Q: Could you briefly tell us about yourself?
A: I am 35 years old currently living in Berks County Pennsylvania. I grew up in Ashland PA, and lived in Schuylkill County for most of my life. Growing up I never really felt like I had belonged. Based on my religious upbringing, and the way I was treated by my peers, I always felt like I needed to be what people thought I should be, rather than WHO I really was on the inside. My people pleasing, and inability to be happy with myself, I dropped out of college, changed jobs quite often, and entered relationships that that were very toxic, either emotionally or verbally abusive, with the thoughts that I could change them. That idea of people pleasing is what lead me to using. My boyfriend at the time was on parole for his drug use. After we had broken up, because I wouldn't use, I thought that IF I started using with him, we would get back together, and then we could get clean together, and we would live happily ever after. That first time that I had used with him, was the day that my addiction really took off. I felt, for the first time in my life, that I had finally belonged. I had a taste of what it felt like to put my mind at rest, and to feel that I could take on the world. I wanted more of that feeling, and would do anything I needed to do to get that feeling.
Q: What was your drug of choice?
A: Through the years, I had used Alcohol, Marijuana, Acid, and Opiates, but my main drug of choice was Crystal Meth.
Q: What is your sobriety date?
A:My Clean date is November 10th 2012
Q: Looking back, was there a turning point during your active addiction?
A: My turning point really was when I was homeless living on the streets of Allentown, PA, in my car. At this point my sister had lived in Allentown only a few blocks from where I was "living" but I refused to go to her families house, for fear of being caught. It was during Hurricane Sandy, where at night I would hole up in a laundry-mat, and during the days, I would run the streets, that I had just resigned to myself that this was how I was going to spend the rest of my life. The running, lying, cheating, stealing, had become my way of life. If you were in my way, I would run you down to get what I wanted, and needed. This cycle continued until I "ran down" the wrong person. I had gotten beaten up, and that was the day I decided that I was done. I needed help. I had gone to my sister's house and told her everything that I had done, was doing, and that I didn't want to live this way anymore. I went back to Schuylkill County, where my father worked tirelessly to get me into treatment. I spent 3 days in a hotel room, detoxing, while my dad called every intake center in the area to get me into treatment. When asked about my current living situation, he referred to me as a destitute, in order to get me to an inpatient treatment facility. That feeling of embarrassment, shame, and guilt was unbearable. I felt I had let everyone down. My family, my friends, but mostly myself. I wanted to die. Thankfully, Schuylkill County Drug and Alcohol Intake, was able to get me into an inpatient treatment facility. That is where my recovery began.
Q: What is a slogan that best expresses your current pint of view in recovery?
A: There is a chapter in the NA Basic text called "More Will Be Revealed" What that chapter, and the slogan mean to me is as I continue to walk along this path of recovery, my journey will bring me new insight not only into the world around me, but also within myself. I will always find new and exciting things about myself that I never knew existed. I will understand who the real Phil is.
Q: What are some daily practices and key aspects in your life that assist you in your recovery?
A: While I would love to say that I have a list of things that I do every day to keep me clean, unfortunately that is not true. I do fall short some days in praying, meditating, and calling my sponsor, but there are two things that are a must to me every day. The first thing is NOT TO USE, NO MATTER WHAT. My sponsor told me that early in recovery. Just don't use, no matter what. Using will only magnify and complicate any problem I have. The other thing that is imperative is being true to myself. Knowing WHO I am, and what my values and morals are, and not to compromise them for anyone. Compromising my values and integrity mean that I am just lying to myself.
Q: As a person in recovery, do you have any advice you could offer to someone looking to get clean?
A: Ask for help. I learned early in my recovery that I can not recover on my own, and no matter what, just don't use.
Q: Addiction is affecting hundreds in Schuykill County and abroad. It's very saddening. Any advice to people trying to help their loved ones to seek help?
A:The best piece of advice I can give people looking to help loved ones is not to try to guilt or shame them into recovery. That will only perpetuate the cycle, pushing them further away from you, and recovery. Show them love, compassion, and concern. An addict will know when they are ready for help long before they are ready to seek help. By knowing that they have your support, even if they relapse, helps them feel better about themselves. The last thing we need to feel is guilt from others.
Q: Why are projects like "The Skook Recovers" important in this day and age?
A: I feel that the public's perception of what an addict is, and how recovery works, needs to change. Growing up I only thought "oh only homeless people use, or Everyone who get's high is a gutter junkie." This disease is very real, and so is recovery. Education on the disease and recovery is very important to the understanding that I can survive life without killing myself.
Q: Tell us about the good things that your new life in recovery has brought to you and/or improved?
A: One of the many gifts of recovery that I have received since I got clean is my family. During my stay in treatment, and the first few months of my recovery, my family wanted nothing to do with me. They would not accept my calls, come visit me, or send me things in the mail. I felt that they hated me. What had hurt me the most was my sister, who was always by my side, had to turn me away. I now know that they had to do it to protect themselves. Fast forward to February of 2015, and I got to spend 8 days in Walt Disney World, with my family. I remember on my drive to the hotel from the airport, that I had actually started crying, because I could not believe that just over 2 years ago I wasn't allowed in anyone's house for the holidays, or just a visit and now I was spending over a week with their families, and my nieces and nephews. To be able to be a part of a vacation with the whole family, as opposed to just seeing it through the eyes of Facebook, was truly a blessing. My