My name is Tony and I am a recovering addict. My drugs of choice included alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, Percocet (pain reliever) and Demerol (muscle relaxant). I have been free of these substances since November of 1988 – but I do not count myself completely sober. Since January of 1991, I have been prescribed psychotropics (first for depression, then Bipolar). I have taken these as prescribed, except for one attempted overdose in March of 2008, when I took a handful of Clonazepam and a handful of Clozaril. I would now say I have almost 25 years of recovery and just over 5 years of “supervised pseudo-sobriety”.
After graduating from Hanover, I moved to Bloomington with enough money to cover food and rent for the summer, hoping to get a job and start the M.F.A. program in Creative Writing in the Fall. The only work I found was a gig selling plasma at a local Blood Center and I soon discovered that a diet of beer and cigarettes wasn’t enough to sustain my iron level, so I was even fired from that. I became disillusioned with the prospect of writing commercials for a living and ran out of money in mid-July. So, I moved into my father’s basement.
I was determined to work and the Percocet and Demerol I was taking caused me to sleep so much, I decided to give them up. And I did.
I got a job at a plastics factory packing grocery bags into boxes and putting them onto skids (for 12 hour shifts). On my days off, I traveled back to Bloomington – mostly to drink, listen to music and meet with friends.
I moved out of my father’s basement – into a downtown Columbus apartment. I had a mattress on the floor for my bed, a wooden crate for a kitchen table and another one for a writing desk. I met a guy on the streets who came from Berkeley. He gave me some pot in exchange for a place to sleep.
One day, he invited some friends over. There was a young woman there with her infant son. They sat around getting stoned while her son cried in the corner. I took the child for a walk, found out where his grandparents lived and delivered him in my truck. I never smoked pot again.
But I was still drinking heavily, and smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day. I went through a very dark period, feeling lonely and depressed. Much of the contemporary literature I was reading only reinforced my sense of purposelessness. Somehow, I ran across the book A Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor and found in the darkness a ray of light. I was inspired to pick up my Bible again and started to read Old Testament stories of the prophets. I felt a sense of calling and enrolled in seminary – not planning to become a minister, but to simply sharpen my sense of purpose.
My first year of seminary, I drank more beer and smoked more cigarettes than ever before. But as summer approached, and I was facing a stint as a chaplain at a women’s prison, I decided to stop drinking. I attended AA meetings and began working the 12 steps. It was rough at first (and this day I will still crave a beer), but with God’s help, I managed to quit.
This left only one drug – nicotine. And that was the hardest to give up. I had several aborted attempts – reminding me of Mark Twain’s saying, “I have no trouble giving up smoking. I’ve done it thousands of time.” Finally, after nearly hacking up a lung after a failed effort to play basketball, I threw away the last pack in November of 1988.
I was drug-free. Now I could face my demons head-on.