My name is Treye, my clean date is November 14th, 2012. My drug of choice was heroin, but I would be on board for anything that would help me escape myself. I would like to think my message is one of hope and perseverance, and proof that anyone can stop using drugs and find a better way to live. I come from Thurmont, MD, a small town in Frederick county where the cows overpopulate the people. I grew up with divorced parents that split custody, but looking back I think it was harder on them that it was on me. I had everything I needed, and I don’t remember ever questioning if my parents loved or cared about me. My mother was on disability for most of my life due to mental illness, and was on prescription medications, and some self-prescribed. My father was just about as opposite of that as you could get. I have an older sister that I’ve always looked up to, because she’s one of the smartest, most driven and most talented people I know. I was always the guy “not utilizing my full potential”. I procrastinated in school, and didn’t have much interest in anything further than the day right in front me. Living in the moment is a different game for me today!
So, it starts with New Years eve when I was 13, getting drunk for the first time. I don’t know if drunk is the right word, considering I’m fairly certain I gave myself some degree of alcohol poisoning that night. I still have a taste aversion to butterscotch because that was the flavor of Schnapps I was drinking. I was violently ill for about a day and half after, but once that cleared up, I got right back to a drink. Next came marijuana. This was it for me, I probably drank a dozen or so times ever again after I found weed. I dove into this one as well, marijuana was a religion and a lifestyle for me. I grew plants in my closet and really thought that this was a revolutionary thing for me. The problem is, I couldn’t go without it. The other problem is, I started to separate from good friends of mine around this time and just stay with people that were interested in the same thing.
Being around people like me meant that I would have no problem finding encouragement to take it a step further. This is when I, and friends like me, started going into our parents medicine cabinets looking for anything that would give us a buzz. Addiction to me was the fact that I took and tried every last thing I could find, whether it was a narcotic or not. It was a game to me, I would go online, look it up, see what it did and ingest it, like some sort of bootleg chemist. Eventually, I got to the point where Xanax/Klonopin and OxyContin became a regular part of my life. I went to school high, I drove and wrecked cars high, and I got into arguments and physical altercations while high. Looking back, it is scary because the drugs would have me blacked out for days at a time. And I couldn’t account for what happened at all. I wasn’t fully exposed at this point, but it started to get to the point where I couldn’t hide my demons anymore. The school would question me after concerned friends would come forward, my father would question me but never believed it because he truly couldn’t believe his son would be involved in something like this. I didn’t even know what was really happening to me at this point. It took someone more familiar with this stuff to tell me that I was sick because I hadn’t done pills. I didn’t even know what withdrawal was.
About a week before I started my senior year of high school, I woke up in my father’s house to a phone call from my stepfather. He told me to go upstairs and give the phone to my dad. I knew something was really wrong. My dad was standing across the room from me, facing out the window, and he hung up the phone. He turned around and told me “your mom passed away last night”. We rushed to my mom’s house in Boonsboro, about 30 minutes away and she was still in the house. My mom passed away from a drug overdose. Methadone that she wasn’t prescribed, that someone had given to her. She died in her sleep.
I share this next part to expose the dark side of addiction, and how powerful it really is. My mother was laying in the next room, as we waited for the county to come get her, and there were all her pills lined up on the dining room table. I took the pills that were easy to get to and put them in my pocket, while probably the most important person to me, my mother, was laying in the next room. I hate this disease and I can’t explain how it happens, but the grips of addiction are no joke. I am a loving, caring, compassionate person with good will. But this thing that was taking over was more powerful, and I gave it everything I had left to give.
