Jack F.

jackDOB: 8/17/47; Cella, West Germany.

I was okay for a while, and then this would be my pattern:

I would get off a drug and I would be okay and things would get better for a while and I would think I was okay and I would celebrate by getting high.

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I would get back into that vicious cycle. and it went on for years.

Today is two years clean. Today, two years of recovery. I came into the process of recovery right through the back door, when I was dragged into a hospital and deposited there by my family. And I was really not looking for help or anything else. I always enjoyed using drugs.

When I started I didn’t realize what exactly I was doing. I came up in the Sixties and I was a hippie and I ran around, I went back and forth in between New York and California, took a lot of LSD and smoked pot and stuff like that. I guess you know they were right. We used to laugh when they told you when you started smoking pot you’ll wind up shooting heroin. It turned out in my case, they were actually right. It’s exactly what happened, it just took a little bit. You could probably see the way it was going to go.

What happened to me was, I was a child of immigrants. We had come over in 1951. We came over from Germany. My parents were survivors of the Holocaust in Europe, and they were Jews in concentration camps, and I kind of grew up feeling that the world was a real insecure place for a real good reason. And isolated also, just with my family, we didn’t we weren’t real big on trusting people. And that’s my background, is where I come from.

It was always pointed out to me that I was different from the people around that I lived with. I was different in some way, and I always felt that, I felt real isolated from people, and I never really felt a part of anything in this life. I really never did. When I was a kid I always felt that every¬body else knew something, what was going on, except me. I just didn’t know. They didn’t tell me. I had a lot of fear. I was always real fearful about things happening to me, and so on. I was really basically only secure when I was hanging out by myself. Kind of a boy and his dog kind of bullshit. That’s what I did.

And I moved down to New York City, to the Bronx, when I was thirteen years old. I went to high-school in Manhattan, right near the East Village, near Washington Square Park. My eyes started to get open a little bit. I was real naive, a real innocent kid.

And I went away to college and I had a real straight upbringing. I was taught that hard work was a good thing and that to be moral and not to be, not to be too into myself, and try to be a decent type of person. My parents were pretty okay role models in that way. They were emotional disasters, but that’s another story.
And somehow none of that took at all.

None of that took even a little bit. And as soon as I got away from home I was — I just wanted to have some fun. I was drinking and smoking pot within the first day that I left. That was my progression, that was my road. As soon as I started to use that way, I felt real comfortable. I found a bunch of guys to hang with, and they were doing the same thing as I was, and I was accepted. And I didn’t have to tell them about who I was and where I came from and the shame I felt growing up and all of that could just drop all of that and just get high and be a wild man.

That’s what I did, and I started dropping in and out of school. I had always been a good student type of thing. It took me seven years. I finally got through college with the bare minimum. A lot of that because I wanted different things, to avoid the draft and getting money, whatever, my reasons for staying were real suspect. I never realized what was going on with me. I always maintained for years and years, even from that point, that I was getting high just because I was enjoying it. That’s what I enjoyed doing, and that was my motivation supposedly.

And you know, a lot of it was sexual too: that’s sex, drugs, and rock and roll. That was the way things were, and I bought right into that. Around 1969 all that started to change. Around 1969, 1970, I started to do what I swore I would never do, even though I was getting high on all types of things. I stuck a needle in my arm. I thought I would never do that. And when it was offered to me — it was there. I probably didn’t even hesitate for a heart beat.

And I did that, and this girl that I was with turned me on to heroin and that became the focus of my life for the next few years and changed me for the rest of my life. From that point on I pretty much dropped everything else, and whatever drug I was using always became the center of my life. It wasn’t until I got clean that I understood what that was. Using and finding ways and means to get more and that became my whole life. That was my life.

I was always sort of what I call a semi-functional type addict. That is, I worked, I had a job, I had a house, I didn’t live in the street unless I chose to, which at various times I did, but not after I started shooting dope. I moved back to New York City and I got pretty much a regular job.

I worked for a construction company and I was a super. I got the job of course because my Dad was a property owner. The only difference was that I carried a syringe with me all the time. I kept popping into bathrooms to shoot dope four or five times a day, whatever it was. Sometimes I had to take long lunch hours because I had to go down to the Bronx and cop.

I still maintained that I was okay, that I did that just because I liked to. Some people drank and I shot dope. I didn’t see where one would be any worse than the other. As it turns out, once that I got clean, that’s what I am told, that one is pretty much like the other.

