One of the things I most love about having this blog is that many people contact me and wish to share their story here. It seems so fitting that I was contacted by Andy in the last week who wanted to share his story at 8 years sober with everyone here and when I’ve just celebrated 3 years that felt really serendipitous 🙂
Over to Andy:
I Did It For Me and Everyone Around Me
“For a star to be born,
There is one thing that must happen: a gaseous nebula must collapse.
This is not your destruction.
This is your birth.”
Hi, my name is Andy and I have been sober for 8 years. Eight years. Wow. As I write these words I feel a kind of euphoria. I feel like climbing the world’s highest mountain and screaming them out for all the universe to hear. I did it. I can’t believe I did it. But it’s been no walk in the park to get here. I collapsed, I crumbled, and I’m finally here.
My family and I were living in SoCal. After having fled from the internal conflict as well as the infamous drug cartel activity that plagued Colombia in the ‘80s. I was a happy kid and had a great childhood. My life was everything I ever dreamed of until the night that I first tasted Aguardiente.
Aguardiente is an immensely popular form of alcohol in Colombia. It’s strong and has the flavour of anise. My family was having a party at home, and if you know anything about Latin culture it’s that we love to party.The adults always seemed to have such a good time while drinking Aguardiente. They would dance, laugh and be merry. I was a preteen and I wanted to feel whatever it was that the adults felt. That night, I snuck some of it while all the adults were busy dancing. Then I snuck a little more, and a little more after that. Soon enough I was drunk.
I wish I could tell you that it went horribly and I steered clear of the stuff until much later in life. But the truth is that I enjoyed the feeling of being carefree and letting go. I enjoyed it so much that I thought I was just a cooler person when drunk. With that mentality I became hooked to marijuana when I was 14 years old, which was then followed by meth at 19.
Steel Bars with a Silver Lining
I was sentenced to two years in prison for drug related charges when I was 22 and I still didn’t think I had a problem. I even joined AA meetings while in prison, but it was purely to spend an hour or so outside of my tiny, cold cell. During the first dozen meetings I would just sit there. I wouldn’t introduce myself, and I sure as hell wouldn’t share anything. It all seemed so worthless to me. I felt like everyone else had a problem whereas I was just so much better and in control of myself.
The only people that ever visited me during my time there were my parents. Those visits were both the highlights and lowlights of those two years. On the one hand it was good to get to see the people that actually cared about me, the people that raised me, but on the other hand I saw their disappointment. Pretty much every visit was tainted with the faint shadow of disappointment. They tried to hide it, but it was there.
What was worse was my mother’s guilt. During one of their first visits she started sobbing and listing all the things she thought she could have done to stop this from happening. But I couldn’t deal with that. I didn’t even properly comfort her. There was this coldness that rushed over me, a hardness, I just wanted her to stop talking. It was her problem, not mine. I had enough to deal with.
It wasn’t until an NA meeting much further into my sentencing that I was able to understand my mother’s guilt. An older man stood up to share his story and I felt as if I experienced a paradigm shift. His story was one of lost love. The woman he loved had always been there for him. She always supported him, covered for him, loved him. But then she started blaming herself for the fact that he wasn’t getting better until finally, after so many years, she realized that none of it was her fault and just left.
The only woman I ever loved was my mother. She had always been my rock. I couldn’t keep the thought of losing her, once and for all, out of my mind. Being locked up, the physical consequences and the emotional consequences made me realize that I needed to change.
That’s when I decided to recover. I dropped the alcohol and the drugs, and became completely focused on work. I found a job that I was actually really good at. The job was to sell discount perfumes and colognes. I got so good at it that people respected me for it, I got my own little office with a desk and everything. I was even in charge of training new salespeople. I got so wrapped up in my job that I became a workaholic. Little did I know that I wasn’t recovering at all. I now know that I was simply sublimating. I was still an addict, and my work was my new high. It was just a more socially acceptable high. And of course I relapsed. I relapsed hard.
I still remember the feeling. This time I knew something was terribly wrong. I could see how much I thought I needed something to make me feel better. I would lash out and felt like my insides were screaming at me. The moment I drank or smoked or whatever, I felt a sense of relief. But the relief was accompanied by a crushing guilt and I couldn’t take it. I begged my parents for help. I’m fairly certain that I would have died if they hadn’t admitted me into a rehabilitation center in Boise. They helped me work through the guilt, the shame, the anger, everything. They encouraged me to write letters to the people I love and bare my heart and soul. It’s because of those letters that I can proudly say that my mother is now my best friend. That place damn near saved my life.
New and Improved
My life truly took a turn for the better when I met my incredible sponsor at a local AA meeting. He gave me an ultimatum. Either go through the process of passing a college course, or find another sponsor. I gave in and enrolled in a computer course. I’ve always been pretty handy with the internet and computers so I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, I was in love. Soon enough, I was swimming in textbooks about digital marketing, HTML, coding, online everything. I finally found my passion.
Here I am now, and I’ve been completely clean for 8 years. In those 8 years I moved back to Colombia and co-created a website development agency right in the very city I was born. I’ve surrounded myself with good people, hard-working go-getters with good heads on their shoulders. And I know that in order to get to where I am today, I had to go through everything. I had to collapse, I had to crumble and become a whole new me. I still go to meetings, to always be mindful and always stay on the right track. My parents visit me whenever they can and one day I will get my Mom and Dad a place of their own here so they can back home.
No I in Recovery
Addiction is a selfish thing. Even though I’ve found addicts to be generally good people, our addiction makes us selfish without us even realizing it. I believe the true anchor to my recovery is the realization that it is not all about me. Of course it is somewhat about me. But it is also about the people around me and the people I love.
I have to stay sober for me, my job, my mom, and everyone else. Addiction is not a spectator sport, and I know that now, so I am grateful for every single person in my life and every opportunity that comes my way.
Hi, I’m Andy. I have been sober for 8 years and I will never let addiction hurt me or the people I love, ever again.
Thank you to Andy and also thank you to every one of you who reached out to me via the comments or email yesterday. It makes my heart swell even more with gratitude and love for this most wonderful sober community <3