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Oct 27, 2023

Am I an addict? Before I could answer this question, I had to first ask, “What is addiction?” Then, I had to reflect upon my past actions and behaviors to determine whether or not any parallel could be drawn. It was only through careful examination and with complete honesty that I was able to identify myself as such.

I didn’t come from a broken household. My siblings and I share the same parents and there was never a time we went without. Although alcoholism and addiction run on both sides of my family, this was not something I was exposed to at home as my daddy neither drank or smoked and my mother only occasionally drank beer in moderation at family gatherings. It was at these very same gatherings that I tasted alcohol for the first time. There were times when my sister and I sipped from my grandfather’s beer while in the garden but nothing more.

With my cousins, it was far different. We were often sent to the cooler for a beer for an adult and almost without fail, one or two would make its way to us along with near empty bottles of liquor which we combined and split between each other. At the time, I drank to be accepted by my cousins because although we were of the same generation, most were my senior by eight years. It was also by them I was introduced to marijuana, this all before adolescence.

By the age of twelve, my tolerance for alcohol had risen greatly and I prided myself in being able to “hold my liquor”, never realizing how much this would be to my detriment in the future. Drinking became a weekend thing and smoking an almost daily one. I managed to stay in school and fare well though I could have done better.

Time spent with my cousins along with my usage gave me an attitude that I was grown and that triggered my rebellious stage. This eventually led to me leaving my parents’ house at fourteen and I was later getting emancipated at fifteen. In the eyes of the law, I was grown. I felt betrayed, not knowing what emancipation was and hurt that my parents had sought this route. It wasn’t until later that I understood the reasoning behind their decision.

Though I had the responsibilities and accountability that came with emancipation, I had no benefits of adulthood. I could not buy alcohol or cigarettes legally but knew of stores where I could purchase them or I had others to buy for me where I could not. This freedom and convenience fueled my use. I started working early on and though I didn’t hold jobs long, I kept employment and it funded my addiction.

As I grew in age, so grew my appetite for alcohol and drugs. I no longer only smoked weed. I popped pills, snorted and smoked crack, cocaine and meth; where I once only used when off, I now indulged all throughout the day. Without realizing it, I had become addicted. I would love to say that my disease took me places I didn’t want to go but have learned that it was I who took my disease with me. Relationships with friends and family members, job opportunities, cars, apartments, health, sanity; they all fell victim as I spiraled out of control. I had become one of the people I judge by asking “Why can’t they do better?” and “How had it gotten so bad?” swearing that it would never be me. Where I had once known the comforts of running water, electricity, a bed, something as small as a toothbrush; alas those had become foreign. I found myself carrying what few belongings I had with me day in and day out, pan handling, asking for scraps, spending much of my time wondering where I would lay my head that night or if I even would. Many nights I slept at the threshold of a church’s back door which provided just enough shelter to keep me from getting totally drenched during the rain.

I can’t count how many times I thought about, even prayed for death. I had lost all drive, all hope and desire to live. Too prideful to ask for help, too stubborn to admit I had a problem, I suffered self-degradation, humiliation, frustration and misery at all levels. The saddest part is that I stopped caring. I didn’t care about anyone or anything. How could I? I’d stopped caring about myself. I didn’t care to feel because when I did, I felt disappointment. I felt despair, anger, fear, doubt. I felt worthless. The more I felt, the more I used and the more I used, the more I felt. An endless cycle in which I was trapped, destined to forever be loss until finally, I found recovery.

My road to recovery began March 20th, 2018. For six months I had been entertaining the idea of a twenty-eight-day program. After being diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders, it was recommended that I seek treatment because it was possible that my mental issues may have stemmed from my usage. The morning of the twentieth had been filled with arguing, something that I despise, and this had become a regular occurrence. This particular day agitated me more than all the rest because for the first time it actually seemed that if I didn’t remove myself from everything, I would do something I might not be able to reverse. Having never been to rehab, I was very apprehensive, yet still I called my social worker and through tears, explained I was ready to go. She made a few calls and found a detox that would take me in that same day. With little more than the clothes on my back, I walked through the doors of Baton Rouge Alcohol and Drug Center.

I didn’t know what to expect. I had never sought help and honestly only planned to use this opportunity to run from my life, something I did often. During my assessment, I voiced that I was planning to use after treatment but over the course of just 4 days, something happened to me. As I listened to the stories of those who’d come to share their experience and fellowship, something inside me started changing. I began to want a sober and drug free life long term. I dove wholeheartedly into recovery, soaking up everything from everyone I could. I listened and learned not just about my disease but about myself as well. I was fortunate enough to get into the residential program and later into O’Brien House where I completed IOP, eventually becoming a part of the staff which helped groom me for what the future had in store.

Interacting with other residents fueled even more my desire to be of assistance to others. In leaving Baton Rouge Drug and Alcohol Center, I expressed to my clinician that I aspired to one day sit on the opposite side of the desk and help empower and guide others to their success in sobriety. While at the O’Brien House, I gathered information on the requirements to become a substance abuse counselor and began focusing on my objective. Opportunity presented itself, after having begun working as a Recovery Advocate at The Grove Recovery Center, I was encouraged to test for my C.I.T. and on February 26, 2021, this objective was accomplished.
This achievement provided me with confirmation that the choice I made three years prior, to surrender to a program of recovery, was the best decision I had made since the age of ten. I also knew it would only be through continuous action that I would I be able to grow, so to this day, I continue this path, striving each day to be the most active member on my journey. I know now why it is called recovery. It amazes me the things I have regained. Bridges have been rebuilt. Sense, hope, courage, desire, have all restored. I have a renewed drive and purpose. In a short time, I have recovered much, and it’s for this reason I am grateful and honored to share my recovery with you.

Addiction has always been associated with things that are most frowned upon like alcohol, drugs, gambling and sex. These are indeed serious issues and worthy of attention but there was a time when even they weren’t recognized medically as an ailment. I believe the best understanding between people comes from each being able to relate to one another and to me, that relation is universal… we are all addicts.

Surely, I’m mistaken, right? By definition, an addict is a person addicted to an activity, habit or substance and is synonymous with enthusiast, fanatic, believer, follower and lover. While in recovery, I have realized just how rampant addiction is throughout every day society. The misperception as I see it stems from selective usage. Substitute one of the above with shopping, social media, phone or church. Those with OCD, thrill seekers, dare devils; are they not addicts of sorts? Of course, they are. The difference is that many have trouble viewing these as addictions and there isn’t a negative stigma attached to them. It isn’t until people can view at some level, even the smallest, themselves possessing or exhibiting addictive qualities that they can be more sympathetic and understanding towards addicts of my variety. The hurdle is admitting and accepting that we are addicted to something. Through these reflections, I was able to come to terms with, and identify myself as an addict.

But what makes me an addict? Being homeless didn’t make me an addict. My inability to keep jobs didn’t make me an addict. Destroyed relationships, low self-esteem, being manipulative, deceitful, conniving; none of these made me an addict. All these can occur in anyone’s life with or without drugs and alcohol. Not even addiction running in my family made me an addict. It was my choices that made me an addict, and it is by choice now that I no longer live in my addiction. It is my choice now to be honest and to have integrity. It is my choice now to better myself and give back to instead of take from others. It is my choice now to share my experience in hopes it helps others who seek change. It is my choice now to be an example of what an addict can accomplish through recovery.

Written by: Dameon Hills, RAC
The Grove Recovery Center
IOP Supervisor
Baton Rouge campus 🌳