Finding Comfort In Feeling Different

By Ben…

I grew up in a nice town in South Florida and was lucky enough to have both of my parent’s support throughout my life. They gave me everything I could possibly need in my childhood and every opportunity to succeed. I was a good student and really had plans for my future I knew I wanted to accomplish. One of them was being a teacher, my mom was an English teacher her whole career and I’ve just always envied what she has represented.

Socially, however, I was an outcast. I felt like I missed school the day they taught how to interact with other people and become friends. Honestly, that was okay with me. Of course, I missed out on friendship but I did entirely fine on my own. I found my own interests and hobbies and found an online community where I always talked to people and made legitimate friendships that I still have today.

It was Thanksgiving when I was 16 years old that my cousin asked me if I wanted to smoke weed with him after everyone went to sleep, I said yes right away although I was extremely scared. It just sounded like something that may be a good time and I rarely had fun with other people in person. Looking back, I was suffering from untreated depression but at the time I didn’t know that.

That night was a very significant moment in my life. As soon as I indulged in that joint, I felt a lot of relief. I felt comfortable in my skin and like I could just relax finally. Me and my cousin laughed the night away, and I found a new habit. The next few years I would smoke weed with my cousin every single weekend. I looked forward to it every day at school, and if the plan fell through I would be devastated. My whole motivation for getting through anything was so that I could relax and smoke weed all weekend. I was hooked immediately.

I went away to school in Tallahassee, FL. I was very excited for the future but also very curious about experimenting with other drugs now that my mom and dad weren’t looking over my shoulder anymore. Smoking weed brought me into a social circle very quickly in college, it felt amazing and was a brand new feeling that I loved.

One night I found myself at a small party and saw a couple of my new friends snorting something. It was heroin. I had to try it, so I did. I had a spiritual awakening that night, whatever weed did for me, heroin did it 100 times better. I was in big trouble and I did not care. I found the secret to life, and it was called heroin.

By the end of my freshman year of college, it was abundantly clear that I was not cut out for school right now while I had this brand new heroin habit. The only thing I cared about was having money to get my fix, I could not care less about my grades or going to class. I told my parents my depression was getting really bad and I needed some time off from school. That floored them but they agreed and let me move back home.

It didn’t take long for them to see something was wrong. I was simply not myself, at all. Mom did what all good mothers would do, she looked through my room and found the absolute worst thing she could imagine. Needles and wax paper bags.

I came home and she was at the dining room table with a bunch of paraphernalia and was sobbing her eyes out. I sat down with her and she just begged me to get help, and for whatever reason, I said I will.

Since getting sober I’ve heard so many people tell their stories of how their families and friends told them to get help for so long and they ignored it until things got so much worse. For me, I just hated how much I had hurt my mom already and could see the absolute fear in her eyes. I had always known I was signing up for a death wish when I started doing heroin. I would obsess about how my life could end so quickly before I would shoot up.

I got into treatment very quickly, which I am so grateful for. Treatment is hard to find for many people, I am just lucky enough to have parents who had me under their insurance and were willing to pay whatever it took for me to get help. If I were to deny the help offered to me by my mom I have no idea what my life would have become. Something terrible would have happened, without a doubt.

In treatment, I was finally able to open up about my mental health and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was there that I was introduced to the 12-steps and the fellowship of AA. I had always been quite indifferent to god as I wasn’t raised religious. Thankfully I was opened up to the idea that something was out there greater than me.

There was one therapist I had that really stressed the importance of working the steps, and that most people who don’t make it are the ones who don’t dive into the steps immediately. I had a sponsor before I discharged and did the work with him as efficiently as I could. It was life-changing and I encourage anyone struggling to jump into step work and watch the miracles happen around them.

I’ve been sober now for a few years, and I’d love to tell you everything is perfect, but it’s not. I still have a lot of growing and changing to do, as I am still young, but I know I have the chance now.

If I have any advice for anyone at all, it’s to shut up and listen. I was very stagnant in early recovery because I thought I had all the answers and tried to run my own life. Doing that almost sent me back out very quickly. But once I was able to fully surrender and open myself up to guidance from someone who I trusted, my life changed.

Between my bipolar disorder and addiction, I really thought I had just drawn a bad hand and would have to suffer from it the rest of my life…until the bitter end. But I’ve found that while in the darkest part of my life, there was a sliver of me that wanted to fight. And I thank god I listened to that tiny part of me that hadn’t given up yet.

Ben is an outreach coordinator for Stout Street Foundation, a non-profit treatment center in Colorado. He shares his story to show it’s never too early to get clean and sober.



One thought on “Finding Comfort In Feeling Different

  1. Janet August 29, 2020 at 7:34 pm #

    This is such a strong and honest account and thank you for sharing it. As the mother of an addict I would have done (and I tried) anything to get my son to stop using. Your story of finding your way to your own recovery is very powerful. Learning to listen to something other than your own thinking probably saved your life. Bravo. And learning to trust and find purpose in your life is clearly working for you as you do the work. As a mother I am so happy for you and your family. It is such a complex journey. Thank you for writing.

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