Hello, my name is Eric. Addiction is something I have been exposed to over half my life. Many of my close friends and family members have struggled with substance abuse; not all are still living.
I, myself, spent nearly a decade badly addicted to drugs and alcohol.
Though addiction has an impact on my life, it in no way defines who I am. It is merely something I have had to overcome on my path to genuine selfhood.
My childhood was idyllic. I grew up in Clay County in a nice family, with me being the middle child of five. My father owned a successful business in Charleston, and my mother taught school. The memories of youth consist of fishing on the Elk River, exploring the creeks and ridges, and other activities associated with rural West Virginia life. I did well in school, read a lot, and was a dedicated and accomplished wrestler. I experimented with drugs and alcohol a few times in high school, but by all expectations, I had a bright future ahead of me.
Around the time I started college, alcohol began to wreak havoc on my family. My father, who burdened an excessive amount of responsibility, began drinking. My two older brothers were always in trouble at WVU, and I also had begun drinking excessively. My parents divorced, and, in a few short years, all around me had dissolved to chaos. By this time my father was a wealthy man, but his attempts to fix problems with money only made things worse.
I dropped out of college my junior year because of emotional distress and a heavy drinking problem. I moved to Charleston to work for a now failing family business, but
by this time things were beyond control. At the age of 26 I was drinking over a fifth of whiskey a day and had been hospitalized several times for severe alcoholism. My father died of alcoholism, and, with the exception of my brother, my family had moved out of state.
I was completely lost. I spent a 18 months doing obscene amounts of methamphetamine and was eventually incarcerated for a violent crime.
Looking back now I enjoyed my time in jail. This sounds crazy, but this is where I first experienced the grace of God. Through His love, I was able to rediscover and recreate myself. I spent my time studying the Bible, playing chess, and exercising to regain my health.
I made friends in jail, many of whom are doing well and are active in the recovery community. But most of all, I found hope for a new life and discovered passions I knew not I had.
After jail I spent a year at the Rock Ministries in Nitro. I graduated the program and gained the skills necessary to live a successful life. I am involved in the recovery community and in my church. Through a connection at my church, I was able to join the Laborers Union and start working pipeline construction. I am laid off from work right now, but I continue to live at the Rock house because it allows me to stay involved.
I have discovered that I have and absolute love for theology, existential philosophy, and English and American Literature. I spend many hours studying these subjects, and I find that they apply very much to recovery. Some of the most caring and interesting people that I have ever known I have met through recovery. I have so many close friends it is like I have another family. I have grown in immeasurable ways that have exceeded my wildest hopes.
With drug addiction having become common and ubiquitous throughout West Virginia, it is important that addiction be seen as a social problem; and not merely as one affecting only the addict and their loved ones.
For this to happen: people must open their eyes, quit stigmatizing addicts, and recognize the profound changes that are taking place as a direct result of the activities of those most
affected by addiction.
I am obliged to tell my story. All of us West Virginians have been through a hard decade, but things are starting to change.
We are so much more than addiction.”