Apr 22, 2011
It's been about a year since I've told my story, either on here or at a meeting, so I guess it's time to do it.
My name is Ross. I'm 24 years old and I am two weeks shy of having two years free of all mind altering substances. I have a strong connection with my higher power and wonderful people in my life today. I've been managing at an upscale Mexican restaurant here in Houston, Tx for about 3 months now and I'm loving it. Sometimes it's longer hours than I would like, but I love the food industry, my restaurant is something I take great pride and ownership in. We have a large "regular" base that comes in often, which includes Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. I've got about 1 year left to finish my college education; I just finished my Political Science degree and now am working solely on my Business Management major. I've got a nice new loft and a lot of material things that I can look on with pride. I don't tell you any of this to try and impress you, and while it impresses the hell out of me, I tell you this to show you how it is now as opposed to how it used to be. It was definitely not always this amazing.
I started off drinking when I was young. My family is populated with a lot of heavy drinkers, if not alcoholics. I can remember getting drunk for the first time at the age of 13, in the 7th grade. Me and a friend watched a lot of wrestling and, in the image of Stone Cold Steve Austin, we chugged down beers in his garage. I remember I loved the feeling. Even though I got sick and threw up after about 7, I remember wanting to do it again. It's the classic alcoholic reaction to drinking: after an experience that would make most normal drinkers say, "hey, I don't want to do that again!", I wanted more.
My parents separated when I was at the end of 7th grade. I can't blame anyone but myself for my disease, but shortly after this is when I started drinking more, and more often. By the time I was entering high school, I was binge drinking 3 or 4 nights a week. I got to high school and drinking changed from something I had to hide, to something that was "cool" in the eyes of the students there. My grades were average, mostly B's and C's, but my drinking was progressing even further at this point. The first real high school party I went to I got blood alcohol poisoning as a result of drinking the better part of a bottle of Everclear. I had never been so sick in my life as I was the next two days, but again, I didn't have the normal reaction to stay away from alcohol, I wanted more. The feeling that it gave me was that of invincibility and total freedom from inhibition. My drinking, by the end of my freshman year had progressed to 4 or 5 nights a week.
I took great pride in my athleticism, and although drinking did somewhat detract from my performance, I was a very skilled baseball and football player. I was playing on both varsity teams as a freshman, and was having a good deal of success for having such little experience. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I injured myself while lifting weights, tearing my Trapezius and Lateral muscles away from each other in my back. I was told I would be in tremendous pain if I chose to play football that year and it would be almost inevitable that I would hinder the healing process in the process. I was not willing to give up my season, so I sought out one of the well known drug dealers at my school and asked if there was anything he could do. I feel like at this point I should explain something; up to this point, and even after, I had always looked down on drug users. While I was proud of the fact that I could drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol and preserve consciousness, I looked at drug users with much contempt, so it was not easy for me to make the decision to use drugs. He supplied me with a fairly large amount of Norco 10/325 Hydrocodone pills for cheap, since we were football buddies. I can remember the first day I took them and the incredible feeling they gave me and when I coupled them with alcohol, I fell in love. I used them for about 3 weeks until I was notified by my head coach (who often tipped players who he "couldn't afford to lose" of drug tests) that I would be tested sometime in the next few weeks. I was terrified that I would be found out if I continued to take them, so I stopped. I had not yet crossed into the realm of addiction because a good reason to stop came along and I was able to. I did not, however, stop drinking.
Rather than bore you with more stories of drinking and occasional drug use throughout high school, I will just sum it up. By the end of my high school career, I was drinking at least 5 nights a week, sometimes till I blacked out. I did average in my studies while excelling at my football career and was awarded a scholarship to play football for one of the top 3 schools in the state of Texas for Pre-Law and Pre-Med studies. The school was a few hours away from where I lived and I was happy to get away as I had already encountered some consequences and broken relationships as a result of my drinking.
College, for me, was quite an experience. Actually, the first semester of college was virtually identical to high school. I was now drinking hard liquor every night of the week, pulling B's and C's in my classes, and excelling at football. I refrained from using drugs during this first semester because of the NCAA's drug testing policy. I started to get some playing time as a freshman, which is not a very typical occurrence, and did well. About half way through the season, I began to notice that my knee was hurting terribly almost every day. I went to the team doctor to get checked out, and he in turn recommended me to an orthopedist in the area who worked with players from our team almost exclusively. He did an MRI and after a day or two longer than I would have expected, called me and told me that it was nothing more than a very severe "bone bruise" and that I would have to play through the pain, but that he could give me something to take after practice. He prescribed me Norco 10/325 again. I looked into the NCAA's testing policies and found that as long as I was prescribed the drug, I could not be penalized for testing positive for it, so I began to take them. He prescribed me 120 pills for 30 days and I managed to take them basically as prescribed, since I had such a large allowance. I played through the season this way. By Christmas time, I was still having a large amount of pain in my knee. When I came home to Houston for the holidays, I saw my orthopedist here, and got another MRI. He told me that I had been playing on a serious injury that would require surgery if I was to heal, and that basically only an idiot could have missed this on an MRI so he thought the ortho from school was telling me what I needed to hear so that I wouldn't miss playing time. He told me that if I wanted to walk after the age of 40, I would have the surgery and end my football career. As painful as this was, I agreed. I had the surgery and was given a large amount of painkillers to deal with the pain.
