Twelve Steps To Recovery

SOA 38 | Twelve Steps To Recovery

 

Losing a loved one at a young age and having to grow up in an abusive environment can take its turn for the worse. With this kind of background, Dave, a client of The Gault House Sober Living Environment in Santa Cruz, California, eventually turned to marijuana, LSD, and meth at age fourteen. Spinning out of control, he later progressed to full-blown heroin addiction. Dave shares his entire story of addiction and recovery and the twelve steps he took to get to where he is now. Treading the spiritual path, he found a spiritual awakening that pushed him to be better and sober. Now, he is continuing that path doing what his higher power tells him to do. Discover Dave’s story of addiction and of recovery to gain inspiration for your own journey.

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Twelve Steps To Recovery

A Spiritual Path To Recovery

In this episode of Stories of Addiction, I will be talking to Dave about his addiction and his recovery from addiction. Dave is a client in The Gault House Sober Living Environment in Santa Cruz, California. He is 51 years old and his drugs of choice were alcohol, meth and heroin. Dave, how are you doing?

I’m a little nervous, but I’m doing okay.

Why don’t you tell us how your addiction got started?

My addiction started before I even picked anything up. I grew up in Saratoga, California in a middle-class family. Everything was set up to be a normal average life. When I was eight years old, my father died in a scuba diving accident, which was very traumatic for an eight-year-old boy. I believe that’s when things started happening in my life that was going to lead me into the addiction. I went into a lot of PTSD and a lot of depression. I started withdrawing from my friends at school. My mother started drinking. I’m sure it had something to do with my father dying the way he did. She started becoming very verbally abusive.

I remember I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to be around people. I didn’t want to go home and be around my mother because she would get drunk and she’d get angry. She starts screaming at me, calling me names and telling me I was going to be worthless. I was a very depressed child. I couldn’t stand it. I didn’t know what to do with the pain. She would take me into counseling groups and drop me off. She wouldn’t participate. She would drop me off at a counselor twice a week against my will. I’d sit there and I would clam up. I would not talk. I would put my arms over my chest and I would refuse to speak to the counselors because I couldn’t understand why I was getting punished for the way I was acting or what had happened.

I was about eleven, twelve years old. I started learning about marijuana. I heard about kids at school even way back in sixth grade, I was smoking marijuana. I was intrigued by it. They seem to me like they were the cool kids. They grew their hair long. It’s back in the ’70s and early ’80s. A lot of people have long hair. I wanted to have long hair. I wanted to be one of the cool kids. I also wanted some relief from the pain and the depression that I was in. I started putting my feelers out to see if I could get some marijuana. It took me about a year. Me and some other friends, we started talking. We were like, “We got to figure out how to get high.”

We finally did get some. I’m not sure if what I bought was all marijuana or not, but I remember smoking it several times and nothing happened. I was confused. I’m like, “I keep smoking this stuff that I bought and nothing’s happening.” One day something happened. It was like instant relief. It pulled me out of the depression. It pulled me out of my funk. I laughed. I remember laughing for a couple of hours. I smoked it at lunchtime while I was a freshman in high school. I remember laughing at everything. The curve was too high. I was laughing. The bike was moving too fast. I was laughing.

Spirituality can be a path to recovery. Click To Tweet

It made me realize that I didn’t have to be depressed and suffering the way I was. I had found a way out. After that, I started to try other things. The first time I got drunk, I did a beer run. I went down to this little store by our house. My friend and I went in and got a twelve-pack. We took off and went back to my house and drank the whole twelve-pack. It’s pretty obvious that I was going to be an alcoholic from that very first time. I remember I drank two beers and I was already starting to get sick. My sister came home. She caught me. She made me give her $10 not to tell my mother. I gave her the $10 and drank a few more beers.