But I was looking at it like that during those years.
Eventually I got into trouble. I started embezzling money from the company, you know, I just plain ran out of money to continue doing what I was doing. And I had to look at the fact that I was an addict — I don’t think that I had ever used that word in those years. But I knew that something was real wrong and I got sick real easy. I got sick real easy, so I always had to have dope. I was either in withdrawal or nodding.

I lived a lot of years like that. I got on to a methadone program for the first time and literally walked in there screaming, with convulsions, before I would go in for help. It was such a humiliating experience for me. And I went in and they gave me methadone and it took the pain away. I had found a new drug. Eventually they detoxed me, that first time, off of methadone. I had tried to stop shooting dope a lot of times in the years that I was doing it.

I ran around in some really horrible areas, you know, where else are you going to get dope from? Harlem, you know, it was a little different. I drove my XKE down to Harlem with the top down, parked it by the projects like it was fucking normal to do, and just walked in and copped. And nobody ever fucking, in all those years that I was running in the South Bronx, Fox Street, Simpson Street, Harlem, Lennox Avenue, all those places, nobody ever ever messed with me. The police stopped me one time in the Bronx in all those years, and they didn’t do anything, and nobody ever threatened me — nothing. It was incredible.

And I really thought I was a bad ass and I really am not and never was. I don’t know what I would have done if I had a problem. I would have bled, that’s what I would have done. I just didn’t. I did what I was supposed to. I just went like I was supposed to, and I was shaking, but I had to get my dope, you know, that’s the way it was.

Anyway, at this point I decided that my problem was that I am a dope addict, a heroin addict — rather, that is my problem — addicted to heroin. And I figured that if I stopped shooting heroin my life would be okay, it would get better. So I used this methadone for a while and I got off of that, and I got off it because I got jammed up. I ran out of money. My family confronted me. A lot of horrible shit going on and that’s the reason why, not because I wanted to stop, but I stopped, however I did it, I stopped.

I was okay for a while, and then this would be my pattern: I would get off a drug and I would be okay and things would get better for a while and I would think I was okay and I would celebrate by getting high. I would get back into that vicious cycle. And it went on for years. I repeated the same thing with methadone a lot of times, and then with coke and all its different manifestations. And I kept hitting bottoms and recouping a little bit, then hitting worse bottoms.

Finally, about five years ago I was pretty much at the end of my rope. I was taking a humongous dose of methadone every day. I was on a clinic, I was buying two extra bottles a day, because I knew they weren’t going to give me enough. I was smoking base that I was making all day long and I was taking pills and I was just a wreck. My teeth rotted out of my head, I was fat and bloated, I was a mess. I wrecked my cars five times. I fell asleep, just drove off the road.

Nothing ever happened to me of course, as far as physically — no scratches or nothing on me. But I was real tired and I felt real crazy. I felt real sick and I didn’t know what had happened to my life. I was shit — at that time I was already thirty-six years old and my life, I felt like my life had just passed.

And I had a couple of women that I really loved that I had cast aside along the way because I just couldn’t keep it together, not for any reason whatsoever. I just couldn’t keep it together. I told them to go away. I couldn’t handle emotions at all is what it was. But I didn’t know that I was real down. I felt real, real down, and my life was just falling apart, and I locked myself in my apartment for about three weeks and I just kicked, I just kicked, crawled on the floor, and I sweat and I stank and I moaned and groaned and it was just pathetic.

But I did it. I just didn’t come out of that apartment until I didn’t need to shoot dope or go to the clinic. It was horrible, it was really, really horrible. And I spent the next couple of years rebuilding my life. So I thought I hadn’t found recovery yet.

What I had found was a profound fear of what I had gone through, and not really any understanding. And over the next couple of years I stayed away from drugs. I even didn’t drink most of the time. And I didn’t perceive alcohol as a drug at that time. But I was real scared and I just stayed away from everything. I lived a real isolated type of life.

I started to get my health back together. I went to a gym, I dropped some of the bloated weight that I had picked up. I got into . . . I got another girlfriend. We spent a lot of time together. She was — she is an addict. She is still active today. I don’t see her anymore. But we spent four years together from that point. My life did start to get better. I started to get my health back. I started to be able to talk to my family a little bit. Back at work in my business.

Things started to get better and I started to get some pride in myself from that. I thought I did something. You know, all my friends were still using, and they never stopped, and I did. I started to feel a little bit cocky, believe it or not. I didn’t learn a lesson from all those years. And I figured I was okay now, I have licked it, I have learned how to overcome the need to do drugs. I got sloppy, I didn’t pay attention.

