I had been using drugs and alcohol for nine years when I finally hit an emotional bottom where I could not continue living the way that I had been living. At this time, I was 21 years old. My addiction began to manifest itself in video games when I was 10. I had felt inadequate from a young age, and playing video games turned me out of reality to a world where I was able to experience true escape. In fact, I could be whoever I wanted. My video games were a short-term treatment, but I needed more.
I entered middle school at the age of 12, at a time in my life where coping skills for my personal problems were nonexistent. I quickly made a few friends who smoked pot and my internal need for acceptance immediately led me to join in their behavior. The first time I smoked weed, I felt a sense of relief from my thoughts and insecurities. It was as though nothing mattered. All of my issues in my life with my family, school, and with friends immediately disappeared.
Through the rest of middle school and high school, things came up in my life that made me uncomfortable I learned to push them away by getting high. As time went on, my addiction progressed to prescription stimulants like Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse. I couldn’t go a day without some foreign substance in my body. It was all I knew. As a result of my drug addiction, my grades in school plummeted, my relationship with my family fell apart and I had no idea who I was. I was scared and lost.
I was faced with an ultimatum one night at my parent’s house after they found a bag of cocaine and proceeded to drug test me. My options were to go to rehab or to leave my parent’s house. At the age of 20, I left the house to be homeless. After a couple weeks I found a house that I could afford and moved in. Over the next year, I had 3 places I would go: work, home and the liquor store. I could not create relationships, I had no drive to move forward and I was miserable.
I finally hit an emotional bottom on March 8th of 2016. I could not go on living that way, and I began to plan my suicide. My future looked bleak and I felt like I was out of options. On March 9th, I was done. It was in that moment, I knew I could rely on short-term treatment. I called my mother in tears and I asked her for help. I quit my job, moved home and began going to an intensive outpatient program (IOP). It was required that i get involved in Alcoholics Anonymous and hit a minimum of 2 meetings a week. When the program was finished at 60 days, i received a lot of hopeful farewells from the other patients in the program with me.
But the moment I was done, it all went downhill. My IOP did nothing but help me learn more about myself, not how to deal with my problem. I still had no coping skills, and still lived in fear surrounding taking steps forward. I began to isolate again, built no relationships with anyone and hid in my room all day long, spending 16-18 hours a day playing video games. I was still uncomfortable and unable to take a look at who I was, so I would hide away in my video game world once again. Eventually, my parents found out that i was stealing from them again and they took my laptop. Without the video games to escape the real world, I got loaded once again.
My parents were scared of me once again, I went into a 90 inpatient horticultural wilderness program in Hawaii to try to combat my addiction in a different way. Once again, the story went the same way. I came in very uncomfortable, but very quickly began to excel and become a leader. I was able to open up and relate to my peers. I even led a tour with a group of educational consultants around the premises, explaining my experience there. I was so well-spoken and educated on the program that the director offered me a job.
Once again I left the program with many hopeful farewells, but this time i knew I could not do it alone. I was to leave the program and fly to Los Angeles to go into New Life House, a 12 step sober living community where I could have the accountability that I needed. The moment I got on the plane on the way to L.A., I relapsed. No matter how much I learned about myself at the rehabs that i had gone through, I could not stay sober. I never learned to practice any healthy coping skills in real life environments.
It was not until I got to New Life House that I was able to really learn how to stay sober rather than just how to get sober. I learned coping skills for my entire life surrounding how to handle different situations and change my outlook on life and was able to apply them practically. I spent time playing into old behaviors and learned about how it was wrong and how it made me feel in a safer environment where I didn’t have to turn to drugs and alcohol. At New Life, I learned how to build relationships and be emotionally present with the people around me. I learned how to combat my thoughts and urges surrounding my addiction. I learned that a short-term treatment is no long-term solution.
Today my life is incredible. I have got my family in my life and I have a relationship with them far better than I could have ever imagined. I have a job, a car and a group of friends that know everything about me and still help hold me accountable. Internally, I am happy. I like the person I am and I feel okay in my skin. I am not afraid to build relationships or open up to people. I have learned acceptance of life on life’s terms and I am excited for my future. Everything that I have in my life today is as a result of the time and care put in by the management team at New Life, and my experience with my peers.