You Can’t Help Anyone Else If You Can’t Help Yourself

I didn’t know it then, when my room was being searched for drugs, but that event–my attempted jump out of a high-rise Casino window and being stopped by a battery of police and fire personnel–would be the last time I used crystal meth. 

I still remember the way the words of the paramedic hit me on that fateful May night in Las Vegas more than five years ago. “You can’t help anyone else if you can’t help yourself.” 

As I watched “normal” people walk by me in pressed suits and gorgeous evening gowns, I sat in the hallway of the 26th floor of a prominent Vegas casino and poured my heart out to this paramedic: “My partner is dead, my dad has Parkinson’s and my mom is suddenly acting like a bitch. It’s just all too much for me,” I cried dramatically. 

All of this change seemed like a justifiable reason to attempt to end my life. My partner really was dead, and his family had kicked me out of our house and forbade me to go to his funeral. My dad had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and If I’m being honest, I didn’t really feel like my parents’ issues were my problem. They should be taking care of me! I was suffering! These were just some of my delusions. While I was always close to my mother, at the time, I didn’t really like my father. I suppose being awake for at least four days on meth, GHB, marijuana, and alcohol also played a role in my psychosis that night. 

The bigger issue was fear and I was about to walk into the miracle on the other side of it.  I realized that I could no longer run from the truth. Yes, my partner was dead; and yes, scary things were going on with my parents’ health that needed attention. 

I had to get sober before I could help them, and I finally understood just how important my recovery was. That night, I admitted I was powerless over drugs in that fancy Vegas hallway. I didn’t know what was going to happen–there were drugs and paraphernalia in my penthouse suite. Fortunately I wasn’t jailed, instead I was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. There I found my light–my sparkle. 

It’s been over five years since the night of my rock bottom. Since then, I’ve been sober every day. Today, not only do I take care of myself, I have also taken on the job of being the man of my family with aplomb. This definitely wasn’t my plan. I’d always had a difficult, distant relationship with my often cold and perfectionist father. But God knew my destiny long before I did. God always knows!

It turns out my mom’s nasty behavior was a result of her developing Alzheimer’s. We learned this one Christmas when my dad wanted her to bake him a cherry pie, and she hunched over the stove in embarrassment for several minutes before admitting she couldn’t remember how to turn the stove on. On the other hand, though my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, he was able to stave it off for several years–he even went to the gym every day.

I moved in at one point to help them around the house, but for the most part, we managed their diseases with little trouble. We signed legal documents that gave me a power of attorney. I was at Mom’s side through every stage of her Alzheimer’s and helped Dad do things he couldn’t do, like take out the trash.

For the most part, he maintained his icy demeanor toward me. I always thought this was because he hated me. I now know that it was more about his inability to be honest with himself and about his mortality. Dad needed me, and was unwilling to admit it because it meant he was dying. 

Everything changed last summer. Within six weeks, each one of us had a major medical scare that required hospitalization. I was the only one who came home. 

I was forced to truly level up–or sparkle up as I say–and become the man God knew I was. My dad took a fall which rendered him unable to walk or use his hands. It also caused him to be very confused and have trouble communicating. While still very mobile, my mom was not taking care of her basic needs and would not listen to prompts. She was not eating, bathing, or taking her meds. This caused her to get a UTI, which is dangerous for people with Alzheimer’s. It was clear that, if she came home, she would continue to ignore prompts and have issues. 

I knew there was no way they could live at home. But there it was, my fear. And again, once I walked through it, the miracle happened. 

Somehow, in the early days of a major pandemic that targeted elderly people like my parents, I was able to concoct a plan that carried them to safety. There were, however, about 25 things that needed to happen in just a few hours for it to work. Most importantly, I needed an annuity check I’d been expecting. I also needed to get my mom a rapid COVID test, get her out of a temporary place,and several other things that I was just sure wouldn’t work out. 

God knew differently. 

It all transpired in a weekend. I had a family friend lined up to take my mom to get the COVID test, And around noon on that Friday, I had a gnawing feeling in my stomach that I needed to get home. I had developed this intuition through constant contact with my Higher Power in prayer and meditation. This feeling–my whisper as I call it–told me I had to go home.

I stopped at the mailbox, and there it was–the check I needed to pay the deposit for my parents to move into their group home. I walked into our condo and fell to the ground in tears and prayer. I thanked God for His help and had an instant Step Three experience: I turned the rest of it over to Him–everything! I gave in to my faith and, suddenly, I didn’t have any more fear. The next thing I knew, the phone rang. My mom was COVID-free. We got them both moved in safely and, like dominoes, everything fell into place. 

It’s been about six months since I got my parents to safety. I’m in charge of everything now: the finances, all decisions about their care, the house, and their entire well-being. I can do this because I continuously work on a program of Steps that save my life on a daily basis. I’m also really great about self-care and doing what I need to keep myself healthy. That paramedic was right: I am only able to do this for my parents because I can take care of myself. And I am able to do that because I let God and His fellows take care of me. 

My dad is in hospice now, with weeks left to live. It scares me, but in that fear, there’s been another miracle. This man, who was mostly a stranger my whole life–especially in my addiction–has become my best friend. We have been able to work out all our issues. I’ve been able to say what I’ve always needed to say and listen to him as well. But most importantly, I’ve shown up as a man and let Dad see who I really am. That’s especially important to me because when I pray, I don’t pray for more; I pray to be more of who I am.

Things have gotten really great for me in sobriety. I’ve written some books, been on TV and in newspapers, and I’ve spoken in front of hundreds of people at fancy events. Since then, I’ve completely changed my career by getting a master’s degree and state licensure as a substance abuse counselor. These are huge blessings. Miracles, even! But the greatest of them all is that on Thanksgiving, Dad–who I still felt had never approved of me–told me that he knew he was lucky to have a son that took care of him because he knows a lot of people don’t. 

I know Dad is going to pass away soon. I don’t have to be scared because I was able to mend the one relationship that had always eluded me, and in the grandest of ways. That’s because I learned how to take care of myself in the rooms of CMA. I am grateful to God and to all my fellows for showing me the way to freedom and the gift of willingness.