By Aaron Emerson
What a remarkable difference between the 2017 and 2018 holiday seasons.
Truthfully, last year was a time I wish didn’t exist, and in a way, it kind of doesn’t in my mind because it was such a blur. Looking back, my memories of it are foggy and depressing. The only parts that stick out are the horrors of my bottom.
Last year was spent drinking large amounts of alcohol and taking Xanax to come down from long cocaine binges. By the time November and December rolled around, my four year relationship was coming to an end, I was facing felony charges for stealing credit cards, and my life was literally saved by an Ingham County officer who administered Narcan up my nostril.
The day after I got home from the hospital after the overdose, though, I made one of the most important calls of my life: to Sacred Heart, a substance abuse treatment center in Memphis, Michigan. The near death experience got to me. It really hit me that next day how close I was to not existing anymore. My daughter almost spent the rest of her life without her daddy.
I checked into Sacred Heart with two suitcases of clothes and two warrants for my arrest. I was broken, ashamed, embarrassed, but perhaps most importantly, desperate for change. I completed their program in three weeks and the day after I left I turned myself in to Ingham County. My recovery coach Phil Pavona went to my court hearings advocating for them to put me in a treatment court instead of prison, as I already had a couple felonies on my record.
Thankfully, I was placed into East Lansing Drug Court in Judge Larkin’s program. It’s been one of the most cherished blessings of my life. Not only has it given me another chance, it has also hooked me up with an amazing support system and other friends in the same boat as me. We all go to group therapy, meetings and court together and are a crazy but tight-knit bunch.
It hasn’t been all smooth-sailing. I have drank alcohol a couple different times this year, even going to jail for a month back in May for a violation. But my life is a night-and-day difference. I’ve had a solid job for a while, I haven’t used drugs in seven months, I’ve gone to a couple schools with Phil to share my story to kids, and have developed a regular weekly parenting schedule with my daughter.
So this holiday season, I can’t help but look back on last year and compare it to where I’m at now. When I’m having a rough day, that alone can springboard me into a place of gratitude. I am free, sober, and in recovery this Christmas season, trying to give my daughter an amazing holiday.
I bought her an “Elf on the Shelf” set and its been extremely fun getting up with her each morning to find the elf. I actually have money saved up to get her some Christmas gifts. That’s a pretty big difference than last year when I was in rehab on Christmas Day.
The gratitude and joy I am experiencing this holiday season is sometimes overshadowed by the fact that Andrew’s family is going through their first Christmas without him. One of my best friends died of an overdose in February and I know his mom had a rough first Thanksgiving without him. It breaks my heart. I know he is at peace now, though. His suffering is over this Christmas and the bondage of his addiction is no more.
Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. I love the Christmas movies, songs, decorations, presents and the whole Christmas spirit. I’m just so blessed I am not only alive to experience it this year, but am also sober.
From the officer who saved my life, to the treatment center who helped stabilize me, to Phil Pavona convincing the courts to give me help instead of jail, to the amazing friends and support I’ve met in Drug Court, and lastly, to my daughter and family who I’m thankful to be with this December, it all came together perfectly.
Baby steps. They add up. Trust the process. It works if you just do the next right thing and are willing to take suggestions. This last year has had its ups and downs. Though there have been times I never thought I’d make it through sober, I am here this Christmas season and so happy to be able to share my story. I just hope I can make a difference. I know for a fact that if somebody as hopeless as me can find recovery, anybody can.