Monthly Archives: December 2015

Christmas In Recovery

By Aaron Emerson

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, ever since I was a little boy. The holiday spirit, the beautiful lights, the Christmas music, the time spent with family, the presents, and celebrating the birth of Jesus.

But there were several years where I wasn’t able to enjoy it. Living life addicted to heroin, there isn’t much enjoyment, to say the least. The only time an addict can enjoy life is when he or she is high, and even then there is a guilt factor attached to it. There were also a couple Christmas holidays that were spent in jail. Talk about misery.

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The times that I was home for Christmas, there was always a sense of sadness surrounding my family. Even though they appeared happy, it was obvious their most desired Christmas present – my recovery – wasn’t coming down the chimney. And so I would feel horrible and figure out a way to cover up that guilt and regret, of course with more drugs.

But tonight as I sit around helping my girlfriend wrap presents, drugs are the furthest thing from my mind. It truly is a Christmas miracle – a heroin addict like me that has ruined so many holidays is now sober, happy, and enjoying time spent with family.

You know, one of my saddest memories was when I got some nice presents from my parents one Christmas morning and the next day I took them to a pawn shop and got some drugs. It was such a degrading and miserable feeling.

But now I don’t only keep my Christmas presents, I have money to buy others’ gifts. I just really wanted to share this with everyone, to let you know that God is gracious and that God can perform miracles. There are so many addicts out there that think recovery is impossible. It’s foreign to them. Sort of like how humans view Mars. We know it exists, but we don’t have the means to get there.

That used to be me. I thought if recovery was possible, happiness without drugs would never come. But I was so wrong. Somehow God gave me the courage to give it a try. Once I did that, he gave me the strength to keep it going.

So remember this story this holiday season. Jesus Christ died on the cross so people like me, people like you, can be saved. I truly hope you have an amazing Christmas, an amazing new  year, and know that miracles can happen. God bless.

A Recovering Addict’s Apology Letter To His Parents

By Aaron Emerson

Dear Mom and Dad,

Two years into a long, steep hike of this mountain I call recovery, my now-clear mind often brings not-so-clear flashes of the past. Out of all the painful memories that still haunt me from my years of heroin addiction, the ones that remain the strongest are the ones that involve you.

The tears, heartbreak, sadness, anxiety, and fear you once lived with is mostly gone. However, I can’t help but think about it. After all, it did happen. The addict that inflicted so much hurt on his loved ones was not the boy you raised. But the memories did not get wiped away after the “old Aaron” returned.

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That is the reason I write this letter. It is truly the least I could ever do to apologize. I know you will say that continuing my life of recovery is all you want, but here I go anyway.

I’m sorry for the hurt. I’m sorry for the tears. I’m sorry for the embarrassment. I’m sorry for the shame. I’m sorry I stole from you. I’m sorry I lied to you. I’m sorry I broke your heart.

I apologize you had to make a weekly visit through glass for a year at a horrid residence, the dark place with an address 640 N. Cedar Street, also known as the Ingham County Jail. A place five miles from your home, but so, so far away. I regret that I didn’t give the first couple rehabs a chance. I still hate that you had to drop me off at a homeless shelter when most parents were leaving their teenager at a university.

I can’t even begin to put myself in your shoes, especially the night that you had to decide between an ambulance or driving me to the hospital. Overdosing, did you have time to wait for paramedics?

What did you think when I showed up one cold night at your warm home with a stranger that somehow found me? A guy that you quickly learned was a drug dealer, gun in his hand, asking you to pay my debts. It’s beyond my comprehension, how loving parents could think clearly in that moment, and for that I am so very sorry. I can’t begin to express the remorse I feel – deeply ingrained in my soul – for all that I have put you through.

I could go on further. I could say sorry until I’m blue, but I know you get the point. I just want you to know that all of those tragic and unimaginable situations were not for nothing. I made a vow three months into my recovery to turn the chaos and heartbreak into hope and change.

I have shared my story with many area high schools. I have made my addiction public in hopes of raising awareness. If even one teenager doesn’t make the same mistakes I did and not have to put his or her parents through the torture of addiction because of my story..then I will feel it wasn’t for nothing. But was it for something?

