An Addict And His Mom

By Aaron Emerson

The year was 2012. Sometime in January, to be exact.

I had just got done serving a year in jail. I was 20 years old. A whole year of my life spent inside a cell, living amongst criminals. I had already started using heroin again. I knew I was gonna go back to it as soon as I was released. I felt hopeless and just knew that my life was over. I was the lowest of the low. The two cops who did my discharge paperwork mockingly made a bet on how long it would take for me to be back. The over/under was two months. I’d accepted what I was and didn’t see any hope to change it.

My Dad, knowing that I was already back to using, told me one of the saddest things I have ever heard in my life.

“Do you know how much your mom loves you?” he asked. “She missed you so much when you were gone.”

I could feel. Emotions, pain, anger, hurt, sadness. Contrary to what many believe, heroin doesn’t take away the ability to feel. The euphoric rush it provides when you first inject it takes the pain away, but it always comes back. The worst part about addiction is living with regret but feeling that there’s no way out, no way to stop the hurt you are doing to yourself and others.

“Yes, I know she does,” I replied back.

My Dad kept going. “On your birthday, she missed you so much that she drove up to the jail and sat on the bench outside the lobby.”

“No she didn’t,” I simply said back, knowing what he was getting at, but not wanting to deal with the conversation when I was in the process of trying to scrounge up money for a fix.

“Yeah, she did. Even though she couldn’t come visit you that day, she just wanted to feel close to you, so she got as close as she could by sitting outside the jail.”

That was all I needed to hear to kick my search for a couple packs of heroin into full gear. The physical withdrawal is nothing compared to the mental torture I heard in that conversation with my Dad. I needed to escape as much as I could, and I did. I went out and bought as much dope as I could to try to numb my thoughts, even though it was impossible that day.

That conversation still sticks with me to this day. My Dad was not in the wrong whatsoever. He was scared of losing his son. He was trying to say anything to get my attention. I’m sure he had hope that doing a year in jail would be a wake up call for me and that I would seek help and get sober.

But I didn’t. So there we all were, back in the chaos of addiction. A tight-knit, close family from the small town of Mason, Michigan, ravaged by heroin. Through no fault of their own, my parents and siblings were thrown into the middle of a nightmare.

Nobody was affected more than my mom, though. Not to minimize how much my addiction affected anyone else in my family, or to say her pain was greater than my Dad’s, because I don’t think it was. But a mom feels different about her son than anyone. The bond is different.

Throughout the decade I dealt with drug and alcohol addiction, my mom was the only one who never truly got mad at me. She never yelled unprovoked, never called me a mean name, never stopped answering my calls in jail or rehab, never failed to defend me. She just simply never gave up. It just wasn’t in her nature. That’s not to say she never got upset with me or made me leave her home when I was using, but if I called her needing help, she was always there, even if I had just stolen from her the day before.

Today, I am sober. My life isn’t perfect, but I have escaped active addiction, work a full time job and participate in a plan of recovery. I have my ups and downs, but my mom is still right by my side. I can’t pretend that I don’t ever take her for granted, because I do. But my appreciation for her love and devotion to her kids has reached a height I never could have imagined.

As happy as I am to have established a healthy relationship with my mom, it also breaks my heart to think about the mothers who have not been as fortunate as mine. You know, the moms who have lost their sons or daughters to addiction.

Earlier this year, one of my best friends died of an overdose. I was a pallbearer at his funeral, and the image of his mom crying as she watched his casket get lowered into the ground is sketched into my mind forever. When I see her, I can’t even imagine what she must feel everyday. My mom had to go sit outside a grimy jail to feel close to me on my birthday as I was inside, locked away in a cage. But I was alive. Andrew isn’t, and his mom has to visit his gravesite to feel close to him.

As a male, I will never understand what it feels like to birth a child, take care of it and raise it. But I can appreciate the love and bond a mother feels towards her child when I think back to that conversation I had with my Dad in my kitchen as I was frantically searching for drug money.

To any mother who is dealing with an addicted son or daughter, or, even worse, the grief of losing their child to drugs, you are amazing.  You are appreciated, even if you haven’t been told. Thank you for being you.

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The Story of Trina Day: A Recovering Miracle

By Aaron Emerson

The disease of addiction doesn’t discriminate.

Black or white, male or female, rich or poor, urban or rural. None of that matters when it comes to who addiction affects.

