Getting sober has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. Sometimes I have a chip on my shoulder when talking about it though. I’m only 22 years old, so I’m considered very young for someone getting sober. I’ve been the youngest person in numerous treatment centers I’ve gone through and many people share the same sentiment with me. That they wish they were my age attempting to get sober. They’d share their warnings with me and encourage me to not go to the lengths they went to. I appreciate all the support I receive in my journey towards sobriety and lasting recovery. But at times I just didn’t want to hear it. Addiction is tricky the way it plays with your mind. The whole time someone who is twice my age is telling me that they wished they got sober at my age I’m thinking I would like to get sober at their age, so I could spend more time using. By the time I finally got sober and stayed sober for an extended period of time I had been through the revolving doors of treatment more times than I would like to admit. Detox, rehab, sober living, relapse, repeat. That was my life for so long and it wore me down to the point where I didn’t think I could make it another year. It wasn’t until I finally surrendered to my addiction that I was able to begin to change.
The progression of my addiction was rapid. I had the typical suburban upbringing through drug culture that is so prominent today. I started with marijuana and progressed throughout the high school years leading to some questionable choices. I was sent to my first treatment center when I was 16. I didn’t really think I had a problem with drugs, but I knew I was depressed and the drugs made me feel better at the moment. My parents were scared of my habits so they wanted me somewhere they knew I was safe. It didn’t do much for me because I didn’t believe I had any problems. I thought getting high was just a part of life and most of my friends engaged in the same thing so when I got home the next year I went back to the same thing. My addiction was becoming stronger and stronger and by the time I was in college, I was hooked on Xanax and cocaine. I enjoyed the combination because it gave me the heightened confidence without the anxiety that comes from heavy stimulant use. I didn’t realize just how bad for my brain it was. Already having issues with anxiety and depression meant all the heavy drug use I was engaging in was just exacerbating all of my problems. When the drugs ran out I was taken to a very dark place.
I went to treatment again at 19 and for the first time was able to admit that I might potentially have a smidgen of a problem. I followed up my stint in rehab with sober living but I wasn’t working a program in order to stay sober. I still longed for the lifestyle I had become accustomed to and since I wasn’t doing anything to prevent a relapse I ended up going back. My use began to cause more problems and I ended up spending a few nights in jail on multiple occasions. The second time I went to jail I caught my first felony and my parents were not happy at all. My parents are supportive almost to a fault. They saw in me things I wasn’t able to see and were unwilling to sit by and let me kill myself. Unfortunately for all of us, I wasn’t quite finished.
I was introduced to heroin in a treatment center. While a little ironic it isn’t incredibly uncommon. Putting addicts that don’t really want to be sober together can have some very negative effects. I share all of this and my history leading up to it because it wasn’t until I went to the extremes I did that I had a chance at sobriety. Heroin led to some very dark moments in my life. The isolation, depression, and withdrawals are a very fierce combination. I no longer had friends, and using drugs wasn’t a fun way to feel better and get some instant relief from life. It was a harsh reality where to not use was to die. When I finally reached out for help it was no longer to get out of trouble with the law, or get away from people I didn’t want to see. It was because I knew I couldn’t live like that anymore.
I believe I was born an addict. That’s my personal belief on the matter and I know some other people have other beliefs on the development of addiction in the brain but I think it was destined to happen. Ever since I was a kid I felt different and like I needed an escape. Whether it was music, candy, friends, sports, video games. It didn’t matter, I needed something to distract myself from the way I felt. Drugs were just what worked the best in the moment as I got older. But because of the depression and anxiety I felt from a young age, I think that if it wasn’t for drugs, I might not have lived long enough to find there was another way to live. The 12 steps and psychotherapy both have been incredibly helpful for me. I’ve been able to formulate a plan of recovery that covers all bases.
Nowadays it’s not the drugs that are a problem for me since I’ve got some time away from my last use. But life still happens. I continue to do the things that got me sober in order to not have to go back to that way of life. Because for me to use is to die. I had to swallow my pride in order to get sober. I had a very large resentment against AA coming into treatment the last time I did. Something about it felt fake to me and the fact that it felt forced upon me at a young age as the only way to get sober bothered me. Once I put my old feelings to the side and gave it a chance I really saw what it was all about. Which is as simple as finding a relationship with a power greater than myself and helping another addict that suffers. Prayer and meditation are crucial to me on a stressful day where I need a minute or two to take a break and ground myself. The last component that I embraced is proper medication. I have my own personal beliefs on medication as well but the help it has given me in fighting mental health issues has been huge. Consistency is the glue that keeps it all together as well. Making sure I stay tapped into my program is what keeps me from going off the deep end again. Those are some things that work for me. Each person has to go and find what really works for them but the good thing is that there are plenty of resources out there and people who are willing to help.