Generally, I’m an introvert and I keep to myself. Discovering alcohol and other drugs in my teens allowed me the courage to let loose. I always managed to put those other substances down. It wasn’t until I met Tina and G on South Beach during the era of Liquid Nightclub, Crobar, Level, and Salvation (I had a fake ID back then, of course) that things started to turn.
It all started in good fun and, as our literature says. What started out as occasional use soon became a daily problem. I also thought it was a great idea to sell meth and G. It was all a very glamorous lifestyle of having no lines at the clubs and hanging with drag queens. I always had G on me and could be found in a nasty G-hole on the street, in my apartment, the bathhouse, or just about anywhere. I was a mess!
I was working at a substance abuse treatment facility in their accounting department–ironic I know. My boss suspected that I was high and threatened to have me drug tested. Being the good manipulator that I was, I threatened to quit if the test came back negative. He didn’t call my bluff.
Those years turned tragic real quick. I disconnected from most family and friends. Sometimes I made it to work every day and sometimes I made it once a week. I’d go to the doctor and make up some symptoms just to get a note because I knew their patience was running out. I told my family that I was working a lot, and I would tell my job that I took a second job at night working in the nightclubs, which was kinda true…drug dealing.
My first arrest was in 2004 and I went into drug court for a year. During that year I went to outpatient rehab, provided someone else’s urine for the drug tests, and forged all of the AA/NA meeting sheets. On paper I was a model client of the drug court and the judge set me up for graduation a year later. In reality I was spiraling out of control, alone, depressed, and asking God for it to please just stop–I couldn’t take it anymore.
I guess the phrase “ask and you shall receive” kinda holds true because a week before drug court graduation I was arrested again, this time for trafficking crystal meth. This was the opportunity I needed to change my life. I saw my Mom on the other side of that glass in the visiting room and she was in tears. I knew then that I wasn’t just hurting myself. I did the only thing I could think of–I asked for help.
Eventually, I was released to the custody of the same treatment center I once worked at. One of their comments was, “we’ve been waiting for you.” I sat across from the intake therapist where I expressed my desire for a new way of life and she looked at me and said, “what you just experienced is surrender.” I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I successfully completed the program and, at the advice of my therapist, spent the next year living in a three-quarter-way house.
In early sobriety I went to a ton of meetings, worked the Steps, had sponsees, did service, started attending college, and worked a full time job. I was very busy. It was important for me to show the court, and most importantly myself, that I was in this 100%.
After two years of sobriety I was sentenced to 364 days in the Dade County Jail followed by ten years of probation–no early termination–for my drug trafficking charge. When the sentence was read and I was remanded into custody, a wave of emotions hit me.
The hardest thing I have had to do in recovery is turn to my family and friends in open court and say goodbye for several months. I was flooded with sadness that I would be leaving my family and friends, and terrified of what awaited me in the coming months. I had been in jail before, for a night the first time, and for ten weeks the second. I was coming down off of crystal that second time. Nevertheless, I was terrified.
I was taken to the second floor transient holding cell. Inmates came and went, either bonded out or moved to a permanent cell, but I was still there days later. I remember an officer asking who had been sentenced and was willing to work. I raised my hand immediately and was taken to a new holding cell for inmates waiting for a job assignment.
Eventually, I ended up in the E.K.U. (East Kitchen Unit) as a trustee to work in the kitchen. I held multiple positions while I was incarcerated. My first job was the feed line. I think we got up at 4 am to start serving breakfast. We came in for a few hours and then back out to serve dinner. Lunch was bologna sandwiches that were prepared with breakfast.
Working certainly made the time pass faster and helped keep me sane, but what truly kept me connected was my friends and family. My loving sponsor, Rodrigo C., visited weekly with friends, and my family came on the other visitation day. These visits were the highlight of my week; they gave me something to look forward to. I will forever be grateful for these selfless acts.
My time there was challenging. I was in a cell with 60-something other people, which meant 60-something other personalities. We ate when we were told and slept when we could. Sleeping was hard. I never thought, once I got off of crystal, that I would ever say that. If it wasn’t an officer coming in to pick up the crew for the next shift, it was the nurse coming in with meds, or the next officer coming on duty counting everyone, or just rowdy inmates. It was always something. Fortunately, I had a Big Book that was sent to me by one of my fellows. It was sent from AA publishing because that was the only way the facility accepted it.
The Big Book was the closest thing I had to a real meeting. We didn’t have AA or NA at the main jail, only church, which I occasionally attended–just about anything to get out of the cell for a bit. I’ll admit I didn’t read the Big Book often, but whenever I felt like I just couldn’t get through another day I would open it and read for a bit. The story “Acceptance is the Answer”–that one was a regular. Nothing changed for me as far as prayers were concerned. It was the usual “God help keep me sober” and the Third Step prayer in the morning, and “God thanks for keeping me sober” at bedtime. Oh yes! “Help keep me sober” and “Thanks for keeping me sober” were certainly needed in jail.
