Hi my name is David and I’m a person in long-term recovery. What that means for me is I have not used alcohol or other drugs since January 31 of 2009 and because of that I am vital to my community. Today I have an amazing family and a great life. I have gone from dealing dope to dealing hope and I love being a #HopeDealer!
That said, things in my life weren’t always good. My first memory is being molested by a babysitter. My father had an alcohol use disorder and my mother left him when I was 10. I was dropped off at my grandparents. My grandfather was a mean man. He would beat me, then call the school and say I was helping him on the farm and send me back a week later after I healed.
The summer before I started seventh grade my father got custody of me. He worked overnights and the first night he worked I went for a walk. That night I met a kid my age and he introduced me to marijuana. The more I smoked the less I thought about the years of abuse. The next night I met up with him and we drank. The more I drank, the number I became.
I loved being numb and not constantly thinking about all of the abuse that had been done to me by the people who were supposed to love and protect me. I was instantly addicted to more. I continued smoking and drinking until the summer before my senior year when I move back to Missouri. That summer I was introduced to methamphetamines.
School got in the way of my use so I dropped out halfway through my senior year. Meth cost money so I made bad choices. I ended up turning 21 in prison. At 23 I died 3 times in a car accident. After over six months on opioids, I was dependent. When my prescriptions stopped, the withdrawals started and I hated they pain they caused. I obtained opioids to make the pain stop, getting them any way I could.
From the age of 12 to the age of 36 I had an active substance use disorder. Over that 24 year period I never went longer than 3 weeks outside of a rehab without misusing alcohol and other drugs. I would die eight times, attempt suicide, go to four residential treatments and spend years with psychiatrist and therapists. Nothing ever worked.
Then I found recovery!
There are multiple pathways to recovery. My path consisted of developing a relationship with God, chasing recovery the way I used to chase the drugs I was dependent on and if I found something I needed to help me in my recovery that didn’t exist, I created it.
In early recovery I felt like I was part of the recovery community, but not the community I lived in so after several years I started the nonprofit Better Life in Recovery. The first year we did 1 event. Last year we did over 80. We removed 3 tons of trash from Missouri Rivers with our stream team. We have painted 11 elementary school playgrounds in Springfield. We put in over 3,300 hours last year to impact our community. All of this is done by people in recovery, their families and friends. We make our community stronger!
I became motivated. I turned the GED I got in prison into a Master’s degree and started working as a therapist for people involved with the Green County Treatment Courts. I sit on the Missouri State Advisory Council for Alcohol and Drug Abuse. I am on three other boards and two conference planning committees. I educate, inspire and train people at conferences, high schools, colleges, organizations, communities and prisons. I am leading up the Facing Addiction Pilot Project in Springfield.
Last year I cofounded the Springfield Recovery Community Center with two other nonprofits. I was presented with the 2017 Missouri Mental Health Champion’s award. The Missouri State Senate and House of Representatives both gave me proclamations listing some of the things I have done to educate Missourians, celebrate those in recovery and advocate for change.
This year I was hired by the Missouri Recovery Network to be the Advocacy and Education Outreach Coordinator for the state of Missouri.
The entire state!
I tell you all of this not to brag, but so you know all the things just one person in recovery can accomplish. ONE! There are 25 million more Americans in long-term recovery just like me. Imagine everything we accomplish!
Here I am, proudly proclaiming my recovery. That is something millions of other people in recovery will not do because of the hate, discrimination and stigma that exist. We are called names, told we are worthless and viewed by many as not worth saving.
Just a couple months ago, a Missouri State Representative said, “dopers don’t care about anyone. Giving them a get out of jail free card will not stop them from dumping bodies because they are nothing but dopers.” That is what a state elected official on public record had to say about people like me.
That is what we deal with every day; people who lack knowledge and compassion using hurtful language and buying into disgusting stereotypes. It makes it hard to ask for help. We know how people will talk about us and treat us. We will become those people. We will be overlooked and ridiculed; all because we have a disease that kills more people than car accidents.
I beg you; please educate yourselves on substance use disorders and recovery because we fear what we do not comprehend. I am just one of 25 million people in long-term recovery. We are your co-workers, your neighbors, your friends and your children. We need your help, your support and your understanding. Be a beacon of hope, a voice of compassion and an advocate for recovery.
Together, we can do better!