My Bottom Line

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!