As a child, Ernest grew up in a very stable home. His mother worked hard to graduate college to be able to provide for him. His parents never fought in front of him and he never wanted for anything growing up. Where he grew up there wasn’t a lot of black people in the area. This left him feeling like there was something missing in his life.
Ernest started acting out to try to get attention. He would steal things from family and stores to try to gain friendship from his classmates. Ernest grew up very small and eventually started getting picked on regularly. He was embarrassed on a regular basis and eventually tried to self-medicate to handle the emotions he was feeling.
At the age of 10, Ernest had his first taste of alcohol. He drank enough that he blacked out and doesn’t remember anything that happened that night. All he knows is that he felt better about himself after that night. In high school, there were very few black people and they were singled out. This caused Ernest to get into a lot of fights with other children in the school. At this point he smoked marijuana for the first time and instantly fell in love with the way that it made him feel. He was able to find a release and comfort that he hadn’t known before in his life. He suddenly felt an overwhelming relief from all of the chaos that he was struggling with in his life. This is what led to his addiction.
“I found what made me okay. What calmed down all the demons in my head.”
When Ernest’s Addiction Started
Once Ernest realized how wonderful marijuana made him feel, there was no turning back. For the next 12 years he used the drug religiously to better manage the struggles of life except for during the times when he was incarcerated. Once he started using marijuana his priorities changed. He noticed a significant drop in his grades, and he started skipping school more and more frequently.
Marijuana led Ernest to change as a person altogether. He wanted to become a gang member and become a drug dealer within a very short period of time. He started making poor decisions that led to criminal charges. He was arrested for breaking and entering, car theft, truancy and drug charges. He was eventually expelled from school for breaking every rule that they had except for arson.
By 15, Ernest has to sign his first probation deal. He had already been in and out of juvenile hall multiple times. He had realized that being a minor could work to his benefit. He kept getting minimal consequences due to his age when he did break the law. This gave him the false sense of entitlement that he could do whatever he wanted without having to worry about being held accountable for it. As part of the deal, Ernest had to go a different school. He was quickly kicked out of that school for fighting as well. This is where his life takes a turn for the worst. He is offered the option to get his GED and get a full-time job or go to juvenile hall until he is 18. He chose to get a GED and a full-time job.
The Worst Parts of Ernest’s Addiction
Getting his GED and a full-time job did not turn things around for Ernest. It actually made things much worse. He spent every dime that he made to support his drug habit. He starts dabbling in different drugs and starts selling them. He sees his friends dying around him and felt that the people that he met in the streets were like a family to him.
He got a woman pregnant and straightened his life up from addiction temporarily. The day that his girlfriend gave birth, Ernest went and got high again. He keeps using and eventually makes the mistake of falling back into his old habits. He starts robbing people with his friends and when they are on their way to a robbery, one night he is pulled over by the police for the first and last time.
He started jumping from state to state to try to change his life. He found that every place he moved was the same outcome because he didn’t change his mindset or get help for his addiction. He moved from Florida to Texas, where he was able to see his son more often. He didn’t straighten up though. Ernest started stealing more and more to try to get by with his son. He put his son in many questionable and dangerous situations in order to get high or drunk. Eventually he met a woman off of the internet and started smoking crack with her. A week later he was picked up on the street trying to talk to someone on a dead cell phone. His mother and the police suggested that he go to get help at a rehab center.
“I was able to give it to God and someone else so that I could get them burdens off of me.”
How Ernest Made it Alive and Found Sobriety
Ernest moved to Arizona and had started rehab. He was kicked out within two weeks because he took a cell phone into rehab. He didn’t think that he could be addicted to alcohol because it was legal. He had to sleep outside the first night after getting kicked out of rehab and got as drunk as he could. He woke up and thought that life wasn’t so bad, but quickly things took a turn. Life got so bad that he was snorting coke and ended up putting a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. It misfired and he didn’t know what to do next. He called his parents and they took him home.
He decided to start working out for two months and decided that he was going to go to a meeting when he reaches his 60 days sober. That morning he got second degree burns at work from a pan filled with butter. His work tried to make him go to the hospital, but he refused because he didn’t want to take the chance of having his mind altered at all. He went to the meeting so that he could get his 60-day chip. He started going to meetings but wasn’t following the program. Eventually he relapsed and then became homeless. He was living in a tunnel and trying to figure out how to use heroin. He was hanging out with the wrong crowd and got very high and tried to take his life again and survived.
He got arrested again and was incarcerated where he decided to start getting clean from his addiction. He followed the program and was able to get the step work completed so that he could get the life that he really wanted. He eventually was able to become a mentor to others and uses the program to grow and learn constantly. He is able to be proud of the man that he has become.