In retrospect, I don’t know if any of us in our family could have foreseen what was going to happen to us. I say “to us”, because my addiction didn’t just affect me, it affected everyone that had any kind of connection to me…mother, father, brother, girlfriend, wife, employer, and friends.
Strangely enough, growing up I was adamantly against drugs and alcohol. I can recall arguing with a friend when I was a teenager after I discovered that he had drank the night before. “You’ll be an alcoholic!”, I yelled. Six months later, the summer of my 15th year, I picked up my first drink. All of the drug and alcohol awareness classes, lectures and films that they made us watch in high school disappeared in a moment.
The Beginning Of An End
Within months, I moved on to drugs. Alcoholism and addiction are sometimes referred to as a disease of perception. Not only does it alter the way we feel, think or see the world around us while we are drinking or using…but it also begins to affects us while we are not. My perceptions changed, my attitudes changed, and my world changed.[highlight]For those closest to an alcoholic or addict, it’s hardest to see the changes at first.[/highlight] Emotionally we want to believe that it is a phase, a rebellious stage that everyone goes through. Or we place blame on the friend or person they are dating. My family did the same and waited. Once I graduated high school and moved on to college everything would be fine, they thought.
Within a year of graduating high school, I was stealing from my family to support a cocaine habit, and then I was arrested for possession of Heroin leaving a high school graduation party. Student Council President, Who’s Who among American High School Students, all the options in the world. Now, I’m sitting in a jail cell crying as I think of what my family will think if they find out.
“What can I do to get out of this?”, my mind raced, and get out of it I did…like I always did. I offered to work with the police to set-up a local drug dealer. He was arrested, and I was clear. My family knew nothing…or didn’t want to…or couldn’t handle the truth if they wanted to. Years later the drug dealer followed me outside of a bar that I was now dealing drugs out of and beat me within an inch of my life. The irony of that moment, I had become him.
The False Fix
5 years later, my family finally had enough. Like most drugs addicts and alcoholics at this stage in life, I was now looking to change the outside to fix me. I had tried and failed out of college twice. Now it was time to move, if I leave this area, this damned area with it’s drugs, bad influences and friends, then I’ll be fixed. I can get a good job and meet a nice girl.
I had a grandfather who lived in California who offered to help; beaches, palm trees and a new life were on the rising. I could get out of the hell I was in and start a new life in paradise. I was so hopeful and my family was too, I think. They were so tired of the unpredictability that had become my life. I will never forget the excitement I felt on that plane trip, finally a chance at a future.
Within a month, I was using drugs again, stealing from my grandfather, and had now added methamphetamine onto my various addictions. I remember being devastated, I was so sure that moving away and starting again was going to be the answer. In my heart I just knew, that now I was faced with the truth. No matter where I went, no matter what I did, I would never be able to quit. I was, and would always be, a drug addict.
The next several years, I will not write of in detail here. I lived briefly on and off the streets. Every few months I would call my family and they would try and help me to get out of whatever major trouble I had gotten myself into. I saw and participated in terrible things, suicide would have been a blessing, had I the courage. [highlight]I had no way out.[/highlight] These are the times I still find difficult to talk about.
Recovery Is Possible
My family moved me back to the Chicago area for one last ditch effort. Unbeknownst to me, they had been speaking with a treatment center about an intervention. Showing up penniless, with no options, I was just grateful to have a place to stay. It was Christmas time and my family was told to wait until my binge. They didn’t have long to wait. I stole several hundred dollars from my stepfather and disappeared. Remorseful, I returned several days later. And they intervened on me…
And intervention isn’t an offer to go to treatment. I was glad to go to treatment. I was usually relieved to stop the madness. An intervention is much more than that. It is when the family collectively works together and changes their dynamic under the guidance of a professional.
The biggest thing that my family did for me is that they learned how to give me the consequences of my own life and when that happened, I finally began to get well. I am sober today because my family gave me a gift. The gift of feeling the negative consequences of my lifestyle decisions.
Today, my mother carries in her purse my first one-year sobriety token that people give you in recovery circles. It is her most valuable possession. So many years she waited for that small medallion. So many prayers.
Intervention Services is a company that my brother and I started because we know the spectrum of feelings that a family can feel when hit by addiction. We also know what it feels like to think that you’ve done everything you can, and still feel like you are losing the battle.
My life is now an incredible amazing gift. I have gotten so much more than sobriety. I have a life today, and I have my family back. In the end, isn’t that life really what an intervention is about? Bringing the family back, not just for the addict or the alcoholic…but for everyone.
Founder, Intervention Services