“You Don’t Have To Go Through This Alone” Project Rob Rich // Rich People
I recently met Jordan at a show I was playing in Lake Worth, FL. I’m out on tour right now playing a bunch of areas I’ve never been to and the night started out really slow and small and grew into one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had to date. A few people I’ve known for a while who moved to Florida to get clean came out and by the middle of the show I realized half of the crowd and local bands were all in recovery as well. It was truly an experience that I cannot fully describe the warmth and joy of with words, much like my recovery, but I will try my best.
On the third day of this tour, August 5th 2017, I celebrated 6 years clean. I suffered a good portion of my life with substance use disorder, depression, anxiety and other things that I never bothered to get diagnosed involving obsessions/compulsions and deep extreme mood swings from the highest highs a person can feel down to the bottom of a lethargic pit of cloudiness and hopelessness. I don’t care whether we call it a disease, a disorder, or the human condition gone awry and taken to the umpteenth power of self-centeredness, the bottom line is that I love drugs and feeling good with every fiber of my being and the consequences of my inability to control my use of said drugs and behaviors brought me to my knees very fast. I knew I wasn’t normal and couldn’t stop or control my using very early on. I’m the kind of user who immediately couldn’t shut it off shortly thereafter the first time I used. By the time I was fifteen I’d wait out front of liquor stores for hours waiting for adults to help me get right. Every year, from age 16 to 21, my obsession and compulsion to destroy my life doubled at an alarming rate every month until I was alone and isolated smoking crack in a storage unit, lying cheating and stealing to keep it moving, and using heroin to help pacify myself into a feeling of chemical induced acceptance of the shit show that was my life. I was set to be dead by the age of twenty one by most of my peers in school and the music community. On a side note, my active addiction was so loud and known that by the time I got clean that was also a loud thing and I’ve always been able to be open and share about it publicly. There’s a way to go about that and navigate ways to do it without causing harm to anyone else’s anonymity or harming my own reputation that I can probably help people with if they ever need that outlet. I don’t do it perfectly or anything but I have followed certain guidelines to keep people safe in all of this and it really really helps me stay transparent and in a position to maybe help the next person seeking help to reach out. My way isn’t for everybody and I get that but It’s a great outlet and works for me. So if you want what I have in that respect I can pass on what I’ve been taught and my experience with communication/public relations.
My first experience with recovery was a detox/psych ward that I landed in after my first DUI at age 17/18 (I got my second at age 18/19). I had an extremely high blood alcohol content and went on a rampage after sitting in the police station for a while and after attempts to assault officers and a desperate attempt to get them to take me out of my misery I landed in a facility against my will because I was considered suicidal. This was probably because I was suicidal. Here I was introduced to twelve step fellowships via “Hospitals & Institutions” outreach presentations from members of a couple of different fellowships. By this time I was well aware I had a full blown problem but I dusted myself off after a few days out of the rehab and started selling/using pills and alcohol again. I went to a few meetings over the course of the next three months but I was always using and could never stop. From here things got darker and darker for a few years. I got into hard drugs and lived in some really wild drug houses to avoid complete homelessness. In late 2009 I started hitting a couple of twelve step meetings and after going into a few meetings in a very shot-out state, I was asked by a group to go to the other fellowship that met down the hall in the small classroom of this church recreation center. I walked into a fellowship I didn’t know to much about, and despite taking another year or so to commit to getting clean, they let me come as I was whenever I could dig myself out of the lifestyle for an hour and a half on a Friday night. This went on for some time while I worked out the kinks of things that I used to separate myself from the group. When I was much younger I said to myself “I didn’t use as hard as these people used” and by the age of twenty I was saying “these people never used as hard as I used” “I’m way younger than all of them” “I must be a special case” “Im beyond saving” “my dad was right, people who use heroin are stuck until they die or go to jail” “my feelings are bigger than other people have ever felt” “I’m different and unique.”
