Four years into my addiction, my brother went to prison. This wasn’t some minor, 90 days in county jail slap on the wrist. He’d gotten caught dealing, with enough heroin in his car to catch him a ten-year minimum in federal prison. You’d think that would cause me to quit, but it only made my depression worse.
What ultimately caused me to quit was when I nodded off in the bathroom at work. I was short on cash, so I’d been waiting until my lunch break to shoot up. By the time I got to the bathroom, my nose was running and my whole body was vibrating like a high-tension power line. The next thing I knew, my manager, Jim (not his real name) was shaking me awake. The needle was still hanging out of my arm.
I asked him if I was fired. He didn’t criticize me. He didn’t tell me to go get my stuff. He said the last thing I expected: “That’s up to you. Do you want help?”
I laughed. How could Jim possibly help me? I asked him: “How could you possibly help? You don’t know s*** about my life.”
Jim rolled up his sleeve and showed me the crook of his arm, which was scarred like a junkie’s. These weren’t fresh track marks. There were no bruises, but that kind of scarring only happens to people who’ve used a lot. He didn’t say anything, but he didn’t have to.
I broke down and cried. I was a grown, 22-year-old man, and I cried. I told him how I’d never held a job for more than six months, about my brother being in prison, about how hard it was just to get up in the morning without shooting up, and he listened.
Then he told me that, while company policy required him to order a drug test and to fire me if the results were positive, he was willing to look the other way this one time if I agreed to come to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting with him after our shift. He told me he’d been attending this group for years, and no-one there would judge me.
TWO THINGS: REHAB AND MEETINGS
I went to the meeting with him, and everyone was as welcoming as he’d promised. When I told my story, the lady next to me gave me a hug. She said her brother was also in prison, and that I was a strong, handsome young man, and she didn’t want me to go to jail too. I cried again.
After the meeting, Jim offered to help me get into rehab. He became my sponsor at NA and helped me get on the company’s health insurance program to pay for rehab. I didn’t quit using right away. I lied to everyone at first, kept using while I waited for a rehab spot to open.
Finally, I got into the Beach House Rehab Center in Camden. My insurance only covered seven days of treatment, but that was long enough for me to get through the worst of withdrawal. Afterward, Jim made sure I got to every NA meeting available.
He’d call me up on Friday nights and ask me to come out and play basketball with the group, instead of sitting around at home being tempted.
Rehab only lasted a week. It got me through withdrawal, and that was important. I don’t think I could have done that on the outside. But as I learned about the 12-Step program, I discovered that recovery is much more than rehab. It’s a commitment to sobriety, every day.