In recognition of all the faces and voices of recovery, here is my second interview for National Recovery Month. This September, across the United States, events have happened, and are scheduled to happen, that celebrate and honor the people in recovery as well as the treatment programs and individuals that help others get into and maintain their recovery. You do make a difference. Thank you.
My name is Tim. I got started using drugs and drinking alcohol when I was 14 years old. My story is that of many. I was a kid that did not feel very good about himself and I seemed to be searching for something. I resisted the idea of getting high because I knew it wasn’t right, especially for a kid in junior high school.
Eventually, I tried it, and I seemed to get more from the experience than just the high. All of a sudden I was accepted by others and I belonged. One thing lead to another and my use progressed. Quickly my focus became how I was going to get high and on what. My interest in school and extracurricular activities declined. My sense of self was completely wrapped up in the substances I was using and identifying with the others I was using with.
I was arrested for DUI at the age of 17. I had been at an illegal after hours bar in St. Paul Minnesota. It is sad to look back. The vision of this young man sitting in a dark, out of the way establishment, drinking at 5 in the morning, all by himself encapsulates my relationship with drugs and alcohol.
I tried to drive home that morning as I had many times in different situations. I reached an intersection in downtown Minneapolis, stopped at the red light, and the next thing I knew my window was being tapped on by several large men in uniform. I had passed out at that red light with my foot on the brake pedal. There was a small diner on that corner where the police were eating breakfast. They saw this car at the intersection with its driver slumped over the wheel sitting through green light after green light.
While this incident was a bump in the road, it did not interrupt my continued use. I could justify my actions. Routinely not remembering how I got home only to see my car in the drive way was not an issue. Wakening up in the morning with a tooth broken and not knowing what had happened was just the result of an incredible evening I must have had. Spending money on drugs at the expense of paying other bills was something everyone did.
I was going nowhere as a young adult. I was not a very good student so higher education did not seem to be an option. I worked entry level jobs making enough money to get by and maintain a minimalist “stoner” kind of life style.
At the age of 20 I received another DUI. This time it was a little harder to minimize the consequence. Again, a night of partying was interrupted as I tried to drive home. I was told I must have been going close to 60 MPH when I missed a bend on Hennepin Ave. and drove straight into a light pole. Miraculously, I was not hurt but the car was totaled. Later when I went to pick up my car I was stunned. How could someone survive that crash let alone not have a scratch?
The courts did not take my second DUI within a 3 year period lightly. The judge gave me an option, go to treatment, or go to jail. I knew to my core I did not have a problem but anything was a good alternative to spending any time in jail, so I “volunteered” to go to treatment. In my smug, unsophisticated, grandiose way, I figured I would go spend a couple of weeks somewhere to satisfy this misinformed judge with a need to control, get my Mother off of my behind, and resume my normal life.
The judge, with the assistance of my Mother, made arrangements to have me admitted to a treatment center in Duluth Minnesota. This program was from 3 to 6 months in duration. 3 to 6 months???? What happened to my plan to go somewhere for a short time and move on???
Ok I had been had! I thought I will just have to go along with this plan. The staff at this center clearly were all full of kaka. The other residence really needed to be there because they all had severe issues. I would just have to put up with this silliness and do my time.
As time went on, the staff of this center seemed to know what they were talking about. I began to see that there was more similarities than differences with those others with severe issues. I began to accept that change was needed. They showed me a way of living that valued honesty. They taught me, to keep the good stuff I have learned, I needed to give it away. They introduced me to a concept that there may be something bigger than me in the world that could help if I was willing to listen. The farther away from my last use, the clearer I got with how truly messed up I was.
The ignorant judge turned out to be a pretty wise man. I let go of some of the resentments I had towards the action of my Mother and started to appreciate her commitment to do what was hard for her so it was not easy for me to go downhill even farther.
I entered that program on October 12, 1975. I have not had to have a relapse yet and if I make it, in a short while I will be clean and sober for 39 years.
Who knows what would have happened to me if I had kept going the way I was when the judge and my Mother intervened. Because of those event and many people along the way that shared their experience strength and hope with me, I have had an incredible journey in life so far. At times, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and I am reminded of my need to be humble often.
During my journey in recovery I have been able to establish a career path that has spanned over 37 years working with others in need of assistance from their addiction. I have experienced the magic of my own little boy growing up to be a mature responsible adult. I have traveled to points in the world that would have been out of reach in my active use. I have been a baseball coach, a ski instructor, and a firefighter. I have been able to interact with all kinds of people and quietly represent the values of someone in recovery.
Gifts are presented to me daily if I am in a space to be able to hear and see. My life has gone pretty darn good and all I have had to do is show up, try to be honest and do the next right thing. For this I am truly grateful.
Tim is a happy skier and proud dad living in Loveland.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or codependency issues, Contact me today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation to talk about how we can work together or find the right person for you.