Usage Throughout Youth
Though chemically addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol, Jimmy’s come to an understanding that he was “addicted to lack of identity and lack of worth”.
Jimmy started using at age 7, getting drunk and high with his babysitters (using pot and alcohol), who thought the way that Jimmy acted while under the influence was entertaining.
For Jimmy, however, the exposure to the substances became something that served to help him cope with a tough home life. “I liked the way that I felt, I liked what it did to me, I liked that I could change everything…I could escape with those.”
Jimmy got caught smoking pot for the first time when he was 9. The same year, his parents were divorced and Jimmy went through a new slew of babysitters who found entertainment in getting him drunk and high.
Just as his babysitters did to him, Jimmy would do the same to his younger brother. “It was cool to get [my brother] wasted…we just echoed this transgenerational curse of alcoholism and addiction.”
Jimmy’s mother became clinically depressed as a result of his parents separating, his father leaving the family. Jimmy admits “We were definitely neglected. We didn’t receive the love that we were supposed to.”
Jimmy was also being sexually abused by his neighbor at the same time, amidst all the turmoil in his home life.
Moving Out, But Not On
In his teens, Jimmy self-describes what he started experiencing and feeling as “a lack of love in my life…I’ve come to discover that it was lack of identity.”
In hopes of forming this sense of identity that he lacked, Jimmy began hanging around with a group of violent men and became involved in gang activity and drug trafficking. “I was really good in that lifestyle. I was big, I was full of hate, and I could take it out on people in the streets…I could find myself in things that people said I was, instead of knowing who I truly am.”
The lifestyle that Jimmy was maintaining was dangerous and as he puts it himself, “wild”. He put himself in several life-threatening situations, from fights to drunk driving.
Jimmy moved out right after high school and quickly decided some time thereafter that for the safety of his life, he needed to move back home.
After three weeks of being back home, Jimmy’s mother committed suicide. He found her in her bed.
Attempting to combat the pain, Jimmy upped and moved to Colorado to attend Colorado State University.
To honor his late mother’s wishes of him reaching a healthy weight, Jimmy went on a liquid diet. However, he wasn’t losing weight in a healthy or constructive way. “I…was bulimic with the little food I did eat…”
Jimmy lost over 170 pounds and found himself in a serious relationship that he anticipated was going to turn in to marriage. The relationship eventually came to an end, as “…she finally had enough of me lying to her and about my drug use and just being an alcoholic and she just left.”
Jimmy felt like his world was crashing down around him yet again. Determined, he pushed through and “somehow I got out of Colorado State University. How I did that is still one of the great mysteries of the world.”
But he didn’t graduate clean, as Jimmy explains that he “graduated with a degree in liberal arts and a horrible methamphetamine habit”, often using meth to stay up late through the night to get work done and to study.
Marriage and Misuse
Jimmy came back home to Denver and met a girl who was working at a bar. “She came to take our order and I asked her when we were going to get married.”
About a year later, they did just that. But it wasn’t a marriage based on love. “I didn’t marry my wife because I loved her, I married my wife because she made me feel okay. She didn’t marry me because she loved me, she married me because she felt protected.”
Coming from similar backgrounds and difficult upbringings involving sexual abuse, alcoholism and addiction, Jimmy and his wife were drawn to each other in a dysfunctional sense.
From the beginning of their marriage, they began actively using crack cocaine. Jimmy and his wife were depleting all of their funds and energy in to fueling their addiction, and bluntly put, “Life was horrible.”
Jimmy had gone in and out of rehab, and during their first year of marriage, Jimmy’s wife left him to go off with another guy to get clean (“he was not a good person”).
Jimmy’s wife was successful in getting clean and came back, but Jimmy was still actively using crack cocaine. “That is a miserable existence, smoking crack and lying to everybody and not drinking.”
Under the impression that Jimmy was clean, he and his wife got back together. Soon after, they began using together again.
And then Jimmy received perhaps the most life changing news of all. “Life really sucked. And [my wife] came home one day, and told me she was pregnant. And I asked her if it was mine and she slapped me, deservedly. And then I told her that she was gonna have to stop smoking crack and drinking and I never realized that neither one of us were gonna be able to stop smoking crack.”
Jimmy’s wife stopped drinking for the most part, but the two of them continued to smoke crack throughout her pregnancy. “It wasn’t at the forefront of my mind until she started to show, and then I was crippled and haunted with the reminder that our use was killing that baby inside of her. And it was a horrible, horrible, horrible existence.”
