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A Second Chance: Chris L.

A Second Chance

I first started using when I was sixteen. I was taking drinks from my parents’ bar, you know, doing the typical high school thing, having fun. But after a few years, I started sampling harder drugs. By the time I turned 20, I was using cocaine, and it wasn’t just for fun. It was, in part, an alternative to grieving, a coping mechanism to deal with trauma I had experienced. It exacerbated my usage, and before I knew it, I was smoking crack.

Once that happened, I lost everything – my car, my money, my apartment. My parents drove down to where I was living at the time in Florida and brought me back home to South Carolina. For a while, the sheer shame that I felt about my situation and myself kept my addiction at bay. I didn’t want to use again… but it crept back into my life, little by little, until it was way more than just a little. I was fired from my job for using, and kicked out of my family’s house and life.

With some luck and a few people willing to give me second chances, I went back to school. I moved to Texas, got a bachelor’s degree, then a master’s. I would occasionally drink, do a little bit of coke here or there, but school took up so much of my life that for the most part, I didn’t have the time to use heavily. Things were looking up.

How It Happened

It was during the first semester of the final year of my master’s program that I was raped. I used, because that’s how I could cope. I missed assignments I should have turned in, missed events I should have gone to, used and reused excuses just to make it to graduation. My addiction skyrocketed.

Just like that, I lost everything I had built back up again. I tried detoxing, but I was scared to tell people what was actually wrong. In the hospital, I’d tell the nurses it was a stomach virus – and then another stomach virus —- and they’d give me enough medicine to quell my withdrawal symptoms but not enough to get me high. So right after I’d leave the hospital, I’d just go right back to what had brought me there in the first place.

It took coming to the RCA to find out that, for me, using wasn’t just about the drugs. There was so much more beneath that — things from my childhood that I hadn’t noticed before and residues of immense trauma I hadn’t dealt with. It was almost like someone had turned a light on, illuminating all of the things lurking beneath the surface of my addiction, things that had started even before I had touched any substance, things that had been collecting and piling up for years.

Moving On

After rehab, I moved into a recovery house and lived there for nine months, building strength and building relationships that would last well beyond those months I spent at the treatment center. Now, I associate almost entirely with people in recovery. We all shared the understanding that, above all, the gifts of recovery are abundant. I got my car back, I have a great job as a retail manager, I’m in a healthy relationship. I go to meetings regularly, because without recovery, I wouldn’t have any of these things.

Recently, I lost one of my best friends. We had met at the recovery center, on maybe the second or third day we were there, and knew almost immediately we’d become close. Months later, once we were out of the treatment center, we moved down the street from each other. And just like that, I lost her to a car crash. Before this year, I probably would have started using — death was one of the reasons that I started using so heavily to begin with. But this time, I didn’t.

If you’re using, and you’re not sure if you’re capable of stopping, give yourself a break. And by that, I mean give yourself a chance. There’s nothing you can’t get through clean.

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