This is the point in my life where I believe I crossed over the line of addiction. I returned to school and everything was different. In college, playing football is like a full time job. It used to consume so many hours of my day and gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment, and it was all gone. I didn't fit in with my friends from the team anymore as some thought I quit for a non-legitimate reason or because I drank too much. While this may have been partially true, I would have given anything to play again. I considered going against my ortho's advice on a daily basis. Up until this point, I had not ever actually abused my medication to a great extent, but I started that January when I was back at school. I noticed that if I took more, I didn't feel so terrible about myself. Drinking wasn't really working for me anymore, as I'd have to take so much in that it was causing me to have gastro-intestinal problems. I couldn't even drink a quarter of what I used to before getting sick and it wasn't enough to get me drunk, so I turned to the pills. Also, not under fear of drug testing anymore, I began smoking pot. It was a major release from care and worry. I went from a drunk who looked down on drugs to a daily pot smoking, pill popping drug addict who rarely drank.
I was notified at the end of the year that due to my inability to play football, my scholarship was being revoked. I was going to have to pay right at $30,000 a year in order to stay at that university. I decided to take out a loan and attend. By this time, my addiction was really taking hold of my life. I had surrounded myself with like-minded people; drug addicts, dealers, and run-of-the-mill lowlifes. My drug habit was getting expensive as I was no longer prescribed, so I began to sell drugs. At first it started off with just selling pot, but soon I had made the right connections and was selling cocaine in moderate amounts. The selling soon took the place of football in my drug twisted mind. I took pride in it. I took pride in knowing that if you needed something, I had it, and it was better than the other guy's. I felt like "the man" again.
It's no surprise to me now that around this time my grades began to slip. I started making C's and D's and dropping classes all together. I spent more and more time using, (was now up to about 15 10/325's a day and smoked high grade marijuana practically all day) more time selling, and less time caring about anything but drugs. Second semester of my sophomore year, I almost dropped out altogether, only finishing one class in which I made a C. I stepped back and judged my life in what I thought, at the time, was a rational manner. Another year of bad grades and dropped classes was not worth the $30,000 I was going to have to pay to do it, so I made the decision then to come back home to Houston.
When I got home, I immediately sought out people who were like me. Most of my friends that had potential were off realizing it in colleges and universities around the country. The people I knew that stayed home were more like me, drug users, abusers, addicts, alcoholics, and everything in between. Houston was where I had got my cocaine supply for selling up at school anyway, so I immediately began to deal to my friends around town. I won't get into specifics here, but the business took off. I was moving more then I had ever thought I would, and in turn, was making more money than I ever had before. I moved in with a guy I went to high school with and he introduced me to Oxycodone. It was the answer to my problems at the time. I didn't have to take so many pills to get high, less damaging to the liver from all the tylenol most hydrocodone compounds contain, and made me feel good again.
I quickly gained a tolerance that couldn't be satisfied by having my roommate "middle-man" for me, so I got him to take me to the source. It was a gang-affiliated man who lived on the North side of downtown. After visiting him quite a few times that next month and arrogantly spouting off about how much I was selling, he invited me into his neck of the enterprise, Heroin. I had my fears about this drug. I had told myself so many times, I would never be a needle junky, and I meant it, but regardless of the fear I felt, there was big money in it and I decided I wanted in on it. I sold for the man for about 6 months, making big money but all the while my addiction was growing stronger and stronger. I was ingesting about 300 or 400mg of Oxy every day, along with the weed and occasional cocaine use.
Finally, the day came when I tried heroin. We had been selling a diluted form of black tar on the streets but we had recently received a very pure shipment of "china white", a powdered form of the drug. The first time I shot, I found what I had been looking for the whole time I was using; complete, unadulterated escape. I began shooting 4 or 5 times a day for almost a month, and even though a month is not a really long time, I destroyed so much in my life over that time that it's hard to imagine. I crashed two vehicles, had some scrapes with the law (never actually arrested), but the worst was that I completely destroyed the relationships I had with my family and friends. I was emotionally and spiritually dead inside.
I decided I needed to get clean and asked my parents if I could move in with them in order to do so. They allowed me to do so in late December of 2008. I quit shooting heroin but was ingesting over 500mg of oxy every day just to stay normal. I had some short periods of agonizingly painful sobriety, usually not more than 3-5 days at a time. After causing even more damage to my family, I finally decided to enter a treatment facility in May 2009, on the 4th to be exact. When I got there, I was ready to do whatever they told me in order to get clean. I hated myself and everyone in my life and just wanted a fresh start. In the treatment facility, they introduced me to AA .
At the suggestion of my counselor I found a sponsor, or someone to take me through the 12 steps. We began working almost as soon as I got out of the residential program and, almost immediately, things changed. After admitting that I was a full blown addict and powerless over drugs, I was then able to take a proactive stance to get well. I finished the steps after I was about 11 months sober and began sponsoring others. During this time, my life had already started to improve drastically. I had re-enrolled in school here in Houston, was working part time for my dad, and I began to see the good in life again. I had gained a lot of friends in the program, and one by one, through working the steps, the character defects that controlled my life before slowly slipped away. As one quote from the AA book says, "What seemed at first a flimsy reed has proved to be the loving and powerful hand of God."
Around a year sober I started working with others, taking others through the steps and teaching them about what we do to stay sober. I bought a new car, moved to a new place, and basically had a life better than I could have imagined. That is still true to this day. I'm working a job that I love, have wonderful people in my life, and I'm very close to God today. Working the 12 steps of AA really did not only save my life, but changed it into something I never thought I'd have.
To the newcomer: There is a solution. I found it in AA. Life can be more wonderful than it's ever been before, all it takes is a few simple steps. Love you guys!