"I can't do this anymore, you’re destroying your life."
Imagine everyone believing you are so happy on the outside, but on the inside you are miserable, suicidal, and constantly thinking to yourself that you will never be loved or amount to anything. That’s what I thought on a daily basis when I was in my addiction. It was a hell that I created for myself and each and everyday I was in my addiction, I thought it would be my last day on this earth. This is my story.
I grew up in a nice suburb in Illinois called Winnetka. I grew up with four amazing brothers. When you’re from a town like this you grow up very privileged, with a lot of opportunity to be successful. I grew up a loving boy and loved being outside and playing sports. The sport I was in love with the most was baseball. I would play baseball everyday because I had a natural talent for it and the way it made me feel was indescribable. Things started to change as soon as I enrolled in high school. The first drug I remember doing was smoking marijuana. The rush that marijuana made me feel was incredible. I loved every second of it. I instantly didn't have any problems. Little did I know, this drug would be the gateway for me to be introduced into harder drugs; this was truly my downfall.
During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years I was at my friend’s house with a bunch of my close friends when I remember looking at my phone and seeing over 20 missed calls, all from my family. There were texts saying "Jimmy please come home", or " You really need to come home right now." I remember calling my oldest brother Mike and asking him what was going on. He said, "Dads dead." I went into instant shock and I left my friend’s house immediately. I got home, grabbed the 3 grams of weed that I had in my underwear shelf and proceeded to smoke it all. I remember my mom opened the door and saw all the weed spread out on my desk and I looked at her shocked, but we didn't say anything to each other. We both knew there was nothing to say. I later found out that my dad had passed away due to a drug related cause. The drug was Vicodin.
During my senior year of high school I remember going into my brothers room to look for something and finding his prescription of Xanax. I took one, and it was on. Xanax gave me the courage to do whatever I wanted. Hit on women, rob drug dealers, lie about everything, steal money. All I knew was that I needed this drug. Because it took away my problems and made me feel ok about myself. I was never ok with myself. I never loved myself. I would crack jokes with my friends and pretend that my life was great, but I was crying almost every night because I was so alone.
When I went to college this drug addiction led me to almost losing my life several times. I would combine Xanax and cocaine all the time. I would take 8 mgs of Xanax and drink alcohol on it almost every other night. I should have died so many times but for some reason I didn't. Even when I tried to stop my heart by taking 10 mgs of Xanax and doing a gram of cocaine, it would never do the trick. I was miserable at that point. I didn't know how to be happy. My mom, friends, family all saw me going down a black hole of no return and couldn't see any way to help me. So my addiction led me to using women for satisfaction to feel better about myself. I would feel great in the moment but when I was alone, I just wanted to die.
After several failed relationships and many lonely nights I finally decided to make a change in my life. I knew that if I didn't make this change then I would die. So I gave up and decided to go to rehab in California. I went to California with an open heart and an open mind. I was introduced to the 12 steps and the AA program. And from Feb 13, 2015, my life would be changed forever. I started to get to know myself again and I learned to love myself. I had so much pain from blocking all my emotion with drugs for so many years that I cried almost every night. I cried for the people I treated poorly and all the mistakes I made, but nothing made me cry more than the fact that I thought my dad wouldn't have been proud of the man I became.
I started to go to AA meetings everyday because I was told by everyone that the key to staying sober was to go to a meeting everyday for your first 90 days and talk to people. So I started to do that. I instantly started feeling purpose again. I started to feel loved. I started to feel that all my emotional wounds were healing. I was happy. My life has completely changed. I decided to stay out in Los Angeles for the best chance of success with sobriety. Being sober gave me my sense of identity back. I am now able to walk around with my head up, feeling great that I don't have to lie or be dishonest anymore. I learned to be genuine.
I had 11 months of sobriety, then I got the phone call that would change my life. I got a phone call that four of my friends had died. In that moment my heart dropped. I didn't know what to do, and I didn't know who to call. But the most profound thing that happened was my first thought wasn't to consume any drugs or alcohol. My first and only thought was how I could be there for my friends, family, and the victim’s families. I got on a flight that next morning preparing for the roughest week of my life. I went to four funerals that week. And the only thought in my mind, was how I could be of service to my friends and family. I went over to one of the victim’s family’s home and they asked me if I would be the pallbearer for their son Chris Mcquillen’s funeral. In that moment, I thought back to the last time I had seen Chris Mcquillen. He picked me up from the airport when I had been 7 months sober. He told me how proud he was of me and that I made a complete 180 of my life and he admired me for it. That is something I will always remember because it keeps me going to this day. When I carried his casket in and out of the church, The only thought was I miss you, and I'm going to make you proud.
I stayed sober that week, and have for over a year now and will continue to stay sober. I don't even have the words for what recovery and being sober has done for me. It’s brought me great friends, great memories, my family, my faith, my passion and my love for helping people back. I do this for the struggling addict out there that feels alone and scared. I do this for my friends and family, I do this for my higher power, which is my father. My only wish from this is to say that you are not alone. When you are depressed or sad or living in a personal hell, their will always be a solution. You just need to ask for help, watch your life change, feel inner peace and happiness, and enjoy the ride.