The Story of Rick

Written by Kim Rojas

 

As the last metal door slammed and locked behind me, I felt the weight of the place lift. Even the gray November sky looked inviting.

For the first time in almost a year, I’d be under it as a free man.

I vowed never to return to jail.

Inhaling the cold, damp air, I felt as relaxed as if I basked on a beach in summer. At 210 pounds, I barely fit into the clothes I’d worn when I arrived. The button-down shirt showed my skin between each of the taut buttons, but at least it covered the top of the pants I couldn’t snap shut. I looked a mess, but I felt better than ever.

Thanksgiving dinner meant more to me that year than it ever had. Sitting around the table talking and laughing with my family made me realize this was the life I wanted — spending time with people I loved and trusted.

Life was good.

Then, honestly, a little boring.

I decided to get in touch with an old friend.

“Hey, Rick, you called just in time. We’re headed out to this party. We’ll come pick you up.”

I figured I’d be okay. I’m clean and sober. I just want to hang out with friends, have a few laughs and celebrate my new life.

After the initial pound hugs with Nate and some other old friends, I accepted a beer. And a couple more.

The night quickly turned into the next day.

I woke up, dragging.

I need a pick-me-up. Just this once.

“Nah, things have changed since you went away,” Nate said. “We can’t get pills like we used to.”

“Whaddya mean? Changed how?”

“The law’s really cracking down on pills. But, I know a guy.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “You know a guy who knows a guy, right?”

Nate put his phone on speaker while he drove. A raspy voice on the other end answered like a machine, no warmth or friendliness. A chill ran through my body, and I pushed my hands deeper into my pockets.

“I don’t have oxy, but I have some brown,” the voice said.

Nate and I looked at each other.

“Brown?” Nate asked.

“Yeah. You know,” he whispered through the speaker. “Heroin.”

eee

When I was about 10 years old, Mom married my stepdad, a decent guy. My father lived across town. My two sisters didn’t visit our father much, but I loved going to see him.

It was a guy’s world over at my dad’s house in the country, with lots of space to run around and ride our four-wheelers — and no rules.

To me, it was a dream come true.

When I visited on weekends, we often stopped in to see my grandfather. Pap, as I called him, always greeted me with a big smile and a bear hug. He owned lots of trucks, cars, tools and other things for his business. He allowed me to tinker with small tools, and that’s how I learned to fix my bike and my four-wheeler. He called me a natural. Pap was the greatest grandfather I could imagine. A big man with shocking white hair and a long white beard, he looked like Santa Claus. Always kind and approachable, he and my grandmother gave me a deep sense of stability.

One day, after visiting Pap at his business, I asked, “Dad, can I start the truck?”

“Better’n that, why don’t you drive?”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah, it’s about time you learned how to drive.”

I felt my heart pounding in my entire body as I pulled myself onto Dad’s lap in the driver’s seat.

I gripped the steering wheel and looked in the rearview mirror, adjusting it. The keys dangled from the ignition, tickling my knee.

“Now?” I asked.

“Turn ’er over.”

He let me steer the truck all around Pap’s parking lot.

A few years later, when my legs were long enough to reach the pedals, Dad let me behind the wheel on my own. From the passenger side, he sat half facing me, his arm over the back of the seat.

“Okay, ready?”

“Yup!”

“Don’t get cocky, now. Take it easy.”

“I know what I’m doing, Dad. You already showed me everything.”

We laughed. I did pretty well my first time out — just a couple of near misses with a telephone pole or two and a couple of too tight turns. For all the things my father was or wasn’t, we always enjoyed being together.

The freedom I enjoyed at Dad’s house made me feel like a man. I decided when to eat, when to sleep, when to wake. He understood when I spent hours doing my own thing, and he never gave me a hard time about how to spend my time. With him, I felt comfortable and safe.

My friends in the neighborhood sometimes came over. We’d go in the garage and work on our bikes and ATVs or work on projects and just hang out, uninterrupted by adults. The garage became our clubhouse more than a place to park a car or truck. Dad wasn’t mechanically inclined, so he had little reason to go in there.

“Crack me a beer, will ya, Rick?”

“Sure, Dad.”

I ran to the fridge, grabbed a cold one and pulled back the tab. Pshht! I always tried to take the first sip while the mist still floated above the can.

