I used to think I was so different. I used to believe no one understood me or could relate to me. I still feel different. I probably will always feel like an outsider, but I am not alone anymore.
My name is Tim. I was born in Philadelphia at Chestnut Hill Hospital. Every time I tell my story I always mention that I had very young parents. I think they were 18 when they had me. I realize now what a challenge that must have been. Sometimes I talk to my Dad about it, and I compare it to my own life. I am 27, and I still struggle sometimes to raise and care for my dog. I can’t imagine caring for a kid in my teens.
I have heard a lot of people claiming that they didn’t feel loved. I never felt that. I always knew my parents loved me. They did all they could for me. Again, looking back at it, I used to be so resentful towards my parents because I hardly saw them. My dad worked all the time, 80 hours a week sometimes, to keep us fed. We never went hungry, we always had clothes and sneakers. They always showed up to my soccer and lacrosse games. When you are young you think these things just magically appear, you expect food on the table and new clothes on the first day of school. I never realized the sacrifice my parents gave to raise me.
We moved to a tiny house in Oreland. We had a yard, and my mom had the most amazing vegetable garden. I had a kick ass setup in the basement where I would work out and play guitar. When it rained my room would flood a lot which kind of sucked, but the point is that my folks did everything they could to give me and my sister a happy home.
Regardless, somewhere I caught the bug. People always kind of freaked me out. My sister was and still is the only person who I feel completely comfortable around. I made some friends but was always uncomfortable around them. I got picked on a lot. I would get really nervous talking to girls. I just felt anxious… all the time. I spent most of my time alone. I would come home from school and jump right on my skateboard and spend hours skating around. I would run through Valley Green (a park in Philadelphia) or read comic books. Once I got to high school I still was awkward and insecure. My insecurities got me into a lot of fist fights, and violence and anger became sort of a coping mechanism for me. AA says that its the disease. I am not sure if I believe that or not, but I do know that I felt different. Who knows why.
First time I smoked pot I was 12. There was an old train track over a creek that we used to call “The Bridge.” I got my first taste there. The night was a bit of a blur, but I remember feeling like I found something that I could count on to make me feel better. It was all downhill from there.
My first arrest I was 15. I got busted for underage drinking by some undercover cops at a Weezer concert at the Spectrum. I never regretted it. Nights like that were worth the trouble I got into. I had to go to a drug counseling class called Aldersgate. I remember being so stoned the first class I almost had a panic attack. We went around the room and introduced ourselves and my heart was pounding. Luckily I was last to go. I look back now like… what the fuck was I thinking? I know now that I was so uncomfortable with myself that I felt like I needed to be high to talk to strangers. It’s hard to explain but it makes sense to me. Luckily I got away with it.
I continued with my drug use for years. It wasn’t until I found opiates that my life changed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll do any drug. I love to drink. I love cocaine and Adderall. But the first time I felt the euphoria of opiates, I knew I had found what I was looking for.
It didn’t take long. Opiates move fast. They consume you. I was living with a girlfriend in Northeast Philly. I was 22 or so. I loved her a lot, but I just kept letting her down. She knew what she was getting into when we started dating. She knew I was a little wild, and she knew that I had a knack for getting myself into trouble. I think that added to the excitement for her a little. She actually grounded me a bit. I would quit for a week or even a month. I even told her about my addiction, and she still loved me and tried to help me. I was hopeless at the time, because I had nothing to believe in.
Funny story. There was a church across the street from our apartment. It was a Christian Church for North Koreans. Think about that for a second. I would sit on my stoop on Sundays with my dog. I would watch these Koreans go into the church. I would think about how ridiculous that whole concept was. Korean immigrants coming from a communist country to come to America and praise Jesus. It all was such a crock of shit to me. But I could hear them singing. It was beautiful. I would sit there and smoke blunts and listen to them sing. They would come out and I would watch them hug each other and smile. I don’t speak Korean so I couldn’t understand them, but it wasn’t difficult to figure out what they were saying.
I should have gotten it then… but I didn’t.
Here’s where it ended for me. My heart was dying. I couldn’t sleep. I would spend my nights at the corner of my bed with my elbows on my knees and my face in my hands. I would try to be as still as possible to not wake my girlfriend. I would stay up all night and meet my dealer at 5 am before he left for work. It was awful.
Out of the blue, my mother got very sick. She developed a brain disorder. She was going to die. We all flew out to Stanford in California for an emergency surgery. It was one of the most difficult three days of my life. I was withdrawing so bad. I couldn’t get comfortable anywhere. If I stood, or sat down, or laid down or walked around. My body wanted to come out of my skin. Hours later my mother miraculously survived the surgery. That was my bottom, because I could not be there for my family. For my sister. My whole family kept asking me if I was ok. I couldn’t deal.
When we got back to Philly my Dad and my Uncle confronted me. I knew that they knew. By that point my parents had been split up for years but my family has always been pretty tight. There was no hiding it. I was off to treatment the next day.
After treatment I moved to Florida to go to a halfway house. I came home about 5 months sober, and I had a short relapse. It was good for me though. I realized there was nothing left for me in Philly. I finally got the courage to leave it behind. I finally had the courage to have faith in something bigger then myself. On the flight back to Florida, I knew I was in it for the long haul. I knew the gig was up. I knew that just one tiny bit of any substance set off some kind of reaction in me, and I couldn’t stop. My whole life, I could never stop. I have never looked back.
Since that day, life has been indescribably wonderful. It’s not to say it wasn’t hard. My first year was awful. I had no money. At one point I had to walk around with peanut butter and jelly and loafs of bread cause its all I had to eat. I had to take a bus every day to work in a call center where I would front phone calls trying to sell debt settlement. Pretty much I got told to go fuck myself over and over again by people right before they hung up on me. I made 8 bucks an hour, but I showed up every day. I just kept showing up. I’m not even sure if what I was doing was legal, but I knew I had to keep showing up. I was always worrying about my mom and my family and how she was doing. They even sent me some money a few times and I felt so guilty because I should have been there helping my mom who still had health problems. I felt so guilty taking money from them because I knew they didn’t have it. I was seriously broken. I don’t know how I got through it.
Here is what my life has become.
Fear no longer holds me back. If I want to do something, I just do it. Doesn’t mean I am not afraid, but I have learned that fear is really an illusion. It’s not real. Fear is a liar. Most of the time, after I get through something that I was afraid of, I realize it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
I wake up every morning, in my own bed. My own apartment. My dog. I have plenty of money. The air feels cleaner, the sun feels warmer. Since I have been sober I have learned to try and see the beauty in all things. The world really is a beautiful place. Sobriety has given me a life that I never thought I deserved. I am free to live and love and feel, in a way that I wasn’t able to before. I don’t need drugs to escape. I can handle life as it comes to me. I can handle loss and pain and joy. Those things used to scare the shit out of me. I used to live in a constant state of fear. Even if things were going well, I would convince myself that something would go wrong, at any second the rug would be pulled out from under me.
These days, if the rug gets pulled out from under me, I just get back up. No big deal. I have a conception of God. I believe in the Universe, and I feel comfort in the fact that we all our just small pieces of an enormous interconnected flow of energy. I allow the Universe guide me. When I don’t fight, and I let the Universe take me where it will, things work a lot better.
I am happy. Most days I am content. Above anything, I am free.