By Aaron Emerson
I have often said that if a person can overcome drug addiction or alcoholism, they can do almost anything in life, as finding recovery from the disease of addiction is one of the hardest endeavors one can embark on. Over the three years from when my up-and-down journey of recovery started, I still believe that statement today.
When I look back on how I was able to finally overcome my heroin addiction, I still tend to think it was a miracle. There was a time when I was so deep in my addiction, a time that’s now sometimes hard to look back on, that I was so hopeless and stuck that I thought my life purpose was to show other people what NOT to do. I thought I was a walking example, a person who could not stop using heroin even when faced with the darkest, most extreme consequences.
See, I never thought I could stay sober for more than half a day. And if I was ever to somehow get sober, I was convinced life would be so depressing and miserable without drugs that it wouldn’t be worth living. But somehow, I am sober today. I am loving life and am almost halfway to a college degree in social work. I am going to be the Editor-In-Chief of Lansing Community College’s student newspaper this fall. It’s still shocking to me.
I feel called by God to share my story with others, to let them know how God pulled me out of a seemingly hopeless situation. My story of drugs and alcohol started with trying marijuana around age 14, right after my Dad got fired from his position as Senior Pastor at a growing church in Mason. Weed helped me ease the pain, but after a while it stopped doing the trick.
That’s when I started experimenting with pills. At the time, it was simple to get Vicodin or Oxycontin at my school and I quickly got heavily hooked on the Oxys. After getting locked up for a while, I got out and couldn’t even go a day without searching for pills. But everyone I had been using with had started doing a cheaper, more potent drug than Oxycontin: heroin.
I always told myself that I would NEVER touch a needle. But when I was about to snort dope for the first time, everyone looked at me like I was crazy. “Why the hell would you snort heroin? The high doesn’t even come close to the needle high and if you let me shoot you up you won’t even feel the needle prick your skin.”
That day I was immediately addicted to heroin. Yes, I truly believe I got hooked the first time I ever tried it. The euphoria, warmth, and orgasmic feeling heroin gave me that day was something no drug had ever come close to giving me. And the next day, the first thought I had when I woke up was centered around finding more and getting a connection to supply me heroin everyday. I knew I was screwed, but I couldn’t stop it.
Heroin took me down a road that turned me into a thief – someone that even stole from his own family – and a jailbird. It also came close to taking my life on numerous occasions. I served a year in jail for a crime I committed trying to feed my habit, I overdosed three times, and my parents had to kick me out of the family home because I kept taking their belongings.
I hated myself, I was an embarrassment to my family, and I felt like a stranger in my own skin. I was not even a shell of the old Aaron. But after five or six years of non-stop heroin use, I decided to check myself into rehab after my Dad dropped me off at a grimy homeless shelter in Lansing.
At the rehab, I quickly grew desperate to give sobriety a try. Going back to the streets was not an option, and one more criminal charge would’ve surely resulted in prison, as my judge was sick of seeing me. Somehow, someway, after a few days of staying sober in that rehab, I felt something different. My parents answered the phone and were proud of me for the first time in years after hearing me say I was giving recovery a try.
In rehab, I got hooked up with a case manager, who then introduced me to a recovery coach who would change my life. He helped me establish goals and put together a daily plan to stay sober. I was desperate to get out of the hell I was living in so I followed some direction for the first time in my life. I also started going to 12-Step meetings and found a sponsor.
A true miracle was taking place in my life. I was staying sober for days, weeks, and months at a time! And after a couple months, I was finally able to look myself in the mirror and like what I saw. I know God helped me through all of that. The way everything fell into place once I decided to check into rehab was nothing short of God’s plan. Everyday I wake up now, I ask God to help me stay sober, and every night I go to bed I thank him for recovery.
I’m not going to lie and act like everything has been perfect. There have been a couple relapses and I have battled quite a bit of depression. But I proved myself wrong. I am a new person today and sometimes I look back and wonder how the heck God did what he did. But I do know one thing: I am going to give away the recovery that was given to me. I have devoted my life to spreading hope to others who are in the same shoes I once was. I wouldn’t want it any other way. God is good.