I got out of jail today in north Alabama. It’s my fifth Driving Under the Influence charge. My jail time is too short -- just two days. The fine is too low -- just $750.
The judge is lenient and my lawyer is skilled. He works out a plea deal so a conviction will never appear on my driving record.
This misadventure is merely the latest experience in a life not worth living. I am only one of 23-million people in the United States burdened with the deadly disease of addiction. That’s roughly thirteen percent of the population.
I won’t live long if I keep using, and I’m not sure I want to live even if I stop.
I am an alcoholic. I guzzled booze like it was water for thirty-two years. I am also a drug addict, smoking crack cocaine for thirteen of those years. My addictions made me lie, cheat, commit crimes, become a petty thief, and all-round scoundrel. I’ve been in and out of jail countless times.
I’ve gone to twelve-step meetings, used willpower, and even thought religion had the answer to stopping this insidious disease. I’ve seen others kick their habits, but at age forty-nine, I am overweight and unemployed -- a hopeless case.
I am waiting to die, but longing to live -- and love.
After this latest DUI conviction I am forced to check into a halfway house in North Alabama. Ironically, the rehab center is about four blocks from the spot I was arrested.
The story you are about to read tells how I finally got clean and sober from both drugs and alcohol.
Before I got here, I was at my wits end, ready to end my life. I’m talking about suicide, killing myself, ending it all. One bullet in the right place would do the job just fine.
Today, I am truly, a changed man.
If you’re an alcoholic, or an addict of any kind, I’m here to tell you there is hope.
I want to tell you my story, a story that led me to the edge of death.
My story is much more than putting down the drink or throwing away the crack pipe. By reading this book you are going to go through substance abuse rehabilitation day by day with me.
Most of the events you are about to read take place in a twelve-month time span from August 2009 through July 2010. The first chapters delve into my background, how I traded my dignity and self-respect for a crack pipe.
As you read each chapter, you will discover several things that may help you understand the mind of a drug addict. It’s about healing and how I came to understand that the thing I needed to be saved from most is me.
You will find that the journey contains major unexpected twists and turns that smashed my preconceptions of recovery.
You see, I thought when I went into rehab, all my problems would go away. I would be likeable, employable, a joy to be around, and feel vibrant about every new day, ready to take on the world.
These grandiose thoughts about living “the good life” after getting clean were deceptive at best. In fact, when I finally entered the doors to the rehab center, the “wheels fell off” this dream-inspired fantasy ride to sobriety.
I discovered recovery can be like walking in a minefield. Steps in the wrong direction can trigger emotional explosions that shake you to your very core.
You will experience with me the perils of engaging in a close relationship with the opposite sex in a recovery program.
You’ll see the wild weekly relapses of residents, and sadly, about the ultimate consequence of addiction: death.
In the end you will even read about the betrayal, lies, and manipulative behavior of trained rehab counselors!
Indeed, working a recovery program is tough. If it was easy, every drug addict would be doing it and the success rate would be phenomenal, but sadly that’s not the case.
By reading my story, perhaps you may find a way to avoid hitting the icebergs of addiction that shipwrecked my life. Addiction fueled a desire and a drive that made me lie, cheat, steal, and have sex with strangers in order to obtain the illegal drugs my brain and body so desperately craved.
Addiction is a monster that wants you dead and it turns your own brain against you to fulfill that prime directive. I didn’t understand this at first when I began playing around with drugs. I was just out for some fun and a good time with friends. Unfortunately, I got backed into something that I couldn’t escape.
My main purpose in relaying my life experience is to help you to turn away from that “high” created by illegal drugs or the euphoria of the drink.
In the beginning, my drug dabbling was simply a big challenge from some “friends” – almost a dare:
“Hey, Rusty, try this, it’ll get you high. This is different than the other stuff we’ve been smoking.”
“What’s different? How does it work?” I would ask. “My parents told me not to do drugs.”
“Parents! What do they know? They never did this. It won’t hurt you. I’ve already tried it. See? It won’t hurt you. It’s just a little marijuana with an extra kick. Come on. Try it. I’m right here with you. Nothing will happen.”
Sound familiar yet? This is how it started with me.
When I was a child, I never once said, “When I grow up I want to be a drug addict.” But it happened. Big time.
I never once said, “I really want to be an alcoholic.” But that happened, too.
What started out as a way to unwind after work became a fight to survive each day without a drink. I quickly lost that battle and at the height of my alcoholism I was drinking a fifth to a quart of vodka after work each night, sometimes more if I couldn’t unwind and get to sleep.
Then there was the sex.
Sexual desire became an unquenchable appetite. It led me to places I should never have gone. It caused me to watch things I should never have seen and to do things I should never have done. All of this uncontrolled behavior had destructive consequences, leading to broken relationships, sexually transmitted diseases, enraged husbands threatening me, and a close encounter with homosexuality.
I’ve been there. I took all the wrong roads in trying to get back home -- and I’m still on the journey.
I’ll also introduce you to a popular Chattanooga news anchor/reporter whom I met when she was an intern in 1992. We clicked as friends right away. Despite my destructive descent into addiction, she remained committed to our friendship throughout the years. I wish everyone could have a close friend that Melydia Clewell is to me.
She is my connection to the outside world as I scratch and claw my way back to sanity. I e-mail her regularly. You will read some of these back-and-forth messages which include her brutally honest observations about my addicted condition.
So, come along with me now as I hold your hand and take you with me on my road to recovery. You will see addiction’s true personality as I turn the spotlight on this monster. Hold on tight because it’s going to be one hell of a roller coaster ride!
"Waiting to Die, Longing to Love"
It just might save your life