Nothing matters so much as the impact you leave on the ones you love when you leave this earth. Now that I have eight solid months of real recovery under my belt, I find that saying to be so true. Our behaviors over time dictate how we live, or die.
2004 was the year that I thought was going to be the most important, pivotal and positive year of my life. I had the world at my fingertips, a job that most would kill for, and a family that stood by me at all times. It was the year before my son was born and the start of many, many life changing events that got me where I am today. I am a recovering addict. I thought that I could turn off my need for alcohol and prescription pain meds, and that it would just go away. I thought that if I just stopped using, that it would be enough. I thought that the Twelve Steps, sponsors and meetings were for the weak-minded and that since I did this to myself, I should be able to get myself out of it.
In 2004, I realized I drank too much. By the observations of others I realized that I was headed down a spiritual, mental, and physical road to destruction. I didn’t truly see my drinking as a problem because I didn’t look like an “alcoholic.” I had everything I wanted: a good job, family, and friends. What I didn’t see was how my behavior was affecting my family. Before my son was born, I stopped drinking for about 3 months. That time was the last time before treatment that I had peace, love and control. During that 3 month sabbatical, I was injured on a 911 call and shattered my ankle.
On the ride to the hospital in the paramedic unit that transported me I was introduced to opioid pain medication. I was taken to the hospital where they continued to give me more pain medication IV. That night I remember all of my pain vanishing, both physically and spiritually. What I know now is that I was breaking my spirit and my connection to my higher power. For a brief moment before surgery I knew that the medication was for a specific purpose—not for what I used it for, until I entered recovery—eight plus months ago. I found a “friend” that briefly took all of my pain away but only added more pain of a different kind and ultimately changed my life forever. I rehabilitated my ankle and returned to work a few months later. I failed to mention that I had stopped drinking, who in their right mind would drink while on pain medication? Well, back then I didn’t. Life returned to normal, I was alcohol and pain medication free and feeling great. My son was born, work was great, and my future bright.
In August, my fire engine responded to a structure fire that would forever change my life. I was injured once again, this time worse and had to be taken to the hospital. Once again and before surgery I was given opioids for some pretty extreme shoulder and knee injuries. I remember the RN that started my IV saying, “Here it comes, you are going to like this, your pain will be gone.” How true that was, but the pain that was taken away was replaced with a pain that all of us ultimately feel or have felt pre-recovery. What I did was run from my past and numb out all things around me. What I did was hide behind chemicals instead of facing life on life’s terms. Remember when I said, “who in their right mind would mix alcohol and pain medication”? Well, after my second surgery, I did, for almost five years.
Long story short—I had 5 knee surgeries and 3 shoulder- and a mixture of unnecessary addiction-related hospital visits. I went from a man than lived by duty, respect and integrity to doctor shopping and daily driving under the influence with my son in the car. I went to FIVE treatment facilities, was divorced, lost my job as a firefighter, and literally died twice. I thought that each of the bottoms I hit were the lowest I could go, until my old engine crew and workmates resuscitated me back to life from a drug overdose mixed with alcohol. Towards the end of my active addiction I wanted to die. Five rehabs couldn’t save me, nor could anyone around me. Losing all that I had wasn’t enough. I know what the bottom looks like and what death feels like (literally).
What stopped all of this? Some might say dying; I say “letting go” . . . I asked my Higher Power to remove the obsession. He did, plain and simple. He stopped the bleeding so that I could start the life-long healing process. He stopped it so that I could help myself and let others into my life. “Faith without work is dead.” What that means is, work, work, work. I go to twelve-step meetings, have a sponsor and do what feels uncomfortable. This works; it really does. I am a work in progress and I am not perfect. I am, however, over eight months clean. I chose to live, I chose to work everyday at the most important endeavor of my life. There is much more to this but I don’t have time to write a book. I love you all. Remember, “one day at a time” everyone. Don’t drink, don’t use, no matter what.