If you had looked at my life from the outside growing up, it’s kind of hard to imagine that one day I would find myself completely alone and hopeless wishing that I would be dead. I actually welcomed that idea at one time in my life.
I was raised in a loving family. They instilled positive values in me, made sure I got the best education, and showered me with love. They never could understand why I would behave the way I did sometimes. They constantly were getting calls from teachers, “he has so much potential, if he would just behave,” the most common theme of those calls. My family would always ask “what’s wrong with you? Why can’t you stop getting into all this trouble? Do consequences mean nothing to you?” Questions I could not answer until now.
In September 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General released a report titled Facing Addiction In America stating – with scientific evidence – that addiction is a chronic brain illness. Today I understand what it is I suffer from, and I have found a solution.
What started out as drinking on the weekends at the age of 12 quickly escalated to daily use of alcohol, marijuana, and pills. At the age of 18, I received my first prescription of Vicodin. And by 19, that was easily upped to a standing monthly appointment for OxyContin and Xanax.
People have this misconception when someone can’t stop using drugs or alcohol, life to them is just one big party and they need to grow up. I can assure you the years of my life after 19 were not a good time and “the party” was quickly over. I would spend the next 5 years of my life in and out of jails, homeless shelters, “sober livings,” detox centers, treatment and multiple overdoses. As much as I wanted to stop what I was doing I couldn’t.
Eventually I was cut off from my pills, the crackdown on unscrupulous doctors forced me to turn to heroin. The next two years of my life would be a living hell, and the lowest points of my life. Towards the end, as I would be sitting in a jail cell, I truly believed with every fiber in me that I would never use again. I mean, I am being forced to withdraw, so once that was over, why would I ever go back? Well that’s easy for me to understand now. Thirty, sixty, or even ninety days away from a substance was only treating my physical symptoms, but what about everything else?
I needed help. Help that I would not find sitting alone in a jail cell or in treatment for 28 days. How could it be that simple, years and years of extensive drug use fixed in a month or so? Obviously not.
Today I have found that help. And it is the gift of recovery that I have been blessed with. Yes, for me it means complete abstinence. However, recovery is so much more than that. It’s a lifestyle, one filled with a lot of support. It comes from my recovery community, my family, and the sense of purpose I have in my life today. I am not cured by a long shot, and I may never be. But I know what to do today to maintain a life free of substances.
Over the past year, I’ve traveled the country. Meeting and talking with people who have found recovery in so many different ways. We share a common bond, we understand the hell that is addiction, and have found a beautiful life in recovery. Today I am present for life. I’m a son, a brother, a friend, and a productive member of society.
Sadly, there are 22 million Americans who still suffer from addiction. The addiction crisis this country faces today is at epic proportions. We treat an illness in the criminal justice system, when it belongs within the health care system. Even once I was released from jail, the obstacles I faced to maintain abstinence on a daily basis were astronomical, compounded with the burden of now being a convicted felon. It’s easy to look back and see why I was never able to succeed on my own.
Today, I maintain my recovery only with the help and support of my friends, family, and community. People who are invested in me and believe in second chances. Anyone who is in recovery or knows someone who is can tell you that we are people worth investing in. I have met some of the smartest, creative, innovative, and caring people on my recovery journey. All of whom at one point in life were at the lowest bottoms and completely hopeless, just like me.
The most powerful asset people in recovery have today is our story. It can be used to inspire hope, change, and action.
My name is Garrett Hade and I am a person living in recovery from substance use disorder. And what that means to me is I have not used drugs or alcohol since March 3, 2015.