My name is Tony and I’m an addict in long term recovery.
My story begins like so many others I’ve heard over the years. From the outside looking in, I had a fairly normal family and life. My parents were together, and I had an older brother that was my best friend. But on the inside, I was just a scared child full of fear, insecurities and trauma.
There were two events that happened to me when I was a young boy and I pretty much ran my entire life moving forward based on those two things. I often wonder if they hadn’t been part of my story, would I have ever begun to drink and do drugs?
One of my earliest memory is still so real to me, I can close my eyes and be right back in that moment. I can still see the ugly green tile on the bathroom floor in our trailer. And I remember the pain as my father bounced me off that floor as he beat me. I can’t remember what I had done to cause him to hurt me, but I do remember my mother kicking him out that night. And I was convinced that it was my fault that my father had left.
Things began to get better for a short time. But as a single mother to two small children, my mom began to struggle. She was working a lot and needed to find affordable day care for me while my brother was in school. She asked my grandparents to watch me, believing that I would be safe there.
So, every day my mother would drop me off and I would chase her car down the street, tears streaming down my face, begging her not to leave me there. Defeated, I would go inside my grandparents’ house and endure sexual abuse from my own grandfather. This continued until I began school, but the trauma I suffered would change the boy I should have been.
I threw myself into playing sports and I excelled at them. Once again, my life appeared normal and healthy. But on the inside, I was still a scared and insecure kid that was unable to process the things that had happened to me. I struggled with why any of it had happened. I constantly asked myself, “Is it my fault?” and “What did I do to deserve it?”
When I was 14 years old, I was hanging out with a group of friends and was offered a drink. I accepted and I can remember that moment like it was just yesterday. The more I drank, the more secure I felt, and the nightmares of my past began to fall away. I would chase that escape for the next 21 years of my life.
I slowly graduated from drinking to harder drugs. By the age of 16 I was smoking crack and filling my body with any other substance I could find. My addiction would drag me to the depths of hell and back, over and over. My life revolved around fighting off my demons with drugs and alcohol. I was in an out of state funded detox facilities, couch surfing when I could, and ending with multiple years of homelessness.
August 31st, 2012 I crawled out from beneath a bridge. I weighed 119 pounds, with my body covered in sores so big that I would wince in pain with every move I made. There was this tiredness about me, I didn’t even possess the energy to cop any drugs. I was sick and I was broken. I threw my hands in the air and begged God to help me or take me from this world.
And while I waited for him to let me die, I stumbled down the road and into yet another detox center. This would be my last. While I was there, a man came in and shared his story. A story that sounded very much like my own. About a man that slipped into addiction to escape a childhood filled with trauma. Except that man had gotten clean and devoted his life to helping others.
Call it a moment of clarity or call it a God moment, but that was the moment I decided to change the course of my life. I would spend the next year in a sober living facility, virtually growing up in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. In those meetings I found what I had been missing; a sense of peace from working the 12 steps. I had a fellowship of friends that I truly care for.
I’ve gained a whole closet full of material things in my sobriety. Most importantly a beautiful family with a wife and two amazing daughters. And I discovered my passion for helping others who are struggling from the same disease I once suffered from.
I’ve had many years to work on my mental health and trauma with the 12 steps and outside sources. I’m no longer chain to my past or the things that happened to me. I now use my past and all its power for good and helping others find freedom from their own demons.