2 years, 3 month, 12 days April 3, 2016 – clean date
In August, I will start studying to be an addiction counselor. My path to get here has been long and difficult but telling that story is important to me so that others understand the importance of helping our community. Despite everything that has happened, I feel lucky every day to be here, to be alive and to be able to help others. Caring 4 Denver is a critical measure that can help so many like me, right here in our community.
My earliest childhood memory was being choked by my mother. Life didn’t get much better for me after that as my father, a marine, came home and continued the abuse of my brothers and me. Our lives then became a series of moves, escaping the reach of social service workers and police.
But escaping our own challenges was not so easy as young boys.
At age 11, I was required to take care of my father after a back injury, which is how I learned how to inject IV drugs. As the drugs were waning and I was instructed by my mother to limit his intake, my father became increasingly violent. For me as a boy, I was in an impossible situation and didn’t see many escape routes. An early escape from my home landed me at a family friend’s home where I was offered crank.
I was a child who turned to substances who became a teenager, with PTSD, who continued to use and became a father at 15. There were brief bouts of sobriety and, later, a daughter.
Further substance abuse led me to criminal activity and eventually to jail. Drugs are unfortunately just as prevalent in jail as they were on the street. I came out of jail an addict.
Even now, I consider myself lucky. I finally decided I wanted help and found psychiatry in jail. In 2016 after returning to jail on a parole violation, I was diagnosed with PTSD, then found Celebrate Recovery, a program of the Salvation Army. Without this program, I would be in jail or worse.
Without support for programs like Celebrate Recovery, AA and so many others, people have few options. This isn’t just about me.
Even when you are willing to get help, sometimes it is not there due to waiting list or financial barriers. Many treatment centers have closed facilities. Junkies don’t have money. We need funding for people who want help. More places to turn would mean that people wouldn’t turn to prison.
We cannot afford to lose so many of our kids, parents, neighbors and friends to mental health and substance abuse challenges. We can and we should address this in our community. Caring 4 Denver will do just that.
Photo credit; Ryan Landell