She came back home again. I was drunk by this time. I gave her another $20. She left and I’ve finished this six-pack. When my sister came back the third time, I was in the bathroom puking. I was spinning. I thought I was going to die. I swear to God I would never ever put myself in that situation again. The next day, I went and raided my mom’s refrigerator for some wine. From that day on, it was like my new goal in life. I decided that all I wanted to do was get loaded and get high at all costs as much as I possibly could. It didn’t start off slow with me. It started off every chance I could get.

I was a newspaper boy at the time. I had some income. I was also lifting money on my mom’s wallet to supply my habit. I had to find other ways to support my habits. By the time, I was a sophomore in high school, I was coming over the hill on a motorcycle that I had and buying sheets of LSD at the San Lorenzo Park in downtown Santa Cruz where I live now. I would take it back to my high school and sell it. I’d come to Santa Cruz twice a week, get 100 hits of acid and go sell it. That pretty much funded my habit for the whole time I was in high school.

Were you taking acid too?

Yeah, not as much as people thought. On weekends, I would dose heavy and during the week, I’d microdose. I was taking it every day. I wasn’t high on it every day, but I was taking it every day. I continued doing that until I was eighteen. I quit selling the LSD shortly after I was eighteen because I was an adult. I didn’t want to get in trouble. Back then the drug laws were a lot stricter, but it didn’t stop me from doing other things. I went through a lot of terror with my mother through high school. Once I started using and getting high, it gave her more ammunition to beat me down.

The biggest struggle I had was I was the only guy in the house. It was me, my mother and my sister. For some reason my mother chose me to be her punching bag. All through high school, I kept hearing about “Why can’t you be more like your sister? Why can’t you be like this? You’re going to grow up to be a lonely old man in the gutter.” That was the biggest thing she liked to tell me, “You can just be a bum in the gutter. That’s all you’ll ever be.” When I turned eighteen and I graduated high school, she changed the locks on the doors. She came to where I worked and she gave me a letter. She brought a suitcase with a bag of clothes and left a note on top of it. I opened up the note and it was a letter.

It says, “Have a nice life,” and she gave me $20. I spent a lot of time homeless. I was working for a tree trimming company at the time. It was 1987, ’88, something like that. I was making decent money. I could afford to pay for rent. All I wanted to do is be high. I decided I would live in my car so that I could have as much money as I can to stay high. I picked up a crack habit, a meth habit. They weren’t doing drug testing at work at that time. Every day after work I would shoot down to this neighborhood open street market and buy crack cocaine. I drive around drinking twelve-packs of beer in my car and smoking crack. I did that for a year and a half.

SOA 38 | Twelve Steps To Recovery

Twelve Steps To Recovery: Drugs and alcohol is a choice.

Did your coworkers know or did they use too? How prevalent was it amongst your team?

It was prevalent where I was working, but most of the guys that I worked with had places to live, girlfriends to go home to and children. I was probably one of the worst of the worst in the company. They knew it because I lived in my car in the parking lot where I worked. They knew what I was doing. It was a union job. I was in the union and they didn’t have drug testing yet, so there wasn’t anything they could do. I hooked up with a woman somehow on some online message board thing that I had found.

I spent a lot of time calling this number and I’m hooking up with this woman. I did get an apartment for awhile until I got in trouble. I ended up getting in trouble for being under the influence of cocaine. I was going to have to go to jail for three months. We gave up our apartment because I didn’t want to pay rent while I was in jail. She moved home with her parents and I went to jail. While I was in jail, I remember she called me in jail and told me that she was pregnant. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had absolutely no life skills. My mother didn’t teach me how to be in relationships. She didn’t teach me how to be responsible.

I was a wreck. The only thing that I knew was drugs and alcohol. It was my career choice. I remember when I was young, I used to say, “I want to be a drug addict.” You see those commercials, “Nobody wants to go to be a drug addict,” I did. That was what I wanted to do. It’s all I could talk about. I went from a very quiet kid to not having much to say, to want to talk about parties, drugs, alcohol, crack and meth. I had one subject at the top. When I got out of jail, I stuck around for awhile while she was pregnant. I was even around awhile until the baby was four months old.