I don’t know. Only God knows the answer to that. What I do know, though, is that the unimaginable pain I put you through was real. The pain I feel today when I look back on the past is real. And for that I am sorry.

I know sorry won’t cut it, but I’m saying it anyway. Thanks for reading this letter, and may the joy we experience together in my recovery, OUR RECOVERY, make up for the pain I have caused.

With Much Love,

Aaron Emerson   

Another Celebrity Overdose Death

By Aaron Emerson

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Tommy Hanson was found unresponsive in his friend’s Georgia home November 8th. He died the next day in the hospital and toxology reports just confirmed what many thought: he died from a drug overdose.

Hanson, who passed away at age 29, died from intoxication of cocaine and alcohol, according to the autopsy. Hanson was once an up-and-coming star of baseball but faded due to injuries and “mental problems.” How sad.

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It seems like every couple of weeks we hear of some celebrity overdosing. So much potential, so much to offer the world, but drugs take their lives. People are dying everyday from this disease but we only hear about the ones society says matter. Other than family members and friends, the only time people really care is if it’s somebody “important.”

I often feel I am one of the lucky ones. Once in a while I think to myself how I could easily have been taken off this earth. I thank God for it, but seeing stories like this makes me feel horrible.

Hanson went from being the Rookie of the Year in the best baseball league in the world to dead from an overdose in less than 6 years. It just shows how powerful this stuff is. It’s happening so much, though, that I can’t help but wonder what famous celebrity or athlete will be next? Recovery is possible, people. Anyone can do it. Please pray for all of the families that have had to deal with the loss of a loved one.

The Grace Behind The Face

By Susan B. Lovell

Families of alcoholics don’t get it. “Just stop drinking!” they cry when they see alcoholism ruining their loved one’s life. How hard can that be? Ask fifty-eight-year-old aka Sam. Drunk, angry, and hopeless, at age 24 he pointed his 12gauge shot at himself and blew his face off on June 10, 1980.

Dr. David Moore, the plastic surgeon who did most of the 30-plus facial operations, became Sam’s friend over the ten years it took to give him a new face. Dr. Moore told Sam, “When I first saw you, your nose was on your forehead, your eye was gone, and you had half a jaw.” The EM techs didn’t think Sam would make it to the hospital, and the doctors didn’t think he’d survive the night.

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But over the decade of painful surgeries, with Dr. Moore and at Mayo’s, Sam found doctors were always eager to work on him. “They told me nobody survives such an injury so they wanted to learn how to rebuild a face from me,Sam says with his lopsided grin. Skin from both his legs now covers Sams face, his jaw was once his hip bone, prosthetic implants gave him some teeth, mucous membrane from his bowel lines his mouth, and a glass orb with a blue center is now his matching new eye.

Sam was a 16-year-old at Northview High when he started drinking. And, like most alcoholics, he quickly discovered a few beers weren’t enough: he needed a sixpack. Then he’d “shoot “ it by opening a hole in the side of the can guzzling it in three seconds. “I always drank to get drunk,” Sam says, “and had blackouts from the get-go.” After graduation Sam got a good job at Siegler, worked hard every day, and spent his evenings driving around as he downed Southern Comfort and Hawaiian Punch. Because he stuck to empty country roads, Sam never got a DUI.

When Sam was 22, he married his girlfriend Becky. And though they were happy for a while, the alcoholism finally got to Becky. In early June two years after their wedding, Becky left Sam. Angry and hurt and feeling sorry for himself, Sam stayed home from work that week and drank all day. By Friday night, he was so drunk and into his “poor me” that he pulled out his 12-gauge, lay back on the couch, and shot up their trailer. To this day Sam doesn’t know if he then turned the shotgun on himself to commit suicide or was just too drunk to know what he was doing.

Surely that trauma would be the end of the story? No question now that Sam would “just stop drinking,” right? But this is why non-alcoholics can’t get it. Sam’s loving parents took him in, his three sisters and brother all stepped up to help with the endless doctors’ appointments and surgeries. But that didn’t stop Sam from drinking, sneaking alcohol, hiding the bottles, and thinking his family didn’t know.

