After months of working two jobs and becoming a 42-year-old gay prostitute, my kids and I have finally stabilized. Yeah, that’s a lot (and there’s a lot to this story).

Day one of my sobriety: it was my fourth release from jail, a padlock on the rental unit containing my life’s belongings, no job, nowhere to live, no money, and no friends. My kids snuck me into their mom’s apartment so I could bathe and eat.  My daughter dug up a bookbag for me and I was off into the streets of the city.

That was August. By February 1st I had saved my belongings from being auctioned by the rental facility, put a security deposit and first month’s rent down on a home, and the kids received Christmas presents from me for the first time in three years. All of this while completing four drug tests a week for drug treatment court and attending outpatient rehab. Ok, that’s impressive.

Oh yeah, the prostitute part.

I found a used massage table on Craigslist and from September through January, I magically became a traveling gay masseur. I reluctantly told myself, “you do what you have to do.”  The first night in our rental home I remember taking the hottest shower I could stand. I prayed to God for forgiveness and to please wash away the stains of the previous five months from me—allowing them to fall down the drain.

I had accomplished my goals.
I had tangibly rebuilt our lives after allowing crystal meth to totally demolish us.
You would think it was happily ever after at that point, right?

It was only about a month into our new lives when I walked to the sink full of dirty dishes and as I began to rinse them off I stared out the window in front of me.  I was bored. This was mundane and too normal for me. I glanced at my phone and immediately made a plan to get some meth and use. Maybe if I used on a Friday, I could somehow weasel out of a drug test on Monday.

Then my son walked into the kitchen and stood with the refrigerator open. He asked me what was wrong. I had to escape. I went outside and ran into the backyard and into the trees. My head was pounding and my heart racing. I was almost hyperventilating.

I stared at my phone knowing this was decision time.

Establishing what society calls “normal” for someone new in recovery is not always the answer. The pressure of paying bills and working to support yourself and others can be overwhelming. I had found comfort in the chaos, risk, and edginess of active addiction. This whole responsible father role was way too uncomfortable and way too scary.

That whole process of re-establishing my life fed into my need for chaos and uncertainty. Ironically, I used being sober as my new way to numb out.  Funky, huh?

I dropped to my knees and sobbed wondering if I would ever be at peace again.  Just then, I heard a voice, almost completely audible, say “Look at that decaying tree. This is what you have to do. Every part of you must die and become something new.” I looked to the right and saw what was left of a fallen tree; covered in moss and mushrooms, flowers growing out of it, brittle and broken.  This truly was my decision point. 

From that point forward, I have been on a mission to embody this message.  I have worked to identify every single belief, story, trauma, cycle, wound, and distortion that I possibly can and have devoted myself to learning how to heal. 

It is a journey of self-discovery and rebirth. 

And I stand in the deepest gratitude today that I made the choice to listen and to seek LIFE instead of instinctively reaching for my phone.  I can’t imagine where I’d be right now.

I share this for many reasons; but mainly in hopes that you may develop some empathy and compassion for an addict in your life who gets to a certain point of “success” and then relapses, or if you are in recovery and see this cycle in your life that you refrain from shaming yourself and accept that relapse shows you where you still need to focus, teaching you specifically which pattern should be interrupted and provides an opportunity to start again.

To any gay parent reading this who is also in recovery: do not allow the guilt from decisions made in active addiction to filter and affect your parenting while in recovery. Sometimes we feel an imposter syndrome when it comes to stepping up and being the parent again because somehow our past makes us feel “not good enough.”  I’m here to say step into your role but now being even better because active addiction happened FOR you to be a better human (and father) not TO you to live in guilt and shame!

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