Before my life became about advocating for substance abuse, and inspiring people to reach their full potential, I was a young man who was very much spoiled. I come from an upper middle class family, who for the most part, have worked day and night to get where they are today. I have heard my parents talk about the sacrifices they made in their early years of marriage and according to them, they struggled. Life for them started in a trailer as they began their days working in the trucking industry. Their goal of one day living a comfortable life and reaching the status they had dreamed about, was in their future. They worked very hard, and eventually, my parents reached their dreams. Could their early years of struggle have played into my substance abuse issues later on in my life? I think so, but it was not just family that assisted me with my addiction along the way. Listen…
I think it’s natural for humans to work through having very little, while on the road to obtaining wealth and beginning a family - with the idea that your kids won’t have to struggle as you did. I also think that while the intention behind this thinking is great, who said the struggle is bad? I mean, if the struggle creates greatness and allows you to reach your goals, why wouldn’t you want a loved one to experience the same? How much do we as people learn through adversity, while having to sacrifice in order to reach your goals, and be completely dedicated to that mindset? Those are the centerpieces to life's biggest moments of growth. We go through this process and become affluent beings with a spirit of resilience rooted deep into the ground like the Redwoods of Yosemite. But once we obtain it, we wish that our loved ones would never have to experience it. It's insanity!
I recall being a young man who was very much into sports. I talk about it all the time when I’m traveling and sharing my story. Sports. Sports. Sports. It was my life! And playing sports isn’t cheap if you want to get into it completely. Every single year basketball season came around I had a brand new pair of Nike “Air Jordans” on my feet. Every new baseball season I had a brand new glove and awesome cleats. It was the same for soccer, skateboarding, BMX, etc. You get the point - I was spoiled. I struggled to find value in these material items my dad placed in front of me. I never understood what those 12-16hr days were like for my mother and father, who both only share a high school diploma. I saw checks get written, and products get put into my hand. It was double trouble for me because I was naturally gifted at sports, and I didn’t need to put in much effort to become great. This in return created a lack of value for the very talents I was blessed with. Unfortunately, I was apathetic. I had a bad attitude, and I despised working hard to exercise my talents.
As years would go on, my life became more careless by the minute. It was then I found myself experimenting with drugs. By the time I realized I was hooked and couldn’t stop, it was far too late. Through my years of using drugs, there was a common theme that kept my substance abuse alive; people kept trying to help me by giving me money or a place to stay. I appreciated all that was done for me during that time, and now that I look back on it, I realize that the level of comfort I was receiving, was also the very thing that allowed me to continue down a dark road.
My best friend Nathan, who has passed on from a drug overdose, was my last straw to the foundations of enabling before everything fell down. He use to let me stay at his house every night I didn’t have a place to stay, and gave me a meal to eat and something to drink. I loved him and his father for that more than words can describe. At this time I had not seen my parents in years. My parents kicked me out of their home because I was unwilling to live by their rules. One evening I came over to Nate’s house because I needed a place to stay. I had been up for nearly a week, high on meth. I was also doing a large share of cocaine and heroin (speedball), which were my two drugs of choice. When I was met by Nate’s dad Alex, he said to me, “Mijo, you can’t stay here anymore.” That night was my first night on the street. It was that night that I had run out of life lines. There was no one left in my immediate circle who would give me 10 dollars or buy me a hotel. No one would let me sleep on their couch or offer me any kind of item that would keep my addiction alive for just one more day… I slept on the street that night, and to this day it was the most emotionally scarring, challenging, and in hindsight therapeutic days of my life.
You see, it was that day that the process of life began to take place. There was no more interference from people who were backed by good intentions. It was me and this process, which life had desired to put me through. There was no more material wealth to cloud the fundamentals of life that existed beneath everything man has created to fog a spiritual vision. Life didn’t get better for me after that night on the street, though. In fact, it got a lot worse before I ended up getting arrested and going to prison. However, all of my trials were alone and I didn’t have an enabler or safety net at my side when I got to prison and began to get days of sobriety. I was beginning to finally see the opportunities I was surrounded with through my family, including my God given gifts that I had tossed away.
My parents were extremely reluctant to come back to my side while I was in prison. They wouldn’t give me money or even come see me at first. I was determined to show them that I was a changed man, and that I wanted to make the most out of my life. I thank God they let me back in because today I have a bond like I’ve never had with my entire family, and thank God they had the courage to say that they would not support me at all if I continued to use drugs. Without my family and their unwillingness to enable my bad behaviors, I would probably be dead, or still getting high, or even worse – in prison.
We need to ask ourselves, “What are we doing for our loved ones that’s contributing to the behavior of others?” For those who have loved ones that are victims of addiction, ask yourself, “Am I helping this person get sober, or am I allowing them to continue getting high for just a little bit longer?”