In 1982 a policeman showed up and gave Sam an ultimatum. Jail or treatment. For the next month at the rehab center in the old Sunshine Hospital, Sam at last had a reality check. “I wasn’t one of those guys who sleep under the bridge or beats my wife or doesn’t pay my bills so I didn’t think I could be an alcoholic.” But in treatment as he came to accept his alcoholism, Sam also understood how lucky he was. “I should have been dead. Amd I have a family who loves me.”

That was 33 years ago and he never drank again. But then, at age 25, Sam had to reenter life with a disfigured face. And his “attitude of gratitude,” as AA puts it, made him want to give back. Those two vectors crossed at Butterworth Hospital where Sam volunteered over 5,000 hours doing whatever was needed while he learned to stop walking with his head down, but instead to look people in the eye and speak a friendly greeting.

What Sam soon found out was that while people were at first taken back by his face, they quickly saw the sunny spirit behind the scars.

Like everyone who meets him, the staff at Butterworth saw a winner. A man of courage who refused to let his moment of insanity limit his life. He’s now a man in demand for his engineering knowledge, his skills as a machinist, all-around handyman, and an unbeatable work ethic.

His advice to people who wonder if they’re alcoholic? “If you think so, you are. Go to an AA meeting because no matter how hard you think you have it, others have it worse.” And with his firsthand knowledge of how bad it can get, Sam wants people to know, “Life can get better.”

A Recovering Addict’s Christmas List

By Aaron Emerson

-Elimination of the words “junkie,” “crackhead,” “loser”:

Have you ever seen a news article posted on Facebook about addiction or drugs and then made the decision to read the comment thread? My oh my, the ignorance.

I remember an article I was featured in for the Lansing State Journal a year or two ago. They wrote an article on the rising addiction and overdose statistics and then shared my story as a hope shot. Upon sharing it on their social media pages, many of their followers commented and shared their views on the story.

There were many people that shared level-headed responses and offered support and kind words. Sadly, though, many people let it be known how little they are educated on addiction. One guy commented and said, “Just let the junkies die. Let them use heroin so we can get all the scumbags out of society.” Another said, “Who cares about how junkies are doing?”

That is just a few examples. Our society uses so many nasty terms when referring to addicts. It’s sad.

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-More treatment over jail:

This is an issue that has gotten more and more attention over the last few years but one that has still not made a whole lot of progress. There have been some great programs like drug courts, but too many addicts who have diseases are being locked up before any type of help is presented.

I know some people are so bad in their addiction that they become a threat to others, but there are so many more that get simple drug charges and commit petty thefts trying to support an addiction that get thrown straight in jail. This is unacceptable in a day and age where so much more is known about the effects addiction has on the brain. It has been proven that addiction is a disease of the brain. It’s time to start treating it like one.

-No more cravings after recovery starts:

One thing I have generally noticed in my recovery is that the longer I stay sober, the less frequent cravings to use manifest. But no matter what, they happen eventually. Addiction is a lifelong disease, so even though the brain heals over time, it never truly goes away. It can be treated and managed, but never cured.

That is why there are many stories around 12-Step meetings and recovery circles of people who have stayed sober for 20 or 30 years relapsing. A recovering addict is never forced to use, but if we stop caring for our recovery, relapse is always a possibility.

Wouldn’t it be nice to live a life free of cravings? A life where we never have to think about using a deadly drug?

-Access to get rid of criminal records:

Every state has different laws when it comes to wiping felony records away, but in most cases (if it can even be done) it takes a lot of money. In Michigan, two felonies can be erased if an individual has stayed out of trouble for several years and pays thousands of dollars for each felony. That is ridiculous. As long as a charge isn’t a sex offense or violent crime, there should be simpler access to wiping out felonies.

So many addicts, including myself, committed small crimes when they were using that will stick with them the rest of their lives. I don’t think it is right for a person who has legitimately changed his or her life, stayed out of trouble for years, and hasn’t used drugs to have to live a life with a record because of something small done while on drugs. Many people with tons of potential to offer the world will never be able to be doctors, police officers, lawyers, work with kids, or fulfill their dreams because they got caught with drugs, stole something, or did something while in active addiction.

-No more dying or loss of friends:

The subject speaks for itself. People in all of our communities are dying every single day due to addiction. So many addicts are dying of overdoses, young and old. Sadly, this will never stop. Drugs will always be around and misuse will always happen. But we can still wish and pray, right?