On the surface I led a normal, healthy, stable life. I was part of a stereotypical all-American family with no history of addiction. My parents were happily married, and I had a great relationship with my older sister. I did well in school and athletics. I lived in a safe, affluent neighborhood with great schools, had a golden retriever and participated in church youth group.
But behind my outward appearance, I was a very unhappy kid. Painfully shy and reclusive, I felt awkward in social situations, so I spent my free hours devouring books or glued to a computer screen. When my girlfriend of 2 ½ years dumped me during my senior year of high school, everything started to fall apart.
That year a couple water polo teammates introduced me to alcohol, and by the end of summer I was drinking and blacking out two or three nights a week. I left for college in the fall to play water polo at UCSC – and went wild in my addiction. I became a garbage disposal for drugs, trying anything put in front of me. My grades suffered, I stopped communicating with family back home and I was high every day. In addition to alcohol and pot, I began doing speed and LSD – hiding it from my parents and increasingly concerned friends and teammates.
Sophomore year I snapped, losing touch with reality for the next few weeks. Concerned by my increasingly bizarre behavior, my roommates called the cops. Rambling incoherently, I was taken to jail where I called the only number I knew by heart: my home phone. With the help of my godparents, my dad bailed me out of jail on the premise I would go directly to a rehab. He drove me down the 101 to The Canyon, where I remained for the next four months. I arrived dazed and confused on Mother’s Day, 2008, convinced I didn’t have a problem.
I began taking care of my mind and body at The Canyon, letting go of my fears. I was diagnosed with mild depression and came to realize I was an addict. After a few weeks of stubborn resistance, I accepted The Canyon’s message of love and healing. I attended yoga classes four times a week, participated in sweat lodges and found an NA sponsor with whom I started working through the 12 Steps.
Every morning I hiked up the hill behind the Men’s House to the prayer wheel to start my day by shouting “I love my life!” whether I meant it or not. Other moments were filled with self-discovery in individual and group therapy, slowly letting go of my mistaken belief that I needed something—drugs, alcohol, other people—to fix me or make me complete. The Canyon was a place that removed outside worries so I could finally let down my guard and see myself.
I have been clean and sober since my stay in The Canyon, and I have never felt better. I credit my stay there for teaching me the tools to go out and live the life I am meant to have.
My life now is fantastic! I still look like that typical all-American guy on the outside. I go to college and I work part-time as a lifeguard and swim instructor. I am happily involved with the girl of my dreams. The difference now is who I am on the inside. I do things that make me happy: I go backpacking, scuba diving, disc golfing, trail racing, skydiving, and enjoy reading and writing. I continue once-a-week therapy, several AA meetings a week, working through the steps of AA with a sponsor and, recently, a sponsee. I pray. I take care of myself and talk honestly with friends and family about my life, my troubles and successes. I try to remember what happened in my past so that I can grow from it and become a better person.