Growing up, I was a good kid who enjoyed playing soccer all the way through high school. But at age 16, I started smoking pot and hanging with the wrong crowd, which basically threw my sports career because I became more interested in skipping school and getting high. Then when I was 18, three months after I got my driver’s license, I got a DUI for the first time in my life and was charged with possession of paraphernalia. This was the first time I really had any consequences for my behavior, but I was nowhere near ready to give up the party life yet.
On Easter Sunday of 2007, my brother was murdered by his girlfriend. She thought that she was the beneficiary of his life insurance policy, but it was actually me. My brother left me $50,000, and for the next year and a half, we fought for custody of his little girl – my niece. It cost me $35,000, but we eventually won.
We fought so hard because her mom would do things like taking methamphetamines while breastfeeding – so when my niece was 6 months old, she weighed 6.6lbs. Child Protective Services said she looked like a little skeleton. Her mom is currently in prison for a 35-year sentence without parole. And today, my beautiful little niece lives happily with my mom in Virginia. To this day, my mom sees it as my brother had to die so that his daughter could live.
For the most part, I kept it together during this time, although I was drinking pretty heavily at night. But eventually, the alcohol wasn’t cutting it anymore, and I had a friend who gave me a bunch of prescription pain pills. He said that he was sorry that I lost my brother and I should try them. So I started eating them and crushing them up to sniff them – and I fell in love. I found my heroin, my addiction. I found what made me numb, and opiates became my drug of choice.
I abused the pain pills for a while, but where I was living at the time, heroin was readily available. And I learned that heroin did the same thing that the pain pills did. So I started buying heroin. And over the course of the next 10 years, from age 23 to 33, I shot heroin. During this time span, I tried a couple of different rehabs and facilities and was incarcerated a handful of times. Eventually, I moved to Virginia and was charged with a couple of felonies for stealing.
I just needed the drugs and was ready to do what I needed to do to get them. So although I was a good growing up, when I was strung out on dope, I would steal firearms and money from my mom and her husband. I also stole prescription pain medication from my grandfather who was dying of bone cancer, because I was a drug addict who neglected the fact that he needed them more than I did. It was just the lowest of the low. And every time I was incarcerated or went into rehab, it was a temporary fix. I wasn’t really addressing the fact that I lost my brother. I was hurt.
I also had a daughter, and when I started abusing drugs, I began to neglect her. I did pay my child support but was an absent father. I chose a needle over being a father. I went for many years without seeing her. That’s something I’m still working on to this day.
Early sobriety, overdosing, and realization
In my early sobriety, when I was trying to figure out what to do with my life, I would go to meetings. And at one point, I had about 9 months of being sober before relapsing and being incarcerated again. I had a girlfriend at the time, and when I got out, she was seven months pregnant, and we started shooting heroin together.
When my son was born, he was addicted to Suboxone and heroin and was in the NICU for 21 days on a morphine taper. While he was in the NICU, we were still actively using, and I was sneaking drugs into the hospital for the mother for my son. So when we were released from the hospital, CPS immediately got involved and took our son for a year. I wound up doing a shot of heroin and overdosed for the first time in 10 years in the kitchen of the apartment where we were living. 911 was called and the paramedics took me to the hospital where I was given Narcan and was resuscitated.
When I was released 8 hours later, I realized that the cops had taken my drug paraphernalia, so at 2am that night, I went out looking for more heroin. And right at that moment, I knew that if I didn’t do something about my situation, I was going to die.
Getting to HT
At the time of my relapse, I had a network of support I built by going to meetings and working with the Up Foundation to become a peer support specialist. I reflected on my overdose and knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to have my son for at least a year. I always wanted to stop using, but this time I wanted to stop for good. So my network suggested for me to join a long-term recovery facility, and they started looking right away. After making a few calls, Healing Transitions accepted me into their program.
I was full of fear, sad, lonely, isolated, and desperate. I like to call it the deep, dark rabbit hole of addiction. And when the pain hurts enough, it’ll motivate a person to do something different. So I got in the car and let God drive. And God happened to work through the form of my mom, who drove me to down Raleigh and dropped me off. I had no idea what to expect with the program. I just knew that I was hurt and I needed help.
The beauty of the Healing Transitions program for me was that it was an overload of recovery. I was completely surrounded by nothing but recovery. Whether I was in detox, sleeping in the shelter, or walking for miles with my peers every day to meetings, it was all about recovery. Once I started to be able to get some rest at night and not be distracted by life’s challenges outside, it became clear that this was the place that I need to be, no matter how long it took.
Years back, I contracted hepatitis C through using IV drugs with other individuals who had it. So when I got into the second part of the recovery program, I got my blood checked with Nurse Kathy, which came back positive. I was then sent to a medical facility where it was discovered that I was in stage 2 of Hepatitis C, and I was prescribed a very expensive drug to treat it. But since I was considered homeless and in treatment, they were able to get me the treatment for no cost to me.
After taking the medication for three months, I went back and took another blood test, and I was cured. I was crying in the doctor’s office because it was such a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders to know Hepatitis C wasn’t going to kill me. I knew at that moment that this was the first day of the rest of my life. There was no turning back. I viewed it as a bad cloud that had just passed. And from that moment, forward, I dedicated myself 100% to the recovery program.
As I progressed through the program, the classes, the jobs that I was nominated for, and a lot of the staff members became beneficial to my recovery. Folks like Chef Kathy, Chris Budnick, Nurse Kathy, Tripp, and so many others played a big role in helping me. Healing Transitions’ recovery program gave me hope and faith. But more importantly, it gave me a sense of purpose. I learned how to love myself enough to not put any more drugs in me.
Today in recovery
I continue to do a lot of things I learned at Healing Transitions to this day. That is where I received my foundation. That is where I received the resources and tools needed to fight heroin addiction. That is where I learned how to lean on my network of support to help with the obstacles life presents me with. And because of my network, I was connected with the resources to get a job. So when I finished HT’s program, I transitioned right into work and into a sober-living house where my process of recovery continued.
Because of this journey, CPS gave my son back to me and his mother. And after getting hooked up with Wheels4Hope who blessed me with a car, and started saving some money, I was able to start driving on the weekends to go see him and my family. My son and niece now get to see me clean, and I get to spend quality time with them again. It’s amazing.
Today, I have a job and am a productive member of society. I’m able to see my children, my niece, and my mom. I was able to rebuild my credit score, which allowed me to buy a new car without the need for a co-signer. I know what I have to do to maintain my recovery. As often as I can, I head back to HT to facilitate classes and see the new faces in the program. I know that I have to continue giving back to help the next person who is suffering. People who are hurt as bad as I was. Because I can never forget where I come from.
Join Healing Transitions for National Recovery Month as we try to raise $150,000 to give 200 people their first month in recovery! On September 25th, we will cap off the month with a Day of Giving, where an anonymous donor has generously offered a $20,000 day-of-giving match! This means the impact of your gift on the 25th will be doubled dollar-for-dollar up to $20,000! Find out how you can help out HERE!