“Sometimes it takes losing everything to realize what you had. And sometimes realizing what you had can actually make you feel thankful for losing everything. It’s a weird paradox, discovering what you thought was everything- what you ran and worked so hard for- really amounted to nothing.”
Todd Saville, My Father’s House
I distinctly remember when it truly began. After dabbling in alcohol, marijuana, and various “light” drugs in high school, I was introduced to painkillers after a surgery. Feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, and suicidal ideations were replaced with pure happiness after those chalky white pills infiltrated the cavernous voids in my brain that had been screaming for help for so many years. In that moment, I began the rapid descent down a rocky cliff-side that would consume my mind, petrify my soul, and harden my heart for the next decade. I was a drug addict and didn’t even know it yet.
My time in the Navy introduced me to ‘real’ drinking. Binge drinking and staving off 3 hours of drunken sleep with a beer for breakfast to cure the hangover before heading to work was the norm. After multiple alcohol related incidences, the Navy discharged me. Can you believe it, kicked out of the Navy for drinking too much?
When I returned stateside, I pursued my passion in EMS and quickly got my EMT. Immediately afterwards, I received my Paramedic license and became a Paramedic for the City of Richmond. I hadn’t touched drugs in years, but I was a full-blown alcoholic. In my view at the time, my alcoholism was just ‘liking to party’. One day, I had a patient with a bottle of strong pain medication and I took a couple out of the bottle. I took those pills while at work and felt like the best paramedic the ‘Paramedic Gods’ had ever created. I was untouchable and I knew it all. I was invincible. I had energy! Most people taking 20 mg of Oxycodone will go to sleep, but I would take 20mg of Oxycodone and chat your ear off for the next 6 hours.
It was too easy to slip a few pills here and there, at times taking full bottles from DOA’s. Coupled with the prescriptions I was getting for my ‘back pain’, I had nearly an endless supply of opiate medications.
This went on for years and my career excelled. I was promoted to Sergeant and later to Lieutenant. I drove my dream car, lived in a brand-new house, and was engaged to an attractive model. I wasn’t a drug addict, I had ‘stuff’. Didn’t drug addicts live in alleyways and shoot up with dirty needles? That wasn’t me, I told myself, despite the fact that I couldn’t function or socialize without my much-needed reprieve coursing through my veins.
My dream career goal and my life’s nightmare both became reality when I achieved the position of a Flight Paramedic. After one flight, I mistakenly took IV pain medication with me. It was truly an accident, but it revealed how easily it went unnoticed. It was always so easy. I began shooting Fentanyl from work every chance I got. For the better part of 10 years I stayed high or drunk, unable to cope with what was going on inside my head. All of it came crashing down one night. For on that evening, I lost everything…career, cars, house, fiance, and friends. I wanted to end my life.
For the next 3 years, I was in and out of jail. I was still unwilling to admit that there was a problem. Finally, one morning almost 2 years ago, I finally asked for help. In fact, I couldn’t even
ask…all I could do was cry.
I spent 14 months in a long-term rehabilitation facility, which allowed me to gain a solid foundation in sobriety and obtain gainful employment. A job was offered to me and I moved into Emmaus House, where I have been allowed to live in a safe and affordable environment.
Writing and running are my two passions. I have written several books and am finishing up my autobiography, while packing on the miles. I used to balk at running one mile; but now when someone mentions running 50, it seems like fun to me.
I never knew true happiness. I never prioritized the importance of family. I never valued true friendships. I underestimated the power of a clear mind. When sobriety began to change my heart and life, all the things that I had once taken for granted became my blessings. I still struggle, some days being easier than others. But through my newfound faith, healthy living, exercise, fellowship, family and true friends, the tough days are fewer and fewer. Now, the good days definitively outnumber the bad. For the first time in my life, I am happy and wouldn’t trade the compounding happiness I am gaining for one hour of faux happiness I used to seek.