Story of Hope
I am 32 years old and have suffered from a heroin addiction for the better part of my adult life. I sacrificed anything meaningful or life-affirming that I had to continue to feed and maintain this habit. I thought that I would end up dying in my addiction, becoming just another statistic. Thankfully, God had other plans for me. I grew up in a middle-class family with all the opportunities one could wish for to advance quickly in life. My mother is a school teacher, and my father was a microbiologist. My childhood home was a happy one where good morals and values were instilled in me all the way up until the moment that I left the nest so-to-speak.
How then could someone with my upbringing and opportunity turn to such a self-defeating habit? To explain this, I must first tell you that I grew up playing lead guitar and piano for classic rock cover bands. The moment that I heard Jimi Hendrix play “Purple Haze” on one of my step dad’s CDs, I knew that I wanted to be a rock star and take my talent to the stage for the masses. I engulfed myself in the 1960s and 1970s culture and music. I idolized people like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. These are just some examples of the people that I wanted to model my life after. I adopted their rebellious nature and the habits that eventually put all of them into an early grave.
My drug use all began as harmless fun to invoke creativity and give me the courage to play in bars long before I was old enough to be admitted to one. I thought that I was well on my way to achieving stardom. I was living in a delusion exacerbated by the intake of hard drugs and was spiraling very rapidly. A moment where I realized that things had gotten out of control was when I had to pawn my guitar to obtain my next fix. All of my dreams were swallowed up by the nightmare of being dope sick. I totaled two trucks from nodding off at the wheel, almost having a head-on collision with an off-duty police officer. When my parents co-signed to get a student loan for college, I took that money straight to my dealer.
My parents enabled me for a very long time, hoping that somehow this behavior would run its course and that I would return to some state of normalcy. This never happened. I viewed their love for me as some sort of weakness that I could prey upon to finance my need for drugs, shelter, food, ect. An intervention was held for me at my dad’s house one evening. I sat and listened attentively to their pleas for me to get sober and save myself from certain death. In the middle of this intervention, I excused myself to go to the restroom and went straight to my dad’s liquor cabinet to turn up his bottle of vodka before leaving for rehab. I agreed to get help, but I hopped out of my mother’s car on the way to the facility, choosing instead to be homeless for the sake of my opiate addiction.
Thus began a seemingly endless string of jail/prison stents, detoxes, park benches, methadone clinics, and bad decisions. I was the kind of drug addict that when I ended up in jail or prison, my mother and her church congregation would say hallelujah, knowing that at least I was alive and safe at that present moment. Most parents have huge dreams for their children, and it is heartbreaking for me to think that it was a blessing to my family for me to be locked up. That was the best that they could all hope for while I continued feeding my unquenchable thirst for opiates.
My dad later passed due to his alcohol addiction, resulting in me getting a sizable inheritance. I spent it in just 18 months on things that were killing me and giving me only temporary relief from the fact that I couldn’t stand myself for what I had become. After a few more stays in the Gwinnett County jail, I decided to get sober. I took a half-hearted stab at working the 12 steps to please my family and the sober living that took me in. I brought so much dishonesty into AA’s honest program that I ended up chasing myself right back out to the streets where that kind of behavior is a way of survival.
I took to the streets once again, thinking somehow that everything would be different this time, but it was so much worse than I ever remembered it being. The boys in blue caught up to me again and threw me in the Cherokee County Detention Center. While I was there, I noticed a list of treatment facilities posted on the bulletin board. The Extension was on that list. I had heard a lot of positive things about the love and fellowship of this particular facility. I was so very desperate at this point that I would do anything to shape up.
After going to court, I was unexpectedly released because there was suppose to be a probation hold on me from Gwinnett County. I was initially happy to get out of jail as anyone would be, but the circumstances of my last relapse dawned on me as I walked out those doors to freedom. I had no one. When I got arrested, I had no shoes on, and my clothes were filthy, so that is exactly the attire that I was released in. So this shoeless, homeless and broken addict called someone from AA rooms because there was no one else at this point. I told him to take me to The Extension, hoping to get in. I sat out in the Serenity Garden, waiting for Robert Jordan to arrive to conduct the interview. I walked into his office and could barely get a word out because I was crying so hard at how miserable I was and about all that I had lost.
By the grace of God, he let me in and told me “welcome home.” The gift of desperation had me so willing and so grateful that I truly felt the sunlight of the Spirit shining brightly on my face. Three days into my admittance into the program, I received the news that my probation in Gwinnett County picked up on the fact that I had incurred a new charge. I was told to turn myself in the very next day. My counselor, Tony Stanley, and Robert Jordan told me a phrase that I carried with me during the nine months that I had to do in prison, “stay the course” and that there would be a bed waiting for me upon my release.
I stayed away from all the trouble while inside and stayed the course by remaining sober and vigilant, and sure enough, upon my release after 9 months of incarceration, Mr. Jordan kept a bed for me. The program’s promises and “staying the course” are paying off in ways that I could’ve never thought possible. In collaboration with my sponsor, support network, and family, The Extension has provided me with a safe place to recover and gather the emotional and spiritual tools necessary, not only for lasting freedom from drugs but also for living a happy and successful existence. Robert Jordan, Tony Stanley, and Cody Davis have taught me how to give instead of taking and how to show up in all the relationships of life as a meaningful positive presence.
They’ve taught me the importance of walking through fear, and as a result, I am reaping more rewards than I could have ever imagined. Because of this place, I will forever consider home (the place where I truly grew up). The Extension, I keep my commitments, am gainfully employed, legally own, and operate a motor vehicle. Those bridges that I burned have been replaced with far better, more lasting ones. I’m in awe of God’s grace for my life shown through the staff’s selfless acts of this magical place where hopelessness gets turned to hope, where defeat gets turned into conquer, where hate becomes love. A year ago, I was sitting in a prison cell, waiting for my release to get another chance at cleaning up the wreckage of my life. The Extension has given me that chance. I can’t imagine what life will have in store for me as long as I keep “staying the course.”