I regarded Dad as a social guy. His friends often came over, and they laughed, carried on and had a great time watching football or racing on TV. When he and his friends got loud, I thought, Great. I can make as much noise as I want.

By the time I turned 13, I noticed that, besides Dad’s regular friends, other people stopped over that I didn’t know. Sometimes, they gave him money or he gave them money. They never stayed long. One night, I saw him and the guys gathered around the kitchen table. They seemed different than usual. They talked in lower tones and hunched over the center of the table. Drifting smoke from two cigarettes in the ashtray mingled in the air and swirled around the overhead light. Music blared from the stereo. I watched one of the men roll up a dollar bill until it looked like a McDonald’s straw, then he bent down to the table and sniffed really hard on the money straw.

The next morning, Dad slept late. The kitchen table was a mess with ashtrays, empty cans of beer, half-empty cans and also some unopened ones. I took three of the unopened cans, one each for Nate, Tommy and me, and I hid them in the garage.

That night, I invited my friends over.

“Look what I got.” I held up the beers and dealt them out. We popped them open, hurrying to drink the foam off the top. After that first chug, we all sat silently. I didn’t like the taste of the beer at all. I wondered if they did. Rather than admit I didn’t, I let out a loud belch, and we all laughed until we cried.

After that, when I arrived at Dad’s house on Fridays, I immediately sneaked two beers and hid them. Then, I took two more. I don’t think he ever noticed.

Meeting with Nate and Tommy became a Saturday night ritual. We worked on our bikes, listened to music and drank beer, regarding ourselves as just like real men.

eee

Getting my driver’s license changed my life. That summer, I worked for Pap’s company, learned how to drive a box truck and made some pocket money. I lived at Mom’s house, but since Dad lived closer to where I worked, I spent more time at his house. Since my friends and I drank more than one or two beers when we got together on the weekends in the garage, we found other people to buy for us rather than sneaking Dad’s cans.

At summer’s end, when it was time to go back to school, I finished my last week of work at Pap’s company. Pap and I walked toward the office, and he plunked his huge hand on my shoulder.

“Rick, you did a good job this summer.”

“Thanks, Pap. I like working.”

“That attitude will bring you a long way in life.” He looked at me. “I’m not taking you home today.”

I furrowed my brow. “Why?”

“ ’Cuz you’ll be driving yourself.” He raised his hand. Between his thumb and index finger hung a key ring with one key on it.

“You’re letting me drive your truck home?”

“Not my truck. Yours.”

“Mine? What? Whaddya mean? You —”

“It’s yours. You’ve earned it.”

I felt my face heat with excitement. I hugged him around the neck.

“Thanks, Pap! Thank you!”

He pointed out the pickup across the lot, and I ran to it. I slid my hand over the bed, around the back and up to the hood. I knelt in the gravel and looked up under the chassis. I yanked open the door and moved my hand over the upholstery. Climbing into the cab, I sat in the driver’s seat and adjusted the rearview and side mirrors, smiling in them.

It’s beautiful. It’s mine!

That year, I strode into school with a new air about me. I had my own vehicle and a pocket full of money. All right, maybe not full of money, but money nonetheless.

Our school bus days were over. I picked up Nate and Tommy and gave them a ride to school every morning.

Blowing off sports practice, homework and other responsibilities, I spent my free time with my friends. Together, we started hanging out with guys who’d graduated high school years earlier. Someone always had money for beer. Weekends found Tommy, Nate and me at Dad’s or at the local race track.

“Check this out,” Tommy said once as he sat on the tailgate of my pickup at the track.

He leaned back and dug deep into his jeans pocket. He put his beer between his knees and bent forward into a huddle position, motioning with a short jerk of his head for Nate and me to come see.

He was fiddling with a folded plastic baggie.

I moved closer. “What is it?”

He looked at me with his eyebrows up while he carefully unfolded the plastic to reveal white powder. My heart skipped a beat, half from excitement, half from fear, when I realized what it was. Cocaine.

“Have you tried it?” I asked.

“Yeah, man. It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done.”

Three beers earlier, I might have hesitated. Instead, I shot a whaddaya think glance at Nate. And smiled.

Tommy gingerly laid the plastic package on a cooler, pulled an issue of Car and Driver from a box of stuff and carefully smoothed out the cover.

He emptied the baggie’s contents onto the Corvette on the magazine.

