Updated: Aug 16, 2020
While there is growing scientific evidence that addiction to alcohol or drugs carries a genetic component, I do not believe I inherited my addictions.
Addiction is a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences. Despite the involvement of a number of psychosocial factors, a biological process—one that is induced by repeated exposure to an addictive stimulus—is the core pathology that drives the development and maintenance of an addiction. The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are reinforcing (i.e., they increase the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (i.e., they are perceived as being inherently positive, desirable, and pleasurable).
Growing up I had a great relationship with my mom, however things with my father were quite strained. He was verbally and emotionally abusive, and on a handful occasions his punishments crossed over to physical abuse. This hung with me for a long time and caused me some emotional angst. I don’t blame anyone for my addiction, but this abuse stayed with me all the way through my story.
My childhood was so hard, that I suppressed many memories from then. One thing I remember clearly, is when Mom assured I knew, that, "Dads should not hit their sons".
I remember my Uncle dying at a young age, due to alcoholism, outside of knowing that story and not the man, I didn't know anyone with an alcohol use disorder. My addiction just grew on me, I guess. I was 14-years-old when I drank for the first time, and 15-years-old when I recognized that my relationship with alcohol and pot, was different from any friend's social use. I used more than anyone I knew, and would drink alone at night. I would often black out, feeling I had no control over how much I would drink or use.
After my first drink, I felt an incredible sense of relief, confidence, warmth and a lack of anxiety. I wondered if this is what everyone does in order to keep calm. I was infatuated with alcohol and marijuana. When I turned 16, I tried cocaine. Overnight, I would sneak out of my parent's house to get a hold of these drugs. I was soon lost in a spiral of drugs like MDMA, mushrooms, pot, and alcohol. I would black out regularly, constantly trying to find time to use more drugs and drink more alcohol.
At age 17, my life spun completely out of control! Still in high school, and already a full-blown cocaine addict. Still living with my parents, I would sneak out of the house to drive downtown to buy cocaine from some very dangerous people.
Surprisingly, my grades in high school were good! I graduated high school with a 3.2 GPA, then graduated college with a 4.0 on the Dean's List. My attendance and ability to be present in class was not terribly difficult for me, even considering my addiction outside of school. I was able to perform well when I was there, and perform hard and strong when taking drugs and drinking. I did want to go on to TCU, but my addiction did make that impossible.
By my freshman year of college at Texas Christian University, I wasn't doing well. I was insecure about everything and all the time. I was sneaking away from fraternity chapter meetings to buy and use cocaine, always desperate to get more drugs. I could not stand to be sober. I wanted to crawl out of my skin, physically aching for more!
Cocaine withdrawal was not particularly painful, but it was maddening. All I thought about was getting more! I was constantly anxious, irritable, and frantic. Heroin, and any pain pill withdrawals, were the worst for me by far. I would have cold and hot sweats, I couldn't control my bowels, I could not eat, could not sleep, while extremely anxious, with stomach aches, feeling weak, with muscle cramps, confusion, angry and irritable, desperate and extremely emotionally unstable. "Benzos" are dangerous to detox from because you could have a seizure, but they didn't bother me nearly as much as opiate withdrawals.
I remember being very drunk and upset one night, at the end of my freshman year. My girlfriend and I weren't getting along, and so I decided to punch both fists through a second story window, causing massive lacerations to both arms, tearing through all muscles in each arm. I underwent eight hours of muscle reconstructive surgery, escaping death by about twenty more minutes of blood loss.
This did not stop me from drinking or using. I decided to leave TCU and return to my family in Kansas City, where I transferred to a Junior College.
My drug use expanded, I drove around Kansas City by myself by day, skipping classes and drinking/using alone. I barely passed my classes. My attendance was just enough to get me by. While trying to be a normal student, my night life caught me up in several fights and run-ins with the local police. I had more fights with my Dad, got DUI's and MIP's, and was even in a train wreck.
My parents wanted me to go to school, and I wanted to finish college, I always understood the importance of education. Structure, like having a job and going to school, was something I held onto as a sign of normalcy. Like, I am okay if I can keep doing these thing; the facade of structure or routine would help me deny that my addiction was that bad. I started with studying business, then journalism, then graduated with my degree in interpersonal communication. I would change degrees based on the different pre-reqs that were required at each school I went to. I wanted the fastest, easiest route possible, that is until I got sober and chose something I actually wanted to take.
