Stefan's Story: Finding Hope
Stefan shares his story and how he went from hopeless addiction to helping others achieve sobriety.
My name is Stefan. I am twenty-one years old and suffer from the disease we know as addiction. My family was good to me for the most part. I would say normal for the most part as well. With a caring family and all the support and help I really needed, how could I steer in the direction that I did?
I started drinking alcohol at the age of twelve and began using drugs at the age of fifteen. I couldn’t tell anyone the reason I began drinking and using drugs; maybe it was curiosity, peer pressure, bad influence, or all of the above. The only thing I can answer for certain is why I continued to use drugs and alcohol. I loved it from the very first drink, from the very first hit, the first line, the first time I used intravenously I loved the way I felt. I used because it felt good. It felt good to get out of my head, to rid of anxiety and depression I dealt with, to help feel more confident and relaxed.
I thought I could use drugs and drink like I was for the rest of my life and that life would be great. I thought to myself 'maybe life isn’t so bad after all'. Maybe I have a reason to get out of bed everyday and not have to feel like I’m just pushing through all the time. I thought with the help of drugs or alcohol that I could be happy rather than hating life, everyone around me, school, and almost every aspect of my life.
I was very often in the principles office at school and in suspension and detention a lot more times than I can remember. I was troubled and dealt with anger and depression, and I had finally found something to help me with those troubles and to feel better about me and the problems I encountered in every day life. This is all what I thought, rather what I thought I knew, but I had thought wrong. My thinking was distorted to the point of rationalizing life in the way that I did. I had a problem. My biggest problem wasn’t the fact that I had used drugs and alcohol rather than the fact of why I used drugs and alcohol. The problem was me. My inability to cope with reality and the struggles of everyday life was rather sad.
I walked the halls of school hating everyone I walked by. I sat in school and was absolutely disgusted with the teachers and the people who were actually happy. I thought, “Well how are they happy? Do they not understand what is going on in the world? They are sitting in a school they are mandated to go to, having to do school work and having to socialize with people and they are happy? I think I am the only sane one, I know these people are crazy.”
I woke up every morning wishing that I could sleep everyday, all day away. I didn’t want to die, but I did not want to live how I was. I longed for the feeling of being happy and found myself wondering everyday what that word even meant and if it was a feeling then how did it feel? I had so many questions and not any answers to life. I felt as though I was going through the motions of living. I ate food, I drank when I was thirsty, I bathed, and I slept, but why? What was I doing all this for, why did it matter, what positive thing could come out of just going through the motions, and why did I even wake up to push through with the motions of living? I didn’t like living, I didn’t see the point in it to feel the way I did every morning, afternoon, and every night, I was disgusted with myself and I was disgusted with life as I knew it and eventually I found my solution.
When I drank at the age of twelve I loved it. I was able to suppress the negative thinking and feel good about myself for the duration of time that I was intoxicated. My friend’s older brother had bought the beer and though I absolutely hated the taste I kept drinking and was pleased with the results I had discovered from drinking the beer. That’s why I kept doing it. I now had a fighting chance at dealing with myself and dealing with life, with being able to look forward to feeling this way with a liquid that all I had to do was consume.
As rebellious as I was, I would go to my friend’s house and drink occasionally. I felt relieved every single time I did. I felt like I could have fun and so we did. Me and a couple of my friends would drink and ride bikes into the nearest city from his house in the country and act mischievous. Our idea of fun at the time was destroying property and causing damage. It started out as throwing outside furniture into ponds, urinating on cars and lawn chairs, and lighting fireworks throughout the night in this small town. Our actions progressed to throwing rocks through car windows as well as breaking mailboxes, lawn ornaments, and slicing holes in pools throughout the neighborhoods.
One night while I was sleeping at home my brother had come in and woke me up to tell me that we had to go to police station of this small town because they had gotten caught on one of their night time excursions while I had been sleeping in bed. They had told the police that I was involved in the vandalism and I was going down with them. My parents were in the conference room as well as my friends at the time, my brother, and most of the police force of the small town. They read off what seemed like an endless list of the crimes we had committed and we were arrested.