I couldn’t stop using. I remember telling myself as soon as the baby was born, I would stop smoking crack and that didn’t happen. When the baby was born, I switched to powdered cocaine and I thought that was okay. I had a lot of anger issues from my childhood. I didn’t know how to be in a healthy relationship. The job I was at the time was implementing drug testing for the first time. In order to avoid losing my job, I did a geographical to Colorado and I moved. I abandoned the baby. I don’t even know my son. He’s 25 and in college right now. I don’t know who he is. I went to Colorado to change my life doing geographical and the same thing happened.

I got in a relationship there. I started a tree trimming business. I spent all my profits on the bar. I had three bars within walking distance of my house and that’s where I was. That relationship collapsed too. I remember I was in love with that woman from Colorado and I felt it, but I didn’t know how to act on it. All I knew how to do is get loaded. That relationship fell and it crushed me. I was crushed for years. It took me years to get over that. I buried myself in methamphetamines and alcohol at the time. I ended up losing that business too. When I first started realizing that, maybe I have a problem that maybe I should try to get sober, whatever.

I went to a rehab in Denver, Colorado. They introduced me to the twelve steps. I didn’t take it seriously. I figured I’d go dry out for 30 days and my life would be great. I got out and I white-knuckled it for about three months. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was miserable. I was depressed. I was lonely. I knew there was people at the bar, people I’d get along with. It kept the cycle going. I ended up losing everything there again. I lost my business. I came out here to California to start a new life and I couldn’t stop drinking. I was homeless on the street. I had a little bit of money saved up, but not much. I had never been homeless without a car before. This is the first time.

People often think that the material life would make everything in life great when it is not. Click To Tweet

I went to stay with my sister and she kicked me out after two weeks, which I don’t blame her. There was one incident where in order to save money I would buy gigantic 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor and I drink five or six of those a day. She lived in this apartment that was up on a hill and you had to go up all these steps. I’d always bring all these 40s up to where her apartment was. I’d take the 40s and I’d put them in the recycling bin thinking I’m doing a good thing. I filled up her recycling bin so much that her landlord couldn’t carry the can down the stairs.

I remember seeing him too. I walked by and he’s like, “My God. It’s full of the 40s.” He’s got the loudest garbage can on the block. She ended up kicking me out and I lost the little job I had. I had no other choice but to be homeless. I had no other options at the time. There’s a lot of fear residing in me. I went out to the highway and I stuck out my thumb. I always wanted to travel the world or the country or whatever. I figured that I’d hitchhike around the country. I couldn’t even do that because of the alcohol. I quit drugs during that time because I couldn’t see keeping a drug habit while being homeless without a vehicle. I just stayed drunk all the time. I worked for labor ready and labor places, day labor. That was my life for the next year and a half. It was an El Nino year. It was raining all winter. I would go to work, make my $60 and I’d go eat dinner. I’d get drunk. I’d get up in the morning and I’d do it again and again.

Every time I’d save up a little money, I’d try to get on my trip around the country. I’d make it a couple of hundred miles, maybe Arcata, California or Santa Rosa. I’d stop and I’d end up getting hooked up with the homeless community up there. They’d all love me because I’d come to town with a few hundred dollars and I’d have instant friends because I’m buying all the beer until the money ran out. I’d hitchhike back to the South San Francisco, Santa Rosa or Santa Cruz and do labor ready jobs. The second winter was coming up and I’d been out the whole winter before. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I ended up coming to Santa Cruz and going into a detox center at the time. It wasn’t a medical detox. I suffered. I was coming off of alcohol and it was horrible. I had experienced alcohol withdrawals a couple of times before. You’ll think that would be enough to remember not to put me in that position again. It worked for awhile.

