off spot? I drove over to a Lakeview restaurant, made the transaction without any problems, figured it was just my paranoia, and left. As soon as I got into my car, it was like the whole police district just walked over to get me. I had this look on my face like, “Thank God it’s over.” It was like a higher power said, “You’re not stopping on your own? I’ll fix that.”
This was beginning of the end of my past life.