Strong is what happens when you run out of weak….

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By: Daniel Regan

Waking up for a few sober minutes, face wet, imbedded on a dirt-ridden floor, in this abandoned motel in the middle of Palm Springs…I was crying in my sleep.  I needed to run from myself, instead I reached for another needle….internal combustible self-hatred. If I remained sober for too many minutes I would have to realize where I was and what I had become?

I come from a beautiful family, very supportive, loving, & happy.  My parents have been married 26 years; I have three other siblings, older brother, and two younger sisters. I lived a great childhood.  My parents were always there, vested in my life. My dad was a soccer coach, mom was involved in girl scouts, horse riding, supported my motor-cross dreams. I lived on a beautiful farm in Howell, NJ.

I was always told by my parents not to do drugs; I was told drugs are bad for you; I was told I could die if I did drugs.

When I was in 6th grade I was offered marijuana by my older brother.  Not a stranger, not a hoodlum, not a scary drug dealer. I was so frightened; he convinced me that nothing bad was going to happen.  I was standing watching him & his friends laughing and seemingly having a good time.  I trusted him, so I tried it.  I loved it!  This was a pinnacle moment for me in my thought process.  I decided at this moment, that my parents had been lying to me…drugs were fun.  I wanted to be just like my older brother. He was cool and had lots of friends.

I continued smoking marijuana… first once a week, then on weekends, then every day.  I was convinced that I was very cool and my friends at school seem very interested in everything I was doing and saying. I was popular in my newly found world.

Sophomore year of HS I was trying to figure out how to be accepted by the Seniors and get invited to the Senior Parties.  My friend had gotten injured in a motorcycle accident and had been prescribed Percocet.  I had heard of Percocet and I knew that this was a drug that the Seniors were doing. My friend didn’t like the Percocet; it irritated his stomach.  So we came up with this great idea to sell it to the Seniors.  This way they would like us & we would get invited to the great parties.  I had texted my friend one morning on the way out to get my bus & my mother found my phone & of course went through my text messages.  She discovered the text related to selling Percocets & lost her mind!  Why would my son be texting about Percocet?   What is going on? She immediately felt it was the school, it was the kids at school, it was my friends. She ripped me out of Howell High School & sent me to Monsignor Donovan HS “where they don’t do drugs”(irony)?  My attitude became severely muted, combustible, I would do what I needed to shut them up, but they are clueless and I want to live my life. I continued to be a great student, smiling, I joined the swim team, smiling, my choices were my choices, smirking, it’s my life deal with it, laughing.  The media helped my attitude…becoming a gangster/rapper looked cool. TuPauk, Eminem, they were rich and always having a great time.  My life should be a MTV video, so I thought.

My brother then came home from college.  He had been partying hard while away.  I stumbled upon him with his friends and they were doing lines of cocaine.  I was only smoking weed at this time & said, “No I don’t do those kind of drugs!” He convinced me to give it a whirl.  So I did…again, I loved it!

My perception of drugs changed even more…All drugs were open game.  I wanted to experiment with different altered states, different combinations.  I was not yet an addict but clearly a “drug abuser”… 16years old.

Throughout HS I was able to maintain good grades, I participated in TSA, swim Team, rode motor cross, I was fooling everybody.  I became an expert at maintaining two faces.  I had a face for my friends & a different face for my family. Most importantly I was only fooling myself.  I thought I was able to do drugs and still be successful in life.  This was my right of passage, a part of growing up; everyone gets to do this stuff.  I had a pure sense of invincibility, “It won’t happen to me,” I got this under control.

I graduated HS and was offered a scholarship to attend Farleigh Dickinson University.  My parents were proud and went on visits to the school, helped me move into my dorm. They dreamed of me becoming educated and soaking in the college experience with great hopes for the future.   My attitude was already twisted and I looked at college as a huge party. My first year at FDU I was introduced to OxyContin. I began snorting oxies..within three months I was snorting 13 pills per day with a $350 per day habit. My day consisted of sitting in a dark dorm room, watching TV with my drugs.  I had to start selling and dealing drugs in order to pay for my daily habit.

I came home from school for Easter Break and was asked to drive my little sister to the mall, which I willingly did, so that I didn’t have to spend too much time at home.  My mom was cooking a big meal for the family and was expecting me to drop her off and come directly home.  I pulled out of the mall parking lot and was pulled over by a police officer.  They pulled me from my car, searched my vehicle, which was still full of my entire dorm room. They found 200 OxyContin, couple thousand dollars and a list of everyone that owed me money.  I was cuffed and arrested.  I was immediately worried about how I could get out of this so I could get back to my drugs.  I knew I had to cooperate with the police, so I gave them lists of doctors that were providing us with oxy and other dealers with whom I was working.  They released me and I went home, although late for dinner, I walked in to the house and explained I was talking to an old friend…sorry.   Now I had a huge problem.  I had a 13 pill a day habit; I turned in all my drug dealers so I couldn’t go visit them. How do I survive this? Bones were starting to ache, sweats were arriving, skin crawling. I knew I needed to steal in order to keep myself well. How ironic is that statement? My mind so twisted and irrational? I needed to stop doing drugs to be well…

My parents began catching on to my evasive behaviors. I was thin, not participating in family activities like I used to, always absent. They had now been notified of my academic probation at school.