I transferred to the Kansas University where I was introduced to a drug dealer, who quickly became a close friend. This friend died from a Xanax and OxyContin overdose. I finally recognized and admitted to myself that I was an addict.
I went to KU my junior year (of college). This is where I met my friend, Eric. We became best friends who sold and used drugs together every day. He overdosed towards the end of the school year. I did not handle the emotional distress well, and my addiction got much worse. I was upset and grieving, but not processing my pain. After Eric died, I became more self-aware, recognizing and internally admitting that I had an addiction, a problem.
The addiction was so strong and lasted so long, that simply admitting I had a problem was not enough to cure and stop it. There is not always a rhyme or reason for someone to use drugs, I'm just an addict and I was abusing "Benzos,"and blacking out. One day, I was at the gym stealing things during a black out. I was arrested for this. It wasn't necessarily "jail time," it was just being booked and processed after my arrest for petty theft.
At the same time, I was selling pot to a lot of people at KU. I did however serve three days jail time at another point in time for something entirely different, a DUI, MIP, and breaking my probation.
My parents bailed me out, taking me home from KU, when we had an intervention. They told me I had a drug problem. My dad, still finding it difficult to connect with me, was hard on me. I thought maybe I needed someone to be so direct, but because of my history with my dad, I blocked his voice out as he told me to, "Quit being so weak, finish the semester and we'll deal with the addiction later."
I couldn't dance with my addiction and grief very well. It didn't make me stop using, but fed my poor coping skills. I decided to take 60 Klonopin pills after writing a suicide letter.
My sister had a feeling that something was wrong, urging my mom to check on me.
Mom and my sister rushed me to the hospital, just in time to pump charcoal into my stomach, stopping my system from digesting the benzodiazepines. The Benzo's would have relaxed my cardiovascular system enough to stop my breathing.
I woke up in a Psychiatric Ward where my family and close friends would visit me. My parents brought me there when they finally noticed this problem was beyond me simply pulling myself up by my bootstraps. I was very sad at this time.
Waking up alive after I tried to kill myself left me quite sad and remorseful. I felt ready to die, however in the final minutes I did regret it and want to take it back. While I was sad, the sliver of gratitude was hanging in the balance.
I felt sad when family would visit me in the psych ward. I don't expect anyone to understand what it was like, and I hope most people don't, I felt more pitied than understood during those visits and that had me guilt-ridden.
After-all, I didn't really want to die, so I felt bad for putting my friends and family in such a fucked up situation, having to visit me and deal with the trauma of reading my suicide letter; my siblings were heavily impacted by this situation. It has caused irreversible damage in my relationships but it is a part of my story that helped me get into treatment and gain freedom from my disease of addiction.
Because of this suicidal attempt, I could finally realize how bad addiction is that caused me to want to kill myself, I knew how fucked up it had become and how hopeless it was to stop, no one really knew me or how dark my emotions had become, and after trying to explain it to my parents, I was rejected or minimized in some way, and that was the final straw that made me think okay, this is not going to get any better, I should do myself and everyone a favor and check out permanently.
I went to my first treatment center in Texas, learning a lot and meeting a girl while in treatment. One rule while in treatment, was to avoid fraternizing, she and I broke that rule. I was distracted from my treatment, falling in love with her.
My parents suggested I didn't return home to Kansas City, but follow up care in another state. Part of my treatment plan was to go to this sober living after, it's the most effective and successful way to ensure long term sobriety, to do as much structured living or follow up care as possible! My dad listened to the doctors and therapists in treatment, they said the best chance you have is to do extended care after inpatient treatment. I ended up in Dallas, where this girl was from. Eventually, we relapsed together finding complete chaos. She introduced me to heroin, and to shooting up using needles. We would take turns trying for sobriety.
I found myself residing in, then kicked out of a homeless shelter before going to her parent's house. This girl's ex boyfriend was a heroin dealer, and we did not get a long. She and I had a very on and off again relationship. I broke up with her and then she took her own life.
A couple years later, I asked my parents to help me. Together, we enrolled myself into a treatment center in NorthEast Kansas City called the Healing House.
Healing House is a government funded recovery center that is in a very dangerous and crime-ridden part of Kansas City, where there are a lot of drugs, violence, prostitution, etc. I got my last paycheck from work, and had cravings to use heroin, and I still had a relationship with Maggie and kept calling her all the time, I missed her and was still leaning on her co-dependently and not really ready to stop using. I learned she cheated on me with her ex-boyfriend, and because neither of us were getting clean, we had to call our relationship off, officially.
