Extinguishing the Fire

Addiction, Facing Addiction in Indiana

This disease of addiction wants you to remain in a state of obsession and compulsively act by using an external source, such as drugs, to fix an internal problem. The drugs are just a side-effect of the disease, and it can manifest itself in all areas of our lives.

Today, after working steps, I realize that a lot of my use was subconsciously trying to prove that what the doctors told me about my mother was wrong. That she didn’t have a disease she would always live with and that she couldn’t just quit by choice. She too faced this battle with addiction and eventually died from the disease. Deep down I felt that if I could put all the drugs and alcohol in me and just stop then so could she.

Cocaine. She tore me up. I started out snorting it but then progressed to smoking it. I got a buzz when I snorted it, but when I smoked it, the high was on a whole new level. The anesthetic feeling was flirting with me every time; and each time, I went back for more.

My life has rapidly deteriorated after I picked up my first needle. I did not feel anything the first time I got shot up. I decided to shoot myself up the second time to see if there would be a difference. I put the needle in, pulled back the syringe, and watched my blood come out and the ribbon of drugs shoot into my bloodstream. As soon as I pulled the trigger, instant purple vision with my eyes bouncing back and forth, vibrating my head. I had to take a step outside because my chest was pounding so hard — I just wanted to be able to breathe. I was equally scared and enticed at that very moment. I had found the threshold of how much I could use up to where I would pop. Every time after that, I was chasing to get to that first feeling again.

That initial sight was the one thing I could never overcome. I was instantly addicted to the visual sight of slamming it into my body for that instant change. Then a decade of legal problems began.

After being in and out of jails, rehabs, treatment, and losing everything several times over, I reached a point in “drug court” where I had multiple violations and had to choose between rehab or jail. I chose rehab. I came out of treatment feeling like I really had a handle on this battle. My girlfriend, Rhea, and I had purchased two houses down on Elm Street. The house that we lived in had a light, good-natured atmosphere. We were very happy with ourselves at that point. The house next door we rented out to tenants knowing that they were addicts as well. We thought we could save them and make them better people. Yet, we hadn’t done any real work on ourselves and had just set another trap created by this insidious disease for relapse.

While living in the home, we did happen to eat out a lot. We had dinner at the bar, which led to drinking after dinner at the same bar. This was an ongoing occurrence to where problems started to snowball. One night after a few too many drinks, Rhea was taken to the hospital. The lack of food in her system compared to the amount of alcohol in her body was overpowering for her. She stopped breathing at one point. While at the hospital, the doctors put an IV into her arm, and that flipped a switch in my mind and triggered that old familiar foe: my disease. It hit me like a ton of bricks as I watched her blood mix as it soared through the IV. All the work I had done up to that point, including the drug rehab, was gone. I was entranced and had to use again. Immediately upon returning home, I sought the active addicts next door, and my downward spiral of relapse began again. The mood in our once-light-feeling home changed almost immediately. I continued to use more and more and began to manufacture my own methamphetamine to support my habit without incurring further debt financially and to keep the feelings of paranoia, fear, guilt and shame at bay.

There was an oppressive feeling inside of our home after that point. It truly was a nightmare on Elm Street. The mixture of chemicals and being high ourselves filled the home to the point where we were seeing images and spirits that were not there. We were hearing voices and sounds coming from all over the house that were not physically there.

It felt as though a hand was on the back of my head pushing me down the entire time. That pressure was so realistic and unbearable. But that outside pressure made us come to realize that we had no other choice but to manipulate and toy with other people in order to find any relief from the attacks we felt that were so real. It was as if all the negative energy subsided when we became a servant of the very thing plaguing us. When we made others feel uncomfortable, we felt a strange feeling of comfort. It felt as though the people around us were talking about us behind our backs, and we were trying to figure out what they were saying. But in reality, nothing was being said at all. This not only caused mental pain on us but physical pain that I would have to be reminded of every day. All this led me to a moment that would change the direction of my life, my thoughts and my perception of the world.

