It was a humid day in mid-August when the public bus dropped me off at the treatment center. I had traveled for over two hours on four different bus routes. Intermittent thunderstorms has left the air weighty and my clothes soaked. I was also starving. Two days prior I had been discharged from jail after losing all of my belongings at a bench in uptown Charlotte, NC. I stood near the bus stop staring at the stark, intimidating brick building. Tall, slender windows lined the walls of the building, reminiscent of the cell windows at the county jail. This wasn’t the type of comparison I needed to have in this moment! A group of people stood together, lowly murmuring to each other but all looking down at the sidewalk, cigarettes smoldering in their hands. Even though I felt miserably hot, my teeth were chattering from the overwhelming anxiety and fear of the unknown. I was a 42 year old little boy scared to go inside on the first day of school. I felt alone and lost.
I reached into my pocket and remembered that my son had given me a pack of peanut butter crackers that morning. He was packing his lunch for school and offered them to me, adding “Will you be able to eat today? And when will I see you again?” The previous night, my kids snuck me into the apartment my ex-wife had leased for them. Even though she was living with her boyfriend, she refused me permission to stay in the apartment, even for a night. At the time, given the option of sleeping outside again or having a warm bed near my kids, I agreed to their plan of defying her wishes for the night.
Moving the crackers around in my hand, I began processing the reality of my situation. My kids smuggled me into their apartment and fed me without even the assurance of when or if they would see me again. It felt like I was a fugitive or random hobo from the street. The guilt of the circumstances I had put them in and what they were exposed to at an early age caused a pain inside me that is indescribable. But from that pain grew a determination to heal.
The crackers sparked a spontaneous reality check as I centered my mind amidst the barrage of thoughts and emotions. The image of my son’s eyes from earlier that morning when he extended his gift to me broke loose the restraining doubt. It was time to be a father and return hope into our lives. I said out loud to myself, “I need help.” I focused my vision on the front door of the treatment center and proceeded across the parking lot. This was the first time in active addiction that I submitted to the notion that I couldn’t find my way out of this life on my own. Pushing through the door of the facility wasn’t only a physical step toward sobriety, but a mentally liberating breakthrough that brought down those walls of pride, shame, and fear.
The next eight months brought challenges and growing pains like I’ve never experienced in my life, and marked changes to my thought processes and behavior. On April 30, 2019, in front of peers, my counselor and my momma, I stood with confidence and pride as I successfully completed the treatment program. I gave a presentation outlining my experience and personal plan for future sobriety that I will be expanding on in future blog posts. I am so proud of this accomplishment and have my family, friends, and fellow recovering addicts to thank for supporting me through this experience. And, best of all, eight months later, my kids and I all live under the same roof without any backdoor sneaking, and my son doesn’t have to question whether or not I’m coming home tonight.