Upon going to court I was afraid. I did not want to go to jail, and I didn’t. I was placed on house arrest for six months and had to be put on community control, also known as probation. In the probation office I met people that I shouldn’t have even been associating with and from that point on my life went downhill into darker places. That was the first time I had gotten myself into trouble since I had started using drugs. Since then I have been incarcerated nine times, been to two different drug rehabilitation centers, and been arrested dozens of times for different things from disorderly conducts, driving under the influence, multiple probation violations, and aggravated drug possession.
I began using opiate pills at the age of fifteen. Shortly after I began using heroin and shortly after that I began using intravenously and have used that way every since, along with other pills. I hit a lot of lows throughout this time but when was I to hit my rock bottom? I had manipulated people and stolen from people in order to get high. I had used myself into unconsciousness and was found lying on the side of a street and in an alley by the police more then once. People who I thought were my friends had robbed me as I lie unconscious and left me there. I had someone tamper with my drugs trying to cause me harm. I had overdosed only to be brought back to life woken up in a hospital bed and realized I had been robbed and someone had tried to take my life from me. I lied about what I overdosed on but the sickest thing about that is when I was brought back I went to the house where the person had caused me harm, got my drugs and money back, and had went home and used more of what I had just died from.
By this point in my life I was miserable. The solution I thought I had found that would cause me happiness did for a short time until it had cause me to destroy my life and the relationship with anyone I had established in my life including my family and the way I felt about myself. I had no friends and I hated myself as well as any aspect of my life. I though myself pathetic and many times had sat feeling hopeless, helpless, miserable, and unhappier then I had felt before using drugs. My solution I thought was to continue using and suppressing these problems with drugs and alcohol. This is what we call insanity. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I, by this definition, was absolutely insane.
Some time went by and I continued to use and get myself into trouble. On May 13th of 2012, which happens to be my birthday, something terrible happened. A morning after using heroin all night I was tired and headed to bed. As I passed my brothers bedroom door he walked out and had asked me to smoke a cigarette with him on the porch. As tired as I was and didn’t want to go outside, I decided to anyways. If I hadn’t have went outside that morning my life would be a lot different today.
He informed me he had used the rest of his dope just before walking out of his room. As we sit on the porch smoking he begins to breathe very oddly and loudly. As I look back out of curiosity at the sick noise coming from him he begins to convulse repeatedly hitting his head off the porch. I had jumped up dropping the items in my hand and got over top of him and helped him up. He had stopped breathing and his heart rate was almost undetectable to me. Next his face and lips turned blue and his tongue fell out of his mouth as blue as everything else. I went into shock and felt helpless. My brother lie dying in my arms and I didn’t know what to do. I began screaming his name in panic and slapping him as hard as I could. When this did nothing I prepared to do CPR with one last slap, before doing so he sat up quick and gasped for air. I called a paramedic and they arrived and took him to the hospital.
From the hospital he went directly to jail for violating his probation for using drugs. The last image of my brother, for months after, was his face, his blue lips and tongue dangling from his mouth, his face was burned as that image in my brain. I had flash backs of that moment from that day and at this point could not feel any more hopeless about life. I didn’t want to live anymore. If all I had to live for were the feelings I felt at the time I did not want to live. I did not try to kill myself, though I had given up completely on life.
I was forcefully checked in to a mental health unit of two different hospitals for my behavior and lack of motivation at life. Life was evil, disgusting, cruel, and along with losing multiple friends and acquaintances to suicide and overdose as a result of addiction I thought that it was only a matter of time until I did lose my brother, another friend, or myself to this disease. After being put on several medications I pushed through and not knowing where from, I found strength to just simply live. Live and nothing more.
As insane as it is, I had shortly after this incident continued on my escapade with the drug and alcohol use. Why not, if life was this horrific and evil then why not just live this way until I died. I found any excuse to use drugs and drink alcohol. That is how I dealt with anything in life.
One evening when I was at a drug friend’s house using, I got a call from my mom telling me the police were at her house looking for me on an indictment they had for an aggravated drug possession charge. I told this so called friend that I was going home to say my goodbyes before I was arrested and taken to jail, yet again. As I walked out I had forgotten my jacket so I went back in to retrieve it and as I walked through the door it was being thrown to me by my friend at the time. I walked back out of the house and was surrounded by city police and county sheriff officers. I was arrested on the warrant and taken to the county jail.