It started when I had a jar full of leftover meth oil from other dope I had already shaken off. This leftover, however, had a stronger amount stirring inside of it. The whole bottom was full of powder. I took it into the bathroom to pour it off, not knowing that Rhea had put a lit candle beside the door. When I set the jar down on the counter and shut the door, the wind from that force brought the flame into the chemical-infused jar. It just ignited into flames.

I was in a bathroom with a jar full of fuel — on fire. I didn’t know what to do.

The bottom of the jar busted out, and that’s when I threw it forward away from me. It landed in the toilet. But when that oil hits water, it doesn’t go out. The fire spread. Not only was the toilet on fire but also the door, the bathtub and the shower. The fire climbed up the walls, filling the bathroom with black smoke. Miraculously, we were able to put the now-roaring fire out with some used kitty litter and a blanket but not without experiencing several second-degree burns.

The home was full of thick, black smoke that we couldn’t let out for fear that the State Police officer, who just happened to be driving by at this very moment, would see, and our chance to obtain that ever-eluding ultimate high would come to a screeching halt. We eventually were able to slowly evacuate the smoke, but the damage was very extensive. But that wasn’t enough to gain clarity and make a decision to get help. No, it propelled us yet deeper into the misery that becomes so comfortable while stuck in the vicious disease of addiction.

About a month and a half later, we had found a secret room in the house. And that is where I decided I was going to make the dope because no one knew this room even existed. In the process of smoking dope off, I used what is known as a gas generator. That is a mix of sulfuric acid and iodized salt, creating hydrochloric smoke that drops the powder meth from the meth oil. The fumes that come from the generator are so poisonous that anything with metal on it would immediately rust. I was breathing those fumes into by body at least 15 hours a day in the heights of my relapse.

I was sitting in the room with my phone in one hand and a gas generator between my legs. In the span of two hours, I was waiting for Rhea to come back from making a deal with someone else. The first time I passed out for about 15 minutes, then jolted up and looked at my phone. Nothing. No missed calls or even a text message telling me where she was.

I had the jar of fuel sitting down on the floor by my legs and a tea candle away from me by a few inches. At this point, we were so consumed by the disease that even though I had the money to pay for electricity, I was never in the condition to make the arrangements to pay because I couldn’t pull myself to use my getting-high-time to take care of my responsibilities.

I had become powerless to the drugs and my life became completely unmanageable. No heat. No water. No electricity. And all alone.

The second time, I passed out; I fell forward and knocked the jar of fuel over, hitting the carpet. I watched that fluid gel over across the carpet until it reached the candle. It knocked it out, and then suddenly, all I saw was white, white light everywhere. My knee was soaked in the fluid from when I fell over it, and it caught the fire as well. Even what I had on under my pants was on fire. I was able to put out the fire, but the underneath was still burning along with the chemical burn. The only way out was through the hole that we had put in the wall the first time we found it. As a crawled out, the drywall just rubbed right across the burn down my leg. I knew that something was still wrong because the pain I felt was unbearable.

As I pulled my pants off to see what the damage was, my flesh peeled off with it. The pain alone was indescribable, but having to look at my own flesh come off as I took my pants off reacted something in my mind. I looked over at the mirror in that moment of crisis and shouted “God I don’t want this anymore; I don’t want to live like this anymore.”

I thought I had put the fire out but because the house was so old, the insulation was kenneling the heat in that room. It got to the point that I could not go past the top stairs because the heat was so heavy and filled with black smoke. This was about two o’clock in the morning when this whole scene happened. The fire department came, did their job and just left. No police at all.

My phone was dead, so all I could do was crawl over to the other house with 12 inches of snow on the ground while I was in my boxers. I played doctor on myself to wrap up my scorched leg. I squeezed a tube of Neosporin, wrapped it with a grey sweatshirt and sealed it off with duct tape.

I had passed out from pain, exhaustion and dehydration in the house next door. When I finally woke up, it was close to morning because the sky was still dark, but the sun was starting to peak over the horizon. I had completely forgotten about asking God for a change of life, and my first thoughts were how can I use and how can I run. As I hobbled over to the window to see what was happening next door, I looked out and saw those blue and red lights flashing. The state police, the county police, the city police, the fire department, an ambulance, the news, and the people in the neighborhood, all surrounding the house. I was paralyzed with fear knowing this was too much to handle in one night and all hope of having any future at all had vanished.

