“It was almost like I would find something and infect it to a point where it got sick and it threw me up.”
I‘m Eric Robinson. My sobriety date is September 13, 2013. That was a Friday the 13th, which kills that superstition of bad stuff happening on Friday the 13th. That was actually the best day of my life. It was the last day that I had any drugs or alcohol in my system. Before that it was a long, long road of misery to get me to that point. It took a lot of pain, a lot of self-inflicted torment, which I’m sure anybody who’s an addict or alcoholic would understand.
I got high for the first time when I was fourteen. Before that, I was bullied a lot when I was in school. I was abused very badly, and I never really had my parents to step in to defend me. My dad always told me I had to toughen up and defend myself, and that was fine, but most of the time it was five and six guys ganging up on me at one time, and this was in second grade, second and third grade. That caused a lot of insecurities at a young age. I was sexually abused, I was molested when I was four or five years old, which just further warped my image about relationships with other people, which would come into play in my addiction.
“I was constantly picked on. The unpopular kids would pick on me, so it was like I really had nowhere to turn for any kind of friends.”
Other than that, my parents were good people. They had me in church when I was a kid. I was reciting Bible scriptures in front of the church when I was four or five years old [at] Sunday School. Any time the door was open, we were there. They were good parents. They did the best that they could. They were old school, so most of their parenting skills were… if I got in trouble in school it was a whupping when I got home, and if it was bad enough, it was both of them took turn. I can’t really say it was on the abusive side, but when that was the only solution to a problem, that become what I knew to be the solution—violence.
I never really had friends when I was in elementary school. I was constantly picked on. The unpopular kids would pick on me, so it was like I really had nowhere to turn for any kind of friends. Eventually I was able to talk my parents into letting me switch school. When I did, the school that I went to, I found a group of people that befriended me. That would turn out to be the ones that would get me high for the first time. I can remember them asking me if I wanted to get high, and I’d never been high before. In my mind, this was the opportunity to be one of the crowd. I actually had some friends that wanted to hang out with me, so, “Yeah, whatever you want me to do, I’m in.”
I remember getting high that first time, and I don’t know if it was because of the high, or the fact that I felt like I had actually made it, but I remember dancing in the street. I was so happy, because I finally felt like I fit in. I finally felt like I found my place. I was there with them guys every step of the way. Whenever they got high, I got high. I was fourteen, fifteen, when that was going on, and I know by the time that I was probably in the middle of about fifteen, I started doing some meth. That quickly turned into coke, and that quickly turned into pills. By the time I was seventeen, there wasn’t anything out there that I hadn’t tried.
“I remember getting high that first time, and I don’t know if it was because of the high, or the fact that I felt like I had actually made it, but I remember dancing in the street. I was so happy, because I finally felt like I fit in.”
The one thing that was consistent was my drinking. The first party I was at was with those same group of people, and I can remember getting so blasted that I literally would black out. There’s only pieces of the party that I even remember. The rest of what I remembered was being on my knees in front of the toilet. From the very beginning, I had no control over how much I drank or how much I used. I had no control over what I did when I was drunk or when I was high. It was balls to the wall from the very start.
Like I said, from the time I was seventeen there wasn’t much I hadn’t tried, because I wanted that acceptance. I wanted to feel like I was part of the group that I was in, and it was like every time that I did, I would get that positive reinforcement. They would be like, “Alright,” you know, “this is great.” I’m like, “Hell, yeah.” I don’t know if I liked so much the getting high as I do the camaraderie that I got with these guys that I’m doing it with.
In my mind, this was great. I was where I wanted to be. This was what I always wanted. The bad part about that is, the rest of my life went to crap. My relationship with my parents suffered. I could care less about school. School, they didn’t like me there and I didn’t like them there, so we had a mutual understanding. So I left, quit school when I was sixteen. By the time I was seventeen and had tried all that there was out there, my parents had finally had enough. My dad told me, “If you can’t do the things that I’m asking you to do here, you’re going to have to go somewhere else.”
Again, to me, in my mind, that was positive reinforcement. That’s all you had to say. I was trying to figure out a way to get out of here anyway. You just gave me an easy out. I was gone. I went from house to house, from friend to friend. I’d stay at somebody’s house long enough until their parents would get sick and kick me out, or I’d find some girl until she got sick of me and would kick me out, but it was always the same story. It was almost like I would find something and infect it to a point where it got sick and it threw me up.
It was almost like my mind didn’t receive the negative aspect of it, because it was all positive until they’d finally had enough, in my mind. It was almost like there was more positive reinforcement than there was negative. To me, I wasn’t doing anything wrong. It was them that had the problem. If they would just relax and chill out, we could all have fun, but they were so uptight. You know, “Fine, I’ll go somewhere else where somebody wants to have a good time.”
