By Michael Vitali
Editor’s Note: We are pleased to announce a new monthly column featuring inspiring stories of personal change. These stories will be featured in our upcoming book about personal change due to be released Spring 2011.
I started smoking cigarettes when I was eleven years old. Since then, I’ve abused every drug on the market: speed, heroine, meth, LSD, prescription drugs. You name it—I’ve been addicted to it.
My pursuit of temporary freedom started me on a twenty-year downward spiral in which I alienated my family, lost friends, sabotaged my career, experienced homelessness, and served multiple jail sentences. I tried various methods to quit: drug rehab, AA meetings, and substituting hobbies and relationships for drugs.
Shortly after an early rehab session, I was hired by a well-respected, family-owned resort. The next eight months were evidence that sober living was full and rewarding. My career moved forward, my spirits soared, and it looked as though my treatment in rehab was a complete success.
However, chemical dependency is a subtle foe. After work, I began to “wind down” with a couple of drinks. What innocently began as social drinking quickly snowballed into full-blown alcoholism. Unable to control the addiction, my job performance suffered and I lost interest in anything beyond alcohol.
The promise of a rewarding career, a fulfilling life, and a sober existence disappeared with the job I had worked so hard to attain. Having abused every hand of friendship and alienated my family, I had nowhere to turn.
I started a new life in Arizona. But away from the scrutiny of family and friends, I quickly spiraled into the depths of chemical dependency. My life got progressively worse as my tolerance for alcohol and drugs increased. Loneliness, fear, despair, and frustration became my constant companions. I lost every material possession, I could not hold a steady job, and my friends were tired of supporting me and my habit. I then turned to theft and was soon arrested for shoplifting and spent three months in jail. Upon my release, I was homeless, destitute, and hopelessly addicted.
It was not long before I was in trouble with the law again and was sentenced to prison on the charges of theft, possession and manufacture of drug paraphernalia.
My imprisonment was a pivotal experience. After years of denial, I finally admitted that I was an alcoholic and drug addict. I began recalling my drug abuse, crimes, homelessness, and current state in prison. I found myself saying, “This is not your life!” I cried to God for help and made a commitment to never lose control of my addictive personality again.
After my release from prison, I began attending AA meetings three times a day. I engaged in group therapy and counseling to learn how to control my anger and emotions. Each day, I learned more and more about chemical dependency and the techniques needed to live a joyous and substance-free life.