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A New Self-Medication

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A New Self-Medication

My name is Tom - I just turned thirty and have been sober and drug-free for five years now. It is New Year's Eve today and as I write this I cannot help but think of all the past drunken and drug-filled New Year's I celebrated before I decided to take back my life... my hope is that my story will give you the strength to do so as well.

I once read that depression is anger turned inward. I knew from a young age that I had this unmentionable, indescribable and uncontrollable rage and sadness that resided in the depths of my young spirit. I drank my first drink from father's bottle of whiskey when I was 14. I awoke in my family basement floor - covered in my own vomit and urine. I smoked weed for the first time on my way to school when I was 15.

Initially, to my surprise, alcohol and drugs made me feel happy. I could laugh with friends, meet new people at parties and - most importantly - feel that sense of "otherness" that I desperately desired. That is what self-medication was for me - a sense of "otherness." It was a feeling that I wasn't "Tom" - I was this other person who was comfortable in their own skin. It muted the voice of self-depreciation and self-hatred that was the constant background noise in my sober life.

By the time I was a senior in college, I was drinking heavily every day and doing two to three grams of coke. I had gone from an athletic, honor student to a gaunt, bag-eyed near-college dropout. (As part of my personal rehab. I calculated the cost of my drug habit to around $15,000 over the four years of college.)

Around my 25th birthday I realized that my self-medication had failed me. I lost the will to live. I made all the necessary plans - I had scraped together the money to cover my burial so that I would not burden my family financially. I had closed myself off from everyone close to me in the hopes that my death would not hurt as much as I knew it would. I was ready and it was time. The pain of living was too great... too expensive... too exhausting. I selfishly craved the silence that I thought death would bring to me. I drank a bottle of cheap vodka and took twenty-five Ambien... I was too drunk to feel myself start to slip away.

I awoke two days later - naked in the hospital with a catheter inside me and my parents at my side. A neighbor had found me because the drugs and alcohol had locked my jaw. The sound of my teeth grinding together could be heard from two stories up. That noise ultimately saved my life.

Fast-forward five years. I have been clean for five years. Not a drop of booze or a single illegal drug. I finally was placed on an anti-depressant that worked and I found a therapist who actually cared. I have been promoted three times in the last three years at my job. It has not been easy, but let me tell you - sobriety lives within each of us. It is a seed that is planted deep... and with each passing day - each passing sober day - the seed grows a little more. And it will continue to grow... you start measuring sobriety in weeks instead of days... and it will grow... and you will measure in months instead of weeks... and it will grow... and with self-love, strength and hope - you will measure in years. That seed was my new self-medication. The hope that I could grow and forgive myself for all that I had done to myself and to others. There isn't a day that I do not remember that my sobriety date could have been my last day on earth. I did not die... I just learned how to live again. And you can, too.

This Story of Hope was created in celebration of recovery and to let families know that there are pathways to hope and healing. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families who are struggling with their son or daughter's substance use. Please consider sharing this page so that families know where to turn to for help, and that there is always hope.

Guest Book


1. Caitlin
Your story reminds me of my own... Be proud of yourself, I am. Strength is an amazing thing, keep up the good work (: