My Recovery Story: Tony S

I’m in a house with no plumbing, no electricity, and sitting around a table with 4 or 5 people that I’ve never met before and fleas are biting me around my ankles. The only light coming from the room is from lighters flickering as they light the crack in the pipes of each person. I get up to leave but I forgot I have rented my car out to the drug dealer so I can stay longer. I sit back down and continue. The voice in my head is telling me “Tony get up and leave, go home to your beautiful home and beautiful family. They are waiting for you. Just stand up and go home.” I stand up, this time my car is outside, but I sit back down and continue. I cannot stop. I will not stop. My desire to use has completely taken over my life. How did I get here?

Like most kids I began experimenting with drinking and drugs in high school. My desire to be liked and to fit in would lead me to try anything and say anything so you would like me and include me in what you were doing. The lack of serious consequences when using through high school and college only fueled my progression from alcohol to marijuana and eventually cocaine. I would do just enough to get through school and still use.

photo of TonyWanting to escape my small hometown in Ohio and escape my reputation I moved to Florida. I packed my footlocker full of pot and drove my way through Florida staying with relatives till they got tired of me and eventually settled in Orlando. The party was non-stop, a different bar every night. We called it the “circuit” and it seemed never-ending. I met my wife to be Tracey while working at Disneyworld and that didn’t slow me down. Right about that time my brother Tom past away from AIDS and I didn’t want to feel the pain of his death, so my use accelerated. My cocaine use was out of control so much so I got arrested for possession and went off to rehab to get the charges dismissed. When I got out of Rehab I thought I was changed man. I would remain abstinent from drugs and alcohol for ten years. I realized those drugs would kill me, but my addiction was only hiding itself in other things like sex, gambling, work and diet pills. Also, I always thought someday I could at least return to smoking pot once I was successful and the kids were gone and I was retired on a beach someday.

That day came on my tenth anniversary while celebrating in St. Martin in the Caribbean. I was a successful realtor and sitting on the beach when I was approached by a trinket salesman who also was selling marijuana. I smoked some and I thought, I’m ok I can finally smoke again. I returned to Orlando and my use progressed back to smoking pot every day. One day I could not find any marijuana and I was introduced to “crack”.

This was the beginning of a ten year nightmare.  In the next ten years I had lost my wife, my family, my home, many jobs, tens of thousands of dollars and what was left of who I was. I was Baker Acted, arrested twice, and had a restraining order put on me, two failed rehab attempts, hospitalized twice.  During this dark period of my life I lost my other brother Jay to a heart attack. This plummeted me even farther into my addiction. My health was deteriorating and I could not see the problem.

My life was in a complete freefall. Every time I would try to get it together my addiction would come up and bite me. December 2015 I was on my way to the mall to buy Christmas presents when the voice in my head told me one hit won’t matter. Well, 8 hours later and all the Christmas money spent I went home feeling totally disgusted with myself. I said to myself “I will never do this again. I quit”.  January 2016, my parents were visiting and I dropped my daughter off at school and minutes later found myself in  a house with no plumbing, no electricity, sitting around a table with 4 or 5 people that I’ve never met before and fleas are biting me around my ankles. The only light coming from the room is from lighters flickering as they light the crack in the pipes of each person and I didn’t return home till the next day.

I was awoken hearing an argument between my wife and Dad on where I was to be buried. “He is going to be buried in Ohio with his two brothers” my dad yelled. Crying my wife yells “he is going to be buried here so his children can visit his grave.” I started to cry and said. “God help me” I picked up my phone and called my insurance company and was told I could go to Stepping Stones in Jacksonville. I left two days later. I felt a calmness come over me and I just let go of any reservations.

I completely surrendered when I was in Stepping Stones and was willing to do anything to become sober and keep my sobriety. My counselor Juan helped me understand that I had a disease and my childhood experiences were very important to who I am today. One of the most influential moments was the family session I had with Dr. Jerry, I have difficultly expressing in words the impact that had on me.  Everything I learned about myself and my introduction to alcoholic anonymous prepared me to face the world.  They told me to have a plan when I leave and I will be forever grateful for my 35 days spent in Stepping Stones.

I attended an aftercare program for two weeks and attended 90 meeting in my first 90 days. I’ve only missed 3 meetings in 10 months. I have a sponsor and started working the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (I’m on step 9). Once a month I speak at Orlando Behavioral Center and Detox and tell my story and bring them the message of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I have returned to Stepping Stones for alumni groups and will continue to do so. And, I have enrolled in the University of Florida’s School of Medicine and working to become a certified addiction counselor and eventually a master’s degree in addiction counseling and recovery. I have an overwhelming feeling to reach out and help others and give away what was so freely given to me.

Though, I have returned to work as PGA Class A teaching professional teaching golf lessons, I have surrounded my life around recovery and my sobriety has become the most important part of my life. My wife is back in my life and my children are very proud of their dad. They are the most important people in my life.  Not a day goes by that I do not thank my higher power for giving me such a gift. The journey I am on has been greater than I ever could have imagined. Without this gift of sobriety I truly believe I would not be alive today.