I am Grateful
My name is John C. I have a pretty normal life. I have a house, a job that I love, and friends that care about me. My siblings and extended family think well of me and are proud of my accomplishments. I have two adult children, a daughter in law and 5 grandkids. I consider myself honest, compassionate and open-minded. People ask my advice and listen when I speak. My advice matters to them. I have been told by others that I have made a difference in their lives and that makes what I do worthwhile. I’ve been a father, husband, soldier, production worker, certified peer recovery mentor and now a case manager at Emmanuel House Veterans Recovery. I am a grateful recovering addict.
My life wasn’t always like it is now. I’ve been homeless multiple times, incarcerated multiple times, a convicted felon, a thief, a liar, a drug dealer, a violent drunk and chronically unemployed. I lost my driving privileges due to multiple drunk driving convictions and about a dozen driving while license suspended tickets. My wife of 20 yrs. finally got sick of having a mean tempered, pot smoking, pill popping drunk for a husband and divorced me in 2004. Frankly, I would have divorced me long before she did. She now says that I am a much better friend than I ever was a husband. I see her point and must agree with her. In our 20 yr. marriage I had and lost probably 15 jobs. More than a few decent jobs. I would get fired for no-show every time and I would blame it on the foreman who “had it in for me” or “didn’t like me personally”. I would never accept responsibility or admit that my actions lead me to all the difficulties I was having in my completely unmanageable life. I was adrift and didn’t know how to cope with what I viewed as a cruel and merciless world.
My addicted life began when I was 12 yrs. old and tried marijuana for the first time. The high was great and I remember thinking that it was the answer to all of my problems. I was very introverted, painfully shy and had a very negative sense of self-worth. My mother sexually abused me from 5 to about 10 years of age. When I was 10 I was sexually propositioned by a priest and when I told my father about it he beat me enough to leave bruises and said I was lying. I never told anyone about my mother’s abuse because I was so ashamed of it and thought I somehow deserved it and, besides, no one would believe me. I was a poor student with “behavioral issues”. I didn’t trust adults at all and due to my introverted nature, I was a target for bullies at school and at home. When I tried to tell my parents about it they accused me of “saying something to make kids want to beat me up” and then they would ground me after a beating for” being a liar”. I was the only kid in my neighborhood that attended Catholic school and there was no bus, so I had to walk the 3⁄4 of a mile to and from school. I would get beat up and my lunch was stolen just about every day on the way to school because I was viewed as an outsider by the other kids in the neighborhood. Once I got to school, I was targeted by the playground bullies because I was a loner and really did not know how to make friends. Then I would be harassed and beat up on the way home from school by the kids in my neighborhood.
Getting stoned made all those problems seemingly disappear and very quickly became a daily then an all-day thing. I fell in with the “bad kids” because they were as messed up as I was and didn’t ask questions. I also became pretty adept at ‘dirty fighting” and by the time I began high school I was regularly smoking pot and “dropping” mescaline, acid and opiates pretty much daily. I enrolled in the Army Delayed Entry Program my junior year in high school and my mon thought it was a good idea because I” wasn’t going to amount to anything anyway” and my dad thought it would “make a man of me”. I graduated high school with a 2.5 GPA in June 1978, turned 18 in July, and reported for Basic
Training in August of1978. I quickly found out that street drugs were “bad”, but it was ok to get drunk in the Army so in short order I shifted my addiction from street drugs to alcohol. I was stationed in Germany for 3 yrs. where I gained a reputation for being a tough fighter and hard drinker.
I managed to get an honorable discharge from the Army and hit stateside with a huge appetite for all the drugs, alcohol and violence I could find and there was plenty of it at my disposal. Most of the 1980’s are a blur of drugs, alcohol, arrests, and failed attempts at “straightening up”. I managed to get married in 1985 after living with my wife for about 3. 5 yrs. That marriage lasted 20 yrs. during which time I sold pot and opiates to support my habit.
After my divorce I would work a job for a little while, stay mostly sober for a while then I would lose it all in an orgy of drugs, alcohol and violence. I finally hit rock bottom in 2013. I was sleeping in the basement of an abandoned house on a bug infested couch I dragged from a junk pile. I was “dumpster diving” for something to eat. I had been barred from the soup kitchen because I started a fight over a piece of chicken that I thought I was entitled to. I was in a state of delusion did not want to admit it. I remember thinking that all I needed was a job and everything would be ok again. I was arrested for maintaining a drug house (in that abandoned house) and spent 64 days in county jail where I detoxed. That was pretty awful because, contrary to popular belief, you don’t receive and comfort meds at all. Due to the fact that it was my only felony I was eligible for a recidivism deterrent program while locked up in county jail, so I was able to avoid any lengthy prison sentence. I was released from jail and stayed in a men’s homeless shelter for a little while but was told to leave because I wasn’t following the rules i. e. looking for a job, don’t use drugs and attend AA meetings. I was homeless lost and again using any mind-altering substance I could get my hands on. Through a rather convoluted series of events I wound up on the psych ward and from there I was sent to Emmanuel House. That was on my clean date 5/27/2014. Since that day I have found a sense of purpose that has allowed me to heal from all the abuse I had suffered. I came to realize that God was watching over me my entire life and was using my life experiences to mold me into the person I am today. I have been able to forgive my parents thanks to my contact with God and the Narcotics Anonymous program. I never would have been able to repair my shattered psyche without the help of Emmanuel House Recovery. I stayed as a resident at E-House for three years. During that time, I was offered a position of trust dispensing meds in the med room. Imagine that, a dope fiend drug dealer handing out prescription medications! After about 8 mos. I was approached by the med room supervisor with an offer to become a Peer Recovery Mentor. I completed the requirements and became certified peer recovery mentor, a certification I still hold. After about 2 years. of mentoring at E-House I was offered the position of shelter case manager. I hold that position now. On May 27, 2020 I will have 6 years clean. During this time I have acquired a Habitat For Humanity home and, most importantly, an unshakable belief in God along with a positive sense of worth that has been missing my entire life. None of this would have been possible if I wasn’t positioned by God to reap the benefits of my new life. I can only hope that my story inspires another still-suffering addict to take that monumental first step and seek the help and guidance needed to become a productive member of society.
John C, a Habitat for Humanity homeowner.