Trina Day is a prime example of this, as she grew up in a close, safe home. She describes her childhood as “the American dream family,” and they attended church on a regular basis.

So one can only imagine the impact a divorce had on her at the young age of 14. That’s when Trina started acting out, getting involved with different friends and experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

She ended up going down a dark road, full of jails and treatment centers, homelessness and desperation. It was a long journey for Trina, but she slowly put her life back together and just celebrated a year of sobriety last week. 

It wasn’t easy, though, and she will be the first to admit she still has her struggles. But the life she has today is hard to imagine for someone who has been through so much.

After the divorce, which she said changed everything including her social status, she started seeing an older man and lost her virginity at 14 to a 24 year old. She started smoking weed and drinking alcohol occasionally. 

“At that time, it was very fun and rebellious,” Trina said.

Bouncing back and forth between her mom and dad, living in in Williamston and Owosso, she got pregnant. She had a son, Seth, and went to an alternative high school, obtaining her diploma a year late.

Smoking and drinking a lot, she tried to change for Seth, but it didn’t last. Eventually she started drinking everyday, but was still handling her work and college responsibilities.

In her early and mid twenties, she started experimenting with prescription drugs. It started out with Adderall, an amphetamine supposed to treat ADHD. Then, working as a receptionist at a medical facility, a co-worker started providing her with Vicodin, an opioid painkiller. 

From there, things got progressively worse. She moved on to stronger painkillers like Dilaudid, then got hooked up with a boyfriend who she later found out was doing heroin. Trina started asking him to try it, seeing how cheaper and more potent it was than the painkillers she was using. 

The first time she asked him about the heroin, he told her “you don’t want to do this, it will take your soul.” He eventually gave in, though, and right after he injected her with heroin for the first time, she fell back onto a bed in a euphoric rush, saying “this is it. This is what I’ve been searching for.”

Her boyfriend eventually violated his parole and went on the run, and Trina’s life took a turn for the worst. She left her nice apartment, scrapped her car for $300 and started doing cocaine on top of the heroin. 

Jobless, homeless, and in full fledge addiction, she turned to the streets. She made $100 to $500 a day panhandling. “At that point, I dove into heroin head first. I just did what it took to get it.”

Then, one day panhandling in Lansing, she met an older gentlemen driving a nice car who she fed a sad story to. She later found out he was a well known professor at Michigan State University who had written several books. Not telling him that she was using his money for drugs, he was giving her $1000 a week in cash, putting her up in motels and apartments and getting her cars. 

With an easy supply of cash to feed her addiction, she was using a lot and diving deeper and deeper into misery. That’s when she started her journey of recovery, though it’s taken several attempts to obtain long term sobriety. 

She checked into a treatment center in Jackson, then to the Lansing-based Glass House rehab after relapsing. After falling down again, she checked into RISE for a while, and then Holy Cross for six months. She kept relapsing, but never gave up, always choosing to give recovery another shot. 

She had another child around that time. In and out of addiction, she felt it was best to give up her parental rights the day after she was beaten black and blue by a guy she had been hanging out with. Giving up her child was the hardest day of her life, but she truly felt like she was making a decision in the best interest of her child.

Back in hardcore addiction, something happened that changed her life and set her on the path to recovery: she was arrested for the first time. She got charged with three felonies – all related to drug use – and was thrown in jail. The court system didn’t seek to punish her, though, giving her a chance to get help instead.

She was put in Drug Court in East Lansing, a strict probation centered around therapy, 12 step attendance, drug testing and building a support system. Though she was given treatment-based probation instead of jail, she still wasn’t fully committed to recovery. That changed, though, when she relapsed on probation. She was sent to jail for 34 days and then to rehab at Sacred Heart. While in rehab, she detoxed from Methadone and took treatment serious.

She still wasn’t done, though. She relapsed one more time five days after leaving Sacred Heart. She decided to check herself back into RISE, a transitional sober living facility. Her best friend Luke was there and helped her navigate the system, helping her meet other sober friends and motivating her to take her recovery serious. 

That’s when tragedy happened: Luke passed away unexpectedly. She was heart broken. Faced with the loss of her best friend in early sobriety, she battled down and for the first time in her life, chose to reach out for support instead of getting high to numb the pain. 

A miracle happened. She stayed sober through it and started gaining confidence in her recovery. Then she started dating another guy in recovery. With a firm recovery foundation himself, Brian helped Trina see she was worth it. 

