“Once that obsession hits, it’s like nothing is going to stop me to get what I what. It took me an hour in a place that I’ve never been to or scored before. That’s how quick it was.”
I’m Jack and I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict. It pretty much started for me when I was in high school. Typical, I don’t know if this is typical, but I drank, I smoked pot, all that. I didn’t realize it until now, learning all this stuff, that I was completely reliant on all that stuff so I’d feel okay. I didn’t feel bad, but I felt better when I was doing something else. That lasted until I got out of high school. I went to college at Bridgewater State and started drinking heavily. I had quit smoking pot at that point because it was giving me anxiety and I just didn’t like it. I replaced all of that with drinking. Everybody else still smoked except me, so I had to get on their level through alcohol. That ended up pretty much making me fail out of college. I was in school for three semesters and didn’t go back the fourth semester.
That’s when something wasn’t right. I could feel it, like restless, irritable. I was never happy, trying to just flush it out with alcohol. My drug of choice is heroin. That’s what got me here. I’m definitely a wicked alcoholic too, but I stopped drinking because I knew I had a problem. I lasted like two days sober. It’s like I need something else. I don’t smoke. Can’t drink anymore. I was going to work at 5:30 in the morning. I went in still drunk one morning. It was the worst day of my life. I was just like, “I’ll find something else.” I tried Percocet 30 milligrams. That wasn’t offered to me. I went out and sought it along with everything else I tried. Nothing was ever like, “Hey. You want to try this?” It was more like, “I’m going to go do this. I want to try this.” I don’t know why it drove me to that. I tried those for the first time. I blacked out. I don’t remember anything that happened until I woke up the next morning and just kept doing it from there. That was the endgame for me.
That was after my first year in college. After that I dropped out of school. Then about two months of doing opiates, I was jobless, no money, no car, living at my parents’ house. Nothing to my name. I just spent all my money on drugs and alcohol. I didn’t have a job so I could drink again. It just completely destroyed me. I knew I had a problem at nineteen. I was nineteen years old. I was like, “I need to get sober. How am I going to do this?” I didn’t know about programs or anything. My dad’s an alcoholic. He’s been sober for twenty-five years, not through any type of program. He just stopped drinking. My sister is an addict too, went to a methadone clinic for a year. I couldn’t stop. I had no idea what the hell was wrong with me. I thought you just stopped. I wasn’t strong enough to stop.
In 2012 I actually decided I was going to enlist in the Marine Corp and I did. I’m still in today in the reserves. I don’t know how. I’ve used every day for the past three years. I’ve definitely passed drug tests when I shouldn’t have. I’ve seen guys go out failing drug tests while I’m doing the same thing. I have no idea how I’m still in. I’ve gone to drill high. The day before I left for boot camp I actually used, passed the drug test, and I went to boot camp. There’s got to be a reason I’m still there.
After that I came home, started working, getting into the same old bad habits. I don’t really remember 2013 much. I really don’t remember that year. In 2014 the same thing happened. It was a repetitive cycle. I would always use alcohol. It was like, “All right. I’m going to stop doing drugs, go back to alcohol.” Then I’d go to alcohol. It was like, “This is getting bad.” Then like, “I haven’t done dope in a month, so I’m good now.” Then just keep going back and forth. Dope obviously brought my ability to live a normal life way down compared to alcohol because alcohol is socially acceptable unless you’re drinking a bottle of vodka a day just because you have to. I didn’t have a choice. I just had to drink it.
I thought moving to Virginia would be a geographical cure. When I moved down there I’d get away from everybody I know, drugs, all that. I moved in with a family friend. I was detoxing from heroin. I went down there with one Suboxone. That’s what happened in 2014, I think. I went on a Suboxone clinic for about a week, [was] popped for opiates there, and then just stopped going. That didn’t work for me either. When I moved to Virginia I was sober for a week until somebody said, “Does anybody want to go to the bar?” My hand was the first one in the air at work. I went there at three in the afternoon on a Friday. I only planned on having two beers or something. I left there at eleven at night completely drunk. I don’t even remember in between. From there on my alcoholism just took off. It was like that was my goal, to just drink. I was drinking at work, drinking after work.
