My name is Brandon. I am 33 years old, and my clean date is February 15, 2018. I actively used drugs and alcohol from ages 15 thru 29. My drugs of choice were heroin & methamphetamine. Often, I used both of them together but in reality, whatever you had to use, I would use it. I wasn’t particularly choosy when it came to getting high…and this my story.
A Nudge From The Judge
I was first introduced to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous & Narcotics Anonymous when I was 15 years old. That introduction came as a “nudge from the judge” in juvenile court. My mom would actually take me to the meetings and sit through them with me. This was when you were allowed to smoke cigarettes in meetings. My impression at 15 being around these older, white haired, coffee drinking men was like most… “I don’t belong here!”. I was introduced to treatment at age 18 when I was court ordered to a diversion program for another possession charge. I have also attempted countless sober livings and other alternatives to getting clean like methadone, switching to only drinking or only smoking weed, which, to say the least, proved to be unsuccessful.
I remember when I had my first drink. It was at a family party and my friend’s grandfather used to light slim Jim for us so we could pretend to smoke. This ended up with me and my friend finding my mom’s boyfriends cigarette butts and smoking them along the side of the apartment building where we lived.
I also remember when had my first drunk! I was 14 years old when my brother and I snuck over to the house of an older homeboy in the neighborhood. It was a random night we spent in his garage finishing off a bottle of some off brand brandy. That night I ended up happy as can be wobbling down the street and ended up with my siblings throwing me in the shower to sober me up before our parents got home. You can see the pattern starting here.
From this point I don’t remember having any ambition to do anything other than find any and everything that would make me “feel” or technically “not feel” anything and, everything! Although I did not realize it at the time, I have come to understand that all I was doing was looking for an escape. All I knew at the time was that when I took something that was “mind altering”, it made me feel good and, not to mention, I was having a good time.
It’s important to know that I came from a family of drinkers; I think it was a social thing for them at the time. My parents divorced when I was 5 years old and I found myself growing up in different homes, different environments.
My dad was a bartender and my mom was a waitress. I guess you could say that alcohol was a part of what they did. It came with the turf, so to speak.
I was able to see how my parent’s both used alcohol and other substances to deal with life. Both of my parents participated in this lifestyle. I also witnessed how my mom and dad, with their partners after their divorce) were violent with each other.
I was the oldest between me and my sister. When our parents divorced, my sister and I lived with our mom. My dad remarried to a woman who had 3 children of her own. I guess you could say we became a “blended family” of odd sorts.
My mom had boyfriends from time to time throughout my childhood years. I grew up with the fact that everyone of her boyfriends drank alcohol. It just became “normal” for me growing up and being exposed at a young age. I grew up quick being around it and things were about to get real for me, real quick.
Getting Real Real Quick
What happening during & between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine was an era that lasted for eleven long years.
At 18-years old I found something that not only worked, but it worked just the way I wanted it to. That something was pills. I started out smoking and snorting Oxy Contin. It wasn’t long before Big Pharma changed the time release on the oxy’s to where you were no longer able to smoke or snort them. I was on the search for something more…and that search did not take long.
I was introduced to the girl I never wished I met. Her name was Heroin. Once I started dating heroin, I had no interest in anything else, because nothing compared to heroin and nothing could take heroin’s place.
I had tunnel vision. I couldn’t see clear past her. I would do anything for her. Heroin was my new, and ONLY, girl!
Whether it was stealing from stores, family, friends. Whatever it took to get more that’s what I was doing. I had friends who I used to party with, drink with, smoke with, take pills with, ecstasy, coke, you name it. But once I transitioned to dating heroin and becoming an IV user that list of friends got smaller & smaller. Once my addiction grew stronger, I found that list of friends no longer even existed. I came to the sad, selfish conclusion that I no longer needed friends. I would do what I had to do and go back to wherever it was I was staying or whoever it may be that I was inconveniencing at the time while I was doing my thing. I was lost & alone… and didn’t even know it yet…and didn’t even care. I was living in full-blown insanity believing I was perfectly normal.
Throughout my career of using I actually, at one point, worked and supported my habit. I ended up getting injured at work one day because I was so loaded.
I tried to hide the injury but I had severed a ligament in my finger doing a tire repair and I couldn’t stand the pain anymore. I had to report the injury, which led to a drug test and, unfortunately, my ultimately termination. I ended up living off of my workers compensation and unemployment with my girlfriend at her parent’s house for the next 2 years…this is where my addiction would blossom to a new level.