“His recovery motivated me,” Trina said. “He sets boundaries and makes sure we don’t become co-dependent.” 

Since then, Trina’s life has steadily improved. She graduated from RISE in June and even started working there to help other people in the same spot she was in just last year. She celebrated a year of sobriety on October 23 and is doing very well in Drug Court. She is a fantastic mother to Seth and is working towards a career.

She said taking her time to focus on herself in early recovery was one of the keys to staying sober this long. 

“I took my time, I didn’t feel rushed. You have to work on the root causes,” Trina said. “Don’t just rush into getting a job and paying bills. They will always be there. You have to focus on yourself first.”

It’s been a long, crazy journey for Trina. She has one of the most incredible stories I’ve ever seen, not just because she got sober after a really serious addiction, but because of the fact she struggled so much to stay sober. She fell down and relapsed so many times, but never gave up. She is a miracle. She is going to help a lot of people along the way and has a bright future ahead of her. 

If you get one thing from her story, just know that there is always hope. Never stop trying. Never give up. If Trina can find recovery after all she has been through, anyone can. There’s always hope!

-If you would like to share your story of recovery, contact Aaron at aaronemerson09@gmail.com.

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Day 152

By Aaron Emerson

I just hit the five month mark two days ago. Five months. Five months without a sip of beer, a pill or shot, even a puff of weed smoke. In the grand scheme of life, five months is nothing, but for me, it’s a damn miracle.

Just about a year ago I was at a point in my life where I just wanted to die. I didn’t want to commit suicide but I also wasn’t scared of dying from an overdose or getting killed in a botched drug deal or something. Man, oh man, it seems like a different life than how I’m living today.

On Sunday, I was hit with an Aaron Emerson recovery trifecta. I celebrated five months, my beloved Lions beat the Packers, and I got a raise at work. Yes, a fucking raise.

I’m 27 years old and have never gotten a raise at work. Truth be told, I haven’t ever truly held a job for more than a few months without my boss noticing signs that something was off. But today, my place of employment actually values me. Isn’t that crazy?

I don’t say all that to brag or to boast, saying “look at me! Look at how good I am doing!” I say it to perhaps spark a glimmer of hope within somebody else who happens to be walking the same path that I was just last year.

See, I got off heroin a few years ago and stayed off of it for over a year. My life improved vastly and I started this process of using my writings to spread hope and raise awareness. But I wasn’t truly getting down to the root causes of my alcoholism and addiction. I would go to a meeting once or twice a week and did some therapy, but that’s about it. I had a recovery coach, Phil Pavona, who did his part in saving my life and helped show me that recovery could be fun. But at that point in my life, I considered myself more of a drug addict than an alcoholic.

That was my downfall. Granted, I wasn’t drinking during that year of abstinence. But I eventually had a beer at a wedding, giving into peer pressure and rationalizing in my head “well, it’s just a beer. It’s not heroin.”  That beer ended up taking me down a road that almost led to death again.

I had to admit and accept that I can not control the use of any mind or mood altering chemicals. When I put alcohol or drugs into my body, something changes in my brain. I lose all control and don’t stop until I am faced with severe consequences. It was hard, but today I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I have people in my life guiding me, showing me how they did it and teaching me how powerful prayer is.

Just know that this is a lifetime thing. I will never be cured or be able to drink or drug in moderation. But I have fun today, I am grateful today, I have real friends today, and I am proud of myself today.

One thing I have always put in my blogs is that if you are alive, hope is alive. It is so fucking true! Don’t ever give up. No matter how hard things may seem, there are people out there who care about you. Surround yourself with people who love you. Take life one day at a time. Reach out when shit gets hard. You can do this and have a happy life. I promise.

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My Worst Day Clean Is Better Than My Best Day High

By John Mullin

“My worst day clean is better than my best day high.”

