A story from a former resident.
I was 15 when I entered my first drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. Junior high, and high school, had proven to be very challenging times for me as a gay teen. I grew up in a very loving, and accepting household, but growing up in a small town during the AIDS crisis in the 80’s caused me to be awkward and afraid of accepting myself as a gay teen. So I turned to alcohol and drugs to escape, fit in, and make friends. This led to decades of substance abuse, as well as personal and emotional losses, creating a very intense, and painful path of destruction along the way.
As I entered my 20’s and 30’s, I was lucky enough to hold down a career, and live an openly gay life in a new city, San Diego. Although I was still trying to escape and run from something I was completely unaware of….feelings of guilt and shame, of being an addict that lied about my problem to family and friends – the people that loved me the most. I was a black-out drunk that could barely make it to work, and would drink as soon as I got off. Eventually, I would drink and use at work, just to feel “normal.”
This continued until about 3 years ago. After several DUI’s, loss of a job which I truly loved, a few stints in jail, losing everything I owned, and getting extremely physically ill from my addiction…I decided the only way out was to enter rehab.
I heard about Stepping Stone through friends I made that went through the program and went on to live happy, successful lives of their own. I wanted what they had! So I attended the orientation processknown as First Things First…a way to get introduced to the program and a chance for some of the staff to get to meet and greet personally, those that were interested in attending the 6 month stay at their facility.
I was admitted within a few weeks, and was scared to death of what exactly was going to happen to me beyond the gates. Well, I was greeted with open arms and an abundance of love and respect. The opposite of what I was expecting. The opposite of what I was putting myself through in the last years of my addiction. I finally was able to find a place that would accept me exactly as I am. No matter how broken and empty my life had become…this was a place where I could meet people just like me…and a place to teach us all how to learn to love each other, no matter what…but most importantly….this place would teach us how to love ourselves….
The counselors at Stepping Stone were not just there to offer suggestions on how to live a life free of alcohol and drugs….they were there to hug me. And make me feel safe. And make me finally understand that things matter…that I matter…that life is truly worth living.
Two years after leaving Stepping Stone, I have gone back to my career that I love … I have repaired the relationships I hurt with family and friends … I live in a nice, clean apartment with my partner. I am able to walk around town with no feelings of guilt or shame, I am able to pay all my bills on time and and hopefully I will be able to help other addicts in need, by continuing to grow and prove that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, if we just make that choice to reach out and ask for help.
And I’m forever grateful to Stepping Stone for being there for me when I finally reached out for help. The staff and friends I made there showed me that it’s possible to finally have a healthy relationship with someone I was running from since I was a kid … myself.