And after about three years of staying away from every¬thing the urge to use just came up, that obsession just came up. I don’t remember what triggered it. It just came back from out of nowhere, like it hadn’t been around at all for . . . And I had a little back spasm one day. I have back problems from time to time. And I went to a doctor and he said, “I will give you a script for percodan.”

And I had taken thousands of percodans in my life. I knew perfectly well what they were.

And here it was three years after I had hit that bottom. I said, “Sure.” And I took them and it triggered me all over again. I lasted about a year, at the end of which I was eating fifty to sixty percodans a day, which probably wasn’t that much compared to what I was doing when I was shooting dope, but it was enough to kill probably the average person.

I was just a wreck, and it was much worse than it had ever been. It happened quicker and over much less drugs. I didn’t know what to do. I just didn’t know I was lost. I didn’t know what had happened. I couldn’t believe that it had happened to me again. And of course I had done the same thing and expected different results. I just didn’t see it that way.

From that one day I got the obsession to smoke some base one day, which I hadn’t done in three or four years. And I did that and from that point I lasted seven or eight days. At the end of the seven or eight days I was running around in front of the building that I was living in, with a loaded .45, firing it at people. But those people only existed in my imagination. I was hallucinating. So I fired at them, and the police came and they took my gun, but I knew then, I knew that the police were my business and they never arrested me. Once again nothing really happened to me.

I was totally out of control, pretty near psychotic. I was ready to quit. I was really ready to quit life. My sister, who I am real close to, through all the years kept an eye on me. And my girlfriend called her one day and said, “You’ve got to come get him, he’s gone, he’s out of control.”

And they kind of waited for a moment when I was lucid and they all came up to my house one day, my sister, my brother-in-law, who is a big guy, a two hundred and fifty pound guy. They more or less coerced me to come along with them. I didn’t have any fight left in me. They took my car keys and my wallet and shit. I was all right. I had managed to stash a little coke and stuff in my pockets. I went down to their house and I snuck some coke in with me and I cooked it up at night and I sat up all night and smoked it. Fell asleep for an hour or two and woke up in convulsions.

That was it for me. That was exactly two years ago today that I woke up in convulsions in my sister’s house and they said, she said, “Well, I don’t know what to do with you. I have got to take you to a hospital.” And I was okay with that. I figured she would take me to an emergency room and I could get a shot of morphine or something, and be back out and try to get this thing together. And what she did wasp she dumped me at a treatment center. I needed all kinds of medication.

A couple of days later, when I finally came to, when I finally got out of bed. I looked around at where I was. I was real, real ashamed. I was thirty-nine years old when I wound up there. I had a lot of opportunities in my life to accomplish things and I had always been told that I had a lot of talent. And a lot of intelligence. And I wound up in a fucking treatment center. I didn’t even know really what a treatment center was. I just knew that I had lost any vestige of having control over my life.

While I was laying in that bed that first couple of days, one of the guys who worked there that was a recovering addict came over to me and he asked me if I had had enough. It was the perfect question. He didn’t wait for an answer, but it was the right question to ask. They explained to me about being powerless and unmanageable. I really . . . I was real sick that day, I was real physically sick, and I was real depressed and real ashamed. Ashamed more than anything else.
When I heard that I was powerless and that my life was unmanageable despite myself, that triggered a little bit of hope for me.

I got goose bumps just thinking about it. A little bit of hope that I didn’t even know still existed, because it was such a perfect shorthand for what had happened to me. I couldn’t explain everything. I didn’t know how I had got to that point. I never understood why things worked out for me the way they did, how I seemed to turn everything into shit. And yet I would survive and I always got better, I always managed to get over.

I didn’t understand that there was a power working in my life, I was powerless over my addiction, and that my life had become unmanageable. It made such perfect sense to me. Right then it was a revelation to me. Outwardly I was still in a lot of denial and I was telling people that there was not that much wrong with me. “I got some bad drugs, I just got a little bit out of control.” Outwardly I was still in a lot of denial, trying to save face really. Although I looked like a pile of shit and I felt worse, I still was trying to pretend that I was okay.

But inwardly that was the beginning of my surrender. I knew that my ass had been solidly kicked and they kept me there six weeks. I feel that I was fortunate. What I got was a little education and I got detoxed again, which I wasn’t capable of doing anymore by myself. I was just too tired to detox myself again. I could not. I knew I wouldn’t do it. I would die first. I would never go through that pain of withdrawal again, ever. I just couldn’t take it just one more time.

