1,826 days ago my life began again. Five years ago I walked into a courtroom knowing I would be locked away for fifty months, and I stood and faced the judge and calmly walked away—in handcuffs, escorted by a bailiff—to sit quietly for a few years.
I’ve decided to break my writing silence for this post, because today is significant in that for five years, I have abstained from all mind-altering chemicals that I used to need to live. Not one drop, breath, chug, glug or snort. That’s not to say I haven’t failed in other ways, but I’ve remained true to myself, my family, and my friends in this most important way.
This has without question been the toughest portion of my life. I’m in debt—I still owe thousands from starting over when I got out. I owe a car payment, a mortgage, utilities, credit cards, and more. But with my fiancé, my job, and a lot of effort, I’m not behind on any of them. These mountains really are molehills, and I am so grateful to have these financial obstacles because they motivate me to keep trying.
A lot of people motivate me: My love, the girls, my momdad, my readers, my neighbors, my family, my coworkers. They all push me to keep improving in all of my goals and accomplishments. I’ve never been able to do any of this on my own, I’ve had help from so many sources, and I love you all so much. I am alive and thriving today because nobody ever gave up on me. Nobody told me to go away. Nobody turned their back.
On the contrary—aside from certain potential employers—I have been welcomed back into society and given opportunities that normal people take for granted. They let me have a house, a car, and bills. They know what I’ve done, and they wave at me, call me, and call me friend and neighbor. They let me in their homes to eat, cook, and talk. They support me by listening, reading, and loaning me tools I’ve never heard of. They tell me they love me, and I can feel what that means. I can feel.
Prison gave me the chance to start over, albeit with a swift kick to the ass. I will never forget that I do not want to go back there, and many decisions I’ve made since my release have been made solely on that thought. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve owned them, and I’ve moved on. I will make more mistakes, but as I’ve said before, when I screw up now, it isn’t society that feels the burden, it’s just me, and so it’s easier to repair. When I fail now, I adjust and try again, or I try something different, and I still might flop, but I won’t be dead or in prison.
Today I celebrate five years of continued sobriety. I don’t believe I’ve been able to claim this amount of time since I was about twelve years old. (I didn’t hyphenate the age because it came after the noun (me) which I never would have known five years ago.) I am not the same person that walked into that courtroom. I was broken, battered, and angry at the world. I was high, for the last time, and I hated the feeling. The first ten days in jail were fraught with cold-sweats, vivid nightmares, and erratic muscle movement. I had dreams where I escaped through the walls of my dream, and everything on the outside was the same as how I left it, so I went back into jail. When I woke up I was so sure I had been outside, I frantically checked my pockets for cigarettes and a lighter. Nothing. My pockets were empty just like they always were on the outside. I went back to sleep and escaped again, this time into a world of foggy green where my druggie “friends” were all telling me to come back to them when I got out. These were my recurring nightmares.
I didn’t go back. Instead I chose my life.
I did just under fifteen months of my fifty-month sentence, and survived boot camp, I.S.R., and parole. My rights have been restored, and I’m at peace with what I’ve done and where I’ve been.
I am so incredibly grateful for all of you who have—in one way or another—included me in your lives.
Today I am giving myself a little high-five, because I’ve earned it. But really, it’s just another 24-hours.
|This is me the last time I was high: five years ago.|