THIS MONTH'S GUEST SPEAKER: "Jim R."
Originally posted in Jan. 2005(The author retains all rights to this material)
I WAS BARELY FUNCTIONAL
Until about the middle of grammar school, I considered myself a regular kid. I was smarter than most of my peers but not having any real distinguishing characteristics. Then, for some reason or other, I remember beginning some sort of what I like to call a “getting weird” around about the sixth grade. During those middle school years I prided myself on doing unordinary things such as doing nothing but reading news magazines for weeks, seeing how long I could go without wearing a shirt or without bathing, or avoiding the barber for as long as possible. I did whatever bizarre activity I could use as evidence to support my image of a wacky person. Occasionally I was sent to the principal to discuss my behavior but never got into any real trouble.
Grammar school ended and my four years at an all-boys parochial high school began. I got through most of grammar school without doing any real work—after all, doing work was what normal people did—and my freshman year of high school was a grade disaster. When my sophomore year started, I realized the importance of getting myself out of the low-grade pit and set out to work as hard as I could to succeed in school. I completed every assignment, went to every track practice, joined as many clubs as possible. My motto was “everything matters” and anything that seemed as if it might help get me into a prestigious college I did.
The summer after sophomore year I got a job at a local grocery store as a grocery-bagger/janitorial assistant. After my first few weeks of working at the store, I discovered that my boss sold marijuana. Up until meeting my first dealer, my experience with using consisted mostly of a school trip to France I took as a freshman, which turned into a weeklong drinking extravaganza. By the time we got to the airport to depart, my pants didn’t fit anymore because I hadn’t eaten much having spent the majority of my finances on alcohol and cigarettes. Besides the French trip there was the occasional opportunity to drink with friends from school but now I had an opportunity to try marijuana too. I waited until the summer job was almost over to steal cigarettes and ask to buy some marijuana; buying drugs from a co-worker did not seem like a good idea. Eventually I learned the proper way to buy drugs (apparently there was a certain protocol to follow) and made time to use whenever I could but only on weekends.
When junior year began I continued on my path to a prestigious college during the week but my main goal on weekends was using drugs. As I ventured deeper into the world of drugs I found more drugs to use and more people to use them with. I can distinctly recall the first time I bought cocaine and sat in my room with my brother and cousin trying to figure out how much to take and by what method. When senior year rolled around and my college applications were sent, I decreased my involvement in school activities and concentrated more on using, even on weekdays. The progression of my disease was such that if high school were five years instead of four, my fifth year would most likely have been a complete disaster.
Finally, I got accepted to a fine school in Baltimore and so began my ultimate using days free from parental, scholastic, or other supervision. I quickly crowned myself king of the drug users and functioned as an intermediary between folks who used one drug or another all the while having constant knowledge of a way to obtain drugs. The first semester went semi-alright; I completed the majority of my work in an acceptable fashion. During winter break I went home for the holidays and hiding drugs from my parents was a little harder than it had been during my high school days. When I returned to school in January my using reached new heights and by the time classes began I was barely functional. I felt brain-dead, had a gaunt stare plastered on my face, and almost always felt sick barely eating and weighing considerably less than during high school.
On the night of February 12, 2003 after having just woken up from using the night before while struggling to complete some homework there was a knock on my dorm room door and in walked the person in charge of dorm behavior. She asked me a few questions, which I answered as vaguely as possible and she waited with me for the university police to come. After dealing with the police, I was told that I would meet with a dean in a few days at which time my fate would be decided. I had made a direct connection between my unfortunate situation and my drug use and decided not to use anymore. The next day was my first clean day in a while but it was by no means a pleasant one, neither was the day after that until finally my time to meet with the dean came. After speaking with the dean and some more police officers it was determined that I was to leave the university within 24 hours or be arrested. Devastated, I went back to my dorm and reluctantly called my mother to explain what happened and ask her to come pick me up. To be sure, this was an unpleasant activity since my brother had been arrested a week before for drug reasons. Waiting for my mother to pick me up I wandered the university and its environs in a daze. The ride home was miserable.
When I got home, I hung out a few days in a cloud of distress at my newfound situation. No one in my family was very happy with the current situation and with good reason not to. Soon after arriving at home, I called the hospital and went there to ask them what to do about not using anymore. They gave me a few instructions to visit some rehab type places and go to an NA meeting. None of the inpatient rehabs accepted me so I signed up for an outpatient program and went to the NA meeting listed in the instructions.
The weeks that followed consisted almost entirely of going to outpatient and NA meetings. Before my outpatient program ended, I determined that it was a waste of time and left the program. I liked the NA meetings though and “kept coming back.” As I went to more and more meetings, I learned of more and more recovery oriented activities. Most importantly, I got a sponsor who really helped me at first to understand what went on at the meetings and who now helps me mostly with working the 12 Steps. I constantly realized new things I could do for my recovery and tried my best to do them. In addition to my sponsor getting day, there was my first time sharing day, my first time using the telephone day, my first time getting a commitment day, etc. Recently, I had my first time becoming a sponsor day. The essential benefit I got from coming to meetings was a total change in my thinking including, most importantly, a newfound knowledge of a Higher Power. My HP can help me not only to stay clean but also to recover. At one point in my recovery I was very confused but after speaking with other recovering people about my confusion, I learned that it was because my old ways were leaving me and I was learning about a new way of life. As long as I keep learning about new things to do for my recovery and more importantly actually acting upon what I learn, I’ll be all right “just for today.”