Another Recovery Success Story: Johnny, 26

Addiction took everything from me but bones and a beating heart.

The disease sucked in every good thing in my life and spat it out. What’s worse, I couldn’t even recognize the good when I had it.

I lost my dad when I was 11, and I looked for something or someone to blame. I blamed the world. “What kind of cruel life is this if everything you love will eventually be taken from you? Why should I even try?”

Before grief broke me, there was a time I was a happy boy with hopes and dreams. I wanted to be a super hero and save people from harm. I wanted to inspire hope and joy. What ever happened to that boy?

I can’t describe the hopelessness I carried, and then used as an excuse.  Trying to avoid pain, my entire life became an attempt to destroy myself.

I used drugs to fix my feelings instead of trying to fix them myself. I thought I had something wrong with me that could never be changed. Drugs took away all the self-doubt, fear, and sadness. When I was high, I felt like I had control over myself and the cruelty of life.

My reckless escape from reality set me up to make one poor decision after another while never getting me any closer to the peace I so desired. I’d set up an endless cycle of doing drugs and making bad choices and then doing drugs to forget those bad choices.

I lied, I cheated, I stole, and I hurt. A lot. It’s funny how what we believed was the solution was really the problem.

A failed suicide attempt and a couple overdoses later, I ended up at the Riverbank House.

I thought my life was over. I had barely been able to stay alive while high; how could I now face life and the mistakes I’d made without the protection of drugs?

But Riverbank helped me find what I had lost: the will to live. And with that, redemption.

My whole life I had been avoiding pain at all costs. The staff at Riverbank House suggested a different approach; face it. Face the pain with the support of men who understand.  Talk about the pain. To my disbelief, slowly but surely, I stopped hurting so much.  And the more I stopped hurting, the more I started living, clean.

Today, I’m training to earn my Certified Recovery Support Worker license. I’m working at and contributing to the amazing transformations that go on here at the Riverbank House, working with men who were as hopeless and helpless as I once was. I still may not have acquired the super powers I’d dreamed of as a little kid, but I do have the one gift shared by all men in active recovery: the gift of Understanding. All the hardship we may have suffered in active addiction, all the reckless mistakes we made, and all the cruel pain we caused have been turned into a tool for helping each other, for extending our hand to the guy who still thinks his life is over or not worth living.

I’ve been clean for 9 months, and today my mom has her son back. My brother and sisters have their brother back. I came into Riverbank House a fractured man who could only hope to serve as an example of what not to be. Now, I’m a clean and sober man who chooses to do the right thing, not because I’m forced to, but because I want to be the best version of myself possible. For me and for the ones I care about.

To all my fellows struggling with active addiction and alcoholism:  You CAN be the man you always wanted to be.  There is redemption in the light of recovery.  You just have to stop staring into the lonely darkness long enough to catch a glimpse of illuminated hope.