I’m Proof That YOU Can Turn Your Life Around

Born and raised in Chandler Arizona, Hank became his father’s son when he picked up his first bottle of alcohol at nine years old. His addiction story is not unique. He hit rock bottom doing bad things but found serenity in recovery.

Not wanting to go back to prison, Hank works hard to do what he needs to do to stay sober.

Young Hank’s Addiction Story

As a young child, Hank believed a father’s role included drinking and passing out on the floor around the house. After sleeping over at a friend’s house and witnessing the dynamics of a loving father, Hank made the short-lived promise to himself to never drink.

Hank was nine years old when he and his brother picked up one of his dad’s bottles and shared it. From that day on, Hank found himself drinking daily. His addiction began by sneaking alcohol behind his family room couch and never getting caught.

Hank liked the way alcohol made him feel. At 170 pounds in seventh grade, buzzed Hank felt six-feet tall and bullet proof.

Life as an Addict

Drinking was Hank’s preferred escape method. Although his brother was able to limit himself, Hank believes he inherited the addiction gene from his father.

In the seventh grade, Hank was introduced to wrestling and marijuana. Being pushed by his father to wrestle, he escaped the pressure by drinking before, during, and after school.

After winning his first wrestling match in high school, Hank decided to work a little harder at wrestling. He liked the feeling of winning, but not enough to quit drinking.

He benefited from his hard work and was offered a spot to compete in the 1980 Olympics. President Carter boycotted the Olympics that year and a bummed-out Hank never got his chance to compete at the Olympian level.

Turning down a college scholarship, Hank enrolled in the military. Deciding on the Navy, Hank was stationed in San Diego, California. Drinking and drugging his way through boot camp, Hank paid non-boot campers to stash bottles for him. “We were drinking mouth wash. We were doing whatever it took.”

Sixteen months into boot camp, Hank drank himself to a blackout state and drove a military vehicle to San Francisco from San Diego. After being AWOL for three days, Hank was found by police in a Ralph’s parking lot passed out in the stolen military vehicle. After doing time in the brig, Hank was offered a discharge.

After being discharged from the military, Hank married his high school sweetheart. While Hank preferred alcohol, his wife favored marijuana and Hank participated in both. “I was a fan of anything that would get me out of myself. Whether it was alcohol or drugs or shoplifting.”

The Worst Parts of Hank’s Addiction Story

After eight years, Hank’s wife left him and their three kids in the midst of Hank’s addiction. In survival mode, Hank began robbing drug dealers with his kids in the car. He also cooked meth in their bathroom and shoplifted with them in tow.

Hank’s first DUI accident nearly killed a lady and left her paralyzed in a wheelchair. He continued his drinking and drug use. “I kept drinking. I didn’t realize how messed up I was.”

A year after his DUI accident, Hank received his second DUI on New Year’s night. Trying to evade the police, Hank found himself trapped in a cul de sac where his blood alcohol level was a .283. He challenged the police to a fight.

Hank was charged with 19 felonies. He didn’t care. He continued to drink and use meth and heroin. Hank ignored the signs that he needed help for his addiction.

How Hank Survived his Addiction

Hank signed a plea bargain on November 4, 1992. This would be the start of his prison stint, his sobriety anniversary date and the beginning of his addiction story.

“This is the proof to me that there is a God in the universe.” Signing a plea deal for 11 years, the judge showed mercy on Hank. He gave him one year in prison with 10 years suspended.

While locked in a cell, Hank survived detox without medication. After sleeping under his bunker, having his mattress and belongings stolen, and learning his estranged wife took his kids from his mom, Hank started to question how his life turned out the way it did. He was not happy in his current situation.

Being stuck in self-reflection, Hank asked his prison counselor what he needs to do to ensure he doesn’t end up back in prison. His counselor told him not to drink and introduced him to AA meetings inside prison. Hank found a sponsor and attended meetings regularly.

Hank’s Recovery and Redemption

After 8 months in prison, Hank was released. After enrolling in community college, he received is AA degree and landed a job in the school’s math department. After graduating with honors, he enrolled in Arizona State University with his parole officer’s permission. But his sketchy past caused him to be turned down by multiple schools of discipline. Soon, Hank stumbled upon the School of Social Work.

The School of Social Work was welcoming and encouraged Hank to use his past to help others.

Earning a degree in social work and staying committed to sobriety, Hank knew his life was getting better. The School of Social Work chose him as a model student. He represented what it’s like to overcome addiction and adversity.

Hank stayed involved at school. He earned a master’s degree and worked with a plethora of perpetrators. Eventually, he re-married and made amends with his parents. Hank’s father stopped drinking at age 72. Before dying at the age of 84, he told Hank he never realized he was an alcoholic until he tried to stop drinking.

Hank ends his story by sharing that he never preaches in his group. Instead, he spreads the message that “If you’re an addict, the only way to be sober, is to not drink or drug.”

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2 comments
  1. I think recovery and addiction are especially hard when you grow up with an addict as a parent. Thank you for sharing this uplifting story. I love to see people overcome odds and change their lives. I have addicts in my own family (don’t we all?) and I’ve seen how hard it is and how easy it is to relapse — but also that change is possible, including permanent change. Stay strong Hank!

  2. This is a very inspiring story. I am amazed his dad quit at age 72 (and lived that long and even longer!) and also amazed that Hank was only 9 years old when he started drinking – just wow. When his dad said he didn’t realize he was an alcoholic until he tried to quit, I thought about my friend who drinks around the clock, but doesn’t think he has a problem. I wish Hank the best of luck and I’m so glad he is out there helping others!

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