One day after I broke up with her, she died by suicide. I returned to the Healing House, struck with grief and confusion. Eventually, I was kicked out of the Healing House and the house manager of Healing House drove me to the Salvation Army in Downtown KC. My parents and family refused to visit me this time, so I was grateful for the HH Manager. I lived there for six months surrounded by a variety of men involved in very dangerous scenarios.
My parents invited me to join a young person's sobriety program. This was the best thing to ever happen to me. This program led me to 5 years of sobriety! There, I found peace, joy and love. I saw other young people who had the same disease as I had. They found a way out of it and that gave me hope. I learned how to follow the 12 Steps.
What are The 12 Steps?
The 12 Steps, as outlined in the original Big Book and presented by AA are:
Admitting powerlessness over the addiction
Believing that a higher power (in whatever form) can help
Deciding to turn control over to the higher power
Taking a personal inventory
Admitting to the higher power, oneself, and another person the wrongs done
Being ready to have the higher power correct any shortcomings in one’s character
Asking the higher power to remove those shortcomings
Making a list of wrongs done to others and being willing to make amends for those wrongs
Contacting those who have been hurt, unless doing so would harm the person
Continuing to take personal inventory and admitting when one is wrong
Seeking enlightenment and connection with the higher power via prayer and meditation
Carrying the message of the 12 Steps to others in need
Abiding by my Sponsor's guidance, I was finally able to talk about the pain I was carrying. This transparency and these conversations taught me how to be honest, and give myself an honest appraisal, while identifying where I had made mistakes along the way.
I learned how to release negative energy from my past, and created a relationship with my Higher Power, God. I learned how to pray, how to make gratitude lists, how to meditate, and calm my mind. I learned how to practice positive psychology, and how to track my anger and negative emotions. I learned so much through this program, that made the next five years of life the best years so far. I became a part of a fellowship of sober people who had so much love and support for one another. I was even learning how to support other's sobriety. I highly recommend Crossroads Program, a program for young people, 15-25 years old.
I relapsed when I was 28-years-old, after 5 years of sobriety. During those five years, I graduated from college with a degree in Interpersonal Communication and was hired at a healthcare company as an infusion salesman, finally gaining financial independence from my family. I felt very good about my future!
Specialty Home Infusion, people who need TPN, Antibiotics through an IV, they are stronger than oral antibiotic pills, people who are sick and have bowel issues and cannot eat have to receive their nutrition through a pic line, known as TPN (total parenteral nutrition), I also worked with neurological disorders and supplying patients with IVIG, intravenous immunoglobulin, (but again I don't think these details are necessary especially since this is already way too long like you said, but I included them and will let you decide how to consolidate it!
When I relapsed, I believe I experienced a near overdose in the final hours, just before getting clean again and checking into treatment. Now I am 30-years-old celebrating 3 years of sobriety as of May 28th, 2020!
Sober now and trying to remain so, I pursued a relationship with someone! She had two children and being I was confident in all other areas of my life, I felt I needed to provide for she and her family. I placed a lot of pressure on myself to earn more money, and that became my new addiction.
I fed this money-earning cycle until I eventually found it necessary to see if a doctor would agree with prescribing me a stimulant medication to enhance my ability to focus and perform.
I remember many people telling me this was a bad idea, as I am a sober drug addict that cannot safely take any substances. My Doctor knew I was an addict, but I knew how to manipulate her. In my experience, most psychiatrists are not addicts, and are extremely easy to manipulate, especially for addicts.
I chose to ignore the people talking me against Adderall, thinking I could handle it. I was fixated on earning income, forgetting my ultimate truth...that I can never again safely use alcohol or other mind-altering substances.
One could say that my relapse began with the addiction to earning more money, and using money as value to my identity. I quickly began abusing my Adderall prescription and soon found myself uncontrollably seeking out other substances, until I was able to rationalize using alcohol, and other hard drugs.
I relapsed again, something I swore would never going to happen. I became addicted to new substances that I had never used before my first bout of sobriety. I was terrified, alone, afraid, disgusted, and ashamed of who I became again.
In all of my new free time, birthed a different Taylor, I was selling drugs, carrying firearms and constantly taking unnecessary risks. Eventually I was fired from my good job, likely due to my nature of being on stimulants; too neurotic and fast-paced. I had earned the reputation of a "hot head."
