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My Journey From a Life of Alcohol and Drugs to Sobriety and Helping Others

“I was ready to do anything and everything to get sober. For the first time in a long time, I was honest. I got honest with myself and everyone close to me. I was going to do whatever it took to successfully detox from the drugs and live a sober life. I dropped my ego and asked for help.”

Hello! Who are you?

Hi! My name is Brandon and I’m a consultant. I grew up outside Philadelphia, PA in a great household. I have an incredible family and I am the oldest of four boys. I grew up playing sports, traveling, and always had a video camera in my hand! Life is pretty good these days, but it wasn’t always this way… 

What is your struggle and when did it start?

My battle with alcoholism and addiction started off as a lot of fun. I started drinking at about 15 years old. The feeling of alcohol relieved a lot of internal issues of depression, anxiety, and any worries I had in my life at the time. It allowed me to let loose and enjoy myself in a way I hadn’t experienced until that first drink. 

After several years of drinking and smoking weed, my illness progressed into more of an issue. It started with reckless behavior that led to multiple arrests under the influence of a substance. It wasn’t a rare occurrence to end up in handcuffs with criminal charges after a night of binge drinking. 

I forgot to mention, but growing up I always loved movies. Two of my favorites were Scarface and Blow. This leads me into the addition of cocaine and other substances, including MDMA, ketamine, and meth into my drinking benders. This definitely made my nights out a bit more aggressive.

I quickly figured out that using cocaine would allow me to consume a lot more liquor and give me an additional buzz. This became a daily habit pretty quickly and didn’t seem too out of the ordinary because of the people I was surrounding myself with.

I continued this habit for several more years, naive that my addiction was progressing rapidly. It’s easy to see looking back retrospectively at this point. 

Alcohol and cocaine were the perfect combination for a while, I was able to stay out all night socializing and partying. After some time, I realized that cocaine was causing massive anxiety attacks and terrible depression.

As a great addict would do, I discovered Xanax and Percocet. I would use Xanax to help come down from alcohol and cocaine, then use Percocet and oxycodone to start the next day. Drinking and drugging are no longer serving me, it is destroying my life. Benzos and opiates were the start of a terrible new addiction that would control my life for the next 12 years. 

At this point in my addiction, I am a slave. I needed opiates from the moment my eyes opened in the morning until the moment I passed out at night. If I was awake, I needed to use it. I was no longer in control.   

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

All the passion I had for living was stripped away. My willpower was non-existent. I lied to myself day in and day out. I promised myself I would detox from opiates every single day for over a decade.

I truly believed that I would stop and against my will, I would be spending between $200-$300 a day on drugs. Opiates controlled who I saw, where I went, what I did, and every single aspect of my life was controlled by this terrible addiction. 

I tried my best to make it seem like I was fine, but I was a full-blown drug addict. My self-esteem and self-worth were gone. My self-talk was extremely negative, hoping that the person I saw in the mirror would die every single day. I would pray for God to fix me, I learned later that prayer without work is dead.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

After years of suffering from addiction, someone introduced me to Alcoholics Anonymous. I was desperate for something to fix me, so I attended a meeting. When you’re on the verge of suicide, you start taking suggestions. I was unable to successfully detox myself at this point, so I attended the meeting high on opiates. But hey, at least I showed up.

I heard someone mention that this disease ends in three ways… “Jails, Institutions, and Death”. I guess I was too stubborn and didn’t take enough of a beating at this point, because I left the meeting that night saying “That will never be a part of my life”. Little did I know that Jails, Institutions, and Death would slowly start to consume everything around me. 

Over the next several years, four of my friends ended up serving 5-15 years in prison each for the distribution of narcotics and burglary. Five of my good friends overdosed and died on fentanyl. My amazing friend Alyssa hung herself in a prison cell from heroin withdrawal. My old roommate received a life sentence for a homicide related to drugs.

Thankfully, several of my buddies ended up in Mental Institutions and Treatment Facilities to receive proper help. I knew I needed to change, but I was still stuck in this delusional state of addiction where I thought I could get out of this on my own. My life was about to change in a big way over the next two years. 

I ended up in a traumatic motorcycle accident, fracturing my tibial plateau in several areas. I was in terrible pain, but my first thought was “How am I going to get enough pain medication to stop me from withdrawing and help the pain in any way?”. 

I was rushed to the hospital and went into emergency surgery. I woke up from surgery with an external fixation device from my ankle to thigh with 2 rods drilled into my femur and two rods drilled into my shin. My leg was drilled straight with rods for three weeks while the swelling went down enough to plan my second surgery.

I was at a local hospital and not too far from my dealer at this point. As soon as I could function, I texted him to visit me in the hospital to deliver $10,000 worth of opiates.

At this point, there was no hope of sobriety for me in the near future. They transferred me to an orthopedic specialty trauma center in the city for my next surgery. I went into surgery the day I arrived and woke up to excruciating pain.

I had 7 screws and a plate implanted into my tibial plateau and down my shin. They started me on a morphine IV, it did NOTHING for the pain. They tried Dilaudid, but I felt no relief whatsoever. Next, they hit me with a fentanyl IV, that’s exactly what I needed.