I was homeless and sober for a couple of months. I’m working at manpower. Somebody suggested I move into an SLE, which I knew nothing about. I didn’t know there were places that you could go, show up and give them some money and live in a sober living place. I ended up going to one in downtown Santa Cruz and it was great. I was starting to make progress. I was getting better jobs. I started off with a low paying job. While I was doing that, I was looking for a better job. I get that job and I ended up landing a good job and they wanted to send me up to Eugene, Oregon. I was only six months sober at the time. I had gone to AA. I started working the steps. I wasn’t sure why I needed to work the steps. I wasn’t taking it too seriously. I was more focused on rebuilding my material life. I figured if I’d get a place to live and some money in the bank and a good job, everything would be great.

I ended up going up to Oregon against everybody’s advice. People kept saying, “If you’re going to do it, go get a sponsor, get into meetings. Don’t fall in into the wayside and think you’re okay.” I figured I was okay an that’s what I did. Because of the issues with my mother, I always wanted to be in a relationship, but I wasn’t able to do it. I got up in Eugene, Oregon and I started going to AA meetings. I had maybe seven months clean. I met a girl there with two weeks clean. I thought, “I’m sad.” I got my apartment. I got a good job. I got a beautiful girlfriend. I made it. She dumped me after two weeks because she relapsed and she didn’t want to take me down with her.

The depression was so bad. I didn’t go to work for a week. I couldn’t even move. I remember sitting on the couch for a week dazed. It’s like somebody had hit me hard with a hammer or something. The two weeks I’d been dating this girl, I’d met all of her drug dealer friends. I knew what I needed to do to get out of the depression. I called one of her friends that I had met and it was off. I told myself I would never ever shoot drugs. That went out the door and I started shooting methamphetamines. That was my new love. All I wanted to do was stay at home and shoot meth. I would shoot it five to ten times every day. It was crazy.

I’d work all week. I’d work Tuesday through Friday because I was always sick on Monday. On Fridays when I’d get off work, I’d have somebody waiting at my house and they’d already had the deal set up. I’d get an eight ball at least. I would sit in my apartment sometimes by myself, sometimes with my friend. I would fill up ten syringes all at once. I’d have ten syringes filled up and set on a little platter. Throughout the night, they’re already ready. It’s like time for another shot and I’d do another shot. I didn’t think I was ever going to quit. I didn’t want to at the time.

SOA 38 | Twelve Steps To Recovery

Twelve Steps To Recovery: When you’re surrounded by drug addicts, crime, gang members, guns, and knives, you accept that as the norm.

Did you have any negative health effects from it or experience like when I was using meth, the psychosis and things like that were pretty bad?

The meth was different back then, so the psychosis wasn’t quite as bad as it is with the meth that’s out now. I would have that. I remember being in the apartment at 3:00 AM thinking people are staring at me through the windows. God forbid if the phone rings at 3:00 AM, I would literally jump across the apartment and tackle my phone to get it to stop ringing. There was a lot of paranoia. I wasn’t eating so I was skinny as a rail. I didn’t have many teeth left. It didn’t even dawn on me at the time. It’s like I looked at all my friends and they all had rotten teeth. I didn’t even realize that I was doing the same thing to myself.

I thought, “I must be different. My teeth are fine.” I ended up losing that job. They finally drug tested me and they gave me a chance. They gave me three days off, told me to come back and go to work for a little bit. They were going to test me again in two weeks and I couldn’t pass the drug test again in two weeks. They said that they were going to fire me if I didn’t go to rehab. I decided I don’t need rehab. I’ve been to rehab before. It’s not going to work. I’ll move into an SLE. They’re like, “We will pay for your first month’s rent in an SLE. We will come to your house on Saturday. We’re going to pick you up and we’re going to take you to the SLE and drop you off. You could be at work on Monday.”

They picked me up Saturday morning. I went to the SLE, still gacked out my mind and instantly started making excuses to leave. I remember I told that guy at the SLE like, “I got to go home. I left my fan running. I’ll be back tomorrow.” I never went back. I ended up losing that job. I had built up a good credit line in those few months that I was sober. I had got a credit card for $7,000. I ran up my credit card, the full $7,000, until I couldn’t pay rent anymore and got evicted.

