I know what it feels like to wake up in the ICU with tubes down my throat and asking the doctors, “What happened?”
“You overdosed, and almost died. You’re lucky to be alive.” The doctor said.
I know what it feels like to plead guilty to a felony crime in front of a judge that could send me to prison for many years.
I also know what it feels like to want to stop using drugs in my heart so bad, but I’m my mind I didn’t know how.
This isn’t just my story, this is the story of hundreds of thousands of addicts in our community and others across the country.
It’s no surprise to hear the sad stories about the opioid crisis and the overdose deaths and the morgues so crowded they have to send bodies to other counties.
What I want to share with you is this, it is possible for an addict like me, or an addict you see walking down the street panhandling, to find a new way to live.
The judge that could have sent me to prison, sent me to drug treatment. Not once, but twice. My first attempt at inpatient treatment I used within an hour after completing the 30 day program. But the second time, is when the miracle happened. I lost the desire to use drugs after seeing a man who I had went to treatment with, 6 months prior, and he was still clean. By seeing him stay clean, I felt hopeful for the first time that I could stay clean too.
After completing treatment, I was a convicted felon, high school dropout, and not one person in the world that would give me an employment reference. The transitional house I was living in after completing treatment required that I have a job and pay rent within 30 days, or find somewhere else to live- which meant back to a using environment for me.
I applied everywhere and followed up on my applications sometimes daily. There was a Little Ceasers down the street that I really wanted to work at. I saw a man standing outside holding a sign and dancing around, I said to myself, I wish I could get that job, that looks like fun. They wouldn’t give me an interview, in fact, they wouldn’t even call me back.
It was hard to stay clean, I felt like the world was against me. When I finally got a job with a temp service. My great-grandma died. I had to choose between going to work, or going to her funeral. I went to work. I felt like that was the right thing to do. If I didn’t, I would’ve had to leave the housing program I was in. I had to stay clean, my life was on the line.
A few months later I realized I wanted more out of life than a minimum wage job, and I got connected to a community based program and a man sat down with me and said, “Eric, what are your goals?” Nobody had ever asked me that before.
I said I want to get my GED, a bank account, and health insurance. He taught me how to set goals, make a plan, and to take action.
Fast forward to today. I have been clean for over 8 years, I recently graduated from Wright State University with a Bachelor in Social Work, I am a husband, father, a homeowner, and a life coach making an impact in my community.
My challenge for you is this, how can you create opportunities for individuals battling an addiction, for those who need a second chance, for those who are desperately trying to find a new way to live?
The picture is of me and Mark Zuckerberg. I talked with him for over two hours about my experience with addiction and recovery. He went on to quote me in his Harvard commencement speech about helping addicts find their purpose. I have been truly blessed in my life and I am grateful everyday to wake up and not have a desire to use drugs. After years battling a heroin and meth addiction, freedom from active addiction is all I’ve ever wanted. We do recover!