As I sit in a holding cell, a sheriff came to me and held up a packet of heroin asking me where this came from. I had not walked out of the friend’s house with it and wondered how it got there. He replied when I asked him by saying he found it in my jacket pocket. I had realized before throwing me my jacket, the so called friend who had some kind of personal problem had put the dope in the pocket. I had been set up. So I was booked into the jail and sat waiting and wondering what will come of this now. Wondering why I was so stupid as to end up here again time after time. Wondering why after all the good things my mom and family did for me to help me out how I could end up hurting them life this again. I was worthless. I had never felt so low in my life that after all that I had been through, put myself through, and the harm I caused with everything I did lose that I had ended up there again.
This moment in my life was the lowest I have ever felt. Never knowing that a human had the capacity to feel any lower and worthless than I did at the moment and yet I did. For some strange reason my mom was still there. She still cared for me and bless her heart she still wanted to try to help me. I couldn’t fathom why anyone could care for someone as worthless and disgusting of a person as me, but she did. I had asked her to help me. I wanted to and knew I needed to change my ways or I would end up in prison or dead.
She found a center for me in Laguna Beach, California known as Spencer Recovery Centers. When I went to court, the judge allowed me to be released to go to this center. I was afraid and fearful yet I had gone in ready and willing to do anything to change myself and the way I was.
I had been in a room of people in groups, who even though they shared the disease I had and some of the problems I endured, were smiling. How could they be so happy I wondered to myself? What do these people know about life or have discovered that I didn’t. I knew at the time that life was a dark place with nothing but disappointment and misery and I didn’t understand why anyone would be happy. What I saw during treatment, when I sat in those groups months ago, was inspiring. The loss of family, the troubles, and rough times these people had endured and shared with us all in group sounded devastating as well yet they appeared happy throughout the days that I was there. I wanted that. I wanted to be able to have a genuine smile on my face and to know what it was like to feel happy.
Well I can tell you that I learned. The positivity and the hope these people shared had reached my cold heart. I mingled with the people and absorbed everything I could from the groups and actually put forth effort with my counselor to try and resolve the problems I had in life in order to reach something I hadn’t since before I started using drugs. I, never thinking I could, had begun to find hope. I found hope in myself that I could change. I learned about the disease we suffer from. I learned about the program of recovery. I learned of alcoholics and narcotics anonymous and the fellowship in these meetings. What happened in the time I was there was almost magical. I’m not going to say that it changed my life because it didn’t. What it did was cause me to realize that maybe there is something more to life, maybe there is hope, and maybe I can learn to be happy. It didn’t change my life, but it did make me realize and give me the tools I can use to change my life. I know I have to put in the work and continually work at staying sober and fixing me so that I can move toward a happier place in life.
With the help of the center in Laguna Beach, California, I had went to another center they have in Palm Springs, California. Here I continued to grow and I found myself actually smiling. For me this felt like magic. I saw the world a little differently and with a little more light. I began what they call the extended care intern program and had helped out at this specific center with things such as encouraging fellow clients to go to group, help clean up, and help the person in charge with things they asked of me. I couldn’t believe that the person I was just a few months before had it in me to actually encourage anyone else to do anything.
Then one day, I received a call from a staff member who resides and works at the Florida center about going there to attend the Addiction Specialist Certification schooling at the center there. I made my decision and went, unknowing of the future to pursue the school. As I interned there and attended the classes I learned a lot and still am learning a lot about addiction and sobriety as I work my own program with my sponsor.
Today I am in a better place as I continue the schooling and interning with the company. Today I can honestly say I am happy. From seven months ago sitting in a jail cell feeling lower then I’ve ever felt in life, I made my way to where I am today and can gladly say that I am genuinely happy. This being because I am sober today, I have learned to cope, I work a program myself with a sponsor, and have found motivation. I enjoy where I am in life and have found that life can be rewarding. Life truly is beautiful and I feel that God, of my understanding, will help me as long as I put in the work for bettering myself. Today I am living in what I thought would be a dream seven months ago and am working toward a happier future. With the help of Spencer Recovery Centers, the support from my family, God, and my own willingness I am happy where I am today.
Photo Courtesy of: flickr
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, please contact us.