I ended up traveling to Texas with every penny I had. I had gotten a job and I took off to Texas. They sent me to Iowa and they fired me for reasons other than drugs. They didn’t realize I had a drug problem at the time. Something else happened and they left me in an Iowa with no money. They gave me my last paycheck. I started driving back across the country to go back to Oregon, which I don’t know why, because they weren’t going to hire me back. I ended up in Colorado. This time I decided that I’m an alcoholic. I’m a drug addict. I accept it. I’m just going to be a drug addict and alcoholic.

I devoted my life to drugs and alcohol again. I decided to stay out of relationships. I went to work. It was an empty life. I had absolutely no hope for the future. It was constantly to get paid and then get high. I couldn’t handle it. After about a couple more years, I decided to try and get clean and sober again. I came back out to California, moved into an SLE in Paso Robles, California. I went back to work with the tree company from Oregon. The boss told me, “You can come work for us in Paso Robles, but you’re going to work in the same town that I live in so I can keep an eye on you.” I did great for several years, except I still wouldn’t put myself out there for the twelve steps.

I started going to the twelve-step meetings for awhile. Something happened in there and I built up resentment against one person in one meeting. I wanted to prove to people that I could stay sober without the twelve-steps. I did. I told myself I would not go to another meeting until I had a year clean and I made it to a year clean. I’m like, “I don’t need to go to meetings. I got a year clean.” I never went back to any program. I lived in that SLE and I moved to another SLE here in Santa Cruz. I thought I was doing great, but I got to that SLE and there was a guy in there who had a lot of legal prescriptions. He was on Methadone, OxyContin, Xanax, you name it. Anything that could be abused, he had it. Because it was a prescription, they let him stay there. He became my new drug dealer.

There is no limit on what you can learn. Sometimes it's slow, sometimes it's quick, but you learn. Click To Tweet

Was he like strung out on them? Was it just like he had a doctor feel good or something that he went to or that was legitimate? Having a prescription legitimizes it, but it doesn’t mean that they’re not abusing it themselves.

He was definitely abusing it. He was definitely a drug addict. I thought it was great that I was living in this SLE, but the whole house was getting loaded. I still went around going, “I’m sober,” even though I got hooked into the Oxy craze when all that stuff was going on. I even became an assistant manager at that house while I was on his prescription pills. The manager was too. We were managing this house. The manager and I were both addicted to Vicodin, OxyContin and Methadone. The other residents knew it, but they wouldn’t say anything. Finally, it came to a head and the manager got busted.

Right after that, I couldn’t understand where my life was going. I’m loaded all the time. For the first time ever, I know what it’s like to have opiate withdrawal. I ended up going into another detox center because I had run out of the Oxys. I was so sick that I paid $3,500 of my own money, cash, to go into a medical detox so I get some relief. I was in there for seven days. They gave me the Suboxone. I left after seven days feeling better. What did I do? I went home, cleaned up my room, found a couple of Oxys in my drawer and I was high again.

I didn’t get back into the program for seven years after that. That’s when my life started getting rough. I was getting older. I didn’t have the desire to go work at labor ready all the time. This is about when the housing crash happened and unemployment went through the roof. That’s the only thing that saved me. I ended up living on unemployment for two and a half years. It’s the only thing that got me through. That whole unemployment check was going to alcohol and I ended up being homeless. I went back up to Oregon to try to get my life together.

I ended up homeless up there living on the streets in with a very rough crowd. I’m not a vet, but Medford, Oregon has a lot of veterans because there’s a veteran’s hospital there. The group of people that I was hanging out with at night were all Iraqi vets who are drunk. There are drugs, alcohol and a lot of violence. It was insane because I was never a violent person. I’d watch these guys. They’d be the nicest guys sober and they hit a certain point, knives would be coming out and people getting cut. I was in the middle of it all.