After my mom passed away, it was like the flood gates opened. It was about a week after that I tried heroin for the first time, as it was getting harder and more expensive to keep up a pill habit. I don’t think I ever touched pills again. Baltimore city became like a second home to me, and the people I surrounded myself with became very, very different. About 3 months after my mom passed, and I had been running hard, exhausting every dollar, every thing worth value, and all the energy I had, I found myself in a predicament where a very good friend of mine, who is no longer with us, told me that either I talk to my father or he was going to. So I did. My dad and I knew nothing about addiction and definitely nothing about recovery. He took me to our family doctor, and she referred me to a rehab in the heart of Baltimore city. I was the only kid there that wasn’t court-ordered to be there, but the one good thing that came of it was my introduction to 12 step programs, and my counselor there was a man named Frank B. He helped me a lot, because he was the first person that I had ever talked to that could articulate what I was feeling, because he was also an addict in recovery. I got a little bit of hope from that 30 day stay, but had no intention of staying clean. This cycle continued.. 3 or 4 months clean, relapse, back to treatment. In between, I caught burglary charges, I stood before judges, had run-ins with police officers, met with my PO, and must’ve always had a very caring and gracious higher power in my life, because I skated every time. The chaos that I brought into the lives of the people I care about is what I have living amends for today. There aren’t words to describe the pain that they felt, but somehow, even when everyone else left, my father, my sister, and my brother-in-law were still there for me.
That was the insanity, here’s the hope.. 5 years after my first time going to rehab, after being in psych wards, rehabs, halfway houses, and jails more often than not, I came to my father again, as a 22 year-old man and told him that I needed help. It was different this time because there was no grandiose ideas or promises. I just knew that I couldn’t go on living this way anymore. To the people around me, I’m sure it seemed like another run through the motions, but I was depleted. I was financially, mentally, physically, and spiritually broken. I went to Frederick Memorial Hospital, and told them, knowing how this all works all too well, “if you let me leave here today, I am going to kill myself”.. I did this so they would keep me, and at least give me 72 hours worth of comfort meds and detox. From the very beginning of the process this time, I told every professional that I came in contact with, “I will do whatever you tell me to do, I can’t live like this anymore”. I had no plans for what was going to happen, no idea where I was going, or anything. The people at FMH couldn’t find anywhere to send me rehab since I had been everywhere in the state. The day before I was going to be back on the street, the case worker came to me and asked if I had ever been to New Jersey, I said no and she said “great!, pack up you’re going to Princeton, NJ”. So, I went to treatment, and it wasn’t as much of me acquiring new information, since I had been to so many rehabs before, but the fact that my willingness was different. I was ready and willing to do anything they asked of me. So again it came time to leave and head back to Maryland, and my counselor Leroy said, I want you to go to this house in Long Branch, NJ. And I said yes. I didn’t have any money, my family was sort of done with giving out donations, but it was around Christmas time and my sister gave me probably the best gift I’ve been given, and that was 2 weeks rent at this house. I got there, and before I even unpacked my bag, I went to a daytime 12-step meeting, and got my hand up and said “My name is Treye, I don’t know anyone here, and I need help”. I was overwhelmed with attention from other addicts like me, that just wanted to help me out with no other motive. I met my sponsor that day, and hit the ground running. I found a job, and just stayed the course. I left the house I was in to live in and Oxford house in the same town, which was just basically a little more freedom but the guys in the house were all living the way I wanted to live – supporting themselves, and seeming to truly enjoy life without substances. This works for me by staying connected to other people in recovery, doing step work which has taught me how to live by spiritual principles, and being of service to others. I never forget where I came from, but my mantra has been from the first day “change or die”. I changed everything. I had to completely disconnect from everyone from my old life. I even disconnected from people that I didn’t use with and it was hard but it wasn’t about them, it was about me. I had to re-discover myself and re-invent myself completely. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I learn to do better today, I don’t dwell on them. I worked in the addictions field for about 2 years before joining the carpenter’s union here in Northern New Jersey. I have a 1 year-old son, a fiancee, and a dog, and relationships with friends and family that are meaningful and not based on surface-level things. I am extremely grateful for everything I have and try to show that by making myself available to people that need help – addicts or not. I’ve been homeless, I’ve begged for money, and I’ve completely disrespected myself and everyone around me in active addiction. Nothing was sacred if it was in between me and the next high. My spirit is full today. I am living proof that there is hope for any person with breath in their lungs. You have to advocate for yourself, you have to keep fighting and keep holding on. Five minutes can change everything. If you’re struggling, speak up. There is hope!