Life was a wonderful place, or so I felt as a child. Looking back on it with healthy, adult eyes, it truly was not a healthy place. Life felt wonderful because I spent most of my childhood away from the house participating in the normalcy and comfort of other people’s family environments. I did not have the fun extended family of aunts, uncles, grandparents; they all were standoffish and distant. The issue was I was the third child. There were two other children from my father’s previous marriage. I was much younger than them, seven years younger. My dad was extremely physically, emotionally, and verbally aggressive, and my mother had some challenges with anxiety and other mental health issues.
My parents ultimately did not get along. They lacked the tools needed in the 1980’s to resolve the challenges they faced. However, they made the choice to try to stay together for the sake of the “baby”. To me this looked like two unhealthy adults pretending to like each other as long as they could during the week, with an epic Sunday blow out. During the week and Saturday, I was able to avoid the house and chaos by spending my time at friends’ houses, admiring how they lived and the love that was shown. This worked until Sunday, when sure enough “World War: Home Edition” would take place over morning breakfast. Mom and Dad verbally jabbed each other until it escalated and soon pots and dishes were flying. This inevitably led to their bodies flying around the house and me flying out the door to hide in our yard.
I never felt like I belonged anywhere. At my home there was this uneasy undercurrent of chaos and negativity. At my friends’ homes, I just felt like it wasn’t mine and I did not belong. This instilled a sense of being a lonely loner, not comfortable in my own skin. This kind of chaos lasted until I was 11, when my parents decided to finally split, only after my mother decided to run off with my father’s best friend.
This is when it all started to spiral. My mother moved a half a mile down the road and proceeded to want nothing to do with me. She wouldn’t contact me, answer the phone for me, or answer the door when I showed up. I have no answers for why this is, except an understanding that she was doing the best she could as a mother in response to the challenges she had. Ultimately, I felt abandoned and betrayed. My father also pulled away and zoned out on work and other things becoming emotionally cold unless he was pissed off.
At this point, the search for where I belonged began. I started smoking cigarettes with my school friends in a rock retention area near the school. One day, one of my friends showed up with a backpack full of alcohol. They were tall cans of the worst tasting malt liquor you could drink. We took a sip and spit it out, but we did not quit and pushed through until we killed all of the cans. Since we ditched school and had nowhere to go, we began stumbling the streets around the school and messing around in a store parking lot – Imagine a group of kids, drunk, pushing each other in shopping carts into bushes and having shopping cart races. We drank until we blacked out and went into that horrible hungover state—vomiting on ourselves with hardcore headaches. I don’t remember the negative after effects; what I remember is how much fun it was and how much I felt I belonged! This was my new family and my new passion.
Shortly after that it progressed to marijuana, my next love, followed by the usual stoner antics. Once alcohol and marijuana got boring and our little family of rebellious kids hit 13, crystal meth showed its lovely face. At first there was apprehension, because we all were forced to sit in the D.A.R.E. programs with Officer So-and-so hammering home how bad crystal meth was. We all were delusional to think that wouldn’t happen to us. So, we gave it a shot. What a whole new world it provided us… we found energy and ideas for days!
I don’t have to go into details on the usual progression of this drug. I am fairly certain if you are reading this, you know how fast and wild it gets: The odd behaviors, the isolation, the lack of stability, the schemes and ideas to get money to get more, the roller coaster of highs, the depression and hopelessness, the reflection of what I had become. From 13 to 19 this was me. I spent every holiday season alone, hating everyone, wishing I had a family that loved me, wishing my family wasn’t so messed up, wishing I had the family life I saw on television, in magazines, or what I heard other people talk about. I hid in bushes plotting my next scheme outside of stores–watching families coming out with groceries, getting into vehicles, heading to the homes I wished I had. I passed the point of no return, becoming a loner scumbag who longed for connection and belonging. I just wanted a family, something I truly never had.
At 19, the adult portion of the atomic destruction of my life had begun. It kicked off with a bang–the criminal courts, probation, and long-term sentences in jail and prison as a result of my crystal meth addiction. Throughout this whole time, as I stood before judges and pleaded my case, I always looked in the crowd and felt a tinge of hurt as no one would ever show up for me. When they had mail call in jail/prison, I would watch and die inside as the other inmates got letters and postcards from people who loved them, people they call family. Inside, I would beat myself up for not having this. When it came time for release from jail, probation, or prison, the reality smacked me in the face that I don’t have a family like everyone else. I don’t have anyone who wants anything to do with me. Granted, some of this was the cards I was dealt, but a lot of it was of my own making, pushing people away.