Next, Tommy flicked the edge of the plastic with his fingernail to ensure every speck made it onto the shiny surface. Then, combing the powder toward himself with a bank card, he formed three long, thin lines.

One for himself, one for Nate, one for me.

I bent and snorted my line in one long, hard sniff.

Jutting my chin toward the sky, I pinched my nostrils shut. Man, this stuff burns.

My eyes watered, and I felt liquid drain from my nose down the back of my throat. Every sensation in my body instantly magnified — the engines roaring, the girls giggling near the truck, a baby crying in the distance, even the blood flushing my face. My jaw tingled, then I followed that electrified feeling as it moved lower and into my belly.

My head rocked forward, and I opened my eyes.

Tommy grinned and punched me on the shoulder.

“Eh? Didn’t I tell ya?”

A smile spread across my face. I felt invincible.

“Oh, man, this stuff is awesome! I wonder why I waited so long. Have you tried it, Nate? I need a beer my mouth is super dry so hey let’s hit the bleachers and —”

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa, dude.”

We all three burst into laughter at my speed-talking and headed toward the track.

That night, back at my mother’s house, I lay on my bed, ankles crossed, hands behind my head, unable to sleep and staring at the ceiling. Somehow, I couldn’t instruct my back, shoulders or feet to move off the bed. Even though I was wired, it was like I was paralyzed. Not just physically, but by fear, disappointment and disgust with myself.

eee

I flunked out of school.

That mattered nothing to me. In my eyes, I’d moved beyond high school. Flunking out freed me.

I’ll work full time for Pap’s company, make full-time pay and make my own way in life.

My partying increased from Friday nights to full weekends and then to a weeknight here and there. Because of work, I told myself I wouldn’t get drunk or anything. Just one or two beers to take the edge off. Some mornings, I’d be dragging, so I’d call Tommy to get me some coke.

“I’ll need some extra,” I told him one time. “I’m traveling for work, and I’ll be gone all week.”

“Dude, you okay?” Tommy asked.

“Yeah, I’m good. Why?”

“I dunno. It just seems like you’re callin’ me too much. I don’t want to get nabbed. Know what I mean?”

“C’mon, Tom, this is the last time for a couple of weeks.”

Sleep rarely came easy for me at night. Unable to find a comfortable sleeping position and dogged by paranoia, I’d lie there for what seemed like hours, then check my phone for the 10th time to find only 20 minutes had passed. It was madness. When sleep did come, in short spurts or even for an hour or two, I’d wake up startled, afraid I was late or missing something.

But during the day, I could hardly stay awake.

When Pap’s work crew and I headed out for a big job, I slept sitting up much of the way. Exhausted, it seemed that as soon as I sat down, I shut down.

A bump in the road jolted me from sleep, banging my head off the passenger-side window of the truck. Pain shot through me.

My uncle chuckled from behind the wheel. “You know I did that on purpose, right?”

“Where are we?” I grumbled, not laughing.

“Almost there. We’re gonna stop for dinner in about 10 minutes.”

I shielded my eyes against the setting sun. The thought of food made my stomach reel. Coupled with exhaustion, nausea made me loathe to eat, but I knew I had to try, because I needed strength for work. No matter how low I felt, I understood the basics of energy. I choked down half a burger and a few fries.

After a fitful night, I rose the next morning irritable, tired and still nauseated. The sun seemed to pierce through my eyes straight into my brain. I snorted a line of coke in the bathroom to ease my pain. The next hour or two I thought went by okay.

“You all right?” Uncle Ray asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said while wiping sweat from my forehead with the shoulder of my T-shirt.

“Maybe if you ate a bit more, you’d have some meat on those bones.”

Uh-oh. What else has he noticed? My heart pounded as if I’d been running.

“C’mon,” he said. “Gimme a hand.”

I grabbed the other end of a heavy box and lifted with every ounce of strength I had.

“Aagghh!”

eee

The hernia necessitated a hospital stay as soon as we returned home. The last thing I wanted was more eyes watching me. Everyone, everywhere watched me. I felt their eyes on me.

I rested my aching head on the hospital pillow. The steady beep, beep, beep relaxed me, and I tried to forget about who might be watching me. I heard the squeak of rubber-soled shoes and the swish of the curtain around my bed.

“Rick? We’re going to wheel you down.”

I felt her warm hand on my wrist.

“Mm-hmm.”

“We gave you a little something to help you relax before the surgical prep.”

