One of my early memories was of my father, a Sergeant Major of the First Marine Division, having to physically wrestle my oldest brother to the ground while he was high and out of control on drugs.
This was back in the 60’s. A couple decades later, my brother would be found in an alley, dead with a needle in his arm. Another older brother of mine took his own life, also fueled by drug abuse, when he was only eighteen. My parents were loving and ran a tight ship, but the disease of addiction was no match for their love and care of their eight children; we all would come to learn that it ran thick through our family bloodstream. I could never have possibly been imagined the depths that this disease took me.
In my 20’s I was sent to rehab. I cleaned up, found a job as a front desk clerk at a hotel and fell in love. In 1992, my beautiful boy Jacob was born and my wife and I couldn’t have been happier. I had received a major promotion at work, moved up to Tahoe and began my new life. All my energy was focused on my new life, my beautiful wife and my child. Then recovery seemed to slip away. I began to drink again and it worked for me. I wasn’t using the hard drugs that I had played with back in my 20’s. So to me, the thought of being an addict never even crossed my mind. In fact, over the next ten years, I was promoted to one of the highest positions in the company I worked for and won coveted awards at our industry conferences. During this time my daughter was born and we moved back to San Diego and bought a beautiful house. I had the dream life – great job, nice car, loving wife and kids, and then I had surgery. I found prescription drugs.
Over the next five years, unmanageability began to creep in as getting and using drugs became an integral part of my daily life. When I took a “vacation” from work, it was to enter rehab. I would get out and bounce back for a while, but refused to attend meetings or work any sort of program. I didn’t think I was “like those people”. The scale of unmanageability finally made the drastic tip, never to recover, the day my wife left me. The shock and pain of that event was too much for me to handle and my downward spiral really began as I could not see my part, I could not find the courage to take responsibility.
I began seeking out anything and everything that would cover up the pain and fear I was experiencing. I searched for solace in an array of different drugs. I began using hard drugs, I resigned from my job, my car was repossessed, my house was foreclosed on, my daughter was taken away from me and I had become homeless in a mere matter of months. Worst of all, my teenage son was my partner in crime. Never in my life did I think I would use with my own child. I couldn’t get clean because the depths I had fallen too were too traumatic to face sober. But God had other plans. About a year into a life of crime, jail, drug raids and racking up a felony record, my heart started to fail. I was 13 when my brother took his life.
Watching the pain my mother experienced, I vowed I would never do anything to hurt her like that. But as I lay in the hospital bed, listening to the doctor tell me that I had developed congestive heart failure, I felt a new low that I had never experienced. Suicide looked like the only possible solution to my dilemma.
Luckily, I slept on that thought. Then I slept another night on that thought. And as I saw slight improvement in the hospital and was finally off hard drugs, I began to feel better inside. Somewhere in my soul I started to believe things could get better. And they did.
Thanks to the love and support of my older sister who had multiple years in AA and Al-anon, I began to attend meetings. My sobriety date is May 16, 2013. In the last two years, my heart has almost 100% healed. I started with a 15% infraction rate and was on 7 different heart medications. Today my infection rate is near perfect and I am not on a single medication. I quit a life-long habit of smoking and have been nicotine free for over a year. I settled with the IRS and am nearly debt-free. My daughter has been willing to restart our relationship and I am in consistent communication with her. Most of all, my son has made the utmost incredible recovery himself. I am so honored to be his father and to watch his progress and courage that he has taken into working a program.
In the last year, five other family members have come into recovery. My sister has led the way for our family to find recovery through her persistence and loving kindness through the process. Today, we are still a family that is “bitten” but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The gratitude and joy I have found through working a 12-step program is indescribable. Today, instead of worrying about the future and grieving over the past, I get to connect with my Higher Power and stay present for each and every beautiful moment in this thing we call life.