I started using drugs fairly late in life, I was eighteen years old. I say late in comparison with the age kids are doing it today.
My mother ruled her house with a big stick. That was her method. The constant way I gained attention was by getting my butt whipped on a daily basis. I found another way to get attention was to get sick. When I got sick I got the things I felt were necessary, love and attention.
I blamed my mother because she didn’t make better choices in her life so that I could have been happy growing up.
I went into the military because it was a place to run. I stayed in the military for a long time because they afforded me the same opportunities I had at home; three hots, a cot, and no responsibility. I can say I was a responsible person because I had rank and did this or that, but it was only because they gave me advance directions on what to do, when to do it, and how much to do.
My first drug was alcohol. I found that there were two personalities. When under the influence of alcohol and, later other narcotics, there was a personality change.
I found out later, however, that this personality change went back even farther. I was two people before I even started using. I had learned how to steal early. I had learned how to lie early. I had learned how to cheat early. I used these processes successfully. I was addicted to stealing long before I was addicted to drugs because it made me feel good. If I had some of your goodies to spread around, I felt good. I had a thing about stealing. I couldn’t go into a place unless I took something.
I was so naive, I knew nothing about drugs. Drugs were not something that were talked about in the 1930’s and 1940’s. It is not that drugs have changed, they just didn’t talk about them before. They didn’t talk about sex, or drugs, or religion, or discuss or explain them. It just wasn’t one of those things that was talked about.
I first experienced my drug of choice, heroin, in the Far East. I heard about opium and tried that. I found that you could cook up heroin and put it in a spike. There were a great variety of drugs in other countries that you could get by just walking into a drug store and asking for them. So I stayed out of the country for nine years. That way I wasn’t confronted with the attitudes and restrictions in the United States.
I knew nothing about the progression of my disease. I knew nothing about addiction. I ran around in the ignorance of addiction for a lot of years, not knowing, just not knowing.
No one explained to me that when you use drugs over a year’s time you can get hooked. No one told me about withdrawal from drugs. The only thing anyone told me was, “Don’t get sick,” and the way to do that was to keep on using.
One of the problems I found in the military was that they give you orders, ship you out, and they don’t send your connection with you. You get sick. You try to back that up the next time by trying to get a big enough supply, and your month’s supply lasts a week, or two or three days.
I knew nothing about progression of the disease nor the consequences of my actions. The progression of my disease caught up with me, as far as the military was concerned, when I started transporting and smuggling. Also, when you use drugs to the extent that you can’t be there for duty, they frown on it. The next thing they do is take you away and lock you up. Then the military did a cruel thing, they put me out on the streets.
I was ill equipped to take care of myself. I had gone from one mama to another mother. They had taken care of me, then I found myself on the street with no one to take care of me. I knew nothing of paying rent, working or being responsible. So I had to give that responsibility to whoever I could give it to. I ran through a lot of mothers.
I had to learn how to hustle on the street. You have to realize that the military has a lot of equipment that can be sold and I used to sell it, because I liked to steal. I had to learn other processes, like running through stores winging steaks and cigarettes under my arm, jumping from second story windows, and running from policemen.
I think there is a certain excitement that goes along with drug addiction. It was a lot like my childhood games of cops and robbers. I found out that there are more policemen than drug addicts. They were standing around watching you. I could never understand how they could go into a crowd of people and pick me out, and say, “Let’s get in the car, let’s go.” Nine times out of ten they had me dirty.
During the process of finding mothers, one mother found me. I thought I should hem this one up and get papers on her, then she couldn’t run away.
I chose correctly, I chose someone who wasn’t using. I knew about the ones that were using. They were never there when I got locked up. They never had bail money. They could never visit because they were too busy taking care of their own habits.
So I found one of those unsuspecting ones. She was in school and working and she had a place to stay. She had one shortcoming, she didn’t know she needed someone to take care of. I was a prime candidate. I wanted to be taken care of. She was going to help me get my act together. She proposed to me in jail and I said, “Yes, I do. Just go down and pay the bail.”
For the next three years I ran her crazy trying to keep up with me. Then she went out and found the only Narcotics Anonymous meeting in the world. How she did that, I don’t know. At that time, there was only one meeting in the whole world, and she went out and found it, and I sent her off to the meeting. I had her go check it out.
You have to realize that in those days, drug addicts were very unpopular. To just intimate that two drug addicts were going to congregate anywhere would constitute a police stakeout. That’s the way they treated drug addicts at the time. There was very little understanding about addiction. I was very leery about anything to do about helping drug addicts. I knew what they did with drug addicts; they locked them up, period! There was no program to go to, except in Ft. Worth and Lexington.