So that’s why I feel so good.

I decided that I had to find out what they’d given me. Whatever it was, I wanted more.

The surgery went well, and I was surprised at how calm, almost cozy, I felt in the hospital. For the first time in months, I woke refreshed.

The next thing I remember was someone taking my vital signs. It was dark outside my window.

“Wow,” I exclaimed. “I’ve been sleeping a while, huh?”

“Yes, you’ve been sleeping well. You must be hungry.”

She wheeled a table of domed food toward me, but I was more interested in the stainless-steel tray behind her where the paper cup held my next dose of OxyContin.

Oxy took the place of cocaine immediately upon my release from the hospital. Cheaper and more accessible, it also made me feel better — for a few weeks, anyway.

I couldn’t return to work for at least another month while the hernia healed, and money got tight. I needed something, any drug at all.

I rummaged through all my pockets and even the couch cushions looking for spare change or the chance I’d find dollar bills. While looking through the junk drawer in Mom’s kitchen, I knocked over a pile of mail, scattering envelopes across the floor. That’s when I noticed Mom’s checkbook.

I carefully flipped to the last check in the book, ripped it out, stuffed it in my pocket and called one of the guys.

About a week later, my mom called me into the living room.

“Rick, what’s going on?”

“With what? Whaddya mean?”

“I think you know what I mean. Did you take a check of mine?”

I couldn’t answer her.

“Rick?”

Unable to admit the whole truth, I managed to say, “I’m sorry, Mom. I really needed the money.”

She started to cry.

I wiped a tear from the corner of my own eye.

That night, at her request, I packed my bags. While I couldn’t openly admit it, I knew I needed help. I agreed to go into rehab.

My older sister dropped me off at the curb, not bothering to get out and walk me in. I watched her eyes in the rearview mirror as she drove away.

Once inside the building, I became convinced I didn’t belong there. These people have serious problems. I just partied a little too much.

However, I wanted to keep my place to live, to keep my job and to keep the peace, so I stayed. Insurance from my job at Pap’s company covered two weeks of rehab.

On day 15, two hours after my release, I called a friend.

Already drunk, I planned to head to another house party. Turning the key, I revved the engine and, shortly after, got my first citation for driving under the influence.

Drinking’s caused more problems than any drug I’ve ever done.

So I slowed down on partying but started doing more pills. After getting my hands on a prescription pad, I learned how to write prescriptions and dosages and dared to write myself an illegal prescription for OxyContin.

I called Nate. “Meet me at the store. I got something.”

When I showed him the prescription pad, he lit into me. “Are you nuts? Where’d you get these?”

“What does it matter? I’ve got ’em, right? Come to the pharmacy with me.”

“Do you know what happens to people who do this kind of stuff?” Nate demanded.

“Yeah. They get high.”

He couldn’t help but laugh.

After spending another 30 minutes unsuccessfully trying to dissuade me, he finally said, “I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try.”

The first pharmacist told us to leave immediately. I tried another, and another, until finally, one pharmacy filled it: three times a day for 30 days. When we got outside the door, we hit the parking lot at a full run.

Things went downhill quickly. My mother answered a knock at her door to find an officer standing there. She looked over at me, and I saw her lip quiver. I knew right away it was about the prescription. The pulse in my neck quickened, and my mouth went dry.

“Your son needs to come with us, right now.”

Just like in the movies, they tucked me into the back seat of a police cruiser, brought me in to the station and photographed, fingerprinted and booked me.

To my surprise, the next morning, I was released on probation on the condition that I pay a fine and submit to a weekly drug test.

When I violated probation, they took me to the county jail.

I entered jail strung out, sick and weak. That first night was the longest night of my life. After processing, they took my shoes from me and stuck me in a holding cell with eight other guys for nine hours. I dry heaved for much of the night. After seeing the doctor, I fell in line and took my green jumpsuit from one of the biggest men I’d ever seen in my life. I weighed in at 141 pounds, and the jumpsuit hung way too big on me. At intake, the guard was one of my high school classmates. We exchanged a brief glance, he from the right side of the law, and I as a criminal. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my miserable life.

When I got to my cell, an older, scary-looking guy lay on the top bunk. I shivered in the bunk below. My stomach retched and heaved and growled, and I held in the vomit as long as I could, then had to bolt to the shared toilet in the cell, again and again.

