As noted in my opening post, addiction/alcoholism has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. My father is an alcoholic/addict. (For purposes of shortening posts from here on out, I will refer to alcoholism as an addiction to cover all bases.) Moving on, I can remember being a very small child, it was before I entered Kindergarten so I was no older than four and I can remember my dad coming in drunk and him and my mother getting into an awful fight. I am not sure why that particular memory sticks out in my head, but either way the fact remains that the experience of that night was the beginning of a 25 year battle with addiction on all fronts. Growing up with an addict father is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. When I was younger, and didn’t understand what was really going on I just thought he did not care about me and my mom. I didn’t have a clue as to why, but I was certain that we were not important to him. When I was almost 11 my little brother was born and for the first time in God knows how long my dad was around consistently for awhile. Of course, this led me to believe that he loved my brother more than he loved me and my mom. I was a kid, give me a break. Anyway, it didn’t take very long for dad to return to his ways and from 12-13 to my senior year in high school I am not sure we had an actual conversation. I really started resenting my dad because at this point, he wasn’t just messing with me and my mom, he was hurting my little brother. Not physically hurting, I can’t remember him ever being physically violent with my brother or with me but the classic addict behaviors were ever present: lying, making promises you knew he wouldn’t follow through with, embarrassing you when he did come around, just being an all-around dick, clearly selfish and self-absorbed, and the list goes on. I resented him so much that in high school I did not smoke a cigarette, did not drink, did not use any drugs (including that “non-habit-forming” marijuana), and did not even go to any parties where anyone else did either. I was bound and determined that I would NOT be like him. Not a chance. And I had contempt for anyone who did those things that I carried under a religious mask, to the point I looked down on them for doing the things my dad had done. I had this idea of alcohol and drugs that as soon as you do them, you are hooked and recourse is not an option. My father went to multiple rehabs but to my knowledge never completed one. There was always some excuse but as would come out later down the road, he just thought he was smarter than everyone else. Overall, my position on alcohol and drugs was “don’t do them, don’t hang around people who do them, don’t associate with people who do them.” That mentality lasted me until the day before I turned 20. I had developed a sever case of depression. In truth, it was probably there earlier on I just always had an outlet to deal with it like sports, camping, church, friends, etc. Now that I had entered the adult world, I was pissed at my dad for being an addict, was pissed at everyone else for not having to pay their own bills like I did, was pissed that other people were getting better grades in college, was really pissed I had to work a full-time job and go to college, and I eventually threw my hands up and said f— it! Around this same time I ran into some issues with the my position on religious ideaology. I did what I can only assume the vast majority of church goers do not do, I read the Bible. The more I read, the more I realized that the church I was going to, or rather a couple of people in the church, were not following what I thought I was reading. This made me even more mad. The day before I turned 20 I took my first drink of alcohol. I was so angry, and that first drink took my mind right out of that hell I had built up for myself in my head. Well, at least for a few mins it did because I ended up trashed and hungover the next day and vividly remember thinking “Why the hell do people do this?” I did not drink again for almost two years. I suppose that one night relieved my burden for a bit and I found some other outlets, namely church and a girlfriend, to satisfy my lurking depression. After a very serious, very lengthy several month long relationship, my girlfriend at the time dumped me which I did not expect because I had already planned our future out for at least another 10 years. Yep, I was that guy. At almost the exact same time I found out that some of my church friends weren’t quite as “churchy” as I had thought. This shattered my world completely. Any faith I had in people or God was gone. This is where I turned back to the one friend I knew wouldn’t let me down, alcohol. For the next 7-8 years from that point, I went from every other weekend partier to every weekend partier, to every weekend and a couple days during the week partier, only adding more booze and more extra substances to the dance along the way. During this time I lost several people who were very close to me. This only added to the already trainwreck of a mindset I had. No amount of booze, opiate, weed, X, acid, etc. could fix what was wrong with me. The pain just got worse and worse and I just kept pushing it down further and burying it as deep as I could. Then came the day I tried oxy. Oxycodone became my new mistress and I thought everything in the world was as right as it could get. The price on them started to sky rocket and got too expensive for my tastes so I had to find something else. That’s when things really took a turn for the worst. I found heroin. My God. I thought I had found God’s gift to the addict. It was ten times as powerful as the oxy and 1/4 of the price. This was it, I had found my deal. Then the day came that I couldn’t find any except some black tar. Well, I was dopesick and couldn’t get anybody to trade with me because you