I never got hurt. I had to tackle one guy a couple of times because he kept attacking my best friend. That was like a normal night for me. Go out and drink on the road tracks until somebody gets in a fight. Everything’s pretty exciting now, isn’t it? There was a homeless shelter. It was a Christian mission. You could not go into that place if you had alcohol on your breath. I had burned through $45,000. When I got to Bedford, I had gotten the inheritance. My mother had died. I’m still on unemployment plus I had an additional $45,000. I blew through everything. I was living in hotels and hanging out at the bars and dabbling with heroin for the first time, methamphetamines. I was going nowhere fast.

I ended up checking into this homeless shelter. Once I was broke, I had absolutely nothing left. Something happened that night. It’s hard to explain. I’m not going to get into it here, but according to the book of AA, it was a spiritual experience. It was a very intense burning spiritual experience. I’ve talked to a clergyman and people at the church. What they tell me is I might have been close to death. It’s like a near-death experience. I still didn’t change my life. I got sober for nine days after that. I left the mission and went right back to the road tracks.

SOA 38 | Twelve Steps To Recovery

Twelve Steps To Recovery: The steps to recovery aren’t designed to make things hard on you. It’s awakening up a spiritual essence that gets you clean and sober, and shows you how to live.

I remember I still wanted to get my life together. I had a couple of tickets to Santa Cruz from under the influence of heroin and a couple of overdoses and I wanted to take care of it. I remember I came back to Santa Cruz to take care of that court case. As soon as I got to town, I overdosed again. I have three tickets. The third one was a felony because I had drugs on me when they woke me up. The first two, my friends had removed the paraphernalia and hid it. What happened in the third time is I had gotten clean. I had gotten through the withdrawals and I figured I was okay. At the time, I was doing a gram of heroin a day.

I spent almost $100 a day on heroin. The way I was affording it too is I went to my unemployment and fought for more extensions and I won. They owed me $2,800 in back pay. I had that to do heroin with. I ended up relapsing. I got clean. I moved into an SLE. I got in trouble. They told me I had to get clean. I went through the withdrawals. They tested me again. I came up clean. I went and got a gram of heroin. I went down to Burger King and shot up there. It wasn’t enough. I went across the street to a pizza parlor and needed a spoon. I ordered some soup and I have a spoon.

I went to the bathroom and I shot up again. I woke up and they were pounding on the door. I still had the needle in my arm. I was standing there looking around the bathroom wondering, “What the hell are they knocking on the door for?” I opened the door and there were three guys standing there. They’re like, “You’ve been in there for a long time.” I have to go. I didn’t know what else to say. I walked out to where my pizza was and my bowl of soup. It was an empty room. I sat down. I nodded out again. I woke up with a cop standing over me. There were all these kids running around me with balloons and party horns. A child’s birthday party had come in the pizza parlor while I was nodded out in the middle of the room.

How surreal that would be to wake up to that, especially a cop standing right there too.

Fortunately, it had been my third overdose so I was used to opening my eyes and being surprised by the cops standing there. I was like, “What’s up?” I remember the first time it happened, I woke up swinging. There are all these people standing there, paramedics and cops. It was frightening. I opened my eyes and I looked at him. I knew it was going on and he’s like, “I’ve been doing this for twelve years and I’m guessing heroin.” I’m like, “No. I’m just tired.” Why do you have a spoon in your pocket?” I’m like, “It’s for the soup.” He said, “Why there burn marks on the back of the spoon?” I’m like, “The soup is hot.”

That was my first felony. At the age of 45, I got my first felony. I still kept using heroin after that. I got kicked out of that SLE and ended up moving in with my drug dealer from the previous SLE, living on a couch in a very seedy part of town in Watsonville. I was surrounded by drug addicts, crime, gang members, guns and knives. I accepted that as the norm. This is my life. This is where I’m at. I’ll just watch my back and make sure I don’t go into withdrawals. My whole life turned into that. I spent all day long trying to figure out how to get my next hit so that I can make sure that I could make it to the next day. I could wake up in the morning and more heroin.

