Overcoming Addiction Led Me to Heaven
Carrie Fisher once said “Sometimes you can only find Heaven by slowly backing away from Hell” and I agree wholeheartedly. Getting to sobriety has been one of the most difficult paths I have ever taken, and staying sober has been difficult as well, but incredibly rewarding. My name is Andy, I have been nine years sober now and I would like to tell you my story.
My family is a Latino family, we came from Colombia in 1985 running from the violence and insecurity, my parents made the choice of moving to the United States in order to provide us with a better environment, good education and a great future. They were both hard working people (still are) who did everything in their power to provide us with everything we could ever need, I lacked nothing in my childhood (material or not), I was a happy child.
As you may already now, Latino’s parties are legendary due to all the dancing and the drinking and the overall joy. I was always in the middle of these parties and I loved to watch the grown-ups dance and laugh, shy as I was I couldn’t bring myself to do just that so that is when I got drunk for the first time.
I was 10 years old and it was the anniversary party of an old family friend. Everyone was so busy that I could sneak into the kitchen and steal some Aguardiente, a very strong drink made from anise which literally translates to ‘Burning water.’ I took a little sip, and then another, and so on until I was drunk.
And It Began
To me it was the best feeling in the world. I felt so sure of myself; I felt cool. I danced salsa all night long with my aunts and my cousins. That night I made the correlation in my head where being drunk was equal to being fun and confident. I never went back.
- At the age 13 I smoked marijuana for the first time, I loved the relaxed feeling it brought.
- When I was 18 I tried cocaine and that was the beginning of the end. I left my house and spoke once or twice a year with my family.
- When I was 23 I got busted and spent 3 years in a prison in Idaho that began my rock bottom journey.
The Beginning of the End
While I was in jail I was presented to both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, but I held little interest for both. I attended the meetings as it was the only way I could get out of my cell. I didn’t participate, share or talk at all, but the stories began to take a toll on me.
The story that impacted me the most was from another inmate who was a prominent doctor and even though his career was growing, so was his addiction. He started taking some mild LSD to study and the addiction started evolving from there. His sentence was for five years for damages and DUI. While out with his family one night he got into a fight with his wife due to his uncontrollable drinking. His 3-year-old daughter was in the backseat crying and he started yelling which was usual for them, but the next thing he remembers was all of them smashed against a wall. His daughter was ok, but his wife broke 3 bones, filed for divorce and sole custody (which she won).
He then shared something that resonated within me. He said how overwhelmed he was all the time, between the drinking, the drugs, the denial, and his job, he was always ready to blow up. He said the people he did that with were the only ones that cared about him. He said that physical, emotional, or verbal abuse can become tactics in order to continue using or drinking and it was an endless, vicious circle that finally led to him losing everything; his practice, his career, his wife and his daughter, and he found himself in prison with no future to look forward to.
Pretty much everything kept me awake that night. I realized I had not accomplished anything in my life except pushing the people that mattered away. I figured I was going through the same circle and I was living hell and had not noticed before. That was the night I recognized I had a problem and the night I decided to do something about it.
The Turning Point in My Life
It has been almost 10 years since I heard that doctor share his story, and I can still picture him sitting with his head down, talking with a solemn voice.
Both AA and NA were a huge help through my time in prison. I created a routine and followed it every day. I got an amazing sponsor and a great support group with all the other inmates and soon I was going to three meetings a week, sharing, listening, and learning. Finally, the most dreaded moment came; my release. I was both ecstatic and scared to be free. Outside I had no routine, no control, I was on my own.
I was hopeful and started with a small job at a cafeteria, but it did not take me long to relapse… several times. After about 10 months, I decided to check myself into a rehabilitation center in Idaho. The lessons, the support, and a new routine helped me some more, and I stayed for four months and felt strong enough to go out to the world again. Unfortunately I did not last long staying sober.
That’s how I found myself; 27 years-old, broke, ashamed, guilty, and disappointed. Once again I resolved to get out of the hole where I was. I called home and decided I would move back and start again.
The first thing I did was get a job selling knock-off perfume on the streets and gave myself a new purpose and a new routine. In two months’ time I already had a little office and was training people to do the same as I was. I was sleeping too little, losing weight, working too much but
still attending my NA and AA meetings. I felt successful at the cost of living for my work. One of those nights I realized I had gone from drug addict and alcoholic to workaholic.
Truth to be told I was scared of a new relapse; I didn’t know if a new one was going to mean the end, then at one of my AA meetings my sponsor at the time sat down with me and told me that relapses were likely, but they were mistakes that you recovered from and came back stronger. ‘Relapse does not mean you failed’ was the powerful message, and it gave me hope.
I sold the business and decided to move back to my parents’ house in California. I got a job at Walmart and found myself with no real passion in life until my new sponsor from AA gave me the task to sign up to at least one college class. So I went to the Santa Barbara City College and after looking through a lot of brochures I decided to sign up for a Web Development class figuring it couldn’t hurt.
And Here I Am, Nine Years Later…
Turns out the same passion that I had with my job, I had with my studies, with the difference that it was a healthy obsession, not fueled by fear of a relapse but by expectation of a better future for me. Within six months it became clear for me that I was going to make a business out of it. I mean I had been there, done that. I would do it again.
So I am now nine years sober and I co-own a web development agency. I moved back to Colombia and set up my business (taking advantage of the country’s recent growth), and my brother is part of the company and I am able to give back to my parents a little after all their amazing support.
Since I started the path of sobriety and recovery I believed that every step I took to get away from the hell I was living was leading me towards heaven and today, I can assure you it is. Every little step you take in your path has a bigger meaning. It will be you being able to provide for your children, parents or relatives, it will be supporting and helping your company grow or helping others in similar positions as you were.
It is difficult to see in the beginning, but every single thing you are doing has an impact on your future.
Do you think it is worth it?
Thank you for reading.