Participant #18

G

Married

Bio of Addiction

At the age 15 G began smoking marijuana in an abandoned garage due to peer pressure.

“I didn’t know when I walked out I was an addict. My addiction didn’t take off until later in life. I was in my late thirties when i began using the drug. I had always said I would never use, cocaine.”

G became a social drinker and a marijuana user while going to social clubs as a young adult.

“What is important in my story, is that at the age of 17, my brother was a heroin addict. He was 18. And I saw my mom try to save him for ten years. I removed myself from the household because of him. I didn’t want to be like him. But when I came into recovery I realized I was no different than him and no better than him. I put him down for a long time.”

“It’s a family disease and my mom spent all her time on him and none of her resources were available for me and my sister.”

“I found out in 2010, that my brother died in 2001. We still don’t know where he is buried.”

“How I got into doing coke, I made a bad decision.”

G rented a car for his best friend for him to go away to college and to play ball. His friend didn’t return the car to G. G was indebted $800 for the car rental. G’s sister and mother figure loaned him $800 to pay the car rental. G feeling both obligated to pay his sister back and a sense of gratitude for the many times she bailed him out of difficult situations, G chose to find a new way to make the money. A friend came up with the idea to go to New York City and buy cocaine to sell; in doing this, G could finally repay his sister.

“I didn’t know anything about it (using, selling or buying cocaine). All I had to do was put up some money. And I did. That was the beginning of the end. It was a way to pay my sister back and them I got caught up, and using what I was selling. That led to a six year downward spiral of losing jobs and car accidents.”

G was engaged and had to chose between his fiancée and son or drugs.

“I chose drugs. I ended up hurting someone very deeply. And that is when it took off. I probably lost 4-5 jobs. Kind of didn’t care. I thought I was making money, but the unmanageability that we talk about was prevalent. Eviction notices, cars repossessed, and just trouble, I almost got killed. Bad neighborhood with a gun put to my head. Luckily they decided not to pull the trigger.”

“That’s kind of it in a nut shell with the addiction piece.”

Turning point

“A boss I had worked for realized I was having a problem and called me into his office, he was tired of excuses. He asked me if I had a problem. I told him I had a problem but it was really big. He took me to a 12 Step meeting.”

“I had heard afterwards to listen for similarities and not the differences, but I didn’t go in with that mindset. I went in and all I saw was the differences. I went to that meeting to try to keep my job which I eventually lost that job anyway. But it planted a seed.”

After six years of employment, G was fired on his third offense of theft of services from his employer.

“I spent my last paycheck on that package and by that time I had stopped selling and I had just a big habit.“

“I lost this job of six years after so many things had happened, like crashing company cars, falling asleep at the wheel, and you know all the things that go along with that. I don’t want to call it a life style, but a style of dying a day at a time.”

“So after losing this last job and using for three days and being under a blanket feeling like I didn’t deserve to be in the light. I didn’t want to see the daylight.”

“My whole world was shattered. I picked up the phone. Back them they had a phone booth. I looked up the number for the 12 Step meetings and I ended up talking to the treatment center.”

“They asked me if I was ready to go, today! I was like go where? They said Boca Ritan, Florida. I was like I have something to do tomorrow. I just thought about killing myself.”

“The next phone call I made was the one that propelled me into recovery and saved my life. I called my sister, my baby sister. I just knew she was going to validate my bs, and say I didn’t need to go and they didn’t know what they were talking about. But that was not what she said. Her words were, “you need to go.”

G had not eaten for three days, when his sister picked him up to drive him to the airport, to go to rehabilitation in Florida. She stopped on the way to feed him and held his hand the entire drive to the airport.

“She put me on the plane and that saved my life.”

Rehabilitation

Addiction 27 years

Recovery Attempts 1

Cocaine

G entered recovery September 11,1996. The rehabilitation facility implemented individual therapy, group therapy, mediation, 12 Step meetings and group outings. Every morning G’s group would go to the beach to meditate. It was the first time G saw the ocean. G was remorseful because he didn’t want to see the ocean for the first time this way. In the future G becomes employed in Florida and is able to return to see the ocean again on his own terms.

G entered rehabilitation for 19 days. He was unsure of what would happen when he returned home.

“I didn’t want to go back existing how I was existing before.”

G’s sister assisted him financially by paying for his car for a year, so he was able to focus on recovery. G worked part time during his first year in recovery at 7/11 overnight. G worked at 7/11 to learn the humility he lacked while working at his previous job.

Previously, G had sold and used drugs with his sister. G’s sister did not attend his one year anniversary of recovery.

“She called and apologized for not being able to make it to the celebration. But she told me because she saw what I was doing with my life, she stopped using and drinking too. Me and my sister have been clean for about the same amount of time even though she took a different path than I did.”

“I remember telling her I didn’t know how to repay her. She told me to pay it forward, and I’m still paying it forward.”

“I listened to everything they taught me in recovery and I came home and I practiced everything they taught me.”

“They suggested 90 meetings in 90 days. I probably went to over 300 meeting in 90 days.”

“After the 30 days I got a sponsor and he guided me through the 12 steps for 2 years. And I think that is the thing that helped me the most. I started living what I was being exposed too.”

Life in recovery

22 years

G continues life in recovery utilizing the 12 Step process and attending meetings on a regular basis. G’s life has flourished as he continues to pay it forward in recovery.

