I was born and raised in New Haven, CT with my sister and mother. My father was removed from the picture as a direct result of his alcoholism and I have no recollection of him as a young child. My mother worked very hard; two to three jobs at a time, but she still struggled financially. We lived in a ramshackle of a house which was nicknamed “the shack” by the neighborhood kids. I was scrawny with large brown-framed glasses and was bullied in and out of school on a daily basis.
The years of daily bullying led to anxiety and depression at a very young age. I’d play sick quite often from school just to get a break from the abuse. When alone in my room, I’d often break down and cry. There seemed to always be a void that I was trying to fill in my life. I’m unsure, even now, if it was the void of not having a father or maybe something totally different. All I knew was that there was a hole in my soul that needed to be filled and I was on a mission to do just that.
Alcoholism and drug abuse was prevalent within my family and as I grew older I knew that using and drinking was definitely not a path that I should follow. I entered high school and although I ditched the glasses and wiry frame of a body, I still felt as if I did not belong. Something was still missing. By age fifteen I had turned down drugs and alcohol on more than one occasion but by my junior year I succumbed to my peers and lit up a joint for the first time. I enjoyed the high but it wasn’t until I took my first sip of alcohol at age sixteen that I felt my life was finally complete.
It was a moment that I will never forget. When that cold beer began to cloud my brain I felt as if alcohol was the void that was missing in my life all along. My shyness and lack of self-confidence quickly retreated into a different section of my mind and I became social and confident. I guzzled down about eight beers and took a few swigs from a whiskey bottle and eventually found myself in a blackout on the floor of the bathroom amongst puddles of vomit.
My heavy drinking continued when alcohol was present but at age 17 it was hard for my friends and I to score booze on a consistent basis. Scoring bags of weed was much easier and smoking pot became a nightly routine throughout my senior year of high school. I really didn’t get into much trouble smoking pot although it did affect my grades at school and I spent the latter half of my senior year unsure if I was going to graduate.
It was at my senior prom where my life took a downward spiral into the harrowing depths of drug and alcohol addiction. My friends scored some Xanax, a benzodiazepine, and I was hooked immediately. As much as I loved booze, I loved these little blue pills even more. In true addict fashion, I took too many and drank too much that night — and made a complete fool out of myself at the prom nearly passing out in my dinner plate.
From that night on Xanax became my drug of choice. Scoring the drugs was easy as I had a friend who worked as a pharmacist tech and she would steal bottles of pills for me to sell and in return I’d get to keep a fair share for myself. After graduating, I was high all of the time when I wasn’t working. My mother was catching on to my drug and alcohol use by now and it wasn’t long before she began daily threats of kicking me out of the house.
My using and drinking continued to escalate and I had a near fatal overdose at just twenty years old. My mother and sister walked into the house and found me lying face down in a pool of vomit, blood, and urine. If they hadn’t found me — I’m sure that I wouldn’t be alive today. The overdose and multiple near overdoses thereafter had no affect on my drug and alcohol consumption. In fact, I didn’t slow down at all and I eventually moved on to even harder drugs such as MDMA and ecstasy. I’d get high all weekend and disappear for days on end without a care in the world.
Slowly, some of my family and close friends began to distance themselves from me. When high, I was happy and affectionate. When not high, my mood swings were terrible. I’d have fits of rage and anger which showed by the holes in almost every door in my house. Relationships would never last as I’d usually be pressured into an ultimatum – Drugs or girlfriend – with the drugs always prevailing. I was consumed by my addiction and nothing else truly mattered…. As long as I was getting high.
My life continued this way for several more years. Eventually, I was kicked out of my mom’s house. I was losing friends, family, jobs, relationships, and for what? A simple high? I knew that I had a problem with drugs and alcohol; I just did not know how to stop. Cocaine and painkillers eventually crawled into my life and I think it was safe to say that I was, at the time, a “garbage-head.” I would crush up and snort (or smoke) any pill that you’d put in front of me. I was drinking a bottle of vodka each night before bed, wallowing in my sorrows. The depression and self-loathing eventually led to self-hatred and sadly, self-mutilation.
I became a cutter when really high or drunk. I’m unsure if it was due to the guilt, shame, and self-hatred – or drugging myself to the point where I was so numb that I wanted to see if I could still feel pain. Through this destructive path I found myself in mental institutions and hospitals on a regular basis. I was 22 years old when I finally found myself so
spiritually bankrupt, so burdened with shame, that I had to do something in order to change my life. I entered rehab in beautiful Delray Beach, Florida in May of 2007. I ended up completing the program and lived in a sober house for some months after. That program helped me discover the roots of my addictions and I was able to understand myself more than ever. I was a very sick person who needed to get better.
Being clean and sober for the first time in years was an amazing feeling. I looked at the world in a different light and appreciated things and people so much more. I quickly latched onto a sponsor and went to meetings just about every day. It was my “second chance at life” as my mom called it. Everything in my life seemed to fall into place after putting down the drink and drugs. Family members were coming back into my life to support me and I had a relationship with a beautiful, supportive girl that was going great. I eventually moved back to CT and was even able to get my old job back.
My first daughter was born early in my sobriety and it was the single greatest moment in my life. Unfortunately, being a father wasn’t as easy as I’d thought it would be and I found myself leaving out my recovery as a top priority. I even considered myself “recovered” from addiction after only 16 months of sobriety. I went through the steps, had a sponsor,
and went to a crazy amount of meetings that I thought, I didn’t need anymore. I was miraculously better! The combination of not going to meetings, a stressful job, and a colicky baby was troubling my recovery and I hadn’t a clue.
When you ask someone why they relapsed, what seems to be the most common answer? They will tell you, they stopped going to meetings! I eventually relapsed, went back into treatment, and by the grace of God have been clean and sober ever since. I look back at it now and I feel that the relapse needed to happen in order to help me get better. No longer do I have reservations in my head that I can drink or use in a safe manner. I know that I simply cannot do that. I know that I will have this disease for the rest of my life. I’m a sick person and the AA meetings, fellowship, and 12 steps are the medicine to help me get better. I have two beautiful daughters who help motivate me to stay on the right path and a wife who is the most supportive, loving, and caring person that I could ask for.
It has been four and a half years since my last drink or drug and I thank God every single day. I’m grateful for the path that has been laid out in front of me and humbled by the trials and tribulations that I have been lucky enough to overcome. I do not hold resentments against anyone because all that does is slow my recovery down. How can you get better when you have hate in your heart? You simply cannot grow in that way
and I know that whatever happens whether it be good or bad, a drink or a drug is not the answer.
Ronnie Steele is a non-fiction writer born and raised in New Haven, CT. He is the author of My Own Worst Enemy: A Memoir of Addiction and the newly released Kindle eBook Misunderstood. His writing style is raw and honest. Ronnie’s journey to recovery has been no easy feat as described in his writings and his motivational tales prove that recovery is possible no matter how low addiction can take a person.