Editor’s Note: The Empire is publishing a weekly column from members of Juneau’s recovery community, in coordination with Great Bear Recovery Collective, to highlight September as National Recovery Month.
When I was a kid I always thought drugs were stupid. I got my thrill from hunting and trapping. Even when I started high school I only just experimented with partying, but was still mostly focused on being in the outdoors. Then, when I was 17, I got charged with a felony for forging a duck-hunting document. My right to hunt with a rifle got taken away, which was everything to me, plus I was facing years of prison time. I became depressed and turned to OxyContin to numb my depression. It quickly became habit forming, and within months of starting Oxy I turned to heroin, which was cheaper. Consequently, I got mixed in with the wrong kind of people who were doing anything and everything to stay high. Between the drugs and the looming prison sentence it became hard to plan a future for myself.
Eventually, I was found guilty of the felony forgery and taken into custody. I decided that I would use my time in prison to kick opiates, so I focused on exercising, and I stayed sober during that prison stint, remaining sober for another year after I got out. I thought heroin was a thing of the past for me. That with all my clean time I would be able to stay sober, but all that clean time didn’t matter when I was faced with real struggles in the real world. That being said I didn’t have any tools to safe guard myself against my cravings, so I was unable to see any of my relapse triggers.
On top of that, I gravitated toward people who I related to, people from jail who were still using. Staying sober became impossible, and I started using again while on probation which led to my second incarceration. I was high and dreading my return to prison, and so during one of my court appearances I found a way to pick my handcuffs and managed to escape. They finally apprehended me, and added the escape to my charge. I received a five-year sentence
This time on the inside my use continued. Until one day, after sitting in prison for about two years my attorney visited, and she said, ”Happy 26th birthday, Talon.” I looked at her dumbfounded and corrected her saying, “No, I am only 25 this year.” She assured me that I was in fact 26, and in that moment I realized that my life was just slipping away from me. I was already halfway through my 20s and all I had to show for myself was a drug habit and prison time. I knew I had to change, otherwise my situation would never change.
First, I had to start by forgiving myself, and then accept that I was responsible for what my life had become. There were no actual treatment options inside prison, and I was looking at a lengthy sentence. So I decided to do what I could to make changes on the inside. I began to observe how I responded to my daily life, beginning to see how my addiction allowed me to manipulate myself. Eventually I was released to the halfway house where I was able to do intensive outpatient treatment, finally beginning to gain the tools I needed to stay sober, and find people who believed in me, and who were also sober.
It has been an uphill battle and a lot of hard work, but I now feel confident in my sobriety. It took me a long time to be honest and recognize my addiction, and I had to leave a lot of friends behind who are still using. However, being sober has allowed me to reconnect with my family and my community, and surround myself with people who want to see me happy and healthy.
For those still struggling, know that you are important and your life does matter. You don’t have to numb yourself with drugs to forget who you are. The most important thing that I have learned is that no matter how many times you’ve tried and failed there is always hope.
• Talon Lobaugh authored this piece. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.