I began stealing… I stole whatever I could from my family & friends. I scrapped metal that was on the farm. I took garbage and sold it at auction. A group of my drug friends would break into houses and steal things from homes and go to the local pawnshop daily.  Maintaining, maintaining, maintaining.

It was a summer day and I was to drive my sister’s best friend to a Rutgers Party.  She had just gotten her license and a new car and we were driving together. We stopped at a WAWA where she went in to get an iced tea and upon arriving back at her car she witnessed me snorting my OxyContin from a dollar bill.  She was terrified, shocked, pained, and horrified.  She played it cool and we went to the party and came home. Two days later she mustered up the strength to go to my mother and tell her what she had witnessed.  Her name is Alexa, she saved my life, and she is my snitch. “I ask kids today when I speak to them to please be a snitch save a life.”

My parents now knew my deep secret. They were on to me.  They immediately put me into my first treatment center.  I lasted two weeks, came home and got high again. I attended an intensive outpatient program while continuing to get high.  I continued stealing and manipulating.  I had stolen and sold all of my mother’s jewelry except her wedding ring.  I was out one morning with my girlfriend and my mother went to spot-check my car. When she opened the car door, out fell the family silverware & her wedding ring in the glove compartment to be sold.  At this point my parents didn’t know what to do with me.  I had failed in treatment #1, I had failed in the IOP, I was thin, arrogant, angry, dysfunctional, a liar & a thief.  They threw me out.  I walked down the street directly to my drug dealer.  Slept in his van parked in his driveway and continued to get high.  The same dealer I turned into the police two months prior.  I found my way to another drug associate, three days later, and my father found me.  He took me home and I was put on an airplane with an escort to another treatment center in CA.

I had destroyed my beautiful family.  They were in completed disarray.  My parents were fighting, crying and confused. My one sister was away in college wanting to come home and leave school unable to function. My baby sister was angry, depressed and had begun cutting herself. My grandparents were so sad and disappointed..  My decisions had affected everyone around me! What had I done? 

I entered my third treatment center. I did really well for thirty days, but I was white knuckling it.  I was turning 21 in rehab. “I had lost so much time.”  “I will always be the loser.”  My mind was saying, I am finally 21 and you’re telling me I can never have a drink?  I don’t think so.  My addict Ego was not done with me!

I completed the program and continued going to meetings.  I was able to get an apartment, and a job.  I unfortunately wanted to celebrate my 21st birthday, so I did. I had a few drinks.  I’m not really a drinker, so I decided to find some weed; after all I was in CA.  I went walking and stumbled upon a homeless man who said he could help me and offered me a hit off his pipe.  I knew it wasn’t weed…It burnt my throat.  I was just introduced to my new poison…Crystal Meth.  I had met three other friends at my last rehab and it was only moments before we all relapsed together.  I was soon introduced to heroin and was soon injecting myself with heroin & meth…powerballing.

Within a few weeks, I lost my job, I lost my apartment and I had decided to completely cut my family out of my life.

This is my life, this is how I want to live it.  This is the Daniel Story.

My parents were going crazy.  They had a contact in CA who informed them that I was hanging with a girl named Christine.   My mom was able to contact her mother and let her know that she was going to CA to get me and that Christine would then be alone in the desert.  Advising her to meet her in CA to get both of us at the same time. Christine’s mom was belligerent and in denial.   My mom couldn’t take it anymore. She jumped on an airplane, flew to CA. Christine’s mom had contacted her and changed her mind and said she would be coming into CA at 4pm. She said she would never handle the situation like this, she trusted her daughter?   My mom knew the only way to find me was to get ahold of Christine. She would be picking her mom up from the airport at 4pm. My mom waited and waited in a bush at the airport and then hi-jacked Christine’s car as she pulled up to get her mom.  My mom forced Christine to drive her to me.  Christine was very high, as I had just shot her up.  She drove about 15 minutes from the airport to an abandoned hotel where we paid a homeless man $20 to stay. My mom jumped from the car screaming, “what room is he in?” She ran into the hotel yard, screeched to door 11 and kicked the door in.  She found me standing, band around arm, and spoon in hand. A mother’s worst nightmare…

To this day I can still see the image of my mother standing in that doorway.  She was a silhouette with bright light behind her and her voice calmly said, come on Danny were going to get you some help. I followed my mother like a small child, as if I was four or five years old.  I couldn’t figure out how she found me…I just walked behind her…confused

