THIS MONTH'S GUEST SPEAKER: "Joe M."
Originally posted in July 2002(The author retains all rights to this material)
My Name is Joe M. and I am an addict.
I was born in Asbury Park in 1952. We lived on First Avenue in a wonderful neighborhood. I made friends in my childhood whom I remain friends with today. Some of my friends became addicts, and some have died from the disease. We eventually relocated to Ocean Township and I moved into the Ocean Township School system.
When I was in my early teens, I started drinking at Bar Mitzvahs. I drank beer or wine. It made me sick, but I liked the way it made me feel, so I drank it anyway.
I worked on the Boardwalk in Asbury Park during the summers. When I was about 15, one of my Frat Brothers turned me on to pot at the local beach club. I fell in love with pot on that day. My entire circle of Fraternity Brothers turned on to pot. We felt that it was an acceptable thing to do.
My friends and I would cut school and go to the horse race track. We were able to buy beer there and would spend the day being high. We thought that there was nothing wrong with this. It seemed acceptable to us.
In High School, I was a promising football star. I loved to play football and played very well. I never expected that pot would interfere with my football career. I was wrong. During my senior year my life had begun to change.
When I was seventeen, I was arrested for possession of marijuana. I was in a car with a group of friends. The police stopped us and somebody threw the pot out the window. I took the rap so that my friends would not get in trouble. I got a fine of $150 and six months probation.
In 1969, I started to trip on LSD, take opiates, and barbiturates. On the weekends with my friends, we would eat acid. Some of the 'trips' were good; some were bad. During that summer, we were headed to Woodstock, tripping heavily the whole way. We only made it halfway to Woodstock, turned around and came home.
My acid trips started to interfere with my football, but I did not realize it at the time. There is a history of manic depression in my family. When I started using acid, my manic behavior began to emerge. By the end of the football season, I was extremely depressed and wanted to run away. I stole the car of the Superintendent of Schools and ran away. When I was caught, I was brought back to Monmouth County in a straight jacket. Being in a straight jacket is the worst thing that ever happened to me emotionally. I cannot even describe how horrible and demeaning that feeling is.
It never occurred to me that the drugs would trigger my manic behavior. I had never experienced it before. I was put in a treatment facility and given shock treatments.
Nevertheless, I graduated from High School. I had intended to go to college, but I was led down another path. I went to the University of Pennsylvania. One day I was tripping with a group of friends when a neighbor called the police. I was arrested, but not for drug possession, I was arrested for my behavior, which evidently was less than acceptable to the police. I was taken to a jail for people with mental problems in Philadelphia where the course of my life was changed. I started my road to psychiatric recovery.
Because of my manic behavior, I spent several years in one institution after another. My drug counselors put me in a treatment facility twenty-eight day program. I was introduced to recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. At that time, there were only four NA meetings in New Jersey, so I attended our sister fellowship. I finally surrendered to the idea that I needed to become clean and I needed Narcotics Anonymous to do that. My life had become unmanageable.
My family did not want to have anything to do with me. If I came to the house, they would call the police. On one particular time, I called home and asked if I could come home to take a shower and get something to eat. My parents told me that I could come take a shower under the condition that I would go to an AA meeting. They gave me cigarettes, bought me a hamburger, and I went to the meeting.
I was a manic depressive person and a drug addict. I needed treatment for both. I went to another facility for treatment. After a couple years clean, I still needed help, so I went to yet another facility for more for treatment. I was seeking recovery from any place I could find it.
During this time, I had to live in a lot of strange houses with a lot of people I did not know. They were halfway houses for released mental patients. It was a very difficult time for me. I had to leave those homes and re-enter society again. From those homes, I moved to living in a series of boarding houses. I lived on Social Security for a good part of this time, but if I was able to work, I did, so I had a series of menial jobs.
Through these years, I never stopped attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. I needed Narcotics Anonymous. I was not clean all that time, but I knew that I would never become clean if I did not go to meetings. I was a classic manic depressive person, who would have needed treatment for that even if I did not use drugs. NA treated me for the drug addiction; the psychiatrists treated me for the manic depression.
Thanks to Narcotics Anonymous, today I have a good relationship with my family. When my sister passed away leaving seventeen year old twin sons, I was able to move in with them and give them a home life for five years until they became adults. This was both a home for them and a home for me. None of my nieces or nephews knows of my addiction history. I am a part of the family today and the past is not discussed.
Today, with eighteen years clean, I am happy to be able to say that I have a good job as a messenger for a good company. I have worked there for many years. I live with my mother and my dog and I have a good life. I have been attending NA meetings for twenty-five years, but I only have eighteen years clean.
I call myself a 'Self-Appointed Life Time Member of Narcotics Anonymous' today because of how successful my recovery has been.
My advice to anybody who wants to stay clean is 'Don't Use and Go To Meetings! Joe M.