We don’t want to believe we are addicts until a lot of damage has been done. For me, it didn’t dawn on me until I was squatting in abandoned buildings and stealing from my loved ones to support my habit. When you’re on the outside looking in, it’s easy to judge.
It’s easy to say that you would never let it get that bad. Looking through my various mugshots, and seeing myself become a gaunt, shell of my former self reminds me of something important: You don’t know how bad it is when you’re in it. I look at photos of myself looking like death warmed over.
Missing teeth, scars, scratches all over my face. At the time that photo was taken, that was my normal. I didn’t think one second about how obvious it was that drugs were destroying me.
Living in Arizona means being closer to the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Because of this, there is a lot of drug trafficking in big cities like Phoenix and Tucson. This made it easy for me to become a drug dealer at an early age.
I started dealing marjiuana and whatever prescription drugs I could find in middle school. By the time I graduated high school, I was dealing cocaine and Xanax to kids younger than me. My future was of no concern to me. I lived in the moment, much like many young kids. Drug abuse was normalized my entire life, as both of my parents were at various times incarcerated for drug offenses.
It seems like I was destined to become an addict. Most of us addicts got this way because of some external factor. Some are like me and substance abuse was also normalized in their household. Others became addicts due to some form of personal tragedy or trauma that they endured. Most of the time having alcoholic parents makes you susceptible to alcoholism.
However you got to where you got, there are a lot of things to sift through. I didn’t realize I had more issues than just my addiction. I thought once I got clean, that was it. It was a shock to me that there were so many personal issues and past traumas that I needed to work on. Because I dedicated myself fully to sobriety, I knew that these things needed to be mended.
Recovery is not just about getting you sober. It is also about understanding what triggers you, and how to deal with those triggers. There is a lot of therapy and soul searching involved in the process. To understand your addiction, you have to understand your brain. When we sink into drug and alcohol addiction, we are rewiring our brains and poisoning our minds.
The drugs do all the thinking for you, and little rational thought is allowed in. When I was at rock bottom, there wasn’t anything else on my mind other than getting high. It was all-consuming.
It was my every day. Drugs were the one and only concern, and not having access to them was a giant problem. I stole from the people I loved. I broke into businesses and pawned items in order to fuel my habit.
Although growing up in a state like Arizona may have fueled my addiction, I’ve learned that it is also one of the best places in the country to seek treatment. There is a weird irony there that is hard to reconcile, but it is what it is. When I decided to enter recovery, I was a broken human.
I needed to relearn empathy. I had to relearn how to love and respect other people. Once I came out of that initial fog, it disgusted me to know that I had become so vacant emotionally.
One of the benefits of living in the Tucson area is that it has some of the very best recovery centers in the nation. Finding the right rehab near Tucson took some searching, but I was very happy with what I found at Pathfinders Recovery Center. Pathfinders is located in Scottsdale, which isn’t too far from Tucson. The people there were extremely helpful and were there for me every step of the way. They came up with a treatment plan that was personalized to my specific addiction and it worked wonders.
The facilities at Pathfinders are aimed towards helping drug and alcohol addicts through dual diagnosis, which helps addicts combat their addiction and mental illness simultaneously.
The campus itself is beautiful and definitely an inspiring place to get clean. Your surroundings are very important to your recovery. That’s another reason Arizona is such a great place to get clean. With endless beautiful landscapes and awesome weather year round, it can be very beneficial to your healing process.
Being in a sunny, warm climate can absolutely lead to an improved mood. Many studies have been done that have shown spending time outside can help with depression and anxiety. When I was in the middle of my addiction, all I knew was depression and anxiety.
The only thing that gave me any hope was watching an Arizona sunset. It’s not something you can describe to just anyone. No matter how down and out I was, just being able to take in something like that did a lot for my spirit.
The good folks at Pathfinders are a wonderful group of people who personalize their approach. They also helped me find the right 12 step programs that would work for me. Recovery can sometimes be a lonely process. Finding people who have gone through what you have gone through can make it a little easier.
Now, I am a proud member of the greater Tucson area recovery community. If you had told me that’s what I would be back in the worst part of my addiction, I wouldn’t have believed it at all.
There is also deciding whether you will seek inpatient or outpatient treatment. Luckily, a lot of the drug rehabs in or near Tucson offer both. If you have a serious drug addiction, inpatient treatment is probably your best option.
I found that being able to stay somewhere for an extended period of time and really focus one hundred percent on my issues worked best. That’s not to say outpatient programs can’t help. I’ve known many former addicts who had a lot of success going the outpatient route.
It’s difficult to know sometimes what the best approach is to staying sober. Achieving sobriety is one thing, maintaining it is a whole different thing. Because addiction is so personal, it’s hard to say what can help you avoid triggers.
I typically engage in activities that push me physically. That makes relaxing activities that much more rewarding. I joined a basketball league and also run at least three miles a day. Physical activity has been very beneficial to my mental health. I made a conscious effort to work on my physical health just as much as my behavioral health.
The way that you react to situations has a big impact. I used to react impulsively and have a much worse temper when I was using drugs. Being able to rework my brain and teach myself the power of calm, rational thought has been huge for my recovery.
When you react impulsively, it’s pretty easy to end up being a drug addict. The reason I started using drugs in the first place was because of that impulsivity. When you don’t think things through, danger is right around the corner.
A huge lesson that I learned through this entire process is to stop chasing after things. Whatever important thing that happens in my life is something that will come to me at the right time, or it won’t.
Regardless of what happens, if I submit to my prior tendencies, trouble ensues. I work very hard on making sure that I am taking care of myself. When I don’t check in with myself often, I can see those old habits creeping in. Going to group meetings also helps tremendously. It helps me realize that I am not alone in this fight.
I have a new purpose in life now, and that is to help others with their addiction. Whether it is someone at the beginning of their struggle or right in the middle of it, I try very hard to be there for people when they need it. There are plenty of times when I need that help myself, so I try to lend an ear whenever I can.
Staying sober is my responsibility not just to myself, but to the people that I care about. My family is the most important thing to me, and I consider the good folks I’ve met through this journey to be family as well.