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What I Never Expected to Gain in Addiction Recovery

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Not many people can claim they have lived two distinct, different lives by the age of 21. Of course, people change on a daily basis and are not the same person they were a year ago. But I am talking about a total 180 degree change, a new life in general. I believe anyone who is in recovery from an addiction knows exactly what I mean by this “new life.” For me, I was reborn.

Drug problems are strong and can change someone’s personality completely. Drugs can change moods, actions and behaviors, easily. Have you ever had a friend that acted completely normal while sober, but when they got drunk, they seemed to be a completely different human? I believe drugs and alcohol have the potential to do this to people, and not everyone has the same response.

Growing up, I was a nice, pleasant and respectful young man. However, this all changed when I developed a drug problem. Drugs and alcohol changed me, and more specifically, the type of drug changed me in different ways. For example, “uppers” made me more aggressive, irrational and hyper, while “downers” made me passive, inattentive and lackadaisical.

Drugs also took away my interest in being a good person. I would do anything to get my fix, and never had any remorse about it, either. Nobody was safe around me. I stole from my dying grandmother, parents and siblings. I manipulated my friends and close family members to give me money for “food” or “school supplies,” but in reality, I was just buying drugs. Lying was so much a part of me that I lost the ability to even know what the truth was anymore. Nobody trusted me, myself included. I was a lost soul for many years.

While using drugs, I didn’t like anybody, and nobody liked me, either. A “perfect” night in active addiction for me looked like this: phone turned off, plenty of drugs and nobody around. I didn’t even like the lights being on. I was only in contact with people who either did drugs with me or had drugs to sell me, and that was it. My life was spiraling out of control, and I knew it.

My life came flashing before my eyes when I overdosed. I didn’t think it was possible for me to ever overdose until it actually happened. After a manic breakdown, drug-induced psychosis and lack of sleep, I ended up in the psychiatric unit of the hospital. October 20, 2009 was the worst day of my life, followed by an even worse week. The cold white walls of the psych ward, the constant wild gibberish, the loud screams — the psych ward was a living nightmare for me.

I was there for eight straight nights and I was scared straight into luxury drug rehab. See, rehabs were a fear of mine, but that was only because I feared sobriety. When I got out of the hospital, I was flown to a 30-day rehab, and that was followed by an aftercare program. After about nine months of rehab, I was ready to come home.

When I got home, I did everything suggested to me, from going to meetings, getting a sponsor, to getting a job and going back to school. I immersed myself in the AA lifestyle. Despite my disbelief, everything I was doing was working. The obsession to use drugs or drink alcohol disappeared, and in return, I got something I was looking for the whole time: happiness.

It has been almost seven years since I have picked up a drink or a drug. My life today is nothing short of a miracle. I started recovery because I wanted to stop using drugs, but little did I know I was going to develop a completely new life as a result. The biggest gifts in my life today are the intangible ones. My word means something today, and my family and friends trust me. Whereas before — when I was using — people hid their wallets and belongings from me.

I have accomplished more in seven years than I ever did in the 19 years of my life before working the program. The most important thing about my life today is the fact that I have fun. When I got off all the drugs and alcohol, I didn’t think it would even be possible to have fun ever again. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Join Mental Health America during Mental Health Month in increasing awareness of risky behaviors and potential ties to mental health conditions. Download the complete toolkit, featuring facts sheets with infographics, social media images, and more here#riskybusiness #MHM2017.

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Unsplash photo via Dustin Scarpitti.

Originally published: May 12, 2017
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