Six Years Clean: My Journey Through Recovery

My name is Joshua Staub, and I am the current Alumni Director at Maple Mountain Recovery.  I currently live in Orem, Utah, and have for the majority of my life. I am 37 years old.  I am an addict. My addiction began a long time before my first drink or drug. For me, it started when I first recognized how afraid I always felt, and an ever-present belief that I wasn’t deserving of love.

I learned very early on that love was only provided to those who did exceptionally well in school, athletics, and other activities of the sort. Being that I was a child who wanted nothing more than affection from those around him, I did everything within my power to be the absolute best at everything that I did. What I was capable of doing, far outweighed the person that I was capable of being.  I needed and craved external validation.

I wholeheartedly believe that everyone’s foundation crumbles at least once in their life, if not multiple times.  When I was about 12 years old, I experienced this for the first time. My family took a massive internal hit, and everything that I had been raised to believe in became hypocritical at best; teachings and behaviors were nowhere near each other.

I began to reject everything, and started getting into trouble at school.  I have always been a bit too smart for my own good, and far too sarcastic. It turns out that teachers aren’t fond of being questioned in a mocking fashion.  It also turns out that administrators aren’t very fond of students using bathroom walls as sketch pads for permanent markers. In-school suspension and phone calls to parents became a regular thing, but it was fairly typical, angsty, puberty-stricken behavior, right?

The first time

The very first time that I used any mind-altering chemicals was at the age of 13.  I was staying the weekend at a dear friend’s house, about 2 hours north of Orem. We had decided to go camping with a few of his local buddies, and the topic of alcohol was brought up.  There wasn’t any pressuring to fit in, or be cool, nor angel and devil on my shoulders trying to sway me to their sides. I was intrigued, and decided that I would give it a try. Life was a confusing mess, so what did I have to lose?  My friend knew who to call to purchase our alcohol, and I handed over what little money I had in my pocket. We met with our “connect” and headed out for a night of fun and adventure.

The evening was more than I had hoped for.  For the first time in, I don’t know how long, I was able to enjoy myself.  I smiled, laughed, and joked around with everyone at the campground. I remember thinking that I had finally found the thing that would make me okay; make life fun.  I was all in on this alcohol thing, and hoped that I could feel the intoxicating effects forever. Then, the police showed up. I was cited with illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor, and taken to the front gates of the campground, where my friend’s mother was waiting for us.  I knew that there was going to be major consequences when I saw my parents, but I honestly didn’t care. My focus was on how good I felt for the majority of the evening, and when I would get to experience that feeling again.

My using history is filled with that same story, repeated over and over again, with only slight variations.  I wanted to escape myself, and would use anything that I possibly could to make that happen, no matter the consequences.  Within a few short years, I had tried almost every illegal substance that there is, been arrested numerous times, and kicked out of school for not attending.  I had left home, only to be allowed back under the strictest of conditions that I had no intention of adhering to, which would quickly lead to me being asked to leave once again.

Youth program

I slept on couches or in basements of my friend’s homes, and had no real motivation to live any other way.  My parents decided that they needed to do something and quickly. Thanks to more legal trouble, I was placed on house arrest at my family home.  One day, my parents asked me if I would go to a therapy appointment in Salt Lake with them. I happily agreed because it was an opportunity to get out of the house for a little bit.  Upon arrival, it became apparent that this appointment was going to last a lot longer than a typical hour session. My family didn’t know how to help me anymore, so they placed me in a youth program that, on average, lasted 9 months.  Obviously, I was not very happy about this.

My new home wouldn’t be able to change me, of this I had no doubt, but I didn’t want to be there any longer than was necessary.  I chose to play their game, jump through their hoops, and do what I needed to do to graduate. The only real plans that I had for the future were reuniting with my friends, and returning to the life that I had known.  After 10 months, I was finally able to leave.

Back in old patterns

My drug use immediately picked up right where it had left off, and progressed even further.  I had never had a chance to try heroin, and was unsure if I would ever really want to. Seemingly overnight, though, it became the most accessible drug in my circle, and I decided to see what all the fuss was about. The exact moment that the effects of the first injection were felt, I knew that I didn’t need to search anywhere else.  Sadly, I had found my home, and I couldn’t have been any happier about it. Every ounce of neurosis, depression, anxiety, and fear, completely melted away. I no longer cared about anything. I know that this reads like a bad PSA from the “just say no” era, but I was hooked after just one time.

The next several years of my life consisted of loss, near death experiences, self-degradation, and sickness.  My two closest friends died tragically from overdoses, both at very young ages. Family members didn’t want to be around me.  I had pawned everything of value that I owned, and stolen anything that wasn’t nailed down, to get my fix. Every opportunity to make a change in my life, was either shrugged off or wasted. I became nothing more than your run of the mill, stereo typical, junkie.

Just existing

My mother once told me that when she looked at me, she saw someone that wasn’t living anymore, but just existing.  She was absolutely right. I began to lament over all of the potential that I had wasted. I, at one point in my life, had been capable of doing and becoming almost anything that desired.  Those days were gone for good, though, and I didn’t see the point in continuing any longer. I made up my mind that if I wasn’t ever going to be anything more than a junkie, I might as well go and die like one; the sooner, the better.  I stole and pawned what I could, went to pick up as much dope as possible, and cooked up a couple of shots that far surpassed my usual dose. One went in my arm, with the other quickly following, and then everything went black.

Miraculously, I was found a few hours later and taken to nearest emergency room.  After being cleared from the hospital, I was taken to jail. I can only recall this in brief flashes.  For the next three days I slipped in and out of consciousness. Once I was finally able to create thoughts again, it occurred to me that I needed help.  I had tried to end my own life, and it didn’t work. I had no control over how or when I would die, and it could be a long way off. Maybe it was time to learn how to live.  Thanks to the time that I had spent in treatment as a teenager, I knew what my next move was. Once I was released from jail, I began my process of recovery.

Journey through recovery

My life, for the next year, consisted of daily 12 step meetings, reading recovery literature, meeting fellow addicts in recovery, and working a steady job.  It sounds boring, but it wasn’t. I began to experience something different. A strange sense of satisfaction and contentment was growing inside me.  My outlook became very child-like, wherein every day was an opportunity to experience something new. This didn’t just come to me because I decided to stop using drugs, though.  It was granted to me because of my desire to live differently, and the willingness to put in the necessary work.

It also helped a great deal to be able to see the benefits of recovery in the lives of the people that I surrounded myself with.  I, because of this, was able to reconcile with my family and repair the damage that I had caused in their lives. Connection to others and self-discovery became my main motivations in life, and still are today.

I recently celebrated six years clean.

There have been more ups and downs in my recovery than I can count.  I have experienced a great deal of heartache, sadness, and disappointment.  There have also been moments of pure joy, and times that I laughed so hard that I honestly thought I cracked a rib.  The greatest thing that I have gained from recovery, though, has been the understanding that I can and will be okay no matter what comes.  

Many of us, as addicts, have heard of recovery, and seen people who we know get clean.  It’s easily dismissed, because our addiction is far worse than theirs or we are too far gone to ever change.  I am able to work at a treatment facility that has helped hundreds of people rediscover what they are truly capable of doing, and that no one is beyond help. Our program is rooted in hope and self-empowerment. We show people that recovery isn’t just a possibility…it is possible for them.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or mental health issues, don’t give up. Give us a call at  (801) 499-9316.

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