There are many stories of addiction that we hear every day, but few that have happy endings. This particular story is of a young man whose life of addiction began at the young age of 13-years-old, and one that spiraled out of control within a few short years. Today, this same young man from Cambridge (who prefers to remain anonymous), is living his dream. Clean and sober, he is living not a perfect life but he is happy doing what he loves most –art. To respect his wish for anonymity let’s refer to him as “Sam.”
It all began just at the same time he started high school, smoking pot and doing what he could to try and fit in, something that he always struggled with as he felt he was a bit of a misfit. Sam was abused emotionally and mentally at home, and he often felt lonely and displaced, he felt as if he belonged with those that he could get high with – they made him feel accepted, something he didn’t feel anywhere else.
Before long, at only 15-years-old, he was already a full blown alcoholic and often times even attended school drunk and high. Sam has always had difficulty with authority, even today at 34-years-old he struggles with that very issue. But as a young boy, lost, and under the influence of drugs and alcohol it was a problem. Sam spent some time institutionalized as a young offender but thankfully he did escape prison as an adult, something which he is grateful for today as he managed to avoid having to carry this with him now, and all of the negatives it could have potentially created that would hinder the life he has worked so hard to build for himself today.
By the time high school ended, he stumbled upon harder drugs –literally. This took his drug and alcohol addiction to another level. While living in a rooming house, he and a friend came across a pipe that belonged to another resident and Sam knew immediately that this was not just a pot pipe. After taking the first haul off of the pipe he was aware that he had stumbled upon something that was going to be nothing but trouble – crack cocaine.
Amidst all of the adversity in his life Sam has always had one passion, and that is his love of art and his gift as an artist, not just on paper and canvas, because in recent years he has graduated to skin and is one of the most sought after tattoo artists in the area. How Sam arrived where he is today is the true success story, and it is one that he wishes to share with as many people as he can. His hope is that it can help to those trying to help someone they care about living with an addiction, or assist those battling addiction who need to find the hope necessary to overcome their addictions.
By the time Sam was 22- years-old, and six-foot tall, he only weighed 100 pounds. Just a shadow of a young man, he was consumed by his addictions and living a life that was surrounded with danger. Knives at his throat and guns to his head, and nowhere else to turn, he started to feel helpless because most people by this point had given up on him. He says he’ll never forget the day he realized that it was time he had to change, it was a scary proposition he was making to himself but one that he knew he had to at least try if he was going to salvage anything in his life. Sam said, “I just wanted to die, and it was at that moment that I knew I had hit rock bottom.”
His first stop was Grand River Hospital’s withdrawal management program, and Sam claims it is one of the best options for those wanting to tackle their addictions. Unlike other programs, you are required to attend meetings every day, sometimes twice a day as part of the program and he attributes much of his success to this. It took several attempts at rehab and the majority of people attempting to rehabilitate themselves will undoubtedly relapse at least once before they are out of the woods. This is a known fact and he says, “It is dangerous to rationalize things that way as you end up giving yourself permission to do so.” He feels that its information that you just simply cannot settle for if you want to succeed. “The biggest obstacle for me was that I had to create an overall lifestyle change, making my world smaller by eliminating those people and places that would trigger my addictions.”
When asked what advice he has for those wanting to take the first steps to recovery, Sam says, “You have to want to quit for you, and everyone’s strength lies in different areas, for me I found my strength in God and my serenity in my art, but for someone else it may be something completely different. Either way, it all begins with the individual as you have to want it for yourself first.”
Proud of the fact that he returned to high school to get his diploma at twenty-four, and that he was the first person in his family to graduate high school, he is most thankful because this was the time that he became reacquainted with his love of art – something that had been lost through his many years of addiction. Today tattooing and painting are sources of comfort, and they give his life the purpose that so many people with addictions feel they lack. Every person’s life has purpose, and the first step is digging really deep and finding out what the purpose is.