Eventually I got kicked out of my aunt’s house and met a young girl named Bridget who was staying with an older dude named Pete in North Bergen, New Jersey. Pete was a nice, bald-headed Grateful Dead guy that put up sheet rock. I don’t know why he let me live with him, but he did, and eventually I was able to get another high-end sales job at Nordstrom's in the Garden State Plaza. Eventually Pete got frustrated that Bridget was high all the time and I decided to move out to a little welfare hotel in West New York, NJ.
Up until this point in my career I had never stolen. But I had to steal in order to support my heroin habit, so I started taking money from the register. That's what it came to. The people at Nordstrom’s built up a case on me. They told they knew I was stealing and I didn't deny it. I was honest – I told them I had a substance abuse issue and they were grateful for my honesty. But they still took me out in handcuffs in front of my colleagues and it was really embarrassing.
You would think that after all this I'd be at my wits end, but I still had a little money and proceeded to get high until it was all gone. I didn’t know what my next play would be. I didn’t have a job. I was going to lose my room. My family wouldn’t take me back. That day right there was rock bottom.
Since I had recently been terminated, I still had access to employee assistance at Nordstrom's. I was set up with a counselor named Nora who became my angel. We spoke on the phone and then I went in to see her. I told her everything that had happened.
“Are you ready to get help?”
She made a call to a place called Integrity House in Secaucus, NJ.
Nora told me she could get me into the Integrity House, but that I had to show up the next day. If I didn’t show up the very next day my spot would be gone.
“Nora I have to be honest with you.” I said. “I don't have a dime in my pocket to get there.”
She gave me $40 from her own pocket. I proceeded to spend the first $20 on drugs and I gave the second $20 to a friend to drive me to the Integrity House. When I got there something just clicked in my mind that if I messed this up it’s because I wanted to – I realized success or failure was a choice.
That began a two year period of intensive therapy. I spent a year in therapy and then the second year I had to go out and get a job. I didn’t have a car so I needed to find something in Secaucus that I could walk to. I got hired by a warehouse that dealt with clothing manufacturers and retailers.
The job paid the minimum wage of $6 but I was just so happy to have a job and be working again. I stayed sober and saved more money than I ever had before. Eventually I saved enough to get a room in a basement in Secaucus. Every time it rained my room flooded but I was happy because it was my room.
It turns out that that little warehouse was the distributor for Armani, Hugo boss and other high-end clothing companies. So I was still in high-end fashion, but as a distributor, not in retail. I got promotion after promotion and ultimately ended up getting an IT job there and then with another company where I presently work.
You wouldn't believe what I do now. I was arrested and convicted for theft. When you apply for a new job you have to divulge all that information. But even with that background, I was hired by a major IT company to work as a fraud analyst! Of all the things I could have become – a fraud analyst – trying to catch other people stealing. You really can’t make this stuff up…
I’ve saved up so much money that I own my own home and also have an investment property. I've always wanted to own in Manhattan and if things continue on their present course I will own real estate in the same city I used to be homeless in.
I wake up every day smiling and filled with hope. I honestly believe I can accomplish whatever I want. Nothing will ever get me down and I will never fall back into the abyss.
Goose Chronicles Outtakes:
“What happened to Michelle?”
“I don't know what happened to her, but I pray for her often. She went into rehab and tried but didn’t make it. A year after I got sober I was coming out of an AA meeting and I saw her going down Avenue A with another guy that used to be a user. I didn’t even say hi. That was the last time I saw her.”
“Did you love her?”
“I cared deeply for her but I didn’t love her. We just got high together.”
“What have you learned over the course of your life?”
“I’ve always liked Steve Harvey because he tells it like it is. He said something once that I really believe in: ‘“Do not ignore you gift. Your gift is the thing you do the absolute best with the least amount of effort.’ I believe everyone has a certain gift and is put on this earth for a reason – life is the process of figuring out that reason.”
“What advice would you like to give to my readers struggling with addiction?”
“There is help but you have to want it. It's not easy. I won't even pretend to give you false hope. You need to get into a 12 step program and stick with it. You have to want to get better. Until you get to that point it won't happen.”
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