A Miracle Child
Jimmy’s wife’s water broke amidst a 3-day bender; she didn’t even know she was in labor. They took a couple more hits and rushed to the hospital. They told the doctors that they had relapsed but after running a few tests, the doctors knew that they were daily users.
Jimmy’s daughter was born March 31, 2002 on Easter Sunday. “I believe God sent me a messenger that day. That little girl saved my life.”
She came out and was not breathing, her skin blue. Panicking, Jimmy thought she was dead. But then, a miracle. “All of a sudden she took a breath and turned bright pink. And life changed again.”
The State of Colorado told Jimmy and his wife that they needed to get clean, and they set out to do just that. They went to separate IOPs and classes and stopped smoking crack, though they continued drinking. At 54 days clean from crack, just one day before they were going to be granted unsupervised visits with their daughter, Jimmy and his wife relapsed. “That was miserable.”
They went on another bender, Jimmy calling social services on himself.
The Phone Call
His moment of clarity came during a phone call from his father.
“[My father] said I was never gonna see [my daughter] date, I was never gonna see her go to prom, I was never gonna see her graduate high school, I was never gonna see her get married or have kids, and I was gonna lose her forever.”
That call came on June 12, 2002. That date is also Jimmy’s clean date.
Jimmy and his wife went in to separate treatment programs. Jimmy was required to do three 12-step meetings per week during this program. “I had been to those meetings before and they had talked about God and I wanted nothing to do with God because I though God had hated me…and I hated him.”
But Jimmy’s distaste for these meetings and for God was far outweighed by the desire to get his daughter back.
“In there, I heard people talk about happiness and joy, and that they didn’t use when things got bad and they didn’t use when things were good…that life was good because of this power that they had, this higher power…and I really wanted that. And so I dove in.”
Jimmy sponsored many men and was at a high level of service in Cocaine Anonymous, all while working the steps himself. But even though the service aspect of his recovery was in place, Jimmy still had a ways to go. “I had never addressed the issues of not loving myself, I’d…never addressed the issues of being worthless in my eyes and having no identity, and always thinking that I was this wretched person…”
Take Him to Church
Then at four years clean, “I came home one night and my wife said, ‘We’re going to church.’”
By this time, they had a second and third daughter.
Jimmy’s initial response? “I’m not gonna go to church because God sucks and he doesn’t like me and I don’t like him.”
But they ended up going to church that night and when Jimmy walked in, “I felt this God-sized hole I’d been trying to fill all those years with drugs, alcohol, sex, food, purging; it was shrunk at once. And I’d felt this freedom that I’d never felt before, so I wanted more of that. I wanted to figure out what that was.”
It was at this church that Jimmy first found out about Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered 12-step program. Jimmy went to his first meeting to show off all he had learned in AA and CA, but as he admits “I was really dying inside”.
What Jimmy found at Celebrate Recovery were people that “were deliberate and intentional about loving me because they knew I couldn’t love myself, they knew I wasn’t capable of that yet.”
Jimmy worked the 12-steps and 8 principles of the Celebrate Recovery program hardheartedly.
“I think that the real freedom is found in ‘just say yes’. For me, it was saying yes to Jesus Christ, finding that love, that mercy, and that grace that only my King can provide for me. And through finding that love, that mercy, and that grace that my king provided me, I was able to engage in a life that I felt was worth living.”
Jimmy grew up in a religious household (“not a home that was full of love, mercy, and grace of Christ but a religious home”). He is Christian.
In developing and finding his relationship with Jesus Christ, “I am able to see that I am forgiven and free”. Free, in the sense that he was found “a freedom to live a life worth living.”
Freedom in Faith
Jimmy’s life in recovery has transformed him. “Through finding that freedom I’ve been able to do amazing things, like look myself in the eye when I shave…be a really good husband, be a really good father, be a really good man. I’ve been able to do things that people said I would never be able to do, because I was always told I was only gonna be a convict or dead.”
But Jimmy didn’t become either of those things. In fact, he’s surpassed even his own expectations.
Jimmy was able to go back to school and receive a Clinical Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. He’s since helped start high schools and counseling clinics.
Jimmy’s advice to anyone struggling? “If you’re struggling with an addiction, if you’re struggling with any hurt, hang-up or habit, get help. Be courageous enough, be vulnerable enough to open up your life to others so they can walk alongside of you and help you find that love, that mercy, that grace, and that freedom that I have found in Jesus.”