Sometimes life just sucks. I grew up in a broken home, with a schizophrenic mom. As far as I can remember I was always asking myself why can’t I be like others. By others, I mean having both parents in the home and a mother that either didn’t have schizophrenia or at the worst, she did have it and would at least take her medications. I remember kids telling me, “your mom is crazy.” Their remarks were piercing, they would hurt deeply. It got to the point at family gatherings I could overhear conversations of adults talking about my mom saying what can we do she is absolutely insane. When I was in fourth grade sitting in my normal class just like any other elementary student I remember my mother walking through the door just before lunch and her yelling at me to get my shit, we are going. The poor teacher said excuse me you have to stop at the office to get your son. My mother replied shut up bitch and as quickly as she came in, I was being dragged by the arm out of my class in front of everyone. I felt scared, angry, and totally alone.
When I was 12 years old I went for a walk with a neighbors Labrador and a few blocks from my house a cat decides that it wants to walk directly in front of our path, the dog pursues the cat with me attached to the leash, next thing I see is my right arm bending until I hear a crack, my arm broke, and the dog was in the wind and the cat nowhere to be found. I walk home with my arm throbbing in pain. I knew it was broken, I felt more pain than I ever had before. I walked into my house and my mom is pacing. Keep in mind my mother hasn’t taken her meds for 2 months and she’s in constant psychosis. I show my mom my broken arm and she says oh you poor thing. Let’s get a look at that. I remember her sitting me on the counter next to the stove and she reaches in the cabinet and grabs a large pot and fills it with water. By now my arm is more like the size of a tree trunk. The water starts coming to a boil, I can see steam off the top of the pot, it’s really hot. My mom starts speaking to people I can’t see or hear. I just remember her taking my broken arm and forcing it into the scalding pot of hot water. I screamed and screamed it felt like forever, but eventually, she took it out. I told her I needed to go to the hospital she said I’m fine. I ended up sleeping on my broken arm and it wasn’t until the next day that my friend that was walking the dog with me told my family what had happened and my grandfather showed up to take me to the ER.
At this time in my life I feel like I just got dealt a bad hand and thought to myself things will get better. When I got home from the hospital my mom still in psychosis had a jar of mustard waiting for me. She had some story about driving away evil spirits and then took mustard and put it on my face to ward off any evil spirits. Since that day I haven’t eaten mustard. Shortly after the mustard incident, she cornered me into my room and I remember her yelling and screaming and forcing me to take off my clothes so she can see me naked. I would have been beaten if I didn’t follow her direction and she still would have taken my clothes off.
At this point in life I’m over it my family begins to look to me to help my mom, I remember aunts and uncles asking me what should we do with your mom. I was 12 years old. No child should have to make decisions for their parent at that age it’s just not right, especially after all the things I went through. After that event, my mom was finally admitted under a 5150 hold because she couldn’t take care of herself or me. That’s when I went to live with my uncle. Feeling a reprieve for a moment at my uncle’s house was welcomed and much needed, but that reprieve was short-lived. My cousin still lived with my uncle and he began to sexually abuse me nightly. The shame and embarrassment I experienced from that time in my life still haunts me.
I remember starting to rebel against everything and everyone. I’ve been tortured, abused mentally and physically, and I’m so sick of everyone and their perfect life from the age of 12 to 14 I would ride my bike alone 10 miles daily to escape my reality. Because anything, anywhere was better than where I lived. This escape is ultimately what led me to experiment with marijuana in high school. I liked whatever didn’t make me feel. I didn’t want to feel the crazy weird feelings of my mom, puberty, talking to people, being abused and dealing with life so I gave up, and gave in to anything that relieved my pain.
I tell you this back story because many people like me come from similar backgrounds, maybe they don’t have a psychotic mother or haven’t been sexually abused, but maybe they have a drunken mom or an abusive father. Most of the people I have met in recovery have some form of trauma or abuse in their past in one form or another.
By 18 I was looking at 3 years in prison or 6 months drug rehab. I took rehab.
Addiction sucked. It stole my soul, it robbed me of everything good that I was taught before my mom got sick. I always grew up wanting good things for myself, finishing school, going to college, getting married, but methamphetamine and heroin stood in my way and I was screwed up from years of abuse.
Entering rehab was horrible. I had every intention when I got out of rehab I would be back to smoking weed, using meth, and shooting heroin, but something happened. I was taken to a 12-step meeting where I was sitting outside and an old timer saw me smoking a cigarette while I was sitting on the ground completely uncomfortable and discontent. He came up to me and kicked me in my butt and said get in the meeting. I was 19 years old and I was all out of good ideas. I put my cigarette out and walked into that meeting. That man saved my life. He knew me. He knew I needed that kick in the butt to get my attention and it worked. I’ve been in fist fights for more trivial acts. That man later became my sponsor.
After a few months of rehab, I knew I needed to be there. I was fighting for my life and I had my whole future in front of me. My outlook started to change from negative to positive. I surrounded myself with people that went to meetings. I began to lift others up and encourage them, which was a sharp contrast from the person I was when I entered rehab.
When I was released from rehab I immediately went looking for a job and found one working on motorhomes in the body shop of an RV dealership. I stayed sober went back to high school and graduated and that’s when things skyrocketed.
By 24 I was working, going to meetings and that’s when I met my future wife. She had this plan that I was going to marry her, remain sober, go to college, and she would help me through it.
Well, we got married and I began to attend city college until I had enough credits to transfer to a university.
A few weeks after I applied to this university, I was beginning to get impatient. I had a 3.49 GPA and the cut off was 3.50. I was .01 short, I began to doubt, fear crept in. I’ve learned that when I start feeling like that I need to get into action and that meant confronting what I was feeling. So I walked into the admissions office of the university and asked if I could speak to someone about my application. I sat down with a kind lady that after I gave her my name, she looked astonished, puzzled even. My head started getting more thoughts of doom, terror, and denial. She smiled after being puzzled and said that she had looked at over 3000 applications that day and that mine was on her desk not 5 minutes ago. I proceeded to tell her my story of overcoming and recognizing my lower than average GPA. She said she was grateful that I stopped in and said hello. A few weeks later I received my acceptance letter.
Ever since I got sober my life hasn’t been easy, but being sober makes my life easier. Facing life’s challenges head-on is scary and at times overwhelming. The trials of my past do not define me. I use my experience to share it with others that have gone through similar situations and trials. I’m not perfect, but I’m happy. Addiction can create a cycle of negative reinforcement and I’ve been in that cycle, I’ve experienced it first hand, and now I use that experience to help others get through it too.
Do me a favor, do yourself a favor. If you have a loved one in active addiction tell them you love them right now. Tell them that help is there if they want it. Tell them they aren’t alone and that they can recover. Tell them my story, let them tell you theirs! There are tons of resources out there that can help, but it all starts with you. Don’t wait another minute thinking should I call them, just call, it can save their life.