Day 3 of HIKMT’s 25 Ways in 25 Days to celebrate Christmas.
Merry Christmas Heroin is Killing My Town!
I’m Michael Pack, a community activist, alcoholic and recovering addict. I am employed by the Fuck Heroin Foundation, my dream job! This opportunity has helped with my recovery and taught me how to use social media and other platforms that were foreign to me at the beginning of this journey. Never in a million years would I have believed I would be on this fantastic team. It’s the best gift possible for a guy like me. You could say it’s an early Christmas present I will never forget.
I was born and addict. I believe its genetic and I can’t tell you how old I was when i started using, but as a child I showed symptoms of the disease before drugs and alcohol ever took ahold of me.
Selfish and self-centered, Christmas was all about me: what i was receiving as gifts and I always set high expectations only to be let down if I didnt get exactly everything I wanted. At 12 yrs old I started asking my parents and everyone for money only and I drank and drugged my way thru the holidays. It was all oblivion, from Halloween through New Years.
My addiction robbed me of everything I started getting locked up as teenagers and spent all of my Christmas in jail or prison not seeing my family for years. In my addiction, I didn’t celebrate, and wouldn’t consider going to church, thought I would be perceived as weak. Hooch and drugs were the only coping skills I had at the time to get through most Holidays. The last time i used was October 26, 2010. I was life flighted to Saint Rita’s in Lima, OH and if you don’t remember your last use you probably havent had it yet! I spent 27 days in a coma… Blew all panels on the tests and had blood alcohol content of .42.
When I woke up I was given a choice go to treatment or Twin Valley; I chose treatment. From there I was sent to Serenity House 12 step faith based Christian program. I didn’t trust anyone! I had been in places before, but never truly openened up and just thought about using all time. Honestly, this time I wanted to get drunk and high but I didn’t. Once I embraced recovery, the overwhelming desire never came back.
All of the past places I had been in before, I would get a pass for holidays and messed up, went to jail or got kicked out. This time I knew I couldnt go home. I was 69 days clean and sober my first Christmas, and was white knuckling it! I told my spiritual advisor Mike Martin, about my concerns about going home for the Holidays and he suggested I stay put. I was scared all alone and by myself.
He suggested going to Alpha Center in the morning to help cook and feed homeless. I wanted to spend my 500 dollars he was holding. There was no way he would give it to me, so I walked two blocks down there. That day I volunteered, and it changed my life forever! For the first time, I wasn’t worried about just me. I was grateful I wasn’t standing in that line needing something to eat. Right in front of my was my future. After seeing that and feeling the natural high of helping someone in need, someone just like me.
It was then that I realized that this could be me and I was thankful. It made me feel good to give back and when I returned to house there was all kinds of presents from Samaritan Works for the 6 guys in house. I felt like a kid again!
You know, I put 1000 hours in volunteering at that soup kitchen and what I learned that day was anytime that I’m having a problem, go be of service to others anyway that I can.
They arranged for Ron from AA to pick me up and go to Alcathon. I thought rooms and fellowship were boring up to this point. Finally, I felt like i fit in for first time and had a blast! There were meetings hourly, a dance, people singing, watching movies, and playing cards. I made lifelong friends from that event but at one point I got a little down and told this elderly lady about missing my family and how this was my first ever sober holiday and how we grew apart and how their addictions grew worse over the years and how I thought I was missing out on my gifts; money of course…
For a moment I got a little down and told this elderly lady about missing my family and how this was my first sober holiday and that we had grown apart. The ones suffering in my family from addiction had grown worse over the years. Not to mention I was missing out on my gifts of money no less. She looked me in the eyes and told me Christmas was Jesus birthday and not mine! Christmas isn’t about presents it is about rejoicing, being together, and celebrating life. Being clean and sober was the best gift I could ever receive. That Christmas night the people in those rooms became my family.
Besides landing my dream job I’ve already received and witnessed so many lives transformed. One was a guy my family was friends with for 3 generations. He received scholarship to Florida and now his mom posts how happy she is and grateful her son is sober because of dreamteam. The other is a 19 yr old kid that I personally put on the plane, whose mom thought he was doomed. I used with his dad, who is my best friend and incarcerated because of his addiction. I was able to amends there and the other guy I helped just yesterday. I grew up with him and now he’s in treatment.
I have learned in recovery to never abandon my friends and family. I’m grateful that it’s no longer me that is lonely and crazy, not being able to cope and staying high to escape reality. I make sure to give back throughout holidays. This year the Foundation is doing all kinds of things for those still suffering and those are greatest rewards. Being in recovery, helping those still suffering, and landing my dream job means I have already received the best gifts imaginable. If you have loved ones suffering check on them, spend time with them, let them know you love them. Without love and compassion, you could be sending them straight into the arms of people who dont care. Never shun someone suffering in active substance use, especially this year. I don’t recommend you give them money, gift cards or things they can trade or sell.
Just like that little lady told me, that’s not what holidays are about. Loving and including them is the best gift you can give someone like me.
Merry Christmas HIKMT! Love to everyone.
Slow down and let go
On a road trip up the California coast a while back, I tried to call home only to find that the battery in my cell phone had died. I worried. What if someone needed to get in touch with me? What if there was a problem with the house? What if my family couldn’t find me and got worried? I passed the exit to the beach that I had always wanted to see. I obsessed some more. I stopped for breakfast at a restaurant overlooking the Pacific ocean. I asked if they had a pay phone. They didn’t. I barely noticed the stunning view, the smell or the sound of the surf, and I can’t remember eating my eggs and toast. I put off seeing things until another trip; I took the freeway and got home early.
When I got home, there were no messages. No one had needed me; no one had even been aware that I was gone. But I had missed out on the treasures of the trip. I had spent so much time obsessing; I could barely remember where I’d been.
God, help me enjoy where I am right now.
Shortcut to the Spirit of the Season:
The best way to start the quest for personal peace is by ending the conflict in your own world. If a problem is upsetting you, use the holiday season to put that problem behind you. Find the person at the heart of the problem and build a bridge to peace. Humble yourself, end a feud, seek middle ground and in the process take charge of your Christmas. The best gift we can give ourselves is to invest in our own peace of mind, heart and spirit. We need to invest in this treasure in order to see it multiply. Now is the time to embrace the gifts of the season because we have the power to make this a mighty Christmas. As a reminder of your own light, use an oil lamp as a part of this year’s decorations and as you light it each day, let it be a reminder of your potential to be a light in a dark world.