can’t snort black tar and nobody trusted me (go figure) so I thought I was screwed. Now, at this time me and my father both had worked our way to living at my grandmother’s house, mainly because it was the only place we had left to go. My dad had been diagnosed as diabetic, and was on insulin shots. My brilliant mind came up with the idea to get one of those needles, google how to shoot up, and try it just this once because it was the only option I had left. I will never forget that feeling. I won’t dare describe it here because someone struggling might be reading this and I do not want to encourage that at all. Let me be clear, I feel better today than I have EVER felt in my entire life. No joke. Back to the story, the next almost few years were hell on earth. I got worse, became exactly what I swore I would NEVER be, and had resigned my self to an addict’s death and was just waiting on my time, doing what I had to do to survive no matter who it hurt. The saddest part is I honestly had no clue that I was hurting anyone. I thought the classic addict thought “I am only hurting myself.” That is such garbage. Anyone who cares about you hurts, and yes, they know you’re getting high you aren’t as slick as you think. The day of my reckoning came in April of 2014. I don’t remember exactly which day, just that it was a Thursday. I had found a new dealer in Birmingham, AL, and he had some stuff like nothing before. It was grey, it was powerful, it was cheap. I had been running off of a 1-2/10ths per day of it for about 3 weeks but my body had adapted and it wasn’t getting me quite where I wanted to go. I would later find out that the stuff I was injecting was a mix of Fentanyl and Heroin, and took a great number of lives across North Alabama over the following months. I had started working with a guy roofing and he paid us every day at the end of the day. Well I went to the dopeman’s house, got a gram, and then went to the Flying-J off of Daniel Payne in Birmingham. I did a 1/10 and then headed back home. I did not really have a plan in mind at the time. It’s a wonder I did not nod out and wreck on my way back. I had burned bridges with everyone, and did not want to go to my grandmother’s because me and my dad had gotten into it and I was pissed at him, so I decided to go to my mother’s house. Well, I went straight to the bathroom, loaded up a half-gram, and did my deal. I overdosed, almost died. My mother, her poor soul, had came in sometime after I injected myself, heard me choking, found me in the bathroom turning purple, called 911, and I ended up at the hospital. There was no denying it anymore. Everyone knew I was a junkie, I was mortified. I ignorantly thought I had everyone fooled and thinking I was doing good. A proposition was offered to me to get some help. I did not want help at the time, my ego wouldn’t allow it because after all, I could stop whenever I wanted to, I just didn’t want to, right? My place at my grandmother’s was no longer an option, I could not go to my mother’s house, I had no friends left, no other family members were gonna take me in, it was rehab or the street. The whole way to rehab a few days later I begged my mother not to take me there, to give me one more chance and I would never do drugs again, I swore it, I meant it! I would do anything to not have to go to rehab! I was done, I had this thing licked! She made it clear that I did not have to go to rehab but she was not gonna help me kill myself. If I did not want rehab I was on my own. So I went, begrudgingly, but I went. What a miracle that tough love was for me! I now have two beautiful children and I cannot imagine what that was like for my mother, seeing her son almost lose his life, having to get attacked (verbally) and begged the whole two-hour drive to the rehab not to drop him off, to give him one more chance back home. It makes my eyes well up to think about, but it was the best decision anyone ever made for me. She made the decision to use a tough love mentality and stayed determined not to cave to my ranting and raving. Because of that I am alive today, because of that I am clean and sober today. No Suboxone or Methadone treatment, no marijuana, no alcohol, no prescription pills, no snorting, no needles, nothing but clean and sober and I couldn’t be happier! When I was in treatment the counselor told me that if I would stick it out through the rough parts and lean on my friends in recovery, that one day I would come back and thank him for that advice and I would not regret it. He was right on both counts. I love who I am today. I get to help people like me turn their lives around everyday. I get to see families made whole and I get to be of service. My children and my wife do not have to see me high, they can rely on me to take care of my responsibilities. Recovery has given me a life I never dreamed possible. I just want everyone reading this to know that whether it is you, or someone close to you, that is fighting this war inside that there is hope. Do not give up no matter how far down you think it has gone. My advice to loved ones dealing with an addict, DO NOT ENABLE. If you are unsure what that means a simple google search can help you learn how to do just that. Your addict will say and do anything to get what he/she/whatever appropriate gender pronoun needs. If you are an addict, reach out to someone. Do not be afraid of the unknown. My wife and I both are in recovery from heroin/meth/alcohol/etc. addiction and if we can do it, you can too. It won’t be easy but the rewards are worth the pain. Do not let your ego and fear take your life. There is a better way and if you can find your way here, I promise you that you will not regret it. Please contact me if you need any resource information or help with anything related to addiction and I will do anything in my power to help. Thank you for reading, God bless.