One day I decided I wanted some heroin again in Virginia. I came up with this scheme. I lived near Manassas, Centerville, that’s where I lived. I was in Manassas. It wasn’t the nicest area, so I had this idea that I was going to go to Manassas, look for the most rugged-looking person I could. I’m going to smoke a cigarette. They’re going to ask me for a cigarette. Then I’m going to give them a cigarette. Then they’re going to ask me for a ride. Then I’m going to give them a ride. Then in between I’ll bring up I want drugs. That’s literally exactly what happened. I’m still shocked to this day that’s how it went. I parked at a 7/11, saw this girl. I smoked a cigarette. She came up and asked me for one and asked me for a ride. I drove for about two minutes, brought it up. In about an hour I was getting dope again. Once that obsession hits, it’s like nothing is going to stop me to get what I what. It took me an hour in a place that I’ve never been to or scored before. That’s how quick it was.
I did that a few times. I was paying out the ass, so I decided I’d just be an alcoholic instead. I just kept drinking, kept drinking, until I finally got kicked out of their house. I actually decided I was leaving. It was a mutual decision, like, “You can’t stay here,” but, “I want to go.” It was like, “Oh. We’re both on the same page. I’m going to go back up to Mass.” I drove up to Mass in six hours. I didn’t even go home. I called my drug dealer before I even stepped foot in my parents’ door. I was like, “I need something. Can you help me out?” Got that, then went home. That was last year. I got home. I started working at the same job I had worked before I moved to Virginia. By November, I think it was November, I had failed a drug test there. I was working for a guy that was my best friend’s father. I knew him for like fifteen years. He had no idea. When he got that call he was shocked.
I lost my job. I had a really bad habit at that time. I had no more income. I was sitting at home high like, “What the hell am I going to do?” I was so lost. I had no idea what to do. I knew I was powerless over drugs and alcohol. I knew that when I kept denying, denying, denying. My mother was like, “I know.” I’m like, “No, no, no, no, no.” I watched her go out the back door and start crying. She came back and I just dropped to my knees and started crying. I was like, “I need help.” That was the first time. It was 2013 or ’14. I can’t remember. I knew I was screwed up; I just didn’t know how to stop. I’d been to meetings before. Nothing ever caught on. I don’t know if it was because I went high every time. It was just like, “I don’t care.” That doesn’t help.
Nothing caught my ear where I wanted to get sober. I would get sober for two weeks and just be this crazy asshole, just snapping on people or not talking to people, not taking care of myself physically. It was just bad. Drugs and booze were my solution to that insanity. I don’t know how to be a normal human being, so the only way I can do that is to get high and feel normal, act normal, and everything’s okay when I’m spending seven hundred dollars a week on drugs at least. That’s not okay.
That’s when I started calling… actually, my mother did the majority of the work. I got kicked out of their house. Then I came home. I got kicked out of their house, went to live in my buddy’s house, got kicked out of his house. Pretty much came home and it was like, “I will literally do anything to stop what I’m doing, except I don’t know how.” They helped me. Called detoxes, all that stuff. I finally got into a detox at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Mass. I was there for five days. I called my parents the third day. I was like, “Get me out of here. I can’t do this.” Just sitting around all day detoxing, non-medical detox from heroin was terrible, and benzos because I was scripted benzos at the time. Usually they give you something to help with the withdrawals. Since I was detoxing for benzos I couldn’t get that. I was just miserable.
I got home. Five days and I still had some of my script left. I was having a severe anxiety attack, so I took those and instantly felt better. I didn’t realize I was definitely relapsing. Even if it’s five days sober, that’s still a relapse. That didn’t click in my mind until I got here when I knew how sobriety works. The next day, I had lost a bag months prior, and I was fishing through my wallet to find some type of residue or something that I could do. There’s that bag in the bottom of my wallet that I had carried through detox unknowingly. They asked me like, “Do you have any drugs or paraphernalia on you?” I was like, “No.” I had no idea I had that on me. I used the day after I got out of detox.
I didn’t have a job for like a month and a half. I just kept going, going. I literally didn’t leave my parents sight for like a month and still found ways to use. That’s where the obsession brings me. I will wait a week and a half and plan out what I’m going to do to get my fix. Even though I’ve been sober for a week and a half, I’m going to use. That’s what I want. I just kept going until finally I was trying to find a sober house to live in. I was calling everywhere in Massachusetts. Nobody had beds. There weren’t even beds for detoxes. Emerson Hospital is in that area. Call everyday until there’s a bed. I don’t have everyday to call. I’m not going to call eventually and then what? I’m just going to be screwed.
