When I was a young boy, I created in my mind Great Expectations for my life. I dreamed of being a conqueror, a captain of some vast business enterprise and a protector of the poor, the disadvantaged, and a supporter of all underdogs. I would be a rebel against “the establishment” and a fighter for good.
Nothing would stop me from confronting evil and speaking out against injustice. I would have the courage to tell the truth publicly, when no else dared. Worrying about what others would think of what I said and who I was as a person, would not be important to me, if fact, I would enjoy making liars uncomfortable.
My name would be famous for all of the right reasons. Making sacrifices for the good of others would be my stock in trade. My primary aim would be to touch the hearts of as many people as I could and give them Hope, Courage and Love.
When I graduated from college in 1981, I thought I could become anything that I set my mind to. Anything that I had passion for, I would excel at. If my heart was in the right place, that is, being of positive service to others, my goals would happen and I would make a difference in the world.
That was my mind set when I finished college and embarked upon my journey into the real world. I was completely blind to the time bomb ticking away in my chest. The disease of addiction was now ready to pounce on my dreams and tear my life apart.
If a college friend or a family member had predicted that I would barely survive 28 years of tortuous addiction, 13 treatment centers and a year of living outside on the streets in helpless homelessness, I would not have believed them. After all, my life was full of promise and I had big plans for my life. Nothing was going to get in my way. I was going to become successful no matter what.
In the early years of my addiction to alcohol, marijuana and cocaine, I had tremendous denial of my addiction and this almost killed me. Back then, I had not yet accepted that I had a problem with addiction and I passionately denied that I had an additional mental illness called manic depression. In 1982, I told the psychiatrist that there was no way that I could have anything wrong with my brain because I achieved near perfect grades in high school and college and I was a member of the National Honor Society. He told me, “If you do not get treatment for your manic depression and your addiction, your life will be ruined.”
The proposed treatment was for me to take lithium carbonate, a common solution for manic depression. Because of my pride and rebellious nature, I decided not to take the lithium carbonate. The result was an explosive escalation of both my addiction and my manic depression. It is said that people with dual diagnosis (an addiction and a mental illness), have very low rates of recovery and many of them die if they do not get the help that they desperately need for both conditions.
The doctor was right. My life was ruined. I ended up going to 13 treatment centers with very little sobriety in between. During that period of time, I experienced many jails, homelessness, violence, overwhelming fear and rage and a loneliness that left me feeling helpless and empty inside. My spirit was crushed and I was like a wounded animal cornered by the monster called addiction and manic depression. I had become completely defeated and powerless and I did not know how to get out of it. I experienced terror every day.
In 1998, in Denver Colorado where I was homeless for one year, a miracle happened that saved my life. At the end of my addictive journey, I was sleeping in an electrical utility closet in an alley behind my favorite bar. I had developed pancreatitis and the pain was devastating. Emotionally, I was like a wild animal, full of fear and rage and confusion. I was ready to strike out at anyone who threatened me again. Spiritually, I was crushed and I felt less than human. I felt rage and hate in my spirit and I felt like a different person, lost and confused and hurt beyond repair. I did not know who I was anymore and I hated myself.
In the deepest recesses of my spirit, I know and I believe that Jesus loved me, and that He would forgive me and restore me to sanity. A voice inside of me said, “Bob, all you have to do is ask Jesus to help you and He will do it for you.” With nowhere else to turn and overwhelmed with emotion and a crushed spirit, I said this simple and powerful prayer,”Jesus please help me”. With the help of family and friends, I made the journey to Hazelden Foundation in Center City, Minnesota for chemical dependency treatment and to get help for my manic depression.
Agreeing to go to Hazelden was my first surrender. My agreeing to do nine months of treatment was my second surrender. I immediately began taking lithium carbonate for manic depression and I was on my way to a new life free of all chemicals and I was stabilized with lithium. When I graduated from Hazelden, I went to a halfway house for four months and got a job with a landscaping company. Slowly and sometimes painfully, I began to build a new life. Jesus held my hand the whole time. I am His child and He loves me. I became very grateful and focused on my recovery. By the Grace of God, I have been given the gift of 18 years of sobriety and my life has hope and promise and love in it. Sometimes, looking back at my hopes and dreams and aspirations of my college years, I can become very depressed knowing that my life never matched up to who I wanted to become. As the Beatles once said, “Money can’t buy me love.”
Jesus had other plans for me. If He had not humbled me with the disease of addiction, I would probably have developed into a corporate jerk with an ego big enough to hurt a lot of people. As it is, my life is much more simple and humble, but I have the love and respect of my wife, Rochelle, and my family. Rochelle and I enjoy our two grandchildren, Mickey and Natalia and we have started a new real estate business.
I remain grateful and I am active in helping other addicts. I do some public speaking at high schools and treatment centers and I share my story of addiction and recovery. Jesus encouraged me to write a book about my life of addiction and recovery. One time when I was traveling by car cross country, Jesus gave me a powerful and clear message to write my book and to get it done now. A year later, I was able to finish and publish my book.
The book is entitled, “Saved By The Prince Of Peace—Dungeon To Sky.” The web site is: dungeontosky.com
I pray for your happiness, your faith and the blessings you will receive from helping other addicts. If I can get sober, anyone can get sober!
Peace and blessings to you!