The Journey of an Addict
I’m Mike J., I have been clean 6 years plus, my clean date is 12/4/2006. I’m 53 years old and I’m enjoying life as a recovering addict and a productive member of society. I used any kind of mind or mood altering substances for 35 years. I’m going to say the Lake House, a treatment center and a part of the Lake-Geauga Recovery Centers had a major part in changing my life.
I was born the first child of 3, the only male. My parents were middle class, my father worked hard day and night, and my mother was a stay at home mom in the early years. My parents were very loving and caring, which turned into a bad thing. They enabled me for 35 years, and when my sisters were old enough, they enabled me too. My life was pretty eventful in the early years. I had to be different and crave attention. I was obsessive compulsive from the early years. At the age of 5, I vandalized the neighbors’ yard and pool. The police were called and Mike didn’t have any consequences, mom and dad just paid the damages. So from that point on, I learned how to be irresponsible and manipulative.
The early school years were the same; I would coast through grades 1-6, not really knowing or learning anything, just being a clown. I had to be different. I got a lot of attention because my mother would do most of my projects and homework, it was always the best. I had everyone faked out, even my parents. I even believed that I could do no wrong. Being put in the corner, the paddling’s made me stand out. I knew how to change the way I felt even before I picked up any substances and put them in my body.
The neighborhood I grew up in had 4-5 guys the same age, all parents were middle class. So whatever my family did, the rest followed suit. We all had restored basements and every house had a bar built in, good idea. At the age of 11, the using started with alcohol. We started in my parents bar, drinking then watering the bottles down. As I do recall, I got really drunk, had my first blackout, a one of a lifetime blackout and was told I did some pretty silly and stupid things. My parents found out and I got a little slap on the wrist. No consequences. So at school I was one of the cool kids who could do what he wanted and get away with it.
I grew up in the 70’s, so from alcohol it went to anything that would change the way I felt about myself. From pot to hallucinogens, to cocaine, to pills, to huffing gas and opiates, it didn’t matter. I thought people liked and cared about me as long as I was not myself.
I wrecked the family car at age 16 while using drugs and alcohol. I got another slap on the wrist. My whole life became a revolving door of jails and institutions. To me, these were vacations. I knew when I got out; my family would help me start over. I had never grown up. The 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s were all the same, Mike got in trouble and was bailed out every time. The institutions I was in were crowded, didn’t have enough counselors, and 90% of the patients did not care about staying clean, including myself. Being court ordered to AA was a joke, back then you could write down the meetings and get away with it. The meetings I did attend, I met other addicts and usually went out and used afterward.
The year 2006 was my last year of being an addict. I was on the streets, using in crack houses and doing whatever it took to stay out of my own skin. Finally my usefulness as a peon dope runner had run out. I had enough, it was time to go back to my family and start the cycle over again. So I went calling on my family, asking them to help me or I was going to die out there. Well, the enabling stopped, it was tough love time. I didn’t understand how they could do this to me and major resentments were built. I didn’t know how to do anything but be a using addict. My family told me they’d had enough, the buck stopped there. The only thing I had left to do is go the V.A. treatment center in Brecksville, Ohio or stay on the streets and forget they even existed. I balked at first, then my addict mind told me it’s only for a few months, then things will go back to normal, or so I thought. The joke was on me.
I was in the V.A. for over 1 year – treatment and 3/4 house. I hadn’t used, but I hadn’t lost the idea that I was going back to my own way of life. I was a miserable, non-using addict who hadn’t gotten it yet, and my family was not giving in. My life was miserable; I had spent over a year in the V.A. in Cleveland, couldn’t find a job and really didn’t want one. I wanted to go home. I had nowhere to go. I was about to be released, jobless and penniless, in downtown Cleveland. I was going to 12-step meetings, still hadn’t gotten it yet, and still wanted to go home. I hadn’t used any mind altering substances in over a year.
The director of the V.A. program grew up in Painesville and was familiar with the Lake-Geauga Recovery Centers and Lake House. He suggested I try another treatment facility instead of being homeless. I really didn’t have a choice, but I was still thinking my family might take me back, after all I still hadn’t used.
That brings us to the Lake-Geauga Recovery Centers, Lake House a residential treatment center for men. The house actually is a house that holds approximately 15 residents and is located close to downtown Painesville. My first impression was “What kind of facility is this?” none that I had ever encountered. I would soon realize this was where I was going to change my life. From the outside it looks like a normal house in a residential area, step through the front doors and miracles are taking place at any given time. My stay there was about 4 months, amazing because I had spent over 1 year at the V.A Center going to 12-step meetings, but by the end of my 4 months at Lake House I was well on my way to a better life. I had to learn it’s not all about me, to let go and let God.
The Lake House was a lot about structure, learning to take responsibilities and follow through with them. There was a list of household chores that rotated by the week. Cooking and cleaning were a major part of these. To cook for 12-15 guys wasn’t easy, but it instilled learning and getting to know the guys. Going shopping, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming – it all had to be done every day. There were groups every day, and a lot of one on one meetings with a counselor. This was a major help for me, individual sessions. During one particular session, my counselor asked me if I wanted to die in a homeless shelter smoking crack. DING! DING! DING! This was a major turning point for me. I wasn’t ready to die, and I needed to change my life. So, I finally started listening and it all started to make sense to me. There WAS a higher power in my life. How else did I wind up in a town and treatment center I was completely unaware of?
One of the other significant factors in the Lake House was going to 12-step meetings every day. You were responsible for getting to these meetings, which meant you had to get phone numbers of responsible addicts and call them to get rides to the meetings. This taught me responsibility and reaching out, which wasn’t in my agenda. We also had to find a sponsor, if it weren’t for this, I would have never found Narcotics Anonymous. There weren’t that many clients going to these meetings, so it made me come out of my shyness and talk to more addicts at the meetings. This was how my recovery process started. I was able to relate with these addicts and was able to find a sponsor who incredibly was a Lake House alumni who had gone through the same process. We were also able to job search at the house after having been there for a while. I was able to secure a job at a place where another Lake House alumni was working but moving on. I now had a job, a 12-step program and friends. This was a miracle, as well as finding a place to live close to work. I would say I was on the way to being a responsible member of society. I was no longer homeless, jobless and I had grown up. I owe my life as it is to a higher poser who had put me in the right place. The Lake House was a major life changer for me and I owe them dearly.
Today, 5 years later, I still have the same job, same residence, and have been clean for 6 years. I have the same sponsor and dedicate my life to giving back all the love and service I received. I still go the Lake House and give rides to meetings and have sponsored more than one client. I am also involved heavily in the 12-step program as well. My family is no longer keeping me away. I love them dearly and have also started getting to know my 21 year old daughter.
Without the caring staff at Lake House, none of this would have been possible.