I had nothing to do but focus all my energy on getting load now. All the time, while at my girlfriends parents house, she would try to steer me in the right direction to help me. I would repay her by sneaking out the house when she went to sleep because she had to get up early for work. After sneaking out I would go to cop drugs with the money I stole from her or her parents, come back to the house and lock myself in the bathroom for hours getting high. It wasn’t a good look.
Another One: Downward Spiral To Incarceration
After putting up with me for 6 years, we ended up having a beautiful baby girl named “Isabella” in 2012. From the day we found out she was pregnant, I swore that I would use no more drugs and that I would quit. That lie came to surface when I left the hospital room after she gave birth to go pick up and come back and use in the hospital bathroom while she was recovering from the delivery of our baby girl.
Two and a half years later after my daughter was born, I had failed a UA test after applying for City of Los Angeles Sanitation Department and it was suggested I move out and get it together. That was the last time I would see my daughter or her mother for the next 7 months. The next time I would see them would be in court for a custody hearing.
From there I fell harder into my addiction, running around the streets trying to become something that I wasn’t. I was involving myself in crime and nefarious activities which ultimately led me to living in my car, motels and couches with my new girlfriend I met along the way.
We met one day and were inseparable until the house we were crashing at got raided and we got arrested for check fraud and identify theft. I ended up going to the county jail for a month, got released on probation and went right back to the streets, like a jackass, to the same environment with the same mindset, set on doing the same thing. Which I did! I did this for the next couple months or so until I got busted coming out of a Target for a petty shoplifting charge.
Needless to say I violated my probation. I went back to Los Angeles County Jail. With a new charge and a violation, I would do the next 12-months on a 2-year sentence. It was getting real now.
Every other time I was in jail I would swear this was the last time I would ever use alcohol or drugs again. But my insanity had grown and had a different appetite now. Not only did I not vow to quit using, but now I made a promise to myself that I was going all in and going to go “harder” than ever before. Looking back, I guess I had a death wish or something. And I did, because I went even harder even while incarcerated.
While I was locked up I was in the trustee dorm of Los Angeles County Jail. As a trustee, I was able to move around the jail somewhat freely. I was running around for inmates who were on lock down which would support my habit of “jailhouse brew” which was heroin and methamphetamine mixed.
This led me to compromising myself by sharing syringes in jail and carrying around dope to different units. I was risking more of my freedom for another high and didn’t give a f#@!
I eventually got released in 2017 and started right back where I left off with the same idea, same old season, same old me. There was a shift about to take place, a turning point, that I had no idea was coming. You see, I connected back with my girlfriend at the time we were busted in the raid. This girl was the one girl that when ever I would get high, I would just think to myself, “what is going on?” because this girl was off the hook.
The Promises of Addiction
It saddens me to think of her but she died from complications from using drugs. She previously had gone septic from long-term use and past away at 25 years old. She had 2 open-heart surgeries, a tricuspid heart valve replacement and a pacemaker at 25 years old.
I couldn’t get her death out of my mind. It wasn’t so much that she died but the impact of how young she was when she died.
She had never gone anywhere, never traveled afar, or ever experienced life outside of a box of a city that she spent all of her teenage and adult life in, chasing something that made her feel absolutely nothing.
In my grieving and dealing with her loss the only way I knew how was to use more, and more. I eventually had a moment of clarity sitting in a back room closet in the dark realizing how pathetic my life was. I had clarity to understand that this girlfriend who passed had not experienced any of what the world had to offer her. I didn’t know what that meant to me at the time but I did know that I didn’t want to go out like this. I had at some point vowed to never use again and tried to stop before but thinking about how sad it was to be alive just existing and never experience what it is to truly live, had a lasting effect on me.
I made a promise to myself that if I ever got clean that I would be a living testament for her and that I would live life as much as I could. Unfortunately, I would take this meritorious thought with me, only to take the next 3 years to contemplate about it.
Well, as it came to past, for the next 3 years I would be living out of my car, couch surfing and doing the mo-mo thing (motel) and what not. The house we were at previously got raided again and I went to jail for possession. By the grace of God, I only went to the local station this time.
