By Chris Morse
As I sit here in my small hometown of 46,000, in one of the most conservative religious areas in the country, I wonder how I will survive. As a gay 25-year-old man who does drag, I am a minority in this town. Especially when it comes to recovery.
I got sober July 6th, 2014. I have a foot-long scar down my stomach that I like to call my sobriety scar. I come from an only child family and was raised on 10 acres of blue spruce trees. My neighborhood friends were a set of triplets and the only close friends I had as a child. Their family was family to me. Their parents knew me since I was 6 and their mother had a habit of filling my pockets with sugar before I went home. I learned how to ride a horse there and help build one of the biggest tree forts I have ever seen.
Unfortunately, my innocent childhood it came to a crashing halt on March 19th, 2007. Vicky, the triplet's mother, unexpectedly committed suicide. None of us knew why. I saw her the night before, as I sat in her living room discussing the family issues I had going on as a child. That night I was going to tell her that I was gay. However, fear paralyzed me and I swallowed those words as one of her sons walked by. I thought I would get the chance to tell her later. Little did I know, I would never get that chance.
In the months that followed, I couldn’t focus in school. I was too traumatized to be able to keep up with the rest of the class. Days turned into weeks. I was failing in my classes. My family was upset and I refused to talk about what was going on with me.. All I wanted to do is escape.
One day, I stumbled upon a wine cooler buried deep in the pantry of my house. I thought it was pretty and the flavor described on the bottle sounded appetizing. I opened it to take a sip and my mind was instantly filled with a barrage of thoughts.
“This tastes disgusting!”
“Oh wait, this makes my throat and stomach feel warm. I like this feeling”
After my head stopped spinning, I felt happy and cozy. I immediately knew that as long as I had a sip of wine, I would always feel content and secure. Of course, I thought I was just having fun as a kid. Living my life to the fullest. Rebelling against authority and getting away with it.
Soon after, I entered into high school. The very first thing I did as a freshman was come out to everyone in the entire school. I got so much attention and a lot of immediate positive feedback. However, this did not last for very long. It was long before I was exposed to vitriolic insults and nasty verbal attacks. The word “faggot” will forever stick with me as a result of those four years in high school. I heard it whenever I walked down the hallways or sat at my desk in a classroom. I didn’t like myself, because I didn’t feel accepted by anyone else. I just wanted to be liked and loved. I wanted my peers to think that I was cool. I remembered how that wine cooler had made me feel, so I started to drink more.
I started to sneak off to high school parties on the weekend and tried to act cool. I drank beer and got approval even from the straight guys at the party. They would tell me that they thought I was cool. I believed that I had found a way to be accepted.
After some time, I eventually found a boyfriend who was much older then me. I frequently asked him to buy beer for me. He did this time and time again. I would take some home and hide it. When I was finished with the bottle I would drunkenly stumble out to the forest with a shovel and bury the evidence. Till this day I still laugh at the thought of how many bottles are buried in that glass cemetery.
I moved out of my parents place for the first time in 2011. I moved in with my new boyfriend, who would bring me alcohol at the snap of a finger. We lived in Lewiston, Idaho and worked at the same convenience store. Every night, I would pick out what I wanted to drink and he would take it home for me. One day, he realized that the alcohol was always more important than him. He tried to stop me from drinking, but I had no plans on stopping. I would hide behind a closed bathroom door, in a claw-foot tub, drinking wine and smoking a cigarette in the bath as he attempted to break down the door.
I was done with him and onto the next one. My life was a revolving door of men and alcohol. My new boyfriend was gorgeous and I was instantly in love. Almost immediately after we started dating, I moved into his house. He told me he was 9 months sober. I told him that I personally had no problem with drinking. Two weeks later he relapsed with me at a party. I thought nothing about it, as I had no real understanding of alcoholism. Little did I know, the alcohol use was just the beginning to our long abusive relationship.
