“Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” – Quote, Dale Carnegie
When you are facing a problem, start now because procrastination will not move you forward. Start today and look forward to all of the accomplishments you can achieve.
Throughout most of my life, I found myself digging my own holes until I finally put the shovel down and buried it under cement. After 35 years of drugs and crime and having gone through 9 penitentiaries, 3 terms and 11 violations; I made it out alive with a new understanding of who I am and what I can achieve.
I grew up in Dos Palos, CA in an abusive family that was plagued by addiction. At the age of 5 or 6, I was molested by both a male and a female that were outside of my family. Despite the negative environment that I was raised in, I knew that a sense of love existed; it just wasn’t shown or understood. Regardless of everything that has happened, I’ve held no grudges with my parents. I had a brother and a sister, but my bond with my sister was the strongest.
My drug use began when I was 9 years old with marijuana and inhalants. When I turned 11, I began using speed. In the 6th and 7th grades, I found myself starting fights with other children as well as my teachers. I eventually got into the habit of stealing drugs from my parents.
My first run-in with the law was when I was 14. I shot off a pellet gun into a van full of women. I received nothing more than a slap on the wrist with a pardon from the juvenile court. The only lesson that I took from that was simply I could get away with anything. In high school, I was caught with drugs. But, I got off easy once again; I was untouchable. When I graduated high school, the doors opened to my own success in failing.
I was always on something, whether it be alcohol, marijuana, LSD, PCP or meth. My cousin and I referred to ourselves as “The Fryer Brothers” since we were fried every single day. I became a “garbage can junkie”, never limiting how far I would go for the next fix.
At the age of 19, I was a father of one son. My second son was born when I was 20. When I turned 25, my luck with the law ran out. On a count of armed robbery with a hostage, I was able to beat a 16 year sentence down to 4 years. I was out of dope and money, so I chose to rob somebody weaker than me. Despite my sentence, I thought it was cool that I was on the news for it. I ended up serving only 2 years in prison and was released with the idea that I could still do whatever I wanted to.
I tore up all of the lives around me. I treated women like play things and never felt love for the mother of my children, only lust. The drugs never allowed me to feel anything and I never cared. I was worse than an animal and far worse that the creepiest monster you could imagine. People would call me “Sinner” or even “the Devil”. My life was chaos and I embraced it. I never killed anyone, but I destroyed everything I touched. I felt as if people lost a part of their soul when I was mentioned. My only faith was in the devil. I once took pleasure in the thought of pulling at least 12 Christians away from church to take them down with me.
I spent the 90’s going in and out of prison. I stayed out from 1998 until 2001, when I returned for 3 more years. I then returned in 2007 only to be released in 2011. This was no way to live. For the majority of my life, I played the roles of both a thief and a liar. I got away with too much, even when I did get caught. If I was caught for everything I’ve done: stabbing people, robbing people, manipulating people; I would still be in prison facing a life sentence.
For 30 years, I was addicted and never had more than 6 months of being clean. I knew from the start that I was an addict and didn’t care. I knew that people knew I was addicted and I didn’t care, nobody could make me care. I got diseases and could have gotten HIV, but it didn’t matter because all that I needed was the dope. I was scared of life, so my best defense was not caring. I have since been clean for 14 months and 4 days.
On February 22nd 2011, I was released from prison on the same day that my granddaughter was born. I realized that I needed to stay clean for her. In her eyes, I saw a future & told myself “Grandpa is there for her, now.” With funding from parole, I voluntarily checked myself into WestCare for a whole year. The funding ran short and I left early, but the lessons I learned will always stay with me.
I found leadership in my counselor, Raymond Gonzales, one of the first people that I could truly bond with and confide in. Without hope, I had nothing; Raymond gave me hope. I feel that God put him in my life to guide me through my darkest times. I also found inspiration in Margaret, Brenda, Tammy, Derrick, Sammy,Sydney– these counselors truly cared; just to name a few. They will care about you until you care about yourself. On my last day, I was brought intoGary’s office where he told me, “Think about everything before you do it. Think it all the way through.” That is the best advice I have ever been given; I apply it every day.
My faith in God was also restored. I visited the church next to the MLK Residential facility often and am now involved in a bible study. I want to be a better Christian. Instead of figuring things out on my own, I’ve realized the need to cast my cares on Him. Many doors have opened for me and I have God to thank for that.
I love my granddaughter; I see nothing but hope and a bright future in her. One of my sons is in prison and the other wants nothing to do with me. Times change and so do people; in time, we will all be united again.
I am currently going to college with plans to get my AA degree and become a drug and alcohol counselor. Because of my experiences, I feel that I can do better for other people and in turn, do better for myself. I plan to help other people for the rest of my life. I often speak atFresnoStatefor counselors so that they have an idea of the background of the clients they may be helping.
My life has been rocky, but I have changed for the better. I have found the love of my life and we have each other. When I look in the mirror now, I see a man who wants life and wants to live life. I look back at my old habits and think about how predictable I was, but now I think of myself as a box of Crackerjacks that always has something good to offer.
If recovery is not what you want, then keep on doing what you’re doing. But know that you’re going down the same predictable road. If I have any advice for anyone out there, it’s this: give life a chance.
“If you only walk on sunny days, you’ll never reach your destination.” – Quote, unknown.
You will have good days & you will have bad days, this is inevitable. But remember that every day spent trying is a day closer to absolute recovery.
“My Recovery” by Kelly Roper
Each day I wake up and say.
That I will stay away from drugs today.
I don’t know how the day will end,
But if I falter, I promise to try again.
“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.”
– Quote, Kenji Miyazawa
Being unsatisfied with a situation gives only more reason to change it for the better. Take this discontent and channel it for positive change!
As an ex-client, I talk to clients a lot about the addiction process and the choices we make. I tend to use a lot of cognitive-behavioral therapy such as “self talk” and the idea of being in the moment. Because of my experience in recovery, I feel that I am in a great position to help them. I use a lot of terminology that clients can relate to.
Thinking through every choice and action is crucial. Ask yourself, “What’s going to happen if I pick up & use right now? What’s going to be the next step?” You have to talk yourself through every action & consider the consequences. I practice this myself everyday with items such as food or candy. I’ll ask myself, “How will this help me?” Every time that you sit with the feeling of what you could be doing & fight it, you grow stronger.
Often, I will meet with clients who start off as frustrated and will come in yelling. I always try to get them to sit down & simply breathe. If I keep my tone of voice and body language calm, I feel that the whole experience will go smoother. When we meet, it is my time to listen to what they have to say.
I also try to re-frame the client’s language from being negative to being positive. For example, when the say, “I can’t do this,” I have them say “I can do this” or “I will try” instead of “I won’t”. I always start by listing all of the positive things about them. Regardless of the circumstances, I always start with positives.
I try to normalize with our clients. They may talk bad about themselves, but I try to push the fact that we all make mistakes and we all feel bad about ourselves from time to time. Instead of focusing on their faults, I ask them about all of the good things that they do and have done. Always think positive!