My Bottom Line

Archive for September, 2018

  • Recovery Corner: Drug Use and Sobriety – A Snapshot

    this article was originally written and featured on

    Recently I’ve shared with readers a very candid look into my family’s story of addiction. We’ve reviewed, at length, the traps, pitfalls, and traumas of drug addiction. I’d like to take this opportunity to share a remarkably moving story on the other side of the coin, the RECOVERY SIDE.

    Please meet John (name has been changed). Sober 32 years from drugs and alcohol; 64 years young today. Answers to my questions are in his own words.

    Q: How, when and why did you get involved with drugs and alcohol?

    A: I had my first sip of beer at 6yrs old, a neighbor shared his beer with me. At my sister’s wedding, 10yrs old, my aunts got me drunk on champagne. And I LIKED IT. A LOT. 14yrs old, at a friend’s house, we raided his parents’ liquor cabinet. Got drunk and loved it; even though I got sicker than a dog, vomiting outside in the snow. Drinking again the next day. OFF AND RUNNING.

    I stayed drunk as often as possible throughout high school. When I was a Junior, a guy introduced me to hash. BETTER. I went from being a semi red-neck, active drinker to a stoner druggie; getting high as often as possible on anything I could. I would steal my brother’s 50mg Benadryl pills to get the same effect as a Quaalude. I overdosed twice on those, intentionally — suicide attempts that failed.

    Between 16-18, I was in jail in 4 different states, 2 different mental hospitals 3 times, attempted suicide twice, and took my first hostage – that’s what I called a wife—at 18. I accomplished jail, institutions, and near death before I was old enough to vote.

    Q: WHY-??

    A: Physical abuse by mom (I was the kid she didn’t want), sexual abuse by my older brother, emasculated dad, no healthy male role model. No safe place. I found escape – no thought, no feeling, no memories – in drugs/alcohol. THEY SERVED A PURPOSE. They made it all go away. Numb.

    I ran (that’s what we call drinking/drugging) for another 14 years. 3 more hostages–wives/divorces. Children who eventually distanced themselves from me as well. I moved all over the country. Multiple evictions. Not able to hold a job. Sleeping in cars. Brief stint in the army; thrown out for being a drunk. I don’t remember much of the 80’s – people ask if I ever had a blackout — YUP, REAGAN’S FIRST ADMINISTRATION.

    Being a criminal from 14 on… Stole from my frequent employers, stereos from cars, broke into people’s houses while they slept… The world was my oyster. Multiple arrests. My teens, 20’s, early 30’s – I WAS the statistic. The textbook profile.

    Q: You’ve been clean/sober 32 years last month. Tell us about your last day of using/drinking…

    A: 32 years old; I was sitting in the back room of the pawn shop I worked at, with a charter arms 44 caliber revolver against my head, trying to decide – HEAD OR CHIN. After a few minutes of indecision – die or not – the thought came that this bullet would be a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I hid the gun, walked over to my manager who was in recovery and had been telling me about AA/NA for months, and asked him to take me to a meeting.

    My first meeting was the next day. All I remember is that I sat down, I listened, and I did what I was told. I was assigned a sponsor, he gave me a book, and he started teaching me about recovery.

    About a month later, my girlfriend and baby were in a major car accident. I got a hysterical call from her… I rushed to the scene… blood everywhere… both rushed to the hospital. Once I knew they were going to be ok, I went home… grabbed a wine bottle from the fridge (my roommates still drank and used lots of drugs) and drank 2 glasses before my roommate grabbed the bottle and glass and said, “GET YOUR *** TO A MEETING!!”. My using and drinking scared THEM!

    I haven’t had a drink or drug since that day. AA has been my savior. I’ve regularly attended meetings for years. The Big Book of AA is my bible, so to speak.

    Q: How have you stayed sober?

    A: GOD. Finding GOD through the 12 steps of AA. Coming to understand that I am NOT God, and ME running my life was a total disaster. I had a power greater than myself for years — Jack Daniels, Ron Rico, Jim Beam… cocaine, crack… pills… they OWNED ME. I was trusting my life to the wrong power. Using the steps of AA, I realized that I am NOT GOD and I have to rely on Him to run my life because I did such a lousy job of it.