It’s funny because at first, I thought the heroin thing was going to be okay. I stopped drinking and decided to pick up heroin. The heroin was a great substitute. I had no desire to drink. I remember telling myself, “I could do heroin for the rest of my life. I’m fine with that.” I realized, “I’m 45 years old. I’m getting older. I’m tired. I’m homeless. I’m a junkie. When’s it going to get better?” It’s not getting any better. I didn’t want to be a homeless junkie in Watsonville or anywhere. I bit the bullet. I DT on my own.

For those who are considering to go on a path to recovery, do the steps and don’t fight them. Click To Tweet

I withdraw on my own on the streets with the help of some Methadone. I didn’t do the Methadone program. I did Methadone for ten days. I did a quick withdrawal. I went into an SLE in downtown Santa Cruz. I was desperate. I had absolutely no hope of anything good coming out of this unless I did something. I started going to the AA meetings again. They kept telling me, get a sponsor, do the steps. For twenty years, I would ignore that. I would fight it. I’m like, “I don’t understand why I need a higher power. Why do I have to do the steps?” I wouldn’t do it.

I finally decided, “They keep saying I need to do this. I’ll try it.” I didn’t want to put a lot of effort into doing the steps and I did it. I ended up getting an easy sponsor who ran me through the steps fast. I did a hokey pokey job on it. I put a couple of my biggest character defects that I would like to see gone. My fifth step with them took ten minutes. I thought it was getting over on him and he was like, “Is that all you got on your fifth step?” I’m like, “Yeah.” He’s like, “Let’s keep going.” We did step six and seven, which is praying to God to have your character defects removed.

What I didn’t realize at the time was how powerful those steps were. I got through the twelve steps and I was like, “I did it so what’s supposed to happen now?” Stuff started happening. It was blowing me away. The near-death experience I had a year or two previous kept replaying in my head. That’s when I end up calling some churches. I told him what I’d seen and what was happening. That’s when they said, “You’ve had a spiritual experience. You need to start helping people. You have seen things that a lot of people have not seen. Usually people only see it when they are at rock bottom.”

I started doing the steps again. The spiritual awakening that they talk about in the twelve-step program started taking effect. I started realizing I had conscious contact with something outside of me or maybe it’s inside of me. I’m not sure what it is yet. I finally figured out, “I’ve done the steps now twice. Let’s do them again.” I did it the third time. Each time I did the steps, I got a little bit deeper into it. That conscious contact kept getting stronger and stronger to the point where my ego took over. This time I had ten months clean and sober. I said, “I’ve had a spiritual experience. I’ve done the steps three times. I’m the secretary of a meeting. I finally did it.” No, I did not.

What had happened is my ego had taken over and I thought I was done with growth. I ended up finding a little baggie of meth on the street in a parking lot. I couldn’t stop myself from doing it. I picked it up with the intention to throw it away so a kid wouldn’t find it. I could not throw out that thing away. I carried it around with me all day long and ended up doing it that night. It was crazy how I was living in SLE and I didn’t want to get in trouble because they would have kicked me out. I stayed in bed all night and pretended I was asleep so they wouldn’t know. I was gacked out of my mind.

All I could think about was getting a hotel room, going to the bar, getting drunk, getting some hookers, whatever, all that stuff that goes through your head when we’re gacked. I didn’t want anybody to know I was loaded. I toughed it out and stayed there in bed. When I got up in the morning, I felt like shit. I was like, “What did I do? I just destroyed ten months of sober time.” I tried to hide it for a couple of weeks. I kept being the secretary during the meeting. I felt horrible. I asked one guy to chair my meeting and he got up. In front of the whole room, he goes and tells everybody that he relapsed two weeks previously. He only had two weeks’ time.