They did that for me and they did it real well. The doctors knew what they were doing and they introduced me to recovery. I heard the message of recovery from some clean addicts there. Boy, I was real suspicious of those clean addicts. I didn’t know what the fuck they wanted, what they were there for, what was in it for them. But there was some¬thing about what they said and the way they said it that really got me right away. I didn’t want to go back to my other way of life.

And these people, their stories, sounded like they made sense to me, they sounded like they knew what they were talk¬ing about, where they had been. And they were okay. They were kind of happy and they weren’t desperate. Everything wasn’t a big fucking deal to them like it was to me at that point. So I stuck around. I got out of treatment. There were meetings right near my house all day and every night. And I just started going to meetings. And they told me, “Go to meetings and you will stay clean.”

The second day that I got out of that hospital I ran into a guy I used to do coke with. He used to live on my block and I used to buy from him. And this guy was a fucking animal. The last time that I had seen him, while I was using, I had wrecked a car. And they took me to the hospital and I had a little cut and I was all bloody, I had blood all over my clothes, but I wasn’t really hurt, it was just little glass cuts.

And I took a cab to this guy’s house and I just walked in all bloody and wild-eyed and tried to cop from him. And he just threw me out of his house. I didn’t figure ever that this guy would ever still be alive. And he had over two years clean at that point. And he kind of grabbed me and dragged me to meetings to help me get clean. Those first few months I grabbed on to him and he dragged me into recovery. He told me, “Just go to meetings every day and get with newcomers and share what’s going on.”

I knew that I belonged. I just felt so comfortable in the meetings. I hadn’t felt so comfortable any place in my life. I just got into it. I had a real yearning for some kind of spiritual life, but that disappeared about the time I started shooting dope, and I kept that real buried.

It wasn’t really an area that I really had anything to say about. I was bitter about a lot of things in my past and so on, and I chose to blame God. I was denying His existence and blaming Him at the same time. It was just a matter of being a little honest with myself. In looking at it I realized I always thought of myself. I always figured that God wasn’t doing the job that I would like Him to do. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t believe in Him.

I was told that this recovery thing was about total change of personality, a total change in the way that I saw the world. I thought about taking responsibility, about looking at the fact that I had defects of character that caused me to act certain ways, and that even though I still had these defects, I didn’t need to act on them all the time. I needed to start working on that. I didn’t get clean to look at my defects. I came in because I didn’t want to hurt like that. I couldn’t stay alive anymore using.

But gradually I came to understand that that is what I needed to do. I am working on it to the best of my ability, trying not to act on my defects as much as possible. I became proud that I was clean. It became a source of joy, a real joy in my life. I have a lot of clean friends now that I love dearly, in a short period of time, and people that I really related to. I get along with people, I have an ability to do that. I had it when I was using.

It’s just that I was real arrogant and I just liked most people because I had to make myself either superior to them or inferior to them.

I take an inventory of myself a lot of days. Every day I do something to focus on staying clean. It’s amazing to me, it’s become a natural thing. It’s not a day that goes by that I don’t have some contact with recovery. It’s the center of my life. And if I happen for one reason or another not to see anybody in recovery, I pray every day and read my literature a lot of the days. I have a peace of mind that I never had in my life.

And I have had more money at different times in my life than I have now. I’ve had real good relationships in my life with women that I don’t have now. None of that matters to me. But in spite of what I might want, I really feel satisfied with the way my life is going today. I am happy about it. It’s hard to describe what is going on inside me because this is new feelings.

I am not used to feeling at all. The feelings that I have right now? It’s not like there is anything big and dramatic. I am getting to the point where I am starting to understand a little bit. But there are no big deals. Whichever way it works, as long as I do my part in things, it’s okay. I have a real sense of peace — that’s the best way that I can put it.

I have had a lot of miracles over the last few years and I get the sense that I haven’t run out of them yet, that there is more to come. I am real content to see that happen. I am real happy. The only satisfaction that I used to get was to get a real maximum peak type of a feeling, experience, a sensory overload type of thing, and then I had to pay a price for that. And even those started to become impossible to achieve.

I have no doubt in my mind and in my life, I have no doubt that I would not be alive today if it were not for my Higher Power and the meetings that I go to for recovery. I am enjoying my life. My relationship with my family, which was real sick for most of my life, is okay as it can be today. It’s all right.

At least I have gotten to share a few years with my Mom and Dad where I have some understanding that I am not pissed off all the time. I have two nieces that look up to me that I can spend time with. My sister — we have always been close. Even that relationship was in danger and that’s worth a lot to me. We are a real small family. I’ve got that back. If I stop and think about it, just this way, sometimes it’s overwhelming. I am real grateful for what I have today.

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