A Slippery Slope

“I wish I had been more scared.” As a young man, Mike experimented with anything and everything. If someone offered him drugs, he had no fear of how he might react. This risky behavior was a slippery slope, which led to years of drinking, drugs, crime, jail, poor health, damaged relationships, and dangerous situations.

He was a shy, nervous child but quickly broke out of his shell in junior high when he started hanging around with the wrong crowd. From that group, he learned about acid, mushrooms, speed, and alcohol. He said it made him feel good and boosted his confidence when he tried all the new substances that they offered him. Unfortunately, his partying got out of control, and Mike didn’t graduate from high school.  In his twenties, he steered away from drugs but started drinking more and more. This resulted in two DUIs and a severe case of pancreatitis, which led to his hospitalization. The doctor there prescribed an opioid for his pain.

“That didn’t scare me enough for me to get it through my skull,” Mike said, “Something really bad had to happen.” Once he left the hospital, Mike stayed sober for a couple of weeks but knew he wanted more of the feeling he had with his pain medication. A friend suggested combining it with alcohol, which Mike predictably wanted to try. Mike said, “I just couldn’t get enough of it. Popping one or two turned into ten or fifteen at a time.”

“Once I started taking oxy, everything went downhill. I was constantly chasing the high,” Mike said, and then shared that his desperation led him to steal from his family, random cars and several different stores. As a result, he was in and out of jail all the time. He continued drinking, using meth, and shooting up heroin. He said, “Anything you put in front of me, I’d do it. I couldn’t handle being sober.”

At night, Mike would walk the streets trying to get high. He said “I was looking for anything I could get my hands on. It was a 24-hour thing.” Someone on the street gave him a bunch of meth one night, and Mike went back to his hotel to use. He shot up much more than he could handle and had to rush to his dealer desperate for something to help him come down. Once he did, he passed out until 2 p.m. and woke up already withdrawing from the experience. He walked to Target, got caught stealing, and ended up in jail again. After his 40-day stay in jail, Mike was released from custody into drug court. Two days after his release, Mike relapsed and knew he needed help. He said, “I didn’t know how to stay sober.”

A woman named Karen from Victorville Drug Court met with Mike and suggested he try rehab at Cedar House for 90 days. He said, “I didn’t know what to expect, but I had run out of options.”

“It was amazing! I learned so much,” Mike remembered his Cedar House experience fondly. During his time in residential treatment, he volunteered in the kitchen and met several other men that he became friends with. He learned about relapse prevention and how to stop a thought before it turns into action.

He said that one of the methods that really helped him was having people in recovery come in to share their stories. He wanted to know, “How do they do it? I wanted to feel the way they did. They always seemed so happy. I wanted to be happy without drugs and alcohol.”

That’s exactly what he managed to do. On February 22, Mike will have ten years clean and sober. It is truly remarkable how far he has come. He is married with three children – a five-year-old daughter and three-year-old twin boys – and is a licensed flooring contractor. He said, “Everything is a lot better than it was, but I wouldn’t change anything. That whole experience made me who I am.”