Stories of Hope

Photo of dandilion blowing in the wind.

There was a time that I wondered if I would ever know hope again in my life. Each day was clouded in darkness and pain. My son was deep in to his addiction and I was going down along with him. But, I did get glimpses of hope and I clung to these as I did air to breathe.

My sister was visiting from Alaska and my son was also at home at that time. She knew about his disease and I was grateful for a third party observation. What she told me gave me serenity and yes, hope. It gave me something to hold on to in the desperate hours.

She said “He has such a good heart. I see the old boy I knew before the drugs. I see sadness in his eyes about where he has ended up. He is still there and I have faith that he will emerge and be happy again”

I was able to once again have love and acceptance for my son. I did not like his disease, but I did like him again.

I was a relatively normal kid for this day and age. Sure I had my share of problems, but who doesn’t? I used to blame what happened on other people and on the things that happened in my past, but I know now I made my own choices. However, even though I take responsibility for my life choices, I know that I was sick and I refuse to berate myself.

The drugs started out how most drugs start out, with pot. Sure it was all innocent and fun, its just pot right? Well, besides the laziness, lack of motivation and failing grades, things were pretty ok, until I got bored. My friends started getting into heavier drugs and I was more than willing to experiment. Of course it was fun for awhile and my mom was pretty cool about it, I assumed. She really just didn’t know what to do and hoped it was just a passing phase. Then I started getting depressed and I couldn’t stand being sober. No one could stand me sober. I was mean, hateful, and depressing to be around. My mom gave me an ultimatum. Get out or go to rehab. It didn’t take me too long to decide, I’m really not bred for the streets I like showers too much (although I’m sure I didn’t smell like it!).

Rehab introduced me to the world of Alcoholics Anonymous and I thought I was going to be clean and sober and happy. What do you think happened the day I got out? I met up with an old friend and did some oxy. I want to tell you all the things that happened but I honestly cant remember the time line. At some point I got into heroin and hanging out with some homeless kids and I just got all messed up. So much happened that I would be writing forever in order to relay everything.

One thing I do remember is my friend dead in my apartment. There were four other people there including me. I had been asleep and was the only who noticed something was wrong. We had a bunch of drugs with us so the guys I was with decided to carry him outside and say we found him there. I remember everything in vivid detail. It was horrible. A couple days later I was laying in bed freaking out and waiting for someone to bring me some dope so that I could forget everything. It was my defining moment. After I got that hit I knew I really had to change my life. I didn’t want to only be ok when I was on drugs, I had such a bright future. I had so much going for me and I was just throwing it away. I went to rehab the next day. It was hard and it was still a couple years before I got it, but I did get it.

I’m still sort of struggling today but its nothing compared to my previous life. I’ve been sober for a little over a year now and I couldn’t feel better. I love being able to remember what happen yesterday or last week. People depend on me for a lot. Some times I just sit and think about how crazy it is that someone would trust me with their money. Or that my family wants to have me around and isn’t worried about what I’ll do this time. I actually enjoy my life and the fact that I can sleep through the night without having to take drink, or smoke, or take a pill is amazing. For the first time in my life I’m happy and it doesn’t come from any outside source.

As I’ve grown older I’ve learned that words can have many meanings. Hope is a word that can comfort us or leave us feeling all alone in the world. “Full of hope” is when we wake up and experience those few seconds of silence knowing that it’s a new day and anything is possible.  Full of hope is what we have before we let the “what if’s” and “if only” creep into our subconscious; before we let what we believe is the weight of our worlds fall onto us. Hopeless is what happens when we quit trying and fighting. You see other people on the news that have lost everything in a hurricane, flood or earthquake. You see suffering that we can only imagine. Somehow, our Higher Power has protected us from those horrible situations yet we feel hopeless. Hopeless, because our expectations of our loved ones behaviors haven’t satisfied our need to have them lead a life of recovery.

Only when we let go and let our loved ones find their own hope, their own Higher Power, we can truly be  hopeful.

“May we gain wisdom in our  lives,

Overflowing like a river with  understanding.

Loved, each of us, for the  peace we bring to others.

May our deeds exceed our  speech,

And may we never let cross  words leave our mouths

but to conquer fear and doubt  and despair.”

I was raised by my alcoholic mom, so most of the time I was on my own, because when she wasn’t getting drunk she was at work, and she didn’t keep much track of me. How I was doing in school and who I was hanging out with just wasn’t important to her. Despite her lack of interest, I was always a good kid, though, and did well in school and was respectful, at least until high school.

