The journey to recovery is not easy. It is a road paved with many obstacles that can trip you up and lead you back to drug use. Whatever happens in life for addicts, whether good or bad, relapse is always an option. But to maintain sobriety, an alcoholic or chemically dependent person must buy into the fact that relapse is not an option. To live clean and sober is a battle that a former user must fight each and every day while temptation rears its ugly head as you fight down the demons of yesteryears. We hear a lot about the failures and the problems with addiction and drug abuse in society as a whole but what about the successes? Recovery should be celebrated, but not with a glass of champagne.
Success in recovery should be equally applauded. It is a path not often taken or achieved. Most addicts are just happy to be off the drugs. Being successful in life takes recovery to a whole other level. But the truth remains that you can never forget where you came from. Hitting rock bottom and coming to the realization that you are in the throes of addiction is a life-changing recognition. The first step of overcoming addiction is to admit that you are powerless. That is something Stephen Sutler does everyday.
“Addiction has always been in my blood since I was a kid,” The 30-year-old Missouri native tells The Fix. “I remember my first addiction problem was food because I used to be an overweight kid. Once I got to be about 12 or 13 and got my hands on something besides food, like marijuana and alcohol, it was over.” Addiction is a progressive disease and many people suffering from it trade one addiction for another.
”I went through my teenage years abusing hallucinogens, alcohol, acid, ecstasy, and marijuana,” Stephen says. “It just fueled my addiction and I grew up replacing one addiction for another. Everything was all right for awhile with the drug use and school. And as a teenager, it was kind of acceptable but as people transitioned out of that lifestyle and started getting serious about school and stopped experimenting, I started stepping out of school and deeper into the experimenting. I was 16 when I first used meth with my father out in Las Vegas. I spent a year and a half out in Las Vegas and probably didn’t sleep more than a week or two, it felt like. That was the nail in the coffin, if you will.”
Like so many addicts, Stephen couldn’t control his usage. He dove into the drug world headfirst and immersed himself in the culture. There was no caution for Stephen, everything was balls to the wall. No moderation, only excess, the true mark of an addict. But, there is no brand or identifier. The only thing that sets an addict apart is their non-stop drug use and abuse; the urge to use despite the destruction of their life.
“It just went from one thing to the next,” Stephen tells The Fix. “I came back to St. Louis and hooked up with some people that were manufacturing. I started involving myself in that lifestyle and started cooking meth and running the streets.” The downward spiral so common with addiction was in full swing. It would take something drastic for Stephen to stop. He was in a free fall.
“In the process I burnt all my bridges, lost the trust of my family, and lost the privilege of living under their roof,” Stephen relates. “Eventually, I just bounced from couch-to-couch, living out of a little Ford Escort with a smashed out back window and a meth lab in the trunk. Staying up for weeks at a time and sleeping in my car or on somebodies couch. It was just a cycle of self-destruction and self-hatred that was fueled by my past and all of the poor choices I made. It just turned into a complete disaster.”
In the grip of methamphetamine, Stephen only had one mission in life—to get that next hit. His involvement with meth led to a 2010 federal manufacturing charge and instead of getting cleaned up, Stephen went in the opposite direction and continued on his path to self-destruction like so many other addicts. He amped up his drug use by shooting heroin. It was the beginning of the end for Stephen as the junkie’s nightmare consumed him.
“I quickly dove into heroin and I spent the better part of 2010 and 2011 shooting heroin three or four or five times a day,” Stephen says. “I was on federal probation at the time, under a signature bond and they were watching me. It took them almost two years to federally indict me and on February 27, 2011, I [would] shoot my last dose of heroin in my arm, driving 70 miles per hour down the highway right by the St. Louis Arch. I overdosed and crashed the vehicle into pieces all over the highway. They found me dead behind the wheel. Not from the accident, [but] from the heroin. They had a chance to deliver medicine to bring me back and reverse the effects of the opiates. Then they took me straight to the hospital and handcuffed me to the bed.”
A lot of people would think this was the end of Stephen’s story—addiction, overdose, death and jail. But this was Stephen’s awakening. He had hit rock bottom. Now, it was time to put the pieces of his life back together.
“I hit my rock bottom so many times in my life that I always thought it can never get any worse than this, but at that moment, when I was laying in that hospital bed I said there is no way I can continue doing this,” Stephen tells The Fix. “I’ve got to find some other way to live my life or I’m not gonna live my life. I was just sick and tired of it. I couldn’t do it anymore. I just set out to change everything about me. I knew no way possible to live a life free of drugs and alcohol. I didn’t understand how to do it. I didn’t think it was possible. But I did know that I had to find some other way.” Read more…