I think my life can be divided into three parts: before addiction, addiction, and sobriety, which is where I am now. Throughout each of these parts, I feel like I was a completely different person. My life changed in so many ways between these periods, that it feels almost as if it wasn’t me who lived them, but another person. I know, however, that if it wasn’t for everything that I learned during all the stages in my life, I probably wouldn’t be who I am today: happy, healthy, and successful.
How it All Began
I was an alcoholic and drug addict for most of my life. It started when I was only 9 years old.
Growing up, my family was always hosting and attending parties. My parents are from Colombia, a very beautiful country with a very festive culture. They moved to the States when my siblings and I were little, in the search for a better future for us. We had family in Southern California and they welcomed us there. Being Colombians, family gatherings happened almost every weekend, which included a lot of dancing, laughter, and alcohol.
I was always a very shy kid. I remember watching how adults became happier and more outgoing after having a couple of drinks, and I wanted to feel that. So I asked my mom to let me have a sip of her drink, but she said no and told me that alcohol wasn’t for kids. But I was very curious and very stubborn, and I still wanted to try it. So I waited for a chance to steal a bottle from the kitchen when nobody was watching. I took it to the basement and tried it. That was the first time I ever got drunk, and I loved it.
All through my preteen years, I got drunk whenever I had the chance, and somehow I always managed not to get caught. When I was 14 years old I was already abusing alcohol, and I tried drugs for the first time. Flash forward to 19, I was addicted to coke and meth. Drugs and alcohol were my life. They were my only thought during the day, I couldn’t do anything if I wasn’t using.
When I was 23 I hit rock bottom: I was sentenced to 2 years in prison for drug related charges.
The first few months in prison were the hardest in my life. I felt lost. I felt like I had screwed up so badly that there was no way of making up for it. I felt lonely, I had alienated all my friends and my family and felt like I had no one to turn to. Worst of all, I was still badly craving drugs and alcohol.
At one point, staying in my cell all day got so depressing that I decided I would do anything just to get out and do something different. So I joined Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. I started attending the meetings with no interest whatsoever in what the inmates’ had to share, but little by little these meetings started growing on me, I started feeling identified with the inmates’ stories, and I started to participate too. This was the beginning of my recovery.
There was one particular testimony that really moved me. A middle aged man, a former doctor, told the story of how his alcohol problem cost him the thing he valued the most in his life: his family. One night, while he was drunk driving with his wife and daughter in the car, he smashed the car into a wall. He and his daughter were okay, but his wife suffered several fractures. After that night she filed for divorce and won sole custody of their daughter. He hasn’t seen them for several years.
It was then when I realized that, even though I had hurt my family, I still had time to make things right with them. I certainly didn’t want to lose them forever, and I knew that the only way I could avoid that was getting sober.
When I got out of prison I enrolled in a rehabilitation program. It was really hard at first. I felt like I wasn’t strong enough, not brave enough. Luckily I had a wonderful team of professionals that helped me through. Ultimately, I was able to forgive myself for the damage I had done, and my family forgave me too. I started strengthening my mind and my body, as well as my relationships.
Staying sober takes a lot of effort. There was a time when I almost relapsed: I was working at a store selling perfume, and became obsessed with my job, to the point that it was all I could think about. I started neglecting my family again, I started getting into the same behaviors I had when I was using drugs. In other words, I was a workaholic. I had traded one addiction for another.
Luckily, before I made any decisions that could ruin all I had worked for, my sponsor and guardian angel convinced me to quit my job and move back with my parents. He also encouraged me to go back to school. I did, and I enrolled in an HTML class at a community college, given that I always had liked computers and it sounded like something I would enjoy.
Not only did I enjoy it, but I also realized I was very good at it. And I knew if I followed that path I might have great job and business opportunities. I started taking more classes, focusing on acquiring more knowledge, with the goal of someday starting my own business.
9 Years Later
It’s been almost a decade since I got sober. Almost a decade since I set the goal of starting my own business, and I remember how far away it seemed. Well, today I co-own a web development company with my brother, I’m successful, healthy, and happy.
I can’t say it was easy. On the contrary, it’s been a very rocky road. But if you asked me if I regret any of it, I would say no. The lessons I got from the mistakes I made during my addiction shaped me into who I am today, and recovery taught me that if I was strong enough to quit drugs and alcohol, I’m strong enough to do anything.
If you have any questions about addiction or want to share your story, please leave a comment below, I would love to read it.