She brought me to a dear friend’s house where we were to pack my things and get on an airplane back to NJ.  This is when reality hit me … no more drugs? I had been awake for 12-14 days using Met; I became psychotic. I tried to escape over the concrete wall of the yard I was in, tried to break out of the house, fought with my friends, injured them, broke furniture and then was tackled and held by four people unable to move.  The police had to be called.  There was obviously no way my mother was going to be able to get me onto an airplane in this state.  The police took my heart rate and warned me that I may have a heart attack at any minute and that I am acting irrational. They decided to 5150 me.  Which means all of my human rights had been taken away and I became the product of the state of CA.  I decide that I disagreed with this and I stood up and punched the police officer.  They then tasered me three times, I fell to the floor and cut my eye open requiring 22 stitches, and I urinated on myself.  I don’t remember this at all and can only recount the day because my dear mother had to watch it.  She stood screaming, crying but most importantly she was taking pictures. I don’t know how she was able to do that, but she wanted me to see what I had become.

I was then tied down to a gurney and brought to the ER.  They don’t like IV drug users in the ER, for good reason.  They would approach me, frightened, in haz-mat suits and I would spit at them.  They tied me to my bed and repaired my face as I cursed at them. I was a disgrace.  My mother wept as she sat shamed. I spent 24 hours of my hell in this ER. I was then transported to a Psych Hospital by ambulance still tied to my bed, about an hour away.  My mom followed.

I arrived at the Psych ward in my paper clothing, stitches, bruised face, sweating, and extremely ill.  I stayed there for several days.  My mom would visit me each day.  Day 1, I was angry & hated her for doing this to me.

Day2, I was angry, what have I done.

Day3, I was in a psych ward? How did I get here?

Day4, I was sooo sad

Day5, I crawled into my mother’s lap as if I was a small child and wept         for 30 minutes.

Day6, I was seemingly resolute

Day7, I was released to an escort and driven to another Treatment Center… Mom followed.

I arrived at my fourth Treatment Center.  This center was different or maybe I was different?  This center was a non-twelve-step program.  I dove right into every therapy available to me.  I became so aware of myself, my thought process, my errors, and my perception of life.  I worked with fantastic counselors through hours of tears, anger, and laughter.  I learned meditation. I learned breathing & coping skills.  I was reminded of spirituality. I was poked & prodded. I had been given another chance at life; I had begun to realize how grateful I was to be alive.  I was taught by these counselors to move forward in my life.  To remain positive & grateful, thus keeping negative influence from your being.  I was taught to respect my past, to understand how choices affect your life, but to not live in that story, do not live in the past. I was taught to apologize through action; I was taught that humility is of the upmost importance. This place was different…we saved my life. I spent 27 days here.  I loved each one of them.  I continue to speak to my counselor weekly.  He is my life mentor.

My family flew out to CA to finally pick me up and take me home.  I was so scared.  I had to trust me.

My mom had spoken with the Treatment Center Aftercare Specialist throughout my stay.  They offered resources for aftercare, but very few in NJ that she felt were suitable for my success.   So upon arriving home, we began building an aftercare program very different from what is available to patients now on the east coast.  We were very specific about our needs, very diligent, and very consistent.  Our program required many alternative elements, different holistic modalities, specific professional counselors, a community of support and consistency. I was empowered by positive purpose…

I am 2 years sober now.  I don’t count the days, I LIVE the days, with passion and gratitude. I am humbled daily by the chances I have been given, I am grateful for the people in my life, I envelope the debt of pain I’ve caused my loved ones, by personal choice, and I internally work my hardest to please & resolve … I am peaceful & driven & grateful.

I am now striving to complete my master’s degree in counselling and social work. I have started an organization called CFC Loud N Clear in Howell, NJ. This organization is a sober social group, providing drug/alcohol free activities and exposing people in recovery to real-life situations sober. Young adults coming out of recovery feel as if they will never have fun again.  We promote “Sober is Cool.” This is a groundbreaking concept, progressive and refreshing. It is being met with controversy from existing treatment programs.

I, along with my mother, have become extremely vocal & vested in promoting prevention & recovery. We are dedicated to relapse prevention as we feel treatment is failing in this area.

I am also involved in the following:

– Motivational speaker at High Schools and Middle schools in the state of NJ.

– SMART Recovery Facilitator.

– Member of Monmouth County Coalition, Prevention First, DART Ocean County Coalition, & Howell Alliance, Farmingdale Chamber of Commerce & Howell Chamber of Commerce.

– Founder of The Insight Center for Healing, Brielle, NJ due to open March 2014.

Thank you for listening to my story. I look forward to meeting you someday.

Peace & Love,

Daniel Regan