When I was seventeen, I finally figured out how to sneak into the bar, which was very likely the worst decision I made. I was able to get in, able to start drinking. By the time I was eighteen, I was part of the crowd. I play music, so I was playing on the stage with the band, I was singing with the band, [and] wasn’t even supposed to be in the bar. I was singing on the stage with the band because I was able to bullshit anybody that come across me. If I wanted something, I done figured out how to get it.
Here comes along a girl. We get to talking, I take her home, three months’ later she’s pregnant. That kind of scared me, but somehow or another the morality that my parents taught me was still a little bit in there, and I knew when she was pregnant, I was going to have to be dad, I was going to have to grow up a little bit. I wasn’t willing to grow up a whole lot. I was willing to grow up enough where I could kind of take care of responsibilities, so I stopped with the drugs. I thought that was enough, but when I stopped with the drugs, I just amped up on my drinking. I never really changed anything. I just shifted the balance to what I really wanted the most, anyway. I loved to drink. Always have.
“I wasn’t crying. I was high. Even the greatest moment, what should have been the greatest moment in my life, I was high.”
My daughter was born May 5th of 2000, and the day that she was born, I can remember being in the delivery room. I had an uncle and a friend of mine that was with me wherever I went, and I remember being in the delivery room and telling her, “I’ll be right back.” Me and my buddies go down the escalator, out to the car, catch a buzz. I walk back up, my baby’s being born. I go back in the delivery room, we have my baby, I walk out holding my baby, and everybody’s like, “Oh, how sweet. He’s crying.” I’m thinking, “Yeah, that’s it, I’m crying. That’s why my eyes are bloodshot red, because I’m bawling. I just had my little girl.”
I wasn’t crying. I was high. Even the greatest moment, what should have been the greatest moment in my life, I was high. Eventually, her mom had had enough and she was like, “You can’t stay here anymore.” Threw every stitch of clothing I had out in the yard, kept the $800 that was in one of the pants pockets, but my clothes she let me have. Again, I just shifted the balance of her to another girl. Joined a band, and again I’d found my clique. Joined a band, 420. That’s all we did—got high. I guess we thought we were in the ’80s, because it was all about this sex, drugs and rock and roll, you know. We played music, we got high, and we found some chicks to take home.
Three years, I probably slept one or two nights a week, and I could probably count on two hands the number of times I saw my kid in those two or three years. Looking back, it was … What kind of person does that? An addict does that. An alcoholic does that. I would later find out why I did that, but at the time, they didn’t understand. I just wanted to have a good time. They just wouldn’t let me.
Eventually I got tired enough of not getting any sleep, that I was like, something’s got to give. A buddy of mine come over who was in the National Guard. He was an MP. We were sitting there talking [and] I was like, “Man, I’m tired, sick of being tired all the time. I’m sick of feeling like I’m in a dream world all the time,” and he kind of flicked his collar, he had his BDUs on and he flicked his collar, and I was like, “Dude, I just got my second DUI,” which was actually like my fourth DUI, but it was on paper, my second. He was like, “I got somebody who can get you in.” I was like, “Cool, my kind of guy.”
He did. He got me in, and now, I get sent to basic training in the Army. I think, “This is good.” This is good. My life’s turning around. Something positive. Something my daughter can actually look up to, because at that time, she’s four or five years old, and already has figured out that her dad is worthless. She doesn’t even want to have anything to do with me anymore, and she’s only five. When a five-year-old doesn’t want to have anything to do with you, that’s pretty bad.
I’m thinking, “Yeah, I’m going to basic training. Things are looking up.” That was right about the time when we got to the towers hit, you know, and everybody, we’re going to war. So I get to basic at Ft. Benning, Georgia. We get out of basic and the minute I come back home, I called the Readiness NCO and he says, “Don’t even unpack your duffel bag. You’re going to Camp Shelby.” I was in the 155th and didn’t never get deployed. They had already went over, so I was going down to Camp Shelby and I was going to catch the rear.
“What do they do in the military? We drink. Again, I found my group. As soon as I got down there. I drank so much I couldn’t even make it to training.”
What do they do in the military? We drink. Again, I found my group. As soon as I got down there. I drank so much I couldn’t even make it to training. I couldn’t go to training. I’d wake up in the morning and I’d fake being sick and then go to the clinic, and they would tell me, “Your blood pressure’s up.” I’m thinking, “Yeah. Imagine that. I just got through drinking two fifths and a case. I’m pretty sure my blood pressure’s up.”