In early 2011 I was using heroin from the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep everyday for a long time and because of prolonged use would wake up throwing up before being able to roll off of the couch to make it to a trash can everyday. Once my eyes were awake I was back in the game of plotting and scheming every way that I could harm someone else or myself to fill my tank and continue avoiding my ever-growing painful reality. I was introduced to a new drug, crack cocaine, and immediately the world fell silent, time left my consciousness, and the blurry few months that ensued were the darkest times of my life. I never knew a human was capable of being two such extremes in one until I experienced it myself. I realized I was EVERYTHING the literature of the twelve step fellowship said about addicts. I identified. I’m an addict. The profound shift in my mentality from there was beautifully desperate. I made a decision on August 5th, 2011 a month after turning 21 to not put one in me for 24 hours. Within hours I was sick as a dog and for the next ten days I was in fetal position. I remember begging my parents who graciously allowed me to kick drugs in their home and take care of me to just kill me. I remember waves of extreme anxiety and an underlying uneasiness in my stomach and a general feeling of needing to get the fuck out of my skin that was sweating and suffocating me. It was the most intense pain I have ever endured, but I knew where I belonged.
I came into recovery 6 years ago a scared, shaky little boy completely incapable of forming cohesive sentences that didn’t involve drug use. I couldn’t be anything but a wall flower in a group setting or conversation because nothing I had done in years had anything to do with real life. I had nothing to offer. 6 feet tall and only 135 pounds soaking wet. I’m a very skinny guy still and I’m 180 pounds so if you see the picture with this you can do the math. I was sickly and a hollow shell of a person.
Slowly, ever since then, thru doing some serious work with a sponsor in a twelve program and continuous availability and involvement in service work for addicts I’ve become a person who is an asset to society. I never shut up and everywhere I go people speak highly of all that I have to offer. I walk in an people smile, and when I leave they’re laughing or smiling. This is a dramatic almost surreal change from where I once was. It used to be “lock the door, he can’t come here” or “hide everything that’s not nailed down.” They told me when I got clean that my obituary if I died today would be miserable and empty except a few pitiful generic words that people put in those to be polite about their dead, and asked me what people would say over your body at the funeral. They said I could rewrite my obituary and the things people think of my time on this earth starting now. They said to treat myself like as if I was the chosen one, plucked out of active addiction to help be the example for other young recovering addicts to follow suit. I became a stand-up guy. I can say this confidently because I don’t take credit for it. I only take credit for destroying my life enough to earn myself a seat in a program for the once-bottomfeeders of society and allowing them to rebuild me. I take credit for wanting better, but the credit for becoming better is all in the hands of the program I live by and the fellowship around it that helps me navigate this crazy ass world and my feelings.
Staying clean today I do the exact things I did when I got clean. I attend meetings, talk to my network, do step work, stay in a position to serve, and use my sponsor. People often say “Rob, why do you still go to those meetings it’s been forever you’re fine man” or “that’s so nice of you to still go and help ‘those people’ out.” The fact is that I still go for myself. Despite the face I show, I still live with the incessant nagging to destroy it all every single day. I still live in fear, I still suffer from self centeredness and self obsession. I still need a group of people to help me power thru my fears and continue to grow into the person that they promised me I could become. I’m not fucking confused that the things I am, I am for life. That addiction is deeper than just the use of drugs. I’m addicted to anything that makes me feel good and I’ll get caught up in some destructive/harmful behaviors right now and make a mess. I’m too shot out too remember every thing I need to know to manage daily life alone, and to be honest I really like these people and places. If it’s not broken I’m not going to fix it. I’m currently on tour with my band and doing all of the things I’ve always wanted to do. I moved to Philly 2 years ago and LOVE it more than any place on earth. I’m meeting great people everywhere I travel and I’m able to enjoy them and let myself go a little more with every conversation and just float thru this life and allow the cycle of feelings to go without my interference. I keep staying clean and recovering as my number one priority over everything else and it has bought me a lifestyle that is beyond the wildest dreams I had when I went to my first meeting.
They told me a few things when I got clean. Some of them were the basic suggestions of what we need to do to stay clean on a daily basis, some were very dark truths about the reality of addiction, and others were just positive affirmations of principles and cliches to make them easier to remember to use in a pinch. For this article I think the saying that stuck out the most to me was that I was “never alone, never again”
You don’t have to go through this alone.