This brought reality to the feelings of longing that I had started burying with crystal meth and other substances way back when I was 11 years old. Whenever these feelings would crop up–time to get loaded and escape–RUN! In these moments of consequence, I had no way of running and had to feel the hopeless feelings of despair. I could write a full novel about the experience of my life from age 11 to 28 with crystal meth addiction. It was full of adventure and excitement, yet dominated by horror, hopelessness, failure, avoidance, delusion and everything else that goes into making a picture perfect scumbag.
At 28 years old, something happened that I still cannot fully describe. The simplest explanation I can provide is that a member of CMA found me in a place I did not think anyone would find me. They then proceeded to speak to me in words that I could relate to, while appearing like someone I wanted and hoped to ultimately become. I began to give this member and CMA a grain of trust that there was hope. That is the simplest explanation, yet I know there are a lot more coincidences and behind-the-scenes things that made this happen.I can only attribute it to this idea of a power greater than myself working on my behalf.
From that point on, this member proceeded to translate to me the Steps, the Program, and the literature from what seemed to be gibberish. I dove in headfirst and life seemed to get better. However, as I progressed, it felt like I was in one of those stuffed animal claw games, and someone plucked me from my dumpster and dropped me into this healthy normal everyday world of responsibilities, bills, etc.
I still did not fit in, because at the end of the day it was still just me. However, the draw of the local CMA fellowship was strong, and from about day 45 of sobriety to writing this, I have belonged and been an active member of CMA, which now serves as my family. I began to run from my feelings of loneliness by diving into service with CMA. You can gauge how lonely I felt inside by how much activity I had in service. What this did was allow me the opportunity to learn how to shift the negative feelings of loneliness and despair into purpose and hope. For that, I am proud.
Even though I belonged to the CMA fellowship, I still desired to have the picture-perfect family I thought you all had. After about a year in CMA, I met a woman in the rooms. I fell head over heels, rushed into it, ignored my sponsor’s advice and went full speed into what I thought I needed to do to get that family. As you can guess, this did not go spectacularly well. What I ended up with was a whole new level of inner chaos as my picture-perfect family ideal blew up in my face. All I had left was the foundation of the CMA Fellowship, a desire to stay sober, and a fear of relapse. CMA held me up as I felt like I had died inside. They walked side-by-side with me as I healed and moved forward, overcoming the challenge of a potential relapse.
While this experience was a learning lesson on how to stay sober and be an adult, it also gave me the greatest blessing I have–a beautiful daughter. I became a single parent and the challenges ramped up; staying sober, handling life’s responsibilities, and quickly learning how to be a parent without any experience or healthy role models whatsoever. I quickly became that guy who chaired a CMA meeting or committee with a toddler “toddling” around the room. My beautiful daughter had become the new “baby” of the fellowship which made everyone want to hold and hang out with her.
From this point on a family was born. A father and a daughter teamed up with that power greater than myself and the fellowship of CMA to grow together. The last eight years have been an absolute joy in CMA. While there surely has been devastation, heartbreak, pain, challenges, and shortcomings, there has also been love, adventure, belonging, support, hope, and experience. So much so, that I think more of the good and less of the bad in this sober journey.
A few years ago, I met a wonderful woman who had a teenage son of her own. Because CMA taught me to be the man I am today, I was able to do the right thing in my relationship. I was able to take my time, get to know her, and accept her for who she is, not who I want her to be. I decided that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I stood at the altar a few years ago, in a packed church, full of my amazing family–members of the CMA fellowship, who watched me grow from a scumbag, to a good man. Today, I have that family that I have always longed for. I wish that it was as a result of my own plans and designs, but the reality is, I kept my head buried in CMA service and somehow the magical things began to happen in my life that made it possible. Above all, I put CMA and recovery first. It has paid off tenfold!
What I learned in CMA was regardless of what cards I was dealt at birth, or what happened in my life along the way, CMA is my concrete foundation. At any time, I can find the fellowship of CMA, feel a part of, and belong. This is what I hope you find in CMA as you finish reading this story–a renewed sense of hope for a fresh start and a true opportunity for a life far beyond your wildest dreams. I wish you a sense of hope coupled with patience, and the belief that something out there is working on your behalf. And when the time is right, you will wake up one day and be amazed with your life. No matter where you come from, what you have done, or who you think or feel you are, you can recover!