After about two weeks, they got tired of that. They’re like, “Look, you go home and get straightened out, and then when you get through you can come back and we may think about looking at you.” They didn’t kick me out, they just sent me home, put me in a backup unit. I wobbled around the National Guard for about the next five years. The unit that I had gotten moved to got deployed. Again I went to Shelby. They sent me to a military school in Virginia, Fort Belvoir, Virginia. I was supposed to be getting security clearance. I was really doing it. I was moving up for real.
Got to the base in Virginia, and I’m thinking, you know, “This is great. I’m 15 minutes from Washington, DC. I’m going to go see the nation’s capital, but I got to catch a buzz first.” I go by the bar, and I drive around the nation’s capital wasted. That’s intelligent. That’s a good idea. Driving by the cops that sit outside the, waving at them, “Hey, how you guys doing?” That’s real bright. Then I went to Spotsylvania, which is about 20 miles south of where we were, and found a bar, and I sat there and drank and drank and pulled out, going back to the base, and got pulled over, and got arrested for a third offense DUI, which is a felony in another state, in a military school, on the Mississippi National Guard’s bill. That wasn’t good for anybody involved.
At this time, I had done found a woman who was willing to stick it out with me. We were fixing to get married. Once I found out I was deployed, she said that she wanted to get married, and luckily she had inherited $100,000 from her mother who passed away, that we were going to use to do that kind of stuff with. Unfortunately, she had to fly to Virginia, pay a lawyer $8,000 of her dead mother’s inheritance, and try to figure out a way to get me out of a prison sentence in another state, which we did. I got out of that one again. Got out with a first offense, they reduced it to a first defense and let me go home. In my sick way of thinking, I’m thinking, “I did it. Cool.” I get back home, and my unit tells me, “You’re not cut out for the military. I think we need to part ways,” and I’m thinking, “That’s probably a good idea, because I’m kind of getting sick of you guys anyway.”
“My wife at the time, she did all of the stuff that I loved to do, and we ended up being using buddies, more than we were husband and wife.”
I get out of the military. Now I have no drug test to worry about. My daughter’s mom has her all of the time, I really don’t have any responsibilities to worry about, so it was off to the races. My wife at the time, she did all of the stuff that I loved to do, and we ended up being using buddies, more than we were husband and wife. It was all about, you find what you could find, I’ll find what I can find, and we’ll meet in the middle and do whatever we can find.
We were together for about seven years. I’ve forgot what year it was that we were married, but in 2010, I had gotten another two DUIs by this time, so all in all, together, I’ve gotten six physically. Luckily, I only had to have three on paper, but as a result of one of the DUIs, I had done figured out, this is getting kind of bad, maybe I need to try to think about going to a rehab and getting some help. Really was only doing it to get out of the DUI consequences, but I figured maybe I could pick some tips up on the way, maybe help me not drink as much. Maybe slow down on the dope.
I went to treatment for twenty-eight days, and I actually come out of treatment wanting to stay sober. I did. I thought it was going to be a lot different than it was, I thought it was going to be a lot easier than it was, but I had done gotten a little bit of clarity. I was sober twenty-eight days, and that was the longest that I had been sober, and that’s sad, but twenty-eight days was the longest I’d been sober in, probably, fifteen years.
I leave treatment, I probably go to two meetings, and didn’t think the meetings were really what I was into, because there was just a bunch of old people, you know, and they wasn’t really saying anything that I thought was of any importance. They were talking about sponsors, and I didn’t even like people at the time, so I wasn’t going to tell anybody anything about me. I figured, church. Church was always my mom’s solution to everything, so I figured maybe I’ll start going back to church, and I started going back to church.
“Then the fateful day when a buddy of mine come over to the house and said, ‘Hey, you want to get high?’ It never crossed my mind that this was a bad decision. I’m thinking, ‘I been sober seven months. This is just a joint.'”
I ended up being on the praise and worship team, on the stage, and I taught a Sunday School class or two. I stayed sober for seven months, which was, for me, like, really? I didn’t think that was possible, but I wasn’t working any kind of a program, I wasn’t doing anything for my sobriety. I was clean, I just wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t using. I most certainly was not sober. I still had all of the same behavior. I still had all of the same internal afflictions that I’d always had. I was still insecure, I was still scared of everything and everybody, I was still mad at the world. Anybody who looked at me wrong, it was a problem. In my mind, I’m thinking, “I’m not drinking, I’m not doing any drugs, so everything’s good.”
