SAMHSA MAT Peer Supporter
"I learned life skills there that no parent had ever shown me. I can honestly say, I went into the program as a boy and left as a man."
As a child, I had parents that used drugs my entire childhood, and eventually were incarcerated due to their substance use. I ended up being in foster care and living in less-than-ideal situations. I recall being in a trailer with thirteen other children and sharing a bunk bed with six other boys. There was a time when my wisdom teeth were pulled, and the foster parents withheld my pain medication. This sticks out in my mind because it reminded me of things my own parents would do to me to fuel their own substance use. I remember feeling more alone than I had ever felt and spent nights wondering why God would allow this to happen to me.
While in foster care, I felt isolated from friends and regular teenage activities. Coupled with a tumultuous relationship with my Children’s Services caseworker, I eventually ran away from my foster home. Me running away led to couch surfing from house to house in other situations that were not healthy for me. Exposure to more substance use led me to using drugs myself.
At the age of 17, I was adopted by my aunt. I felt liberated- once again connected to family and able to be with friends again. At the time though, many of my friends were using drugs and the generational patterns in my family began to feel normal. Marijuana eventually led me to Xanax and then Percocet. It was not long until I tried heroin- it eased so much pain, erased memories and made life enjoyable. I managed to graduate high school through all the chaos and had a child. My child’s mother and I continued patterns of using and split up. I had once again become isolated and now, separated from my son. I hate to say that I separated myself from my son, knowing that my presence would do more damage than help. I was not the man I needed to be at this time. I knew how it felt to grow up without a father and though it made me want to be a better father and avoided me seriously contemplating suicide, the shame also kept me away.
I had my brother and sister-in-law who had found recovery years prior who pushed me to get sober. Those two were my lifeline and were there to save me when I had no one else who could. They fathered and mothered me through detox and all the way to rehab. This is where I learned to cope with trauma and express hard to deal with feelings without drugs. I learned life skills there that no parent had ever shown me. I can honestly say, I went into the program a boy and left as a man.
Today I look back at all this chaos and damage that was in my life. I have seen these things break the strongest people and I am happy to say, “I am still here.” I have used all this to strengthen my character and mold me as a human. I am a strong man. I work in recovery as a peer supporter and have been for the last 2 ½ years. I get to help people who were in similar situations who are just as lost as I was when I was spiraling. Today I have six years in recovery and am using it to give away what was freely given to me. I am happy to say I almost have a college degree, own a car, and have lived in one home (of my own) for the last 5 years. If someone would have told me 6 years ago, this would be my life, I would have laughed in disbelief. But today my past does not control my life, it fuels my future to be a better man, father, friend, and peer to everyone else who is just like me.