Today’s guest blogger, Benny Emerling, got sober at 19. It’s valuable for parents and professionals to have this perspective in mind when working with young people. MWM
As a young kid I always felt like everyone around me was given a golden textbook on life. Mine must have gotten lost in the mail. I was different, but not an outcast, in fact. quite the opposite. I had many friends, a loving family and a decently smart head on my shoulders. However, my idea of fun was different from most of my peers. Misbehaving, stealing and bullying were some of my favorite activities. I was always a happy jokester and had a smile on my face the majority of the time.
Having three older sisters and a younger brother, it was easy to slip through the cracks and get away with murder. In middle school, my behavior got worse and worse. I grew up in a primarily Jewish area, so when I was in seventh grade every weekend we had a bar or bat mitzvah party to go to. Virtually, every weekend there was a different elaborate party to go to. After a couple, I noticed the adults at the parties drinking. Curiosity grew inside me, it looked awesome. It was not long before I tried drinking.
I was 13, one of my friends at the time made me a delicious alcoholic beverage. By delicious, I mean repulsive, it was a combination of anything he could grab off the adult tables. This included wine, beer, a shot and a mix drink. It was the most disgusting beverage I had ever drank but at the same time the best. I felt the buzz of alcohol for the first time in my life and I was instantly ready for more.
Drinking at these parties became the norm for me and a couple of friends. Weirdly enough, none of us ever got caught. Then the summer hit, growing up every year I went to sleep away camp in Northern Michigan. And this year at summer camp was monumental, one of my cabin mates brought weed to camp with him and I smoke it for the first time. Drinking was a blast, but weed was a different type of fun. I finally found the missing piece to my life, and it was drugs. After my first experience getting high, I never wanted to be sober.
I became a huge pothead by ninth grade. I had drug hookups because my sister was older, and I was friends with kids who sold pot, among other drugs. Smoking weed became an everyday habit before school, at lunch, sometimes between classes, and always after school. Weed took over my life. I quit all after school activities I once did because it got in the way of me smoking weed.
Smoking weed is an expensive habit, so how could I afford it? I stole, manipulated, worked little jobs and sold drugs.
My first job was at an elite men’s fashion store that sold thousand dollar suits and top of the line shoes. I couldn’t stop smoke weed and I dabbled a little with taking prescription pills. I didn’t want to get fired, especially because of speculation about me being high at work was on the rise. I came up with what I thought was a brilliant lie: I told my boss who knew my stepmom that I was allergic to wool and that was why my eyes were constantly bloodshot.
I didn’t last long at this job, to say the least. I picked up a caddying job that summer, but no money compared to selling pills. So after a couple of months I made my money exclusively selling prescription pills and little amounts of weed. My supplier? My family. Members of family were prescribed prescription pills for medical reasons. I looked at these pills as dollar signs. My family gained suspicion. They knew I didn’t have a job, but they also knew I had a lot of money. Oh yeah, and all of the pills in the house were missing.
It didn’t take long for my parents to catch me red-handed. I was forced to take my first drug test, which I failed miserably.
It was then my parents started looking up local rehabilitation centers. When I was 16, I was put into my first outpatient treatment center. I was told I had to stay sober and there would be drug tests once a week. I tried to stay clean for about a month and decided it wasn’t for me.
My high school career could be summed up pretty easily, I got high and partied, then ended up in outpatient treatment. Maintained decent grades and did what I wanted, when I wanted—I thought it was the greatest time of my life. However, I knew the best years were still to come…college.
I chose to go to the biggest party college I got accepted to. The first couple of weeks were exactly how I wanted them to be. Huge parties every day, drugs whenever I wanted, and unlimited freedom to do whatever I wanted, without any consequences.Or so I thought…
The fun lasted about two months then I hit what most people would consider a bottom. I didn’t sleep, eat, go to class, and barely left my dorm room for five consecutive days. I ended up going insane from all of the Adderall I took, and it wasn’t long before I overdosed and ended up in the psych-ward.
By this time I hadn’t talked to my families in over a month, and everyone assumed I was either dead or in jail. My close friends stopped calling me because I betrayed all of them in one way or another and I was basically alone, miserable and physically and mentally broken.
I remember the exact moment when I realized I needed help and that I needed to get sober.
I was sitting in the psych-ward, I hadn’t slept for two days straight, and then I looked in the mirror. I was 40 pounds underweight, my eyes were sunk into my face and my body was bruised up from trying escape the hospital. At that very moment, I made the decision to get sober.
What’s It Like Now?
This was over six years ago. I was 19 when I admitted myself into treatment. I thought my rehab stay was only going to be three months, but I ended up needing a nine month stay. Rehab was great because I learned how to be a human again. I learned how to maintain relationships, grocery shop and take care of myself. I was taken to AA meetings and I actually learned from them and received hope from them.
I finally started feeling good for the first time in over six years.
After my rehab stay I moved back home. My mom was very skeptical of me living in the house because my teenage years were a disaster. I assured her that no matter what, I will not use, steal or lie to her. She slowly began to trust me again, which I never thought possible. I started paying back the people I owed money to, and I kept up with AA meetings. It didn’t take long before I found a friend group, all young, sober adults.
I realized the more meetings I went to, the more I hung out with my sober friends and the more time I spent helping others, the less I obsessed about myself or getting high. It was an incredible realization, for over five years, every waking moment I thought about my next fix and how I was going to achieve it. But after I came to terms with the fact that I will never be able to use like a normal person, my life was shot into what I call the fourth-dimension.
I got sober when I was 19, I am currently 25 years-old and couldn’t be in a better place.
The disease of addiction took me to the darkest world imaginable, but at the same time blessed me with an amazing one at the same time. Suffering from addiction has made me a better person. I wake up every day knowing that as long as I stay sober, I can accomplish anything.
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