Then the fateful day when a buddy of mine come over to the house and said, “Hey, you want to get high?” It never crossed my mind that this was a bad decision. I’m thinking, “I been sober seven months. This is just a joint. It’s not going to hurt anything. I can smoke a joint and be okay,” and so I did. I got high, and I’m like, “This is so great.” Then my wife came home. Who, by the way, for all of this seven months that I had not been drinking, she had not been drinking because she didn’t want to influence me in a negative way.
She didn’t think it was such a good idea that I got high. She, in fact, said, “Since you’re going to do that, I’m going to go get a six-pack.” I told her, “Give me just a second to put my shoes on, I’ll go with you.” It was on. It was on, and the next three years was the worst three years of my entire life. It was a constant nightmare. I can’t remember a single day where I found any kind of pleasure or enjoyment in anything that I did.
A book that I read talks about how we’ve lost ability to control and enjoy our drinking. I’ve never read more true of a statement, because there was no enjoyment in anything that I was doing. No amount of beer or whiskey, no amount of dope, none of that was making anything better. I just couldn’t face the fact that that was the thing that was making everything worse. Eventually, she got tired of me hitting on her daughter’s friends, so she left and said, “You have a week to get your stuff and get out.”
Unfortunately, I was on house arrest from the actual third offense DUI, which was a felony, and her telling me that I had to leave the house, which I was in on house arrest, was kind of a problem. I called my PO, and he said, “If you leave that house, you’re going to prison.” “She said I have to leave the house, so what do I do?” He said, “You better figure something out.” I said, “That’s great.”
“My dad said, ‘You’re not coming here. You’re not coming here.’ I was like, ‘Well, if I don’t, I’m going to prison.” He said, “Well, I’ll come see you.'”
I called my dad. My dad said, “You’re not coming here. You’re not coming here.” I was like, “Well, if I don’t, I’m going to prison.” He said, “Well, I’ll come see you.” Well, that’s just great. I called a few more people, nobody wants to even talk to me. I had done turned into the guy that everybody closes their blinds and locks the door when they see me coming, so nobody really wanted to have anything to do with me, and the only ones that did want to have anything to do with me, wanted to get high, and I’m like, “I’m on house arrest, I can’t get high. I can drink, you want to come over and we’ll get drunk?” on house arrest, which I did, on house arrest.
I finally talked my dad into letting me come to his house, under the understanding that I wasn’t to drink, anywhere, and come back to the house. I couldn’t go to a restaurant and drink and come back to his house drunk. I had two more months left on house arrest, so I get off of house arrest and I’m supposed to go to drug court. I’m still going and getting drunk and coming back to the house. At the time, I’d done learned how to manipulate the system enough to where I could get back in the house and go pass out, he’ll never know it.
Then I end up going to see my drug court official, and he tells me I can’t do anything. I can’t have cough syrup, I can’t have NyQuil, I can’t have anything that would show up on a drug test, and I’m like, well, that’s just not going to work at all. I can’t do that. I go on this one last tear, and I can remember sitting on the second floor of a hotel room, and it was almost like the whole world had caved in around me. It was almost like I was in this little dark hole, and all I had was a little bitty peephole of light shining in, and it was almost like it started to get smaller and smaller and smaller, where it was like I was in complete darkness. The fear and the pain was just unbearable.
“I called my daughter’s mom and told her, ‘Look, I just want to let you know what’s fixing to happen. Don’t come looking for me, because it’s not going to do any good. By the time y’all get here, I’ll be gone.'”
I remember starting to make phone calls and telling people, “Look, I’m just calling to let you know don’t come looking for me. You’re probably not going to see me anymore,” and I started looking at the bedsheets and thinking I could tie the bedsheets up together and wrap them around that railing over there, and I bet you I could throw myself off the other side of that railing, and nobody have to worry about me anymore. I called my daughter’s mom and told her, “Look, I just want to let you know what’s fixing to happen. Don’t come looking for me, because it’s not going to do any good. By the time y’all get here, I’ll be gone.”
By the grace of God, I passed out, and I woke up. I woke up and I looked around the room, and it was destroyed. I mean, there was clothes strewed everywhere, there was beer cans strewed everywhere, and it was almost like the blinds was open just enough to where the sunlight was hitting me right in the face, and I just lost it. I just start bawling. I called Mom and Dad, told them to come pick me up, and I got in the car and I was just bawling. I was so tired. I was so tired of all of this crap. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted something different. I really, in my heart, wanted something to change. I didn’t know what, I didn’t know how, I just know something had to give.
That was a close call. A few more minutes awake, a few more beers, I might not be here. I can only accredit that to God having something else for me. He wasn’t ready for me to go yet. I called the treatment center that I went to the first time, because it was good, it wasn’t them that messed up, it was me. I called them, and they said they had a bed ready for me. I could come the next day. I said, “I’ll be there.” I called the drug court guy, and I said, “Is it okay if I go to treatment?” He said, “We’ll see you when you get back.”
