Ryan and me, before Prom - May, 1996
This is the latest picture I could find before I got sober on October 5, 1996. I just wanted to write a little about what it was like for me then and some of the things that have happened since then.
The day that picture was taken: Despite being 16, going on 17, I couldn't drive myself to prom because of a little DWI trouble I had a few months earlier. In February of 1996, I got pulled over for going 70 in a 30. I couldn't exactly, you know, walk or talk straight, and I was busted for Driving While Intoxicated with a BAC of .157. Also, the cop wasn't too happy to find a bong in my pocket, so I caught a little possession charge as well. Anyway, I went to court and was put on probation - with random urine tests. Despite random drug tests, I didn't really feel the need to quit doing the drugs.
Prom passed without significant incident. By June of 1996, I had failed a couple of drug tests, and ended up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning (BAC .289 this time). I agreed to go to a rehab because I figured it would look good in court (to which I would have to go as a result of my recent violation of probation - you know, the whole hospital, alcohol poisoning thing...).
This thing is getting too long already. Long story short: I went to rehab for 18 days, started going to AA immediately, stayed sober for 12 days after that, relapsed for 3 months, then ...
On October 3, 1996, I snuck into my brother's room and stole enough pot to roll a joint. I ignited and subsequently inhaled the resulting nebula from said joint (smoked). I remember feeling very confused as to whether I was high, not enjoying the experience at all. The following morning, October 4, the first thing I did was roll over to my brother's room and roll up another joint. It was at that point I realized that I was indeed insane - doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That much had crystallized in front of me as reality. I saw that I was headed back to the same life, and that it would happen quickly. My probation officer had had enough of me and threatened to send me away to a juvenile detention center or a forestry camp for 6-9 months. At that point, I surrendered - standing on my back porch, stoned. I said to God something like, "If you want me to go away for 6-9 months, I understand that, and I deserve it. They told me what was going to happen if I did this, and I'm doing it. So, I accept it. But, I think I'm done now, and if You want to give me another chance, I'd take it."
So, October 5, 1996, was my first day sober. At that point, whatever obsession I had to drink or drug was lifted from me. I didn't know it was lifted. It is only in hindsight that I realized it. But, looking back, I can see that the thought of getting high or drunk had pretty much left, as I immersed myself more deeply into AA.
Ok...the rest of my life. Yeah, Prom... So, that was my junior prom. I was 16 years old - 17 by the time October 5 came around. I graduated high school the following year. Started the community college in 1997; worked numerous odd jobs; graduated with an associate's degree in 2000; finished my bachelor's degree in 2002; and went to law school the following fall. My brother, Ryan, pictured above, died by suicide in 2004; I got married 10 weeks later; my wife's mom died of cancer 6 months later. I graduated law school in May, 2005; was admitted to the Bar in December '05; and finally, am in business for myself as a lawyer in 2006.
Somewhere along the way I became a christian - I'd say in the 2000-2001-ish time period. I started going to church with my wife, and last year started attending a small-group bible study, which has truly been an amazing experience.
Anyway, I just wanted to look back a little. I figure, hey, 10 years is at least a round number, and as my wife pointed out, it's the only time I'll transition from single-digit to double-digit sobriety (God willing, that is!)
Most of all, I have to say that I am grateful. From a 16 year old criminal trying to stay out of trouble to a 27 year old sober, christian lawyer, trying to help everyone else stay out of trouble. It's been an interesting ride so far, with the downs being equally as surprising as the ups. I have to say, in the end, though, that, as my friend Danielle said to me today, "we're all a work in progress". I certainly haven't "arrived", and I surely have a lot of growing up to do, but I do recognize that I have been blessed, and that is something that is indeed amazing.