“I’ve probably worked the steps about seven times since I’ve been in recovery. I still have a sponsor, still go to meetings, and still have a home group. That is the thing that really helps me stay where I’m at.”

G has a broad support base both nationally and internationally. He utilizes online video meetings as well as local meetings.

With the assistance from a family he met in recovery, G moved to Florida to complete his dream of returning to Florida on his own terms. G made a pact with God to give him a sign if he should pursue a career in addiction recovery. A month to the day of that prayer, G is employed by a rehabilitation facility as an aid. G enrolled in college because that was part of the bargain he made with God. G graduated with a bachelors degree in psychology. G recently completed his masters degree in clinical mental health counseling.

“So to me the recovery journey is the biggest part of my life, not the addiction.”

“I’m not defined by my environment, I’m defined in spite of my environment. I feel bad for the kids who there with all the drug use facing all the poverty and crime.”

“My recovery has taken me to places I never thought I would go, Australia, Mexico.”

“One of the issues I had in early recovery was hanging out with people in early recovery. I was grateful that the people who had been around longer scooped me up. I found out early on, people in early recovery couldn’t help me. Because they didn’t have the experience in recovery.”

“Recovery is just like you’re a cell phone. If you’re not connected to a network, the cell phone is no good.”

“I don’t struggle with a lot of the concepts a lot of people in recovery struggle with like the concept of powerlessness. I challenge people that think they have power to bring my brother back. If you want to know absolute powerlessness. Bring my brother back, bring my father back. I absolutely know how truly powerless that is.”

Earlier in G’s life, he was involved in an unavoidable auto accident. G didn’t hit the guardrail and the traffic stopped behind him as his car came to a rest. G realized even though his hands were on the wheel, he was not in control.

“A lot of people believe that spiritual awakens are in front of them, but I had so many spiritual awakens behind me that I was just not paying attention too.”

G reflects on how he has changed during recovery. When G was in active addiction he had another auto accident and only worried about the ounce of marijuana he had in the trunk. He experienced another accident 2-3 years into recovery.

“They called me and told me the car was totaled and all I wanted was my key tags I had hanging from the mirror. My life had turned around that’s all I cared about. I didn’t care about anything else in that car but those key tags. They symbolized my clean time.”

Two years into G’s recovery he began visiting prisons to help others. G found deep personal insight when one man shared his story with G. The man had spent 6 years in prison in recovery. G acknowledged his effort, but G soon found out he was serving a triple life sentence. His question to G, “what is your excuse to use?”

In recovery G was able to restore his relationship with his son he hadn’t seen since he was nine years old. G had not seen his son due to safety concerns raised by the child’s mother.

“For 19 years I didn’t know if he was alive or dead. It was something I struggled with because I did it. I chose drugs over him. Somebody in recovery found my son for me. After 19 years I found him and wrote him and he wrote me back and I was able to make amends to him, my son.”

“I have a picture of him in my office when he was 8 or 9. I tell people you don’t want that to happen.”

G’s father, mother, sister, and brother all suffer from the disease of addiction.

“I broke the cycle of addiction in my family. Because of me my mom stopped drinking and drugging and so did my sister. My brother passed away. My son never used.”

“One of the things I talk about is the ripple effect of addiction. When I think about addiction and being the part of the criminality in society and spreading the disease. The ripple effect started out impacting my family and then the neighborhood and society and so forth. I ask people when you give a drug dealer money, where does it go? Because that money can end up buying some drugs across town where some ten year old kid is using for the first time. And that’s that ripple effect. So in recovery it’s the same thing, our recovery impacts our families in a positive way and impacts the community and society.”

“The thing about it is the person has to be ready to change. I am of the belief you do the 12 Steps, therapy, out patient, in patients, the goal has to be getting the person to look at the unresolved issues and if they don’t look at those unresolved issues they will return to the scene of the crime.”

“I didn’t know I had an abandonment issue from childhood and I was sexually abused at the age of 7 by an uncle. I never told anyone, I kept it a secret. I didn’t know that was fueling my anger and self destructive attitudes and behaviors.”

“People like Robert (Participant #14) and myself we are making a difference because we know 12 Step isn’t for everybody. And my approach isn’t a 12 Step approach with people. I have more education, information, experience and different theories that I try to get people to look at unresolved issues with and without the 12 Step.”

“If I had never explored why I was so angry I wouldn’t be sitting here.”

“They talk about three indispensable principles in recovery. I didn’t know in early recovery why they called them indispensable. Now I know. Because without honesty, open mindedness and willingness; if you take one out of the equation it’s like trying to make a cake without the right ingredients. When I came into recover I had the “how” backwards, W O H, With Out Hope.”

Life in recovery

Attends 12 Step meeting regularly

12 Step home group

Active in national and international online and video recovery meetings

Bachelors in psychology

Masters in clinical mental health specializing in addiction therapy

Works as a clinical mental health therapist

Poet

Active participant in paying it forward

Legacy

Connect with people that have what you want. If you want long term recovery, connect with people with long term recovery. If you want people who are successful in recovery connect with people who are successful in recovery. Because you can’t elevate yourself with the pros. Connect with people who are like minded and doing the right things. Connect with happy and successful people in what you want.

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