This guy is bound to get mad at me for all this noise. I’ve been over here seven times in the past two hours. He’s gonna do something to me sooner or later.

The paranoia left once the drugs got out of my system.

I settled into life on the inside. Over the next year, I proved myself to be a model inmate and stayed out of trouble. I worked my way up to the special pod that offered counseling, better visiting hours and AA meetings. I went through the motions of counting on my “higher power,” but I never fully understood that whole concept. I simply repeated the words the other guys called prayers.

eee

           

I can’t believe she’d come here to see me.

My head wagged in delight and disbelief when Gina entered the visiting room.

I ran my hands down the front of my jumpsuit. “Gina, I can’t —”

She put her finger to her lips. “Tell me how you’re doing. Tell me what’s good.”

“What’s good is the day I met you.”

She threw back her head, and we laughed together about the good old days. I couldn’t believe she still liked me. I couldn’t wait to get out and be with Gina and my family. The closer I got to my release date, the longer the days seemed.

Finally, the week before Thanksgiving, I got out, vowing never to return. Since I was clean, sober and rehabilitated, Mom allowed me to stay at her house again.

But, after the holiday, I got my first taste of something more intoxicating than freedom.

eee

The first time I snorted heroin, the bitterness instantly dried out my throat while simultaneously making my mouth water. It was the worst thing I had ever tasted. But within a few minutes, warmth from the drug traveled throughout my entire body.

That sensation became something I would chase over and over.

I watched my mother pull out of the driveway and waited to make sure she wouldn’t return, having forgotten her lunch or something else. After 15 minutes and a last glance at the driveway, I crept into her room. The sun cast long shadows on the floor and walls. Pink slippers by her bedside gave me a pang of remorse for what I was about to do. I ran my hand along her dresser, opening the first few drawers. Nothing.

At the end of the dresser, her jewelry box sat against the mirror. Instinctively, I looked over my shoulder, then opened the box.

Inside were various earrings, necklaces and pieces of costume jewelry. One stood out among the rest. Wrapping my hand around the diamond bracelet, I closed my eyes for a brief second before pocketing it.

Careful to leave everything else just the way I’d found it, I slipped out the door, my heart in my throat, and jogged to the pawn shop.

On the way to score my fix, the jitters set in.

I knocked the buyers’ code on the door to the seller’s place.

After the sound of a few bolts unlocking, the door creaked open. I slipped in and gave a guy the money.

He handed me a baggie and a syringe.

“Hey, I don’t use this,” I told him.

“Why not?”

I had no answer.

I looked at the syringe in my trembling hand. What difference does it make how the stuff gets inside my body? I prepped and injected the drug, just as I’d seen others do it hundreds of times.

The high was instantaneous.

With the back of my hand, I wiped the corner of my mouth when it watered. I felt my head bobbing forward, and I slumped into oblivion.

eee

Mom met me at the door when I returned home.

I looked up at her with drooping eyes, then hung my head. What does she want now?

“Where is it?” she demanded.

“What are you talking about?”

She took me by the shoulders. “For God’s sake, look at you! What did you do with my bracelet?”

I couldn’t lie to her.

“I took it to the pawn shop.”

She let go of my arms and stepped back. “Get out. Just get out of here. I can’t watch you do this to yourself.”

From there, I went to Grandma and Pap’s house. While staying there, I stole a laptop belonging to one of my cousins.

“Rick,” Pap said, “we can’t help you anymore. And you can’t come to work on Monday, either. I can’t risk you stealing from the customers. Go on, now. Get your stuff.”

I slept at friends’ houses, moving from couch to couch. When those invitations wore out, Grandma and Pap allowed me to pitch a tent in their backyard. As I lay in the quiet of the tent, the smell of moist grass enveloped me. It reminded me of my childhood and how I’d wanted to become something when I grew up. The smile left my face.

Is this what I’m meant to do with my life?

The AA program in jail popped into my mind, and I remembered how I’d lied about knowing a higher power. I wanted to find out for sure.

Does a higher power really exist? I made plans to go to church that Sunday.

Gina took me.

           

eee

My expectations of church changed that Sunday when Gina took me to Difference Makers. No one wore fancy clothes, no one ignored me, everyone greeted me and they looked genuinely happy. I didn’t feel conspicuous — rather, I blended in, straight from the backyard tent! I took in a deep breath and let out a long gust of stress.

