“I got into drugs, tobacco, you name it, when I was 13. I started off sniffing gasoline out of a lawnmower, then moved on to beer, wine, and marijuana. At age 15 I dropped out of high school. I learned to be a mechanic and I got a GED but I was still getting high. I went to work in a factory, but it was minimum wage, so I joined the military. By then I had started snorting cocaine and doing speed.
Then the military came out with a drug-testing program, so I decided to get an honorable discharge rather than give up drugs. I worked in a textile factory for 14 years until they started doing drug testing. That’s when snorting cocaine turned to smoking cocaine. And that’s when my addiction became so powerful it destroyed everything. I didn’t want to work, I didn’t care about my wife or kids—I just wanted to smoke that drug. I destroyed my family and I wanted to commit suicide.
I went into a rehab program and it helped for a while. My wife and I relocated and we were doing great because I was practicing the things they had taught me about how to stay clean. But then friends from back home came to visit, and they were drug dealers. Just seeing those people made me want to do drugs again. I actually left my wife and went home just to do drugs. I’m very ashamed about that. My wife hated me because she had given me a chance and I’d failed her.
I was still a great mechanic so the drug dealers hired me. I got money and I got free drugs. But then the federal government broke up the drug ring and locked up all the dealers. So there I was again, no job, no money to get high, no wife, no nothing. The suicidal thoughts came again. Then Hurricane Katrina came, and I was basically homeless.
I went down to New Orleans to help clean up. Suddenly I was making good money as a mechanic. The city was under martial law, so I couldn’t get drugs or anything. I was back up again! But then the lights came back on, the people started returning, the drug dealers started coming back. Now I was making this great money and the drugs were back. It was very dangerous for me. The cocaine made me paranoid. The high wasn’t a high anymore—it was a nightmare. But I was addicted. I had to do it. I was getting so thin it was like suicide. I started owing drug dealers money, and they were threatening to kill me. I had to beg my family for a bus ticket home.
Back home, I got a job running heavy equipment, and I was back on my feet again. On my very first payday, though, I got to drinking and doing drugs. I borrowed a friend’s car, went off the road, slammed headfirst into a tree, and woke up in a hospital with a broken neck. And that was the beginning of my new life.
I was in a lot of pain, but I could walk again. I was feeling happy that disability money was coming in soon. Then it struck me: the money would be the end of me because I’d be able to do drugs again. I told my mother to take me to the VA hospital. I didn’t tell her why. I just admitted myself to the psych ward for two weeks, then went to a drug rehab center. I knew I was about to die, and that’s what finally got me off drugs—the thought of death.
On July 5, 2010, I left the rehab center, and I haven’t touched anything since, not drugs, not alcohol, not cigarettes. I’m very proud of my recovery. I was a hopeless case, but I made it. I’ve stayed clean, and I feel free.”