In my youth I played a lot of baseball and, after a long afternoon in the sun, the guys would pool their money together to buy beer. Since we were not of legal age, we found an adult to get the beer for us. Then we would find some inconspicuous place and pass the bottle, drinking as much as we could with each swallow.
For me it was satisfying, but the cold refreshing taste was bittersweet. Sweet because the drink satisfied my thirst and gave me an inward sense of well-being; bitter because this seemingly harmless ritual taught me to break the law in order to satisfy my personal need. Was this apparently harmless rite of male passage — filled with feelings of friendship, conviviality, and social acceptance — the start of a slippery slope that led to my dreadful disease?
Later I recall leaving Chicago to attend college. This was a big change in my environment – from a big city to a college town. My first year roommates were wise to life – meaning they seemed comfortable with girls, enjoyed listening to Jazz, and knew so much more about the streets than I. I became a sponge learning all I could from them, including smoking pot. Joining a fraternity increased my socialization. In short, I became the party guy. Visiting people, hanging out in public, and attending dances is how I passed time when not attending classes and studying.
During those last college days, I remember the feeling of hopelessness. My thoughts would say, “This is your way of life. Nothing is going to change.” But something also made me wonder how life could be if it were different than it was. Wanting something different was what led me to law school. In law school my drinking and drug use increased. However, I struggled to graduate and pass the bar.
For a while everything went well, and then my problems began. My job had become a challenge because my focus and work was minimal. There were too many nights without sleep and symptoms of physical pain became apparent. Moreover, my vocation was in jeopardy due to an inquiry about my taking money without permission in order to finance a pleasure-seeking lifestyle. The selfish party boy had overextended himself and now he was spending other people’s money that did not belong to him.
There were consequences to this behavior. I lost a good paying, rewarding job and my license to practice law in Michigan was suspended. Was the quest to party and have pleasure worth all of this? I had to answer in the negative.
My dilemma was how to change or get help because I was surrounded by people who were thinking like me, acting like me – they were just like me. My instinct was to go to God. I prayed and I began to hear some words and see a vision. The vision was of me robbing people and going to prison. But then I heard something that told me to go home to my family, admit I had a problem, and ask for help. So I came to Illinois to learn a new, sober life style.
In 2006, I entered a drug treatment center in Chicago. When the doors shut, knowing I would be confined for weeks frightened me. But the camaraderie of the staff and clients began to heal me and I soon gained a feeling of hope. I had a false sense that I would get my job back with a light consequence such as probation. Later reality checked in and I realized that I had hit bottom.
Now it was my mother who gave me strength and courage to become sober. I know she prayed for me because that’s what she does. She provided a home for me and cooked too. She gave the love I needed until I learned to love myself.
On June 18, 2006, I promised myself to be sober. This was my first clean date. I joined a twelve-step program, got a sponsor, and worked the steps. It worked for about 22 months and then I relapsed. I had cut back on my meetings and felt frustrated that my career was gone. So I used drugs again.
This was simply a mistake. I felt guilty and depressed taking drugs again. I renewed my commitment to recovery. I went to more twelve-step meetings, found a new sponsor, and most importantly — I got into service work by helping others.
I was a selfish and hopeless man with one foot in jail or the grave. It was my prayers to God that gave me the strength to come home and convert myself. Now that I have been following God’s plan for me, I am getting a second chance at life.
With the help of Lawyers’ Assistance Program, I was admitted to the Illinois Bar. I have married a wonderful woman. And I am committed to my ongoing sobriety. I firmly believe God’s grace is rewarding me for listening to Him.