As I was stumbling into Hoag Chemical Dependency Center, frightened, I uttered these words to Nurse Greg, "Are you guys going to kick my butt in here?" "No, you kick your own butt in here," he empathized. Little did I know then, that it was the day (July 7, 2006) that I stopped kicking my own butt and began patting myself on the back. It was that day that I caught my first glimpse of a peak of the rainbow--a new life brought about not just by ordinary rain. This rain quenched my decade-drought of drug addiction. The proverb, “everything happens for a reason,” began to ring true. My drug addiction led me to snacking and napping at places beyond my imagination. It bonded me to individuals marginalized by society who shared similar dreams and fears as any “average Joe.” It showed me that food and safety are not guaranteed. Most ironically, however, it guided me to a career ambition. I learned that drug addicts and alcoholics need rehabilitation, not incarceration. One does not have to agree with this viewpoint; but please embrace that it is a disease that needs treatment. We just strayed down a wrong road and needed to stop and ask for directions. “Why not,” we asked, “help us out with a small map?” I enjoy making a difference in people’s lives. I hope to be their “tour guide.” A guide should not just be knowledgeable but also compassionate in serving the public. I have developed a strong foundation of both these qualities, yet there is always room for improvement.
I live my life abiding by one main principle: with privileges come responsibilities; responsibilities require dedication; it follows, then, that dedication affords privileges.
I want to make a difference in people’s lives. A couple years ago a XX admission officer shared a Noblesse oblige that I today hold dear to my head and heart, “With privileges come responsibilities.” I am privileged. How dare could I claim otherwise after chatting with Gary at Orange County Juvenile Hall? Gary wasted years being involved with drugs and gangs-going in and out of jails and institutions. Being trapped in a cage both exteriorly and interiorly made him feel worthless to society so drugs were his escape. “Every time I messed up they just throw me in a jail and expect me to come out civilized after being around drugs and criminals. I want to quit but I just don’t know how. Nobody cares so I don’t care,” pleaded Gary. I shared with him that I too felt worthless when having failed to quit for the umpteenth time, and that I was privileged to have met Tom, who has supported me and trudges along with me on this new path. Thus, it is my responsibility to relay the torch. One can’t dim years of addiction over nights, however. Few things in life come easy. I took Gary to self-help meetings everyday for the first thirty days, and continued on habitually thereafter. We were dedicated to our sobriety, and it afforded us the privilege of a changed life.
Dave’s story and mine are similar in root yet different in branch. I can’t blame any phase of my addiction on my upbringing. No one else in my family exhibits drug addiction or addictive behavior. For some reason, despite the resources blessed to me growing up, I turned into a teenager terrified of the world around me. I always thought as if everyone else knew what was going on and what they were supposed to be doing, and my life was the only one that was delivered without an instruction manual. I learned drugs were bad but when I was using, I was okay. I understood. Everything made sense. I was accepted by my peers. I was comfortable in my own skin. It was as if I had been an unfinished jigsaw puzzle with one piece missing; as soon as I used, the last piece instantly and effortlessly snapped into place. But it was not long before this puzzle turned into a maze and I was the rat. I was going nowhere and I was irritable and hostile. “Just quit!!” said my Dad. Since my parents had no experience with addiction, they had no idea what was wrong with me or what to do about it, and neither did I.
Luckily, I finally got caught into a mousetrap. Getting arrested for possession of narcotics twice within a month forced me to get treated at Hoag Chemical Dependency Unit. It was here that I dreamed the hopes of sobriety. It was here that I hear my story over and over again. I groveled the understanding, the empathy, the love. When I took my thirty day chip and my peers cheered, it hit me-this is what I had been looking for all my life. This was the answer, right here in front of me. Indescribable relief came over me; I knew the fight was over.
My experience as a drug addict brings a shift in consciousness. The struggle may continue, but the gift of clarity has set life into perspective. A vital question to ask myself frequently is: what is my meaningful purpose with society? Fulfilling my primary purpose is laying the foundation for drug addicts a new reality, a new earth. My attention will be on troubled juveniles. They cannot be deserted by the wayside. Someone like Gary, whom raised by a single mom alcoholic, is in dire need of rehabilitation since he did not know any better. I cannot help most Garys; but if I can help two then I fulfilled some of the responsibilities of my privileged life.
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