I went to treatment. I really listened to everything they said. I did everything they wanted me to do. I washed pots and pans. The first time I went, I wouldn’t even look at a pot and pan. I was washing pots and pans, I was mopping the floors, whatever y’all said that I need to do, I’ll do it. I can remember when my twenty-eight days was up, I remember being so scared that I was going to walk down those steps and trip into a puddle of beer and get drunk again. I was petrified.
One of the requirements for drug court was going to meetings, so I had to meet so many meetings a week. I can remember going to the first meeting, and there was this big ol’ black dude with shaved head and this braided goatee going all the way down his chest. I told my mom. “I’m not getting out of the truck with that dude standing there,” because I was still scared of everything. I was, but I get out of the truck and I walk up there, and this dude was this soft-spoken… he was like a monk.
“We start talking. It was almost like we had a meeting standing outside of the door. There was this peace that hit me, that I can’t remember ever feeling before. He said, ‘Why don’t you come inside and sit down.'”
We start talking. It was almost like we had a meeting standing outside of the door. There was this peace that hit me, that I can’t remember ever feeling before. He said, “Why don’t you come inside and sit down.” The way he said that was so inviting, I was like, “Yeah, let’s do this.” I walked inside, and he’s, “The coffee’s here,” and he introduced me to a few people. I was still skeptical, because I’m just clean, you know, I hadn’t gotten any real sobriety yet. I just am not drinking and using.
I’m still scared of everything and everybody, I’m still mad at the world, I still have insecurities that are eating me alive, so I find the tightest corner edge of a couch that I can find, and I squished myself in there, and then they asked if there was any newcomers, anybody that hadn’t never been here before, and I was like, “Crap.” I raised my hand, and then the whole meeting, they started talking to me. I had done got to a point where I was so fed up with the way things were going, I was going to listen. Just in case. Get any kind of information I could get, wherever I could get it.
These people started saying… it was almost like they were telling my story, from a different angle. I was like, “How do y’all know that stuff? Did my mom call here before I come here and tell y’all that I was coming? Did she tell y’all what to say?” They knew me. I later found out it was because they had lived the same life that I had lived. They told me that if I wanted the things that they had, that I was going to have to do the things that they did.
I was going to have to do some reading. I was going to have to talk to a sponsor. I was going to have to work some steps. I was going to have to work. I was going to have to actually do something for my sobriety—I wasn’t going to get it by osmosis. I wasn’t going to get it by just sitting there, listening to some people talk, and magically get sober. I was actually going to have to do stuff to get sober.
The thing I think I did differently the second time that worked, was I gave up fighting. I quit thinking that I was going to find a way to beat the system, because I had tried for so long to think of ways around the problem, instead of trying to go through the problem and finding a solution to it. I was so beat down. I had done had my ass whupped enough to where I was willing to whatever y’all said do. I admitted deep, deep down inside that I was done.
“I was so beat down. I had done had my ass whupped enough to where I was willing to whatever y’all said do. I admitted deep, deep down inside that I was done.”
I am an addict. I am an alcoholic. That is never going to change. I will never again in my life be able to successfully drink or use, without dying as the consequence. There is no doubt in my mind, if I ever pick up another drink, or if I ever get high again, there is no doubt in my mind that death is right around the corner. The disease is progressive. That means that just because I stopped using and stopped drinking, the disease hasn’t stopped progressing. It is still moving right along, waiting for me to slip up. When I do, I’m going to be right there where the disease is, not where I stopped. If that’s the case, I’m dead.
The people haven’t lied to me yet, so I’ve got to believe the stuff that they say is the truth, because so far, everything that they’ve said is true. So much so that I’m recording my story on a recovery site. Who would have ever thought that I would do that? Right? I mean, I never thought that I was ever going to get out of that hotel room alive. I never thought that my daughter was ever going to look at me as a daddy again. How great was that, for her to call me daddy. How great was that for my dad, to call me, say, “Are you going to come see me?”
To be able to make the wrong things right that I had done in my life, to look people in the eye when I walk down the street, to have a problem in my life and be able to fact it, knowing that there is a solution to it, that I don’t have to run from things anymore. I don’t have to get high and drink because I don’t want to deal with that stuff anymore. There is a better way.
The most important thing that I’ve gotten from being sober is, I’ve got peace. Bad things still happen. Life is life. I can’t control it. I’m not God. Bad things are going to happen. The cool thing is that when it happens today, I know what to do. I’m not just flopping around in the wind.
Photographs taken in Jackson, Mississippi.