Okay, I can just relax and sit here in the back row.

A couple of people made room for me.

I sat.

I listened.

Oddly, I felt as if the pastor spoke directly to me. He didn’t look at me or point me out or probably even notice me, but the words he said that day hit me right in the heart. At the end of his talk, I stood with the rest of the people, and everyone began to sing the words projected on a big screen.

Without planning to, I walked to the front of the room and began dancing and singing. Then the pastor prayed for me. I broke down and fell to my knees, and at that exact moment, for the first time in my life, I felt what I can only describe as the presence of God. It was as if the feeling inside me was bigger than my skin. It couldn’t be contained. It was sheer joy.

When I looked up, a circle of people stood around me with their eyes closed, quietly praying for me. Me! A guy they didn’t know. A guy who lived in a tent.

I felt truly sorry for all the harm I’d caused. I wept for a long time, and they all stood there and prayed for me. I felt they really cared about me.

Later, after the service, I walked around inside the church, checking things out. One of the musicians noticed me from his spot up on the stage.

“You’re new here, right?”

I looked behind me.

He’s talking to me.

“Yeah,” I said. “My first time.”

“Cool,” he said. “Are you in recovery?”

“Well, um …”

When he said those words, I sensed something big was about to happen. We ended up talking for a long time.

Before leaving, the musician handed me a book of stories and prayers that helped me look at myself and start to see myself the way God sees me.

I realized that God loved me whether I lived in a palace or a tent and that he loved me right where I was. That’s when I began building my relationship with Jesus.

That night, I went straight to rehab.

I committed myself fully to AA and worked the program. After my 30-day stay at rehab, I moved into a sober house sponsored by Difference Makers Church. I stayed for three years and became a leader in their Celebrate Recovery program. I prayed daily to repair my relationships with my mother and my sisters. I prayed for my father, who’d had a stroke and couldn’t walk or speak.

I wanted to declare that I was a follower of Jesus by being baptized in water, and I invited my entire family to church for the occasion. When Mom showed up, my heart skipped a beat. She smiled at me, giving me hope that, in time, we could rebuild our relationship.

eee

Working with my hands had come naturally since my youth. I took pride in my work, and it showed. Odd jobs turned into bigger jobs, and before I knew it, a business emerged.

Gina and I got serious and moved to a place about 30 minutes from town. My life went from zero to responsible at warp speed.

So many requests for work came in, and I couldn’t resist the extra money. With the work, though, came bills. It took every ounce of energy for me to balance life, bills, money and spending time with Gina.

Church will have to wait.

The pressure of normal life weighed heavily on me. After work one night, I stopped to have a couple of beers. Then I lost count. That’s all it took. Someone at the bar had some stuff, and I snorted it and ended up spending the weekend away from home.

Ragged, sore and full of self-loathing, I stumbled in the house early one weekday morning.

“Thank God you’re okay,” Gina said, tears welling up in her eyes.

“Sorry. I needed a drink.”

“What are you doing, Rick?”

All the familiar feelings of disgust, disappointment, fear, regret and rejection flooded my body, and I knew she was right. We contacted a person from the recovery group at church. Her enthusiasm at seeing Gina and me answered so many of my own questions. Why did I let the good life slip away?

That night, when I lay in bed speaking out loud to God, I told him my troubles and how I felt. I shared my disappointments, my fears, my hopes. I trusted that God heard my prayers because I believed what I read in the Bible, and the Bible says he hears us. The next morning, on the way to work, I prayed some more. I can talk to God anytime, and that one key factor has helped me live a life I love.

Since my baptism, my mother has gone to church on her own. She sees value in it for herself. That’s a gift to me. My father listens to me and allows me to share my faith in God with him on a level that’s comfortable for both of us.

When I think about it, I can’t answer the question people often want to ask me: Why?

I don’t fully know why I relapsed, even briefly, but I do know why I don’t relapse anymore.

My life is bigger than me. Sometimes, it’s too big to manage. So, I stay close to God by daily reading, prayer and close connection with people at my church. Through Celebrate Recovery, I serve people like me, men and women who need an encouraging word. And I’m humble enough to realize that the pressures in life sometimes get too big for me and that I need God every day.

When I’m doing these things, I’m in a place of true freedom and leading a life with Jesus at the center.

Otherwise, life takes me where it wants to, and that’s not where I want to go.

I have to remember — the choice is always mine.

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