I hid between the second-floor ceiling and the third-level floorboards. Rhea refused to leave me in the condition I was in regardless of the impending consequences and ignoring my pleas to save herself from me while she still could. Eventually, the others we thought we could save inadvertently saved us by informing the police where we were hiding. They came like a well-versed and trained army.

When I was finally found, still pocketing a syringe in hopes of one last high, I was taken to the hospital to be treated for my injuries. Less than 24 hours after my surgery and skin graph, they arrested me.

After a couple of days in, I had asked the guards for a book to have because I had zero-to-limited human contact. They handed me a Bible. There I was — with only God’s words and myself in that medically segregated jail cell for two weeks.

It was so painful that I cried every day for 14 days: about how bad I felt about who I was, how I had hurt Rhea, her kids, my friends, and what I had done to my family and all those I had been near through this war with my disease.

For me to become clean, I had to be forced and had to lose everything.

All the guilt and all the shame came out in that cell. It was so very painful spiritually, emotionally and physically. But then it happened! The day had come when God helped me remember what I begged so dearly and earnestly for: a real change of life. A true transformation of what made me in mind, body and spirit.

I felt that surrender. It was like nothing I had ever felt before. Better than any high could ever compare to. I felt free for the first time in that jail cell when I realized that I was a drug addict. Jesus Christ gave me hope in a hopeless place. He gave me a way to accept blame for my actions, and He and only He could and would remove the guilt and shame. Rhea and I were in jail separate from each other. The time we spent apart tested just how we wanted to change our lives. The time tested our personal relationships with not just each other but with our friends and families too. I was incarcerated for five and a half months. I was also enrolled in a parenting program I was referred into through a connection I had with Al Adams. I completed the program before going to court and asking for pre-trial house arrest.

There was a very slim chance that it would be granted to me, but I was willing to take that chance. I had time to look at myself without distractions from the world. There were no excuses to be made, and that is why I thought I was going to be successful. I physically lost my breath on the stand when the court granted my plea. From that day forward, I vowed to give the world the best Brian I could give. And that’s just what I’ve been doing now for over 3 years. It has taken lots of work. Lots of blood, sweat and tears. But there has been so much more blessing than I could ever repay. But that wasn’t going to stop me from trying.

I began attending many different meetings for those seeking recovery. Then I started working steps and they began to change me in spite of me. That’s exactly what I needed! Christ began opening doors once thought to be permanently closed and restored relationships once thought lost forever. Then he did the most amazing thing. He brought Rhea and I back together and created in us a force to be reckoned with in the battle with the disease of addiction. Once the darkness that plagued the community became the beacon of hope for that same community. Then I took her hand in marriage and God really began to use us.

Today Rhea and I help other people who are going through the process of recovery and want to better their lives like we have been doing for many years. Once a day or more, seven days a week, for three years we have been going to these meetings. We became involved with Reformers Unanimous, which is a faith-based recovery program. Through New Beginnings, we work with people who are convicted felons and recovering addicts who have gone through therapeutic programs in prison and help them transition out and become productive citizens of the community through outreach to others in need. We facilitate that meeting, and it’s a true blessing and honor to be able to do so.

Ninety-nine percent of those people are addicts or can relate their criminal behavior to drugs or alcohol. We also volunteer with hospitals and other institutions for service work. We have the opportunity to make such a large impact on the lives of others struggling not only with addiction but the multitude and other struggles we all face because of them knowing us personally and seeing where Christ has brought us today! He’s changed us so deeply from once being a mere aggravation to today being an inspiration. For which we will be forever in His debt and grateful beyond the description of words.

I know where these events that have happened in my life have brought me. I have a loving relationship with Christ, a loving family and so many more blessings in my life. The people I have surrounded myself with are positive people who want to give me unconditional love and want me to be a better version of myself. I am not perfect, but there is a big difference from where I am at in my life now and where I was. I am grateful for my personal change and the way it affects other people.

Three years have passed, and I celebrate every day that I am clean.

This story originally appeared in Facing Addiction in East Central Indiana, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Dr. Adam Kuban and the Louis E. Ingelhart Scholars at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

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