Such a cliché, I know. I never really understood what people meant when I use to hear that. I would think to myself “Yeah it sounds good but, I’ve had some pretty great days being high,” I thought anyways.
It wasn’t until this time in recovery I gave more thought to that saying. Yes, I did have some good times using, but every time I used it always involved some feeling of regret and shame in one way or another. I either had to do some hurtful act to someone in order to get my drugs, or I would get high wishing I didn’t have to exist in a life that revolved around getting a fix just to function throughout the day.
Beating myself up mentally, feeling like such a failure in life because I was a heroin addict in heavy active addiction. No self worth, covering up my track marks – that, over time, went from small dimples to craters – in fear of people judging me if they saw them. No true friends to hang around because they knew being around me meant potentially being taken advantage of. The lies, the oh-so many lies, way too many lies to even keep up with. Often getting caught in lies and getting upset with the person who catches you in a lie because it foiled your plan to get more dope. Shooting up then counting down the hours until you knew you would be sick again trying to figure out a means to prolong the inevitable sickness.
I know for me the amount of money I had made no difference. Sure, I could go cop enough dope to last me a couple days, but it seemed the more I had the more I needed to do at one time to even feel it. And my three day supply would dwindle down to nothing in a matter of hours. Then I was back on the phone calling my dealer complaining about the quality and begging for a front since I just spent all my money with him earlier that day. Great times huh?
Voicemails from the landlord saying how they need the rent since it’s two weeks late and you still owe a little bit from the past month. Prior to that you were homeless for a long stretch, sleeping under bridges in the dead of winter because you couldn’t get your dope in time to get to the shelter before it closes. The lowest you’ve ever felt in your entire life: you would think you wouldn’t allow yourself to return to that point. When you were blessed with the opportunity of having your own house and stable enough employment to secure your basic needs, why would you risk losing it all? Because you are an ADDICT. Your addict brain will convince you of anything to ensure that you stay sick. The disease of addiction is exactly what they say it is: Cunning, Baffling and Powerful.
I know today even if everything else in my life fails and falls apart, I can at least say I am clean, and for someone like me that is a win that trumps any and everything else. I know I won’t wake up the following day plotting and scheming on the ones I truly love and who truly love me to get another one, telling myself the lie addicts tell themselves over and over: “I just need one last one.” I’ve had my “last one” many, many times and it always concluded the same result, one more after that. This isn’t my first time in recovery, nor the longest amount of clean time I’ve had in my using career, but it is my first time in recovery where I truly wanted it. It takes what it takes and for me it took finally putting the shovel down and start climbing out of the hole I dug for myself. After numerous times relapsing I realized the bottom of that hole gets deeper and deeper. Today I am grateful to be able to just live in the moment and do the next right thing and put my trust in my higher power that he’s got me right where I need to be and everything I need will come in due time.
John Mullin is 27 years old from Lansing, Michigan. He’s a recovering addict who is finding himself after using heroin his entire adult life. He is a writer who enjoys writing poetry, lyrics and journaling. He wants to start making music again.


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Day 121

By Aaron Emerson

121 days without taking any type of drug or sip of alcohol. Four months. The longest my mind and body has gone without mood altering substances in years. I did stay sober for a year before; I even published a book full of my thoughts during that year. But this is different. There’s something deeper.

Deep is a place I don’t like to explore. But deep is where I must travel if I want to find recovery and peace. It’s said there are places in the ocean that humans haven’t explored. A depth so dark and frightening nobody can reach. The deeper you go, the more the pressure multiplies, crushing you.

How fitting. Things are better than they’ve ever been. There are days I feel complete. Sometimes – especially in the morning when I pray – I feel such an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I can hardly believe it. Huh? Aaron Emerson? This can’t be me.

On the contrary, some moments I need guidance. A nudge. Someone to tell me how to live life to simplicity. I need balance. I can’t get too confident but also need to prevent myself from getting down on myself. The latter is a challenge, when there is so much fresh guilt.

Some days my thoughts are scattered. This morning I was cheerful, happy to be sober and free from the bondage of addiction. An hour later, my mind wandered to my best friend Andrew, who died from an overdose this year. He was with me the first time I met my daughter. I missed her birth and the first year of her life, serving a year in jail. When I got out and had the opportunity to meet Melody, I was so nervous I asked him to go with me. He did. I still find it hard to accept he no longer wanders this earth.

I can truly feel God working in my life. Things are happening I can’t explain. The people who are placed in my life have zero to do with coincidence. They aren’t just simple supporting characters in a story, though they do more than their share of supporting.

I am sober today. I am in recovery today. I have amazing people in my life today. Just several months ago I was on the brink of suicide. I thought about it every day. I thought this world would be better off not having to deal with my thievery, addiction, lies and misery. Today, though, I have something to offer. I have a story and I’m sharing it. I am living today. Into the dark, deep sea I travel. It’s scary here, but nothing is too much for God.

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