I have been through rehab more times than I can count and a lot of the time it felt like the movie groundhog day where I just was reliving my cycle of addiction. In and out of rehabs and jails and back on the streets with a needle in my arm. Life was basically a prison of solitude within myself and not knowing how to break away from that. Everyday was so horrible, I was forced, everyday, no matter what, to chase the high in order to feel I could function “normally”. There is no normal when you are addicted to drugs and the life you are living is not a life at all. Just trying to score drugs everyday gets exhausting and it is so sketchy, and risky, and dangerous that it really shows a lack of self. Why am I allowing myself to be put in these situations, in these dangerous areas, around people who may also be dangerous? The drugs take us to places that we never thought we would go or see. At first drugs seemed to be fun and seemed like it could take me places when it came to drug dealing. Pretty quickly though, partying became using alone in a bathroom, and then drug dealing became panhandling under the highway in Milwaukee off McKinley. That wasn’t how life was supposed to go and that was never how I pictured myself. Started from the bottom, Now i’m here.
When I was 17 and began selling weed, it really was new and exciting and cool. Things quickly went from let’s see if I can sell an ounce a week, to my guy fronting me 4lbs a week roughly within three months and that was making me almost a crazy amount of money after being broke my whole life. I never had the coolest clothes, or the nicest shoes. I never owned a pair of Js. For one, my dad doesn’t understand shoes and would never spend that much on them and two, I just knew we didn’t have that kind of money for me to have shoes. It wasn’t just about the money though, for once in my life, I felt like I was popular or cool because now everyone needed me and I had good product for good prices and I would deliver. I also had five guys that worked for me and a driver. Things were crazy and by the time I was 20 years old, I made about a million dollars that we blew, moved to a nice apartment on the eastside of Milwaukee, had a beautiful girlfriend, a great dog, a lot of friends and I was about to become a senior in college studying Environmental Science. Nothing could stop me.
Granted. Since I was 18, I was basically doing and selling powder cocaine everyday. The weed market I was in, turned to coke, Molly or X, LSD, shrooms, pills, K, and in order to promote my product I had to try it all of course. I should have listened to BIGGIE and not got high on my own supply, but we really were making so much money that I did way too much drugs. I took ‘candy flippin’ and ‘hippie trippin’ to whole new levels. I was kinda like “Mikey” he’ll try anything. It seemed like it was ok at the time because of everything I had going in my life which looking back was a complete disaster, but trying heroin ended everything.
When heroin came into my life, it started taking my friends away, then where I lived had to change, I couldn’t go to school and other business ventures ended because of snitches.It was a perfect storm for heroin to take over my life. Oxy had switched from OC to OP and that made heroin use skyrocket, a lot of my friends were in perks or doing pills and once it was too hard to find pills, they all switched to heroin and so I started selling heroin. Selling heroin as a heroin user is a terrible idea, heroin is a terrible idea either way but with the money and resources I had, I really did a lot those first years, really making that canyon in my brain deep and long and really hard to climb out of. (Please read “The Obsession”)
Heroin took over my life and I lost everything, the girl, the friends, the life, the respect, the dog was even killed indirectly because of my drug use. (Please Read Pink Diary), and I was broke and dropped out of school and moved countless times all over Wisconsin. Until I went to rehab in Florida to really try to get clean. This was October 25, 2012. I got clean December 5th 2020. It is not about want. I wanted to get clean since I started using in 2008. Rehab in Florida is where I really tried to get clean and did take direction and I did listen, I just was a young punk and was still fighting the treatment. I didn’t want to face my problems and I really didn’t even know which problems were bothering me the most. It takes a lot of growth and maturity to realize what issues there are and what it takes to get through those issues. I attempted rehabs so many different times and I did understand what they were trying to say, it was just putting it all together and using what worked for me in order to change who I am and what kind of person I wanted to be. It is progress, not perfection, every single day.In and out of rehabs all over the country, literally and they all basically had a similar message. Go to meetings, get a sponsor, work the steps, and that works for many people and I am all for it if it works for you, I used my own version of all of those and I prefer 1 on 1 counseling, but I am not opposed to NA/AA at all. I just feel everyone needs their own treatment program and that each person has specific needs when it comes to their individual treatment. I understand that the 12 Steps have worked for a lot of people and I actually really like the 12 Principles but I still think treatment plans must be individualized for everyone. Going through all the groups and meetings that I have, coping skills, what they are, and how to use them is one of the pivotal tools you will learn in treatment.
Not one drug treatment tool we learn in rehab is going to keep us sober. It is using everything we’ve learned and applying that to our lives in order to create a life so worth living that drugs have no place in it anymore. Coping skills are cool because they can be anything and for everyone they are different. A coping skill is doing anything to deal with your problems, stress, or anxiety that doesn’t involve using drugs or alcohol. Doing anything to cope with life besides drugs, which only created more problems anyway. Coping skills can be unique to each person and although there are some common ones, finding the coping skills that suit you are going to be one of the most important things you do for yourself in recovery.
My coping skills start with the basics like talking to my sobriety coach, venting to friends or family, and talking to my therapist. Anything can be a coping skill as long as it doesn’t involve using drugs or drinking. The whole purpose is to replace drugs and alcohol as your coping mechanism with something that is going to benefit you in the long run. Something that is not harmful to your future and that doesn’t steal your soul, preferably. Drugs and alcohol may mask your feelings the way you want, they may make you not feel, or feel invisible, but the problem isn’t with the drugs, the problem is within ourselves. The way we treat ourselves, reflects how we feel about ourselves and that is directly related to which coping mechanisms we use. The healthy ones, like talking to a friend and going for a bike ride, or listening to music and walking the dog, writing and playing with your kids, or anything that isn’t drug use.
I used to not need much of a reason to use drugs. If my eyes opened that day, my obsession started and drugs were it. Getting sober a million times but never really doing all the work it takes to stay clean. Getting clean these last few times and really starting to figure it out. I still relapsed and I had 19 months clean before around when my son was born and another 9 months after my first overdose. I used bits and pieces from every recovery center, detox and rehab that I went to, all of my jail time and just living life, going through everything I have and things still have a long way to go. But I don’t use drugs to cope with life anymore, I am done being passive and hurting myself because of it. Life is too short not to take full advantage of every moment and really strive for the impossible. I never thought I would be where I am today and of course there will always be work to do when it comes to staying clean. Coping with the stresses of the world in a different way has really been the biggest change for me in my life. It isn’t what happens to you, but how you react to what happens to you that is going to define you.