I experienced pain relief for about 45 minutes. I was cleared from the recovery room and sent to my inpatient room where I would click the dilaudid drip to maximum dispense limits every hour and sniff my stash every time the nurse left me alone for the next week. I was an immobile drug addict who had a long journey to recovery. I thought to myself, “If I’m going to overdose, at least I’m already in a hospital”. 

I was in a pretty bad mental, emotional, and physical place at this point. Maybe God is challenging me through this adversity to change my life forever?

My family was worried sick about me knowing how much I was suffering. After discharge, I had a home health physical therapist work with me three times a week to help me break through the scar tissue over 125 days to get a proper range of motion back in my knee joint. They also helped me learn to move from a wheelchair to a walker, to two crutches, to one crutch, to a cane, and finally walk on my own in an ankle-to-thigh brace.

Simultaneously, I was trying to figure out how to treat my addiction to opiates. I was already out on disability, so it would be the perfect time to go to an inpatient treatment center and clean my life up. Unfortunately, no rehabs could accommodate my physical therapy needs and this had to come first if I ever wanted to walk on my own again. 

My only option was to start an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program). I humbly crutched myself into an IOP asking for help. I continued physical therapy and was attending IOP three times a week working with addiction therapists. I was learning a lot about sobriety and how people stay sober. The only problem was I couldn’t get sober.

As hard as I tried, the physical, mental, and emotional obsession would not let loose of its grip on me. I spent 7 months in IOP with no sober time. The therapists continued to tell me that I needed to get myself into an inpatient program and get separated from the drugs. I was ready to die before my ego would allow me to step foot into an inpatient rehab. 

I stopped going to IOP and continued feeding my addiction. My life started spiraling downward over the next few months. At this time I would go to AA meetings and watch YouTube videos trying to figure out how to sober up.

I realized that I needed serious help and medical attention if I ever wanted to end this suffering. I was finally given the gift of desperation. 

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

I was ready to do anything and everything to get sober. For the first time in a long time, I was honest. I got honest with myself and everyone close to me. I was going to do whatever it took to successfully detox from the drugs and live a sober life.

I dropped my ego and asked for help. I committed myself to an inpatient treatment center for detox and addiction therapy. After my detox period, I attended every meeting, every small group, every 1:1 therapy session, and all the guest speaker meetings. It’s kind of funny, but I won three awards in treatment. I didn’t go in for an oil change, I was there to change my life forever.

They say “Your new life will cost you your old one”. I was ready to let go of everything in my past to become the man I admire in all ways. I clearly did not know how to get sober or stay sober so I was open to all suggestions from anyone that had overcome addiction. 

The most successful people in addiction recovery follow some sort of program. I began reading the big book of alcoholics anonymous to see what it was all about. I learned that drugs and alcohol were being used as the solution to all my deeper internal problems.

I had trauma to uncover and face. I began to understand my character defects, my shortcomings, my fears, my resentments from the past, all things that could lead me back to using. I used to be scared of change because I was so comfortable in my addiction.

In order to recover from my addiction, I had to face all these things and truly change who I am as a person. I needed to live in conscious congruency. I needed to pause my impulsive actions and decision-making.

Before I do anything, I ask myself, is this the right thing to do? Is this the honest thing to do? If everyone close to me can’t know what I’m doing, who I’m with, or where I’m going, it’s probably not the right or honest thing to do. Today, I realize how selfish my addiction really was. I was serving myself and destroying all those that cared for me. 

I’m working on a 12-step program today. I have a sponsor, I have a sober community to rely on, I attend meetings, and I have a great relationship with my family and friends who support my recovery.

Every day I try to find someone I can help, whether it’s helping someone move furniture, providing a meal, or talking with another alcoholic or addict. I pray for God to remove my self-pity and allow me to be of service to another person each day. When you transcend self and live to serve others, your life will change. 

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

I live an honest life today. My friends and family know my story and are proud of the person I am today. I have a new purpose in life, to help others struggling with mental health, addiction, and recovering from traumatic injuries. 

There is a mental health and addiction stigma in today’s world. I see a lot more influential figures coming clean and speaking on the difficulties of mental health and struggles with addiction. We’re moving in the right direction to get people the help they need.

Next time you see your friend, don’t ask casually “How are you?”. Look them in the eyes, get present with them, and ask them “How’s your mental health?”.

We need to be more meaningful when catching up and checking on our people. That’s the difference between someone saying “I’m good” and moving on with their day and someone who just needed an extra push to get honest and tell you what’s really going on in their head.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

Do not be afraid to ask for help. We can’t do this on our own, but with community, we can! The most courageous thing I ever did was ask for help. It truly saved my life.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Where can we go to learn more about you?

Recently, I’ve been working on a Recovery-Based Journal to help other struggling alcoholics and addicts. The project is called “The Comeback Series”. Please check us out on Instagram and Facebook.

We provide tools, resources, and knowledge for those looking to get sober or already working in a recovery program. If you send a DM, I will personally respond. Please do not hesitate to reach out!

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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