While the jailer was taking my live scan prints she looked at me and looked at my past booking pictures. She then looked over to me and said “my God, what happened to you…look!” I was able to look at my past pictures she was showing me and my current state. It was hard to look at, even for me, to say the least. I know I felt tired, but I looked that and much worse. I was what you call “shot out!”
When she said that I took it in and thought to myself, “wow, this lady remembers me…and like why are you here this often to even be remembered?” I continued to ask myself. Another thing I thought was, “why does she care enough to say anything to me in the first place?”
A Moment of God Given Clarity
Whatever it was, I just want to say “thank you” to that jailer for her words that day. What she said resonated with me that day. Those last 2 situations were my moments of clarity. I hope as much today to continue to hold on to that clarity which now continues to push me forward.
I am reminded to always reach my hand out to help lift up and pick up another suffering addict who is lost as I was and that what I may have to say would leave an imprint to make a difference in someone’s life today
I am humbled today to be constantly aware and reminded of where I came from and, further more, where I do not want to end back up. The disease of addiction if powerful, baffling and cunning, and not always necessarily in that order.
At the end, or actually the start, of the day were only one bad decision away from being back in the shadows, the despair and the darkness of active addiction and I know that I know that I, for one, am not exempt to its power overcoming me
One thing that has changed in my life has actually turned one thing into everything…that is God and the relationship that I seek today with him. You see, I hung out with the devil for many years, and he was as real as real gets for me.
But the reality that belongs to me is that the devil didn’t deliver me from my bondage, he kept me in it…or should I say I allowed him to keep me company.
But the truth is (to keep it real) that I have learned in my heart of hearts that only God could have saved me from me. He alone guided me through the wilderness (or my Egypt) and planted my feet on solid ground…ground that I had never been able to stand on.
The Past Don’t Have Nothing New To Say
What it’s like now is different. I am a productive member of society, I am present in the lives of my friends and loved ones, I can be trusted and more importantly depended on to be there when I am needed. Today I have the privilege of showing up and keeping my word when I say I will. I have principles in my life I stick to and live by that hold weight in my life today. God has provided me a new way to live today. I just do the footwork and stay out of the results.
I can call my family without them expecting me to ask for something. My family doesn’t have to stay up late nights worrying if I am still alive or dead somewhere in the streets.
These are things that bring me peace today. All I ever cared about before was what you could do for me and how I could get more. I don’t know what the future has in store for me but that’s OK. I look forward to the future, because the past don’t have anything new to say to me. As long as I wake up everyday grateful I’m able to position myself in the light and not the darkness.
I started working as a SUD technician at the same treatment center that saved my life almost 4 years ago…Tarzana Treatment Center. I have since moved up to a Counselor on the East/West Detox Units. As a counselor, I am able to facilitate a message of hope daily, that was passed on to me.
I also work for the Homeless Outreach for Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles County.
I am currently enrolled and attending Pierce College of the Los Angeles Community College District. I am finishing up my certificate program this semester for Addiction Studies so I can take the state test and eventually get licensed as an Alcohol & Drug Counselor, as well as finishing up my Associates of Arts Degree.
I have worked the 12-Steps of Recovery with my sponsor and do my best to implement these steps in my daily life. What I hold myself accountable to are the rules of my higher power who I chose to call God, working daily to be a better son, a better brother and hopefully a better father as well (I recently filed paperwork through the court in the efforts to hopefully regain my visiting/custody rights of my daughter). All of these ingredients afford me to strive to be a better man today and to be the best man that I can be for tomorrow, if I am fortunate enough to see tomorrow.
When I am reading my bible, praying and consistent with my relationship with God is when I am most content with where I am at in my life.
Today I am able to look myself in the mirror and be proud of who’s looking back, I can honestly say that I am constantly working at being a better person and in doing so I fall short constantly.
But what’s different today is that, with the Grace of God, I am able to face the “todays” and the “tomorrows” with a sober mind and know that life can not get complicated enough for me to throw in the towel again.
Today I am able to look back on my setbacks and look at them as strengths today. I learned from my mistakes…isn’t that where wisdom comes from?
The trials I went through before I made that decision to turn my will and my life over made me who I am today. The seeds that were planted by the many men who reached their hands out to a lost broken boy have grown and blossomed into little bits of knowledge, all the cliches ring true and have become part of my testimony.
My name is Brandon…and I am a grateful, recovered addict…and I declare that in the name of Jesus!
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”~
2 Corinthians 5:17