“I Was 12 Years Old The First Time I Drank”
Today I had the privilege of speaking to Richie a 24-year-old man, who grew up in southern California and is currently a technician in a Drug Addiction and Alcoholism Treatment Center. From a young age Richie struggled with self-esteem issues and anxiety, which in turn led him to start drinking at the age of 12 years old. He had no idea once he took that first drink that he would be battling an alcohol and drug addiction for the next 9 years of his life. He has graciously agreed to share his story with the Ventura Recovery Center blog.
Richie, what was it like growing up?
“Well growing up my father was an alcoholic, one day he decided to quit cold turkey. After that he was angry most of the time he was not involved in any sort of treatment or working any sort of program. He was always on edge, I never knew what was going to set him off next, so as a child I was very anxious, and I always felt as if I was walking on eggshells around him. I always did well in school and found It easy to make friends, the problems that lead me to use drugs and alcohol were mainly problems inside myself. Honestly at the time I hated myself and that’s where drugs came in.”
What was it like for you the first time you used/drank?
“I was 12 years old the first time I drank. It was also the first time I had felt relief, relief from the anxiety and relief from myself.”
When did you first realize you had a problem?
“In the back of my mind I always knew I had a problem. I had many friends who smoked marijuana and It was obvious they didn’t use drugs like I did. They didn’t steal to get money to buy drugs when they didn’t have any. Whereas they could go days, week, or not do it all, I felt I could not go a day without smoking I needed the relief that came along with it. Soon enough marijuana and alcohol was not enough to give me the relief I once felt an I began to experiment with other drugs at the age of 13. Eventually I started to hang out with new people, who used the way I did. At this time, I would use whatever I could get my hands on, anything to get the relief I longed for. By 14 years old I was using heroin and it was all downhill from there.”
What do you mean by downhill, can you expound upon that?
“As in from that point on I did anything possible to get high, each time crossing a new moral boundary when the panic set in from not having the drugs. I felt I was doing what I needed to do to survive. I would wake up, get high, and then use what little money I had left over to get some food. Eventually I ended up breaking into houses, cars, and stealing from my own family to get money for the drugs. I hated the people I was hanging out with, the things I was doing, and most of all I hated myself. No matter how many people I hurt or money I stashed away it didn’t stop. I felt I had no option but to wake up the next day an do it all over again once the money and drugs had run dry.”
What was your first experience going to an Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous meeting?
“The first time I went to a meeting, I was court ordered. The people were very nice, but I felt that the program wasn’t for me. I wasn’t ready to stop using and drinking. I went to two meetings than stopped going completely.”
What made you return to meetings again?
“Desperation. I tried so many ways to escape my addiction on my own. I tried using only on weekends, Methadone maintenance, switching one drug for another, and moving to different locations all to no avail. I Came into the meetings again with the hope that maybe this time it would work for me.”
What was different this time around going to the meeting than before?
“The desperation, getting a sponsor, and working the 12 steps of the program.”
What was it like going through the 12 steps of A.A/N. A for the first time with a sponsor?
“The 12 steps gave me the relief that I sought for in the drugs and alcohol. The drugs and alcohol use to make me feel good about myself but the feeling didn’t last for long, it always wore off in the end. It was only a temporary relief; the steps gave me a more permanent sense of relief. As I started to work the steps my self-esteem improved, as well as my confidence, and finally I felt I had a sense of purpose. Upon completion of the steps I really felt I had accomplished something and going to meetings I started to feel apart of something bigger than myself.”
How long have you been clean & sober now?
Congratulations on your four years of sobriety Rocco. Tell me what’s life like now being four years sober?
“Today I can wake up and be happy. I like to say these days that I don’t have bad days. Don’t get me wrong I still have bad moments through out some of my days, but the difference is I’m able to process it then reset my day. I feel good about the things I have accomplished and my overall actions through out the day. I’m glad to not have to worry about how I’m going to get by. I can lay my head on the pillow at night and fall asleep, instead of replaying all the things I did that day.”
What’s it like being on the opposite side of the equation working in treatment?
“It’s weird seeing things from a different perspective but rewarding overall when I get to see people doing well an getting the same relief from the program that I receive.”
Thank you for your time Richie.
“It’s good to be of service. I hope this helps at least one person out there on their road to recovery.”