Looking back at my life I feel as if I’ve lived two lifetimes. 14 years ago (2003) I hit rock bottom. A hopeless drug addict/alcoholic, completely alienated from my family, doing time in prison on a two year sentence.
Even though I was a drug and alcohol garbage can, and spent time on the yard with white supremacists, gang members, crips and bloods and an array of supporting cast members, it shaped me into the person I am today.
Who am I today? I’m still a drug addict/alcoholic; however, I’ve been sober for over nine years. I’m a healthy and happy person, who has goals and cares about himself and others. This is the story of how I went from being a drug addict/alcoholic, to convict, to an entrepreneur with over 15 employees.
The Beginning of the End
I was born in Colombia in the 80’s, but I was raised in Southern California. My parents were everything to me growing up. They were awesome providers for my little brother, sister and me. Our house was always filled with love and lessons of hard work and persistence.
Being Colombian, naturally, there were always parties at our house or an aunt’s house or a friend’s house. Not surprising these parties included copious amounts of alcohol, especially aguardiente; a strong, anise flavored Colombian liquor. I was always very curious about the effects aguardiente had on adults. As soon as they had had a couple of shots of it, they seemed happier, more outgoing and more cheerful. I didn’t really understand why they changed so much just by drinking a bit of that clear liquid.
My mother had strictly forbidden me and my siblings from tasting any type of liquor. Nevertheless, one day, when I was only 9 years old, I managed to sneak a few sips of aguardiente while the adults were busy. It burned my throat and I hated the taste, but I absolutely loved the feeling it gave me. That night marked the beginning of a downward spiral that continued for a very long time.
What started with alcohol soon escalated to drugs. At 14 I tried marijuana for the first time, and when I was 19 I started experimenting with harder drugs.
I got hooked on meth (I smoked it and snorted it; I wasn’t much of a fan of needles). Although I was using pretty much every day I held a steady job and was excelling in college. My parents suspected a problem, but had those love curtains up. When I was 22 I got sentenced to two years in prison on drug related charges.
Prison, as you can imagine, was a very difficult experience. However, paradoxically enough, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Early into my sentence, every day seems to drag on, and my release date seemed light-years away. I took every opportunity I could to get out of my cell. That included going to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. At first, I used to sit at the back and zone out; I didn’t participate and most of the time I didn’t bother to actually listen. I slowly began to feel more comfortable and started to tune in to what people were sharing. The other inmates’ testimonies resonated with me, which encouraged me to tell my story. Unbeknownst to me, this was the beginning of my healing process.
There was one particular story that touched me. It was told by a middle aged man who used to be a prominent doctor, but due to his problems with drugs and alcohol he destroyed his relationship with his wife, lost custody of his daughter, and put a halt to his career. He lost the two people that mattered the most in his life. This was the first time I stepped out of my own skin and realized that my actions had been hurting the people that mattered most in my life. And that I still had the chance to make things right with them. His story helped me take responsibility for my actions and seek help.
When I finally got out of prison, I decided to check into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. There I was able to take big steps towards a new, healthy life. I learned to forgive myself, I was able to make amends with my family, and I was committed to building a better future. That’s why when I completed my treatment I immediately started looking for a job. I found one selling perfumes door to door. I became very good at it very quickly. Soon enough I had my own office and was training other people to do the job I had learned only a few months before.
Things were going well. I was making a decent living and I didn’t have to depend on anyone for the first time in my life. Strangely enough, I wasn’t happy. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I was so obsessed with my work that I started skipping meals, neglecting my family and friends and I wasn’t taking part in any other activity that made me happy. I had become a workaholic. I had traded one addiction for another.
A New Life
The great thing about hitting rock bottom is there is no way to go but up. Thanks to the support of my family, and the groups I was a part of I was able to get my life back on track. In fact, it was my AA sponsor who encouraged me to enrol in a course at a community college. I decided to take an HTML course, and I liked it so much that I sold my perfume business and dedicated my time to learning more about website development.
Today, 9 years later, I own a digital marketing company called Red Door Studios in Colombia. As you can tell, it has not been a walk in the park. Getting to this point has required a lot of hard work, discipline, will power, and heart. Things have gotten a little easier, but I still have 12 to 14 hour days. I’ve got a staff of 15 people who depend on me and believe in me; so I must be on top of my game at all times.
In retrospect, I wouldn’t change a single thing. If it hadn’t been for those difficult and painful experiences, I probably wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today. The best thing is: I am able to positively impact other people through my story. Sobriety, even though it’s hard to achieve and maintain, is part of my life now.
Thanks for taking the time to read my story. I would love to know more about the people who are reading this. Feel free to ask anything or make comments below.