Some might think that being in a cell with an officer 24/7 meant that there were no drugs, but I certainly found otherwise. There was heroin and pot. I remember taking a shower and a group of guys jumping in to smoke some pot because I guess the steam from the shower and whatever they were spraying would mask the odor. You would think that, as a gay male, I would have enjoyed a group of guys coming in the shower with me but I have never run so fast before in my life. I literally ran out of the shower in fear of getting caught. They don’t ask questions in jail–if you are with them you are guilty, and I wasn’t willing to give up the time off. I was earning five days off my sentence for every month I worked. I removed myself. I guess this was where “We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us” came into play.
That wasn’t the only incident.
I was folding laundry in the cell–by this time I had been promoted to House Man, i.e. laundry boy. It paid more, a whopping $10 a week I think, or maybe $15. Like I said, I was folding laundry and when I looked up I noticed a guy masturbating in the shower staring at a female officer. As soon as he noticed me, he tried calling me into the shower. I think he was a seasoned prisoner because he was obviously straight and obviously didn’t care that I was a man. Had I obliged, this would have been another incident where my time off could have been revoked. Don’t get me wrong–the thought and fantasy of jailhouse sex in the shower was really tempting, but I wasn’t willing to lose my gain time.
It certainly was rough in there. I had to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and my birthday in jail. I remember getting a birthday present from one of the other inmates, his name was Todd. We knew each other from the street. It was a box of Honey Buns wrapped in newspaper. What can I say? We made the best out of it.
As my time in there got shorter and shorter, I began to get anxious but I knew it was going to be alright. You see, I was fortunate. My Higher Power put certain people in my life that would help me get through it all. My boss Maria, knew my whole story and when she saw me go to jail she said she would hold my job for me until I got out. I also had my family and friends waiting for me. I knew I just had to push through and get to the other side.
That is exactly what I did. After a little over seven months I was released with credit for the time I had originally served plus a reduction of about 35 days for the time I had worked. I know now, as I knew back then, that I never would have made it through those months had I not had previously worked the Steps and laid down a solid foundation. I don’t think I ever would have made it without my sponsor and all the friends he brought to visit. Nor would I have made it through without the prayers of my fellows and the letters I received. For that I am eternally grateful. The Big Book and my Higher Power were also huge players in helping me get through. It is true what they say, sometimes the only thing between you and that next drink or drug or whatever, is your Higher Power.
Since that stint in jail, my life has continued to evolve as I’ve stayed sober. A couple of years after my release, when I was graduating from college and trying to get into a university, I had to take my case back to court to terminate my probation because the university didn’t want someone on probation for drug charges. Of course the prosecution objected because they said I got a really good deal and that included no early termination of probation. However, the judge said, and I paraphrase, this was the perfect opportunity for the courts to intervene and remove a roadblock that could potentially lead someone back to a life of crime. He ordered my probation be terminated. Wow! Proof that when you continue to do the next right thing, it usually works out.
Life, sober life, is not all peaches and cream all the time. It has its ups and downs. I’ve attended a ton of meetings and there have been times when I was lucky to make it to a meeting a week. I do not suggest this at all. What sobriety has certainly given me is awareness. I can tell when I am not acting or thinking right and when it is time to drag my butt to a meeting or call my sponsor.
Some of the ups in sobriety have been being in a relationship, traveling, starting new jobs, getting promoted, getting my master’s degree, buying a new home, service to the Fellowship that has shown me a new way of life, and welcoming my nephew to this world just before the start of a global pandemic.
Speaking of service, shameless plug here. It has been an important part of my recovery and has helped get me through many of the low points that I will mention next. I started at the coffee bar and baked brownies regularly–that actually helped get me out of my head and into conversations with people. From the coffee bar I went on to chair meetings, get involved in business meetings, and sponsor other addicts. I became the GSR for my group, worked with the intergroup, was elected Delegate to the CMA General Service Conference, and after that, to the CMA Board of Trustees. Each one of those commitments was important to my recovery, but the most important has been working with other addicts and taking them through the Steps. As they say, I can’t keep it unless I give it away.
Some of the challenges in recovery have included being dumped from that relationship, living through a global pandemic, and dealing with the loss of my grandma–though I am grateful I was able to be there for her up until the very end. I’ve been dealing with deep depression as a result of some of those really low points in my life. That awareness I spoke about earlier also helped me know when it was time to ask for outside help from a professional.
The point is that ups and downs are going to happen all through life. The important thing is that I know deep down inside that I am a meth addict in recovery and that picking up is NEVER the answer or solution to any of my problems today. As long as I remember that, I can get through anything sober.