Not long after I was fired, my girlfriend left me and I was not able to afford the expensive townhome we lived in, and I was evicted. I also later received a protective order against me, to not be near my girlfriend or her children. I felt so ashamed, as I knew I had not endangered them purposefully, but fully respected the fact that my drug addiction was scary to them, and that she needed to do what she had to, to keep herself and her children safe.
Unfortunately at this time the life style that she and I had chosen, had put me in significant financial debt with creditors, yet another obstacle to face. Later in court, it was decided that I was not a threat or danger to her, however I motioned to have a mutual protective order put in place, to protect us both from one another, and the codependency we were intertwined in. I later would review this as one of the best, and only good decision I made during my relapse.
I spent the next several months getting to an even lower place, scrambling to find places to sleep, roaming around with "using" friends, depleting the rest of my 401k retirement account and bleeding all other accounts I had saved over the entire duration of my life.
I began sleeping in my car and had very few sober moments. I would often black out from the mixture of drugs and alcohol and come to, not knowing where I was or how I got there. Once I began coming to consciousness while operating a vehicle, talking to someone in a bar or casino, or in a townhome I had broken back into, I became more terrified than before.
I knew it was just a matter of time before I kill myself or someone else in a car accident or drug deal gone bad. However I still had the beast on my back, the active addiction, that I could not escape even though it's all I wanted. I could not seem to gather so much as a sober breath, my addiction was all that ruled me, my actions, my thoughts. I could not stop and had little time between uses or drinks to act on this desire to escape the clutches.
After a series of worse decision, I decided to call a close friend who owned a treatment center, and begged for him to come pick me up and take me into his treatment center. He agreed and thus was the beginning of my second chance at a life in recovery.
When this 6 month relapse was finished, I lost 60 pounds, was unrecognizable by friends and family. I isolated myself completely, like an animal preparing to die. My spirit was shattered, but I was given the gift of hope at the final hour, I had faith I could get clean and rebuild my life. I believe something was watching over me as I did not go through any detox program, despite having several substances in my body all at once. I would not ever recommend this to anyone, however it is part of my story.
I simply cannot deny the fact that I was given a divine intervention, something Feel free to state who you felt was watching over you. God? Jesus? Holy Spirit? was watching over me and kept me safe those first few days in treatment. It was not pretty and my normal bodily functions were not ideal, but I got through it and healed. I now have two years sober and clean from drugs and alcohol and have committed my entire life to helping others get sober as well.
I believe Guardian Angels gave me life. I know that I should have died, but didn't. I know that it was a divine intervention, and that I was given life when I had inadvertently chosen death. I believe I am here for a reason!
My life is much different than it was before, even in comparison to the 5 years of sobriety before. I realize now that I did not have a true connection with a Higher Power before, I was simply moving from one achievement to the next, thinking that I could earn my happiness, my purpose and peace of mind.
I see quite clearly now that I simply have to be present enough to realize that these three things are with me already. There is nothing wrong with me, in fact accepting my true nature of being an addict, is the beauty of freedom for me, and to honor that truth, is the first step in helping others to escape the horrible clutches of this disease. I can now see that being present in the moment, and making the most of my relationships with those around me, is the most important part of life. I am not here to earn and spend money, I am here to have an impact on others.
Now, I actually work at the treatment center that I went to at the end of this story, I help with admissions and getting people into treatment, as well as running groups several times per week as a certified drug/alcohol counselor. I also am an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, and do my best to reach out to those struggling with this disease on a regular basis.
What are relationships with your family like today? What is dating like now? Have friends forgiven you and received you since proclaiming sobriety a second time?
Today, my relationship with my Dad is amazing. I have made amends with friends, negatively effected by my relapse. They have received me with open arms. I mended things with my family.
I have spent how many years in my sobriety, first round and this go around, working on my communication with my dad, and learned how to tell him how he made me feel. I tell him about me, my addiction, he knows my strengths and weaknesses. He has come to respect my immense growth enough to change himself. We have a strong bond now and lean on another as adult father son relationship. My siblings are so glad I made it back into recovery, and so am I!
There is much more to my story. Writing this out and knowing you and many others are reading this brings me gratitude for all the hell I experienced. I know that someone needed to feel understood and find hope in how I overcame addiction. Love yourself so much, that you'd do anything to end the pain. Try AA meetings, the Healing House, beg family and friends for support, and give your entire self to it!
There is ALWAYS hope, it is NEVER too late to throw in the towel of addicted living, and make a change. There is always hope, even in the darkest of times.