I’m sitting there and I’m the secretary, I’m like, “I’ve only got two weeks’ time.” After he spoke, I got up and I’m like, “I relapsed two weeks ago too. I only have two weeks of time.” It was so much relief. I changed my sobriety date to May 14, 2015. I did the steps again. Now I’ve got a little over four and a half years. One thing I’ve learned about it is there is no limit on what I can learn. Sometimes it’s slow. Sometimes it’s quick. The spiritual experiences that I have come quite often in ways I can’t even explain to other people. In fact, it’s gotten to the point now where I don’t feel like I need to explain to anybody. I’m sitting here doing this podcast in the SLE that I live in now. This is the longest I’ve ever lived in an SLE sober. It’s all been guided to me by doing the twelve steps. Everything that has covered me is because I worked the program.

I meditate, I pray and I ask for guidance and the guidance comes. I follow what I’m being told to do. It’s not what I think that I would like to be doing, because to me personally, I like to have a lot of money, a house and a wife now. That’s not going to happen. It has to be brought to me little by little because that’s the only way I can handle it. After an entire lifetime of being under the influence of drugs and alcohol, not knowing how to live, not knowing how to relate to people, not knowing how to keep a roof over my head, I have to stick with what my higher power tells me to do.

What advice would you have for somebody who’s maybe considering getting into the program or they’re in the program and they’re considering relapsing again or struggling with it? What guidance would you offer to somebody like that?

The thing that worked for me and I’m a very strong proponent for this is do the steps. Don’t fight the steps. I see that a lot. It’s around us all the time. People get in here and they make the steps out to be a lot bigger than they are. It scares people. It keeps people from getting them done. The steps aren’t designed to be a chore. They’re not designed to make things hard on you. It’s awakening up a spiritual essence, a spiritual awakening. That is what gets us clean, sober and shows us how to live. Until we get through those twelve steps, not a lot happens.

From my experience, I had the self-will to get through the steps the first time. After I self-willed my way through the steps the first time, that’s when guidance took over and now I no longer have to live on self-low. What I tried to tell people that come me is doing the steps. You don’t have to do them perfectly. Get them done as fast as you can because you’re probably going to do them again anyways. The second time is a lot easier than the first.

It’s even a guarantee that they’ll do it again because like you say, nobody does it perfectly, particularly the first time. I also like what you said that you’re always growing in your recovery. There’s always more to learn out there. What are some of your hopes or aspirations for the future now that you’ve built a solid foundation of recovery?

I want to travel. I said earlier that when I was homeless, I wanted to travel the country because that has always been one of my desires was to travel. It didn’t look like it’s going to do it loaded. I did become a truck driver for awhile while I was actively using. I did get to see the country on a freeway inside of a truck. I thought that was about as far as I’d ever make it on traveling. Since I got sober, in the past few years, I’ve been to the Mayan Temples in Mexico. I’ve been in the Amazon jungle in Peru. I’m working on a trip to go to Bali, Indonesia.

The other things that I see coming up for me, which my higher power specifically told me is what I’m going to be doing because of the abuse that I had as a child, the loneliness and the struggles. The nature of my past addiction is going to put me in a position where people who have gone through the same thing as me, maybe child abuse and dysfunctional families, I could be their hand up. I could turn around and now that I’ve gone through it and I understand what it’s like on that level. I understand what being spiritually aware is. Pretty soon it’s going to be my time to turn around and help others like me get out of that hole. There is a way out. Not only do I go to AA, but I also go to ACA, which is the Adult Children of Alcoholics. I didn’t find it until I’d worked the steps several times in the AA. I found ACA focuses on child abuse in dysfunctional families with alcoholic parents.

I like the idea of you being able to use your experiences to help others and at the same time be helping yourself too. That is an incredible story, Dave. I want to thank you for joining us on the Stories of Addiction podcast. To you, we wish you to stay sober and be happy.

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