I called Emerson. I went to the emergency room, waited there for eight hours, and then went up to detox. That’s how I got in there. When I called the sober houses, one of my good friends from childhood who I used with went to the Granite House in Derry. That’s pretty expensive. I didn’t have the money for that. They referred me to here. At that point, I was completely willing to do anything. I had nothing. My life was just shit. I woke up on a Monday, and my mom’s like, “We’re going to New Hampshire today.” I was like, “Shit. How am I going to use? I need to figure this out.” I had drill that weekend, the previous weekend. That Sunday I got back. It was like all weekend. I had a Suboxone that Sunday to get me through until I could figure something out. That’s where I was at, just figuring out whatever I could do.
I came here. I almost called. I was like, “I’m not going to go today, Mom. Tomorrow we’ll go.” It never fucking happens. If I say tomorrow, it’s never going to happen. I came here on a Monday, and was doing my intake with Nate. I was supposed to have gone through at least a detox to get in here. I did go through a detox. My mother called to get me in here. She didn’t tell them that I had relapsed after I went to detox because I needed out. I feel like she left that out on purpose because they wouldn’t have accepted me. If they didn’t accept me here, I don’t know where the hell it would be. I got here and he asked me, “When was your last date to use?” I was like, “Saturday.” He was like, “What? Really?” Like, “Yeah.” “What the hell, man?” “I don’t know.” “I thought you went to a program?” “I did. I relapsed the day I got out.”
They let me stay. Thank God. The longest I was sober before this stint was three months. That was boot camp. Before that I was probably sober of opiates thirty days max on my own. In between there was just a ton of drinking. I haven’t been this sober since the first time I tried anything. The first time I drank for effect was a cup of coffee at thirteen years old because I loved the way the caffeine hit me. That was my first experience with drinking something to get a buzz on.
Then I came here, started hearing all this crazy stuff. Being in a recovery community here is great. Back home, from what I remember, it was just a bunch of people sitting around a room like, “I’m sober, but my life still kind of sucks.” I’m sitting here like, “How do you get sober? That’s all I care about. If I can get sober maybe I can fix this stuff I screwed up. Everything I’ve screwed up.” I would just let stuff build up, build up, build up, until it all hit at once and I would just lose my shit.
Now I can actually take care of things when I’m supposed to, take care of myself, which I’ve never really done before. I did live in an apartment in college, but that just consisted of drinking and maybe going to class. I didn’t have a job while I was at school. I’d work during the summer. It was like I was still not self-reliant. This is the first time that I’m able to do that. It’s a great feeling. I don’t hate life. I don’t think everybody is out to get me. Even if they are, I don’t really care.
If you’re willing to do it, they call it the gift of desperation, and I was desperate. You can see it in people who genuinely are desperate and want to stop. They have a better chance than somebody who’s had just as bad of a run that comes in and they’re like, “Yeah. I want to get sober.” “All right, you’ve got to do a little bit of work.” “I don’t know.” “You’re not going to be sober in a year.” “Sorry.” I’ve been in this house for six months. I’ve seen a lot of guys come in and out. The majority of them don’t take the suggestions like go to meetings, do whatever type of work. If somebody with a year sobriety tells you, “Hey, this worked for me,” you should probably do it. Just little things like that.
Even before I got here it was stuff that you hear like, “I’m powerless over drugs and alcohol.” Like, “Yeah. I already knew that.” Like, “I can’t do this. I cannot do this.” I literally let other people make decisions for me. I was saying like, “Whatever I’m doing, my decisions do not work. This is not working.” I was saying before I even read any of the book or steps or anything that, “I need somebody else to do this for me. I can’t.” That’s relying on a higher power or something. Whatever it is, it’s a personal thing.
I was pretty smoked. I had no idea what to expect. I just wanted to be sober. Now I’m paying all my bills. I don’t know. It’s crazy. It flies by. I can remember most of it, too. I don’t remember a lot of the past. I’ve been using substances, no matter what it is, since I was fourteen. That’s eight years. I was fried when I got here. I’d get up, I’d go to my room to get something. I’d go in there and I couldn’t remember what I came in for. It was funny at first, then it got frustrating. I could go there and be like, “Shit. Seriously, why did I come in here, guys?” They’re like, “I don’t know.” I’d go sit down and then, “Oh, yeah.” Go back in and get it. This happened all the time. My mind started to come back, which is awesome. I don’t know. It’s just nice to enjoy life today.
Photographs taken at Bonfire Recovery Services sober house in Dover, New Hampshire.