We moved back up north to escape the problems that we had caused ourselves. We both had a complete inability to take accountability for our toxic actions. One day, he came home from work with stitches in his finger and a bottle of hydrocodone. I sipping a beer and he suggested that I crush one of the hydrocodone pills and snort it. It was the best feeling I had ever had
I quickly developed a destructive habit. I went from taking one pill daily to seven, within a matter of weeks. One evening, my boyfriend told me that his dealer had ran out hydrocodone, but that there was a new pill I could try. It took a half an hour for me to learn how to smoke Oxycontin on a piece of foil. The euphoric feeling was stronger and more powerful than ever. I was in love with that little pill. It made life enjoyable. I would do anything for that little pill. I would steal, cheat, and lie just for the taste of the burnt pill.
My life quickly spiraled out of control. I needed more and more Oxy just to be able to function. Using became less about getting high and more about keeping myself well. There was no end in sight and I became numb to the consequences of my use. Eventually, I ran out of luck,
Within a short period of time, I was arrested. Although it was my first time in jail, it wouldn't be my last, as my addiction continued to dominate my life. My parents rushed me to rehab and I left after three days. I couldn’t stand detox.Deep down I knew that I didn’t want to be sober, but that I had to be sober because of my legal consequences. Still, getting loaded seemed more important that my own freedom. After leaving treatment, I went out late at night and found a random person off the street to buy from. I was hit in the face with a meat tenderizer and left bleeding in the snow as they stole my drug money. I didn’t care because I was soon in the hospital being pumped full of morphine. Death didn’t scare me. Going without opiates did.
I got out of the hospital and used all the pills they prescribed me, only to go on another hunt for more. This time, I was caught shoplifting. I was quickly put back into jail. Within one week, my destruction, lies, and crimes had finally caught up with me. I was in jail for a few months and eventually released on probation. Almost immediately, 5 months of sobriety were thrown down the drain. Within days, I was once again drinking and using opiates. This time I was caught stealing. I was thrown back into in jail and told that prison was going to be my new home.
Thankfully, I avoided going to prison. A good attorney had helped negotiate a plea that allowed me to be diverted into drug court. Even the, I still couldn’t fathom a life of real sobriety. I was doing well in drug court, but thought that I could use substances that didn’t show on a drug test.
“No one would know”
“It couldn’t hurt anyone”
I just wanted to be free from authority, so I turned to huffing canned air. On September 3rd, 2014, I was driving with loud music and a can of air to keep me loaded. I huffed too much and passed out behind the wheel with no seat belt on. The car headed straight into oncoming traffic and I crashed into an innocent driver.
I suddenly woke up from what I thought was a dream. I was rushed to the hospital and into emergency surgery for a ruptured spleen and a lacerated liver. The last face I saw prior to surgery was my father’s. His face was petrified with fear. In that moment, I realized just how much he loved me. For far too many years I was selfishly focused on myself. I was unable to receive his love.
My lung collapsed on the operating table. At 22 years old, I was fighting for my life and just moments away from death. When I woke up, I had tubes coming out of my stomach and tubes going into my veins. I looked down to see 17 staples holding me together and a doctor telling me how lucky I was.
A power greater than myself had saved my life and showed me compassion through others that I thought would never accept and love me.
I wanted my life and sobriety more than ever. I went home a week later without a single narcotic pain killer in hand. That was my turning point. Today I live a happy life. I feel loved and feel like I can survive in this small town. I participate in fundraiser drag shows at the local college and helped create the first 12 step LGBT group in this small town. I work a full time job and sponsor three men, one of whom is gay. I live a spiritual life of my understanding. I do the next right thing. I accept help from others and ask for it without being embarrassed. I’ve learned that I’m not always right and know how to trust someone other than myself. I am grateful for 3 years of sobriety, for being gay, and for living a honest crime free life. Last, but certainly not least, I am grateful that the the people in the car I hit walked away from the accident unharmed.