I always had a sad story to justify my using. One day, after one of those six month trips to go get a loaf of bread at the corner grocery, I came home and my bags were sitting by the door. She had told me fifty times or a thousand times, “You got to go.” This time was different. There was something in her voice this time. So I took my bags and went to the only place there was to go, the streets.
I had become accustomed to living in the streets. I knew how to live in the back of old cars, old laundry rooms, any old empty building, your house or my house. Of course, I never had my house. I couldn’t pay the rent. I never knew how to pay rent. If I had three dollars in my pocket, that three dollars was going for drugs before a place to stay. It was that simple. I think I paid rent one time while I was using drugs and living on the streets, that was just to move in. It was called “catch me if you can” from then on. It usually didn’t make any difference, because I was a ward of the state much of the time anyway. I just ran in the streets until they locked me up, then I had a place to stay. I could rest up, and get my health back in order to go back out and do it again.
I came to Narcotics Anonymous nearly 21 years ago* . But I didn’t come for me. I came just to keep her mouth shut. I went to meetings loaded.
I didn’t have a driver’s license. I was unemployable. I had no place to stay. I was the wrong color. I had no money. I didn’t have a car. I didn’t have an old lady, or I needed a new one. I took them all these problems and they would tell me, “Keep coming back.” And they said, “Work the steps.” I used to read the steps and thought that that was working them. I found out years later that even though I read the steps, I didn’t know what I had read. I did not understand what I read.
They told me in many places that I was an addict. I had been labeled an addict. From the military, to the jails, and right on down the line, I had been labeled. I accepted that, but I didn’t understand it. I had to go out and do some more experimenting before I got back to the program.
One of the things I had to learn to do was to understand what the program was all about. I had to become willing to find out what the program was about. Only after standing at the gates of death did I want to understand. I think death is the counsel permanent. I had overdosed a number of times, but that was kind of like the place where I always wanted to be. It was just before going over the brink and everything seemed okay. When I came out of it, I could say, “Wow, give me some more.” That’s insanity!
The final case for me was that I was about to be shot off a fence, and not by my own doing. I didn’t like that. Playing cops and robbers is dangerous out there. They have guns, and I don’t like being used for target practice. There were more and more cases of policemen sticking guns in my mouth and upside my head, and telling me to lay upside a wall.
My last day of narcotics use or drugs of any type, I had just fixed and two policemen got me spread-eagled on a chainlink fence that I was trying to get over. I became sober and clean immediately. Everything became very clear and I didn’t want to die that way. Something clicked on in my mind and I thought, “It doesn’t have to be this way.”
After that last rest and recuperation, I found out that I could work these steps. The sum total of my life has changed as a direct result. I got involved in working the steps, trying to understand what they were talking about, to really understand what they were talking about. I found there is a certain amount of action that goes with every step. I had to get into action about how the steps applied to me. I always thought the steps applied to you, not me.
It got down to talking about God and spirituality. I had canned God a long time ago, then I put that in church, and I didn’t have anything to do with church. I found out that God and spirituality have nothing to do with church.
I had to learn to get involved. It has been one hell of an adventure. My life has changed to such an extent that it is almost unbelievable that I was ever there. However, I know from where I came. I have constant reminders. I need that constant reminder of newcomers and talking with others.
This program has become a part of me. It has become a part of life and living for me. I understand more clearly the things that are happening in my life today. I no longer fight the process.
I came to meetings of Narcotics Anonymous in order to take care of the responsibilities that have been given to me. Today, I care. I am addicted to the loving and caring and sharing that goes on in NA. I look forward to more of these things in my life.
My problem is addiction, it has something to do with drugs being the means of not coping with life, it has something to do with that within, that compulsion and that obsession. I now have the tools to do something about it. The Twelve Steps of recovery are the tools.
* Written in 1981
"I Found the Only NA Meeting in the World." Narcotics Anonymous. 6th ed. Chatsworth, CA: Narcotics Anonymous World Services, 2008. 121-27. Print.
My name is Bob B. from Los Angeles. On the subject of people, places and things, my story is not much different from the executive, it’s just on the opposite end of the stick.
I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, poor, deprived, during the depression, in a broken home. The words of love were never spoken in my household. There were a lot of kids in my house.
Most of the things I remember about my life are recalled in retrospect. While they were happening, I didn’t know anything about it. I just remember going through life feeling different, feeling deprived. I never felt quite comfortable wherever I was, with whatever I had at any given time. I grew up in a fantasy world. Things on the other side of the fence always looked better. My grass was never green enough. My head was always out to lunch. I learned all the short cuts in order to make it through school.
I always had a dream of leaving home. It was not the place to be. My great fantasy was that there was going to be something good out there somewhere.
Greater Pensacola Area of