    Q: What recommendation would you give to the reader that’s using/drinking?

    A: “GET YOUR *** TO A MEETING!! GET A SPONSOR. GET A BIG BOOK!” The program works if you work it. Nobody can make you stop – that’s up to you. In active addiction, you don’t realize that you HAVE a higher power, probably many of them – some liquid, some powder, some solids – and they’re killing you. Get to a meeting and find a real higher power, one that actually wants you to LIVE.

    Thanks to John for sharing. To the reader: if you are the active user and want help, or the family of the user, in despair and crisis, please contact me for resources and support!

  • Recovery Corner: What IS Substance Abuse

    this article was originally written and featured on

    The official definition: “overindulgence in or dependence on an addictive substance, especially alcohol or drugs.” OK… but WHO becomes a drug addict? An alcoholic? …

    In a previous article I shared that my son’s been using drugs since adolescence. He found heroin at 15… And our lives have never been the same.

    My son gave me some of my greatest understandings of addiction back when he was 17. He’d been arrested, once again, but in jail for the first time. A juvenile jail. Make no mistake…it FEELS and LOOKS the same as “grown up” jail – brick building, guards at the door with guns, big gray sliding prison doors that clang behind you, visitation room with me on one side of scratched, filthy plexiglass, him on the other. I was doing my mother’s heart of crying and drama, “Why are you doing this? You’re destroying your life…our life…your future… Please why can’t you just stop using drugs!!??” At 17 years old, in a gray jumpsuit, talking through the glass on a jail phone, he said “Mom, you just don’t understand. Heroin is like nothing I’ve ever done. When I’m high, everything is ok. I don’t worry, I don’t have any pain. NONE OF THE BAD GETS IN. I feel…normal. IF I COULD STAY HIGH, I‘D STAY IN HERE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.” Can you imagine…17 years old…willing to stay in prison FOREVER if he could have heroin?? No life. No friends. No girlfriend. No kids. No home. No job. No…NOTHING. And he meant it. Heroin has been his life-partner, so to speak, ever since. 12 years. I call heroin addiction the Living Hell, because he can’t LIVE with it, and he WON’T live without it.

    I share this story as a cautionary tale. To the folks reading that think “NOT MY KID” — he/she could never…would never… Drugs are an equal opportunity kidnapper. They are color-blind. Not the least bit prejudice. With one goal… CAPTURE.Nobody wakes up one day at 14…18…25…and says “I’m gonna be a drug addict, have no life, destroy my family, give mom a heart attack, dad a stroke, live in prison, get HIV…” Once captured, the human being and their world suffer greatly.

    To answer the question – Who becomes a drug addict? An alcoholic?… ANYONE. Because substance abuse isn’t a mark of character, it’s not about good people or bad people. Our goal, as parents/ families/ community/ professionals – is to PREVENT THE CAPTURE.

    Get educated about substance abuse/learn what to watch for: What are signs of pot, coke, pills, meth, heroin, etc.???

    Be proactive in your own home/family: Be the PARENT, not the FRIEND… SET rules/boundaries.

    When you have concerns, GET HELP: Doing nothing /Denial is our greatest enemy in this fight.

    The sooner we become aware and educated, the greater chance of aiding a loved one to get help.

    Here are some more RED FLAGS for opiate addiction – things to watch for, be it prescription pain pills or heroin.

    -Spoons will be missing, unexplained from the kitchen, or appear blackened/burnt on the underside

    -User will have “cotton mouth” – speech is impaired and/or slurred, user constantly licks his lips and lips appear dysfunctional

    -Opiate users will often wear sunglasses inappropriately – inside, nighttime, days which obviously do not warrant their wearing

    -Appetite decreases drastically; opiate use becomes all consuming; the user progressively loses all interest in eating and drinking; YET, user may often have water on hand– multiple bottles and glasses, often partially full

    -Weight will usually decrease immediately and drastically shortly after the onset of opiate use

    -Watch for evidence of constipation (opiate side effect) – laxatives, enemas, etc.