Five years ago, I was downstairs in the holding cell after being arrested for drug possession. I didn’t know what to do, who to call or how to get help. I knew my addiction had taken over my life, and this arrest was just the first of many horrible consequences. I still had prison and homelessness waiting for me.
But after years of struggling, I finally realized that if I ever wanted a better life, I’d have to get treatment for a very real and powerful disease. I knew I didn’t want to die, or be another statistic or sad story on the news. But I didn’t know how.
So I asked myself: “How can I change my life? How can I rise up from this overwhelming and hopeless feeling?” Truth is, it was not easy.
I had to work like hell to reclaim my life. But the first thing I had to do was ask for help. Seems like an easy thing to do, but for me (and many others) it was actually the hardest part of getting sober. I was embarrassed, ashamed, feeling hopeless and alone. So instead of reaching out to my family or friends (I didn’t have many left in my life), I reached out to agencies like Salvation Army, the Center for Addiction Treatment, and the Health Resource Center.
I also knew I would need support from the recovery community, which meant talking to others, telling my story, going to 12-step meetings (and sharing, not sitting in the back with my arms crossed) and not being alone — I could easily talk myself into using if nobody was there to call me out. I spoke up when I was having a craving, and I listened to the advice of peers with a lot of clean time. It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly I began to believe I actually could have a better life. And then I began to feel hope.
I believe the opposite of hope is fear. I knew if I could finally allow myself to feel hopeful again, I could be fearless in my recovery. I was no longer going to be a slave to my addiction, and I wasn’t willing to let it take over my life again. I did all the things I had been too afraid to do before. They say in recovery all you have to change is everything, and for me that was true.
So you might think, “That’s good for you, but how does that help me? How can I recover from my addiction?” The answer is — there is no one answer. There are many paths to recovery.
One of the most important parts of my recovery was finding a way to help others. By working for a drug treatment center and volunteering in the jail, I found purpose.
I founded RISE so I could reach more people and offer hope. I knew if I could do it, others could too. I couldn’t become sober alone, and I couldn’t make this project happen alone; I had to ask for help. I applied for — and won — the People’s Liberty Haile Fellowship. They’ve supported me with resources and funding to help make this project come to life.
RISE is about sharing stories and knowledge with each other — it’s not just about my story. So I hope you write in and share your stories and let us know what you’d like to read about. RISE is about hope, strength and taking back your choices — every issue will have useful tips for re-entering into society empowered. I hope this project helps you find your purpose, discover your voice, and live the life you wish for yourself.