Participant #14
46 years old

Bio of Addiction

R was raised in a two parent household. His father was a heavy drinker, and R had open access to alcohol while growing up. R began using marijuana at 13 or 14 years old and began drinking when he was a bit younger. R was sent to a out of state military school when he was 14 years old. He used LSD for the first time while at military school and loved the experience of an “acid high”. At military school R suffered physical and mental abuse often; however, despite the abuse, R discovered his love for writing. R has not lived in his family home since he was 14 years old. He used a variety of substance as he grew into adulthood.

“I knew I was going to smoke pot. It wasn’t experimentation, it was when I find pot I’ll smoke it. There was a culture surrounding it. I was stepping into a culture I fit into.”

“Our two favorite shows growing up were Mash and Cheers. In Mash that’s had the martinis and the distillery in their tent. Cheers, I thought that was what you did when you grew up. Go hang out at a bar and have funny conversations.”

“I’m a polysubstance user, they got rid of the diagnosis.”

R graduated a year early from military school and was rewarded with a plane ticket to anywhere.  At 17, he moved to London to be on his own. R quickly became homeless, but eventually found employment at a local pub and lived above it. At 18 years old, after an exhausted time of drug abuse and homelessness, R returned home.

“The reason I picked London was because I heard you could drink there. This should of been a clue.”

“I slept in Hyde Park and Paddington Station for awhile but they kept coming along and moving me along. I could never get a good night’s sleep. I found a concrete planter on the second story of the building. There was nothing in it. I would scale that and no one could see you and I could sleep in it and it was soft. I ended up moving into a little boiler room in this little
apartments. I was in a boiler room that was part of those little apartments above the pub. And then the pub offered me a job, and I just moved over. It worked out well.”

“Addiction for me is more like a small child taking me by my hand and saying let’s go play. So what I learn is that the disease of addiction for me is that I don’t know what will happen when I take a drink or a drug. It might go fine. I might stop in a bar on the way home and have a drink and go home or I might stop at a bar on the way home and wind up in Atlanta. I had to realize that that is my disease.”

R returned to the USA and found employment in the restaurant business. The culture of the restaurant business fueled his alcohol abuse, and he fell into alcoholism and drug abuse as a way of life. After a car accident, a family friend brought R to his first 12-Step meeting. R also attended 12-Step meetings for narcotics and utilizes “The Rooms”. R found true comfort in these rehabilitative settings.

“No place in life that we get to talk to each other like this, where we have this depth, intimacy, and openness with a diverse crowd of strangers. No place else,  and that was the appeal to me.” (Reference to the 12-Step meeting experience)

“Really powerful, and they are not like me at all, in any sense, not demographically or racially  and all that is washed away and we can talk about the meaning of life.” (Reference to 12-Step meetings)

R moved to Alabama because his family is from Alabama, and it was a dry county. R attended college in Alabama but was arrested within weeks of starting for public intoxication and was barred from his college dorm. R entered inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation while in Alabama.

R then relocated to North Carolina to be with his family. However, R’s father quickly relocated to Florida, and R finds himself on his own again. He began to think “maybe he really doesn’t have a problem” (referring to his drinking).  R began using marijuana and alcohol again.

“I was afraid to do many other things. I started saying, I would only do acid four times a year, unless it showed up.”

R became a functional alcoholic.

“I smoked pot everyday all day and only drink at night. I was a functional alcoholic. I would never want to get on a plane with the pilot as a functional alcoholic.”

“As my drinking continued to increase, the bars became worse. As our friends became more financially stable and successful and drinking less and becoming more mature, we were devolving.”

“I’m a musician, I wanted to play music, that was my excuse. We  were going to bars and liquor houses. I tended to be the only white guy there playing harmonica. I thought I was doing research. It’s part of a dying culture and I get to watch it and be part of it.  And those places were depressing as hell.”

“Everywhere I went, people would find me. All my nonverbal cues would tell them.”

R suffered the loss of his girlfriend, a job, and a close friend and confidant. R began to suffer severe emotional distress.

“We went to the wake and funeral and everyone seemed to be done with it. I couldn’t see to be done with it.”

R had an emotional breakdown; he mixed Percocet, and Xanax with alcohol, frequently.

“I really loved the blackouts. The oblivion, I loved the nod. It was such a huge relief for me.”

R returned to the family home. He was administered Paxil for depression, but no one addressed his alcohol abuse. People made excuses for his drinking as a coping mechanism for losing of his friend.

Turning Point

“Halloween, October 31st is a great night because everyone is drinking like you.”

R was 32 years old and still struggling with alcohol and drug abuse. On Halloween night he went to his normal bar around noon. He was a frequent customer at several bars to try to hide his alcohol consumption.

“I was drinking pretty much all day.”

“Ever have those times, everything is falling into place someway? I had that sense the whole day.”

R was 3 miles from home and began his trip home on HWY 54 in Raleigh, North Carolina, after drinking for about 8 hours.

“I took HWY 54 because I knew cops wouldn’t be on that road. I have one right turn to make to get home. It’s like 8pm at night and a football game just got out. One car had t-boned another car at an intersection and someone had been injured. People coming from the football game had stopped to help. They had pulled this guy out of the car, 911 had been contacted ………all these people standing around this person. I came over the hill and they were all in the road.  Initially I was confused, I couldn’t tell what was going on. I tried hitting the brake and I had anti lock brakes so I thought the van wasn’t stopping. Then I tried to crank the wheel sideways to hit the bank on the other side of the road. I don’t even know what happened after that. I was thrown out of my car seat because I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, the airbags went off. Gun powder is what it smelled like. I didn’t know what happened. I got out of the van and there were just bodies everywhere. I was too drunk to know how to help anybody. As soon as I got out of the van, I started screaming, I couldn’t believe I killed all these people. I saw one guy in pain, I went over to try to help him but I didn’t know what to do. I told him you’ve been in an accident. I went over to the side of the road and curled up into a ball. The police came and took me away.”

R was convicted of 6 counts of involuntary manslaughter, and  two counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious bodily injury. Two victims survived, but with serious injuries. He was sentenced to 8 1/2-11 years in prison. R ultimately served time in prison for 8 1/2 years.

“I was suicidal for a longtime. I’m just going to try what anyone says has worked. Go to meetings and work steps the way they say you should. Once I’ve done all that I’m going to kill myself. And at least they could say he tried doing everything.”

“I tried being sober as an experiment, I still think of my recovery as an experiment. And if it fails I’ll kill myself. Because every time I’ve gone back out things have gotten so much worse. I can’t imagine what can be worse than the last time.”

R attended 12-Step meetings, and participated in Christian services while in prison.

Addiction 15 years
Recovery Attempts 15

“Military school made prison much easier.”

“I was lucky the prison I went to a prison with education programs. I signed up for everything.”

R earned an Associate Degree in culinary arts and horticulture.

“People have a misconception about prison classes. People on the outside hear we can take college in prison. It’s not like you’re going in and thinking, I think I’ll work on my masters in business. It’s more like what does the prison need and how can we get a kick back from this.”

R became an avid reader and writer.

“It saved me. I sort of started looking at (prison) as a sociologist. I’m studying prison culture from the inside.”

“It saved me (writing). I was threatened with rape, I was threatened with a lot of physical violence and threatened by the CO. It didn’t  matter what they did to me I could write about it. It really gave me a place of refuge.”

“I was struggling with the higher power thing. A friend sent me a book, “We Are All Doing Time”. It’s on meditation and basic yoga.”

R was finally sent to minimum custody.

“It’s like being locked up at the department of motor vehicles. It’s like being being nibbled to death by ducks.”

R was just down the road from a Buddhist Temple, and because he granted passes to be out in the community,  he practiced Buddhist meditation two to three times a week at the temple. R also practiced full silence for a week at a time to honor his new journey. It was a lifestyle that was very appealing to him.

“If I had not met my wife, I would probably become a full monastic.”

While in prison R was an avid writer. He sent his writing to his mother, and his mother sent them to everyone she knew. She also sent them an old friend. As a result, R began to correspond  for the next four years with the old friend- his future wife. She told him she had been receiving his writings from his mother and felt like she knew him. She writes as beautifully as R. She is also a very soulful person. She went to a lake and soaked the paper in the lake and dried it out and wrote her letter on the paper to share the lake with R and the others in prisoners. R’s new girl was bringing the things others take for granted, like a lake smell, to those who could only dream of a lake.

R became a marathon runner while in prison. He persuaded a prison guard to measure the entire yard with a measure wheel. He began running 112 laps a day.  As the anniversary of R tragic accident approached, he decided to run a marathon as a fundraiser for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. R started a campaigns to secure sponsors and was able to raise $5,500 for MAD. The prison had no idea R had raised $5,500, but because of the press reports, R escaped prison retaliation.

R was released from prison on January 11, 2012.

Life in Recovery
14 years

Three days after his release from prison R ran in the Charlestown marathon. Five days after his release R entered college to pursue his dream of being an addiction therapist. R had missed the first week of classes, and found himself lost and confused by technology, because it had boomed while he was in prison.

“It was the best thing I could of done. It forced me to have a schedule, it forced to learn how computers work, it forced me to learn how to advocate for myself.  I had to learn how to ask questions to people in power positions.”

R relocated with his wife to NY, and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree with a major in health science, and a minor in psychology. R currently works as an addiction counselor.

R never forgot his Buddhist roots. R and a friend established the Rochester,NY chapter of Refuge Recovery. Refuge Recovery services all types of people struggling with addiction, or in need of a place to find solace and community.

“I don’t go to meetings to be sober, I going to be sober. It’s my vow to my victims and victims families, it’s my vow to myself.

R is happily married to the love of his life, and has a precious daughter. R devotes his life to helping others. R is also an amateur astronomer.

12-Step programs for alcohol and narcotics
No home group
Refuge Recovery (founding member of Rochester, NY chapter)
Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS)
Member of the Zen Center


I didn’t need a higher power, I needed a higher purpose. Something bigger than me. Admit defeat and ask  for help. Surrender means you don’t have to fight anymore. It’s such a gift. R

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