I started using drugs at the end of 9th grade. It started off with drinking every weekend, smoking pot here and there. By the end of summer I was into coke heavily and started getting in trouble with the police. Sophomore year came around quick, and I wasn’t happy about that. So I never really went…I was too busy with getting high and drinking.

The school started noticing something was off, and when they tried to talk to my mom about me, they realized how bad my home life was. Soon enough, child services got involved and started coming to my house and asking questions about what was going on. They knew right off the bat that that was not a place for a 15 year old girl to live. So they took me away.

I was in the group home for about two weeks and decided to run away. I knew I couldn’t go home, knowing they would check that first. So I stayed with different friends off and on, getting high every day to forget about the pain, finding any way to make money. A few months after I left, I ended up right back in the group home where I stayed for about 2 weeks until they moved me to a foster home.

At first I was rebellious and didn’t care. I was just waiting for the right time to get out. But I stared to realize I couldn’t survive on my own any more. I wanted help. I wanted to stop my addiction. I started seeing a therapist once a week while I was there. I didn’t really open up at first because I was kind of scared. After a while, the therapist became my best friend, helped me get through my addiction, showed me how to love myself and forgive my mom for the past.

I stayed in the foster home until I was 18 and then moved out and rented a room. I have a job and have been sober since I was 16. I love life now– being able to go out and just have a good time without drugs or alcohol, and finally getting along with my mom. I am so glad I came this far, and thankful to be free.

As a child I had a good life. My family was very wealthy, I went to a good school and I had lots of friends. I lived with my mom, dad, and little sisters. I was the oldest child, so I was always looking after my siblings, trying to be a good role model for them. We were a pretty happy family until my father was killed in a car accident. After that, things kind of got a little crazy. I was confused. I started hanging out with different types of people than my usual crowd…“the druggies,” people called them. I think I was just curious and alone.

I started drinking and going to parties. The people I hung out with liked to do heroin. I was never really interested in trying it, but I got curious and gave it a try. Immediately, I became what I thought was happy, enjoying life for the first time since my dad had passed away. Then things started getting a little out of control. I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted more, a better high. So I decided to shoot up. I was doing anything to get money, to get high, even taking things from my mom or one of my sisters.

I was breaking my family’s heart. My mom kicked me out when I was 17. She told me I could go to rehab or get out. And I wasn’t ready to clean up my life. I was on my own for a while, and I knew I couldn’t make it on my own. I knew I was in a dark place, and the path I was going down…God only knows where I’d end up. I started to see that I needed help. I started to see what everyone else saw.

I finally agreed to go to rehab. I hated it at first. I was never really that good with a lot of rules, but I know it did me good. After the first couple of weeks fighting the system, I started doing what they told me–going to meetings, getting a Sponsor, working the steps. I thought it was all so stupid in the beginning but I really didn’t have anything to lose and I definitely didn’t want to go back to where I was before. I ended up staying for a year and a half.

I never thought my life would turn out this way. I’ve been clean for two years now. Sometimes I struggle with everything and want to get away, but I know that I’ve come this far, and in my mind there is no turning back.

I found my first glimmer of hope when I finally mustered the strength to tell my son, “Choose rehab, or choose a life without your family. “ My hope did NOT arise from his response (which was three days in coming) but in the fact that I finally knew in my heart of hearts that things wouldn’t change unless we changed…and I garnered the strength and conviction to draw that line in the sand.

That strength and conviction had eluded me for so long because I was so afraid for my son. I was afraid that if I kicked him out, he would get hurt. I was afraid he would get into even more trouble if he didn’t have somewhere to live. I was afraid he would fall in with a bad crowd, which was such an unfounded fear because he was bad enough on his own. And on some level, I rationalized that confronting his addiction—drawing a line in the sand—somehow made it more real. I know that sounds strange, but a little voice in my head whispered that if I didn’t need to kick him out, then his problem really wasn’t that bad, was it?? That’s denial at its best.

Once I mustered the strength to offer one or the other– drugs or family– then our family had a chance to get better, collectively and individually. My son could choose to seek recovery and I could choose to deny entry to his substance abuse in my life. When I claimed that power, I found a hope that sustains me, one day at a time, no matter what my son does or doesn’t do.

My name is Garret and I’m an addict. I was raised an only child with a single mother. My mom is a mom and teaches at a high school. My Pops took off after he and my mom split up, right after I was born.

Elementary school is where it all began. My best friend lived across the street. In 5th grade, he started smoking weed. By the summer between 5th and 6th grade, I was getting stoned two to four times a week. My friend’s mom and dad were cool, as I remember. His mom always made munchies for us. I thought she and her husband were the best because they would let us get high in the house and do whatever we wanted, as long as we didn’t bring trouble with us. By the time we started 9th grade, the mom was dropping us off at school, and we all smoked the whole way there.

One morning I got a little too high with my friend and his mom, and was caught being stoned in class because my eyes were cherried (REALLY red). I was suspended for three days and grounded for a week for that first time. My mom started drug testing me for marijuana after that. I had to take a little break from smoking because pot stays in your system for several weeks, so I switched to something else.

I thought I had found the perfect solution, since weed was out of the question. I was popping pills like candy. I loved opiates. Vicodin, Percocet, morphine, and oxy. I wanted to be high all the time and, by 11th grade I was smoking heroin, then shooting up by my senior year.

I remember being in the bathroom stall about to get high when I looked at the belt I was strapping around my arm. I asked myself where the hell was my life going? I was pathetic. There were blood stains on my belt from shooting up that I hadn’t even bothered cleaning off or covering up.

My friend and I had started getting high on weed, but we stopped hanging out by senior year. He never got into hard drugs like me. I had been dating a girl for almost a year, and I knew she was going to leave me unless I straightened out. She stuck with me until after Christmas Senior year then left me because I couldn’t stop slamming heroin.

I think her leaving me is what really woke me up. I hated being alone, and it wasn’t worth getting high. I loved her. I could tell she didn’t want anything to do with me while I was using. With the help of a detox, NA, my sponsor, and a LOT of hard work I was able to stop using. It took awhile and a lot of proving to her and to myself that I wasn’t going back to heroin, but we eventually got back together.

It has been three years since I last used, and it’s always nice to enjoy my life with a clear head. I even started talking to my old friend again. My name is Garret and I’m an addict.

Growing up in Orange County, my childhood seemed pretty normal, at least to me. I have five brothers and sisters, but only three that lived with because the older two had a different dad. I guess it all started when the neighborhood kids would tell me that they weren’t allowed to hang around me because I was “a bad kid.” Apparently, a lot of the parents though that I was out of control and disrespectful. This led to my parents fighting with the other parents and with each other quite often.

I started smoking pot and drinking in middle school. It didn’t seem out of place to smoke every day, so I never thought of it as a problem. I think I thought it wasn’t a big deal because when I got caught the first couple of times, I only got a ticket. I was always hanging out with friends, not following the rules, getting in fights and getting expelled from schools so I ended up in a juvenile detention center. I found out the hard way what happens when you don’t behave when I was 14.

Getting sent to juvenile hall just made me even more mad, and when I got out I started using meth. I was in love from that first hit. I returned to lockup multiple times but never for too long since all I ever got caught with was pot. I would get released, get high, get in trouble and end up right back.

My first reality check was when I got sent to a group home because I was so defiant and out of control. I think living with other kids who were just as crazy as me made my problem even worse. My older brother would try to pick me up each weekend so I wouldn’t have to spend it in the group home. He didn’t really mind if I drank or smoked pot but I knew he wouldn’t be ok with me doing hard drugs so I kept the meth a secret. When I turned 18 he let me move in with him and he had just had a baby so I knew I had to be good. But I started smoking meth a lot, and when he found out he kicked me out.

I didn’t have anywhere to go and I knew I had a bad problem and the only place I knew to turn to was the group home. The counselor there found me a sober house in San Diego that also had a program to help people get off drugs. I always thought of sober houses as a place for losers and quitters, but I went anyways and I found that it wasn’t at all what I expected. I got the help I needed and went to NA and AA meetings where I found a Sponsor and did the steps. At first it was just because I had to. but I found that I actually enjoyed it after awhile.

The group home counselor found me a job at Toy’s R Us and my life really started to turn around. I just had my 22nd birthday, it was a lot of fun, and I was sober as a judge. I got promoted at work and got a raise and am getting ready to move into my own place. I’ve been drug-free for a little over a year now, and I feel awesome. My life has done a 180 and I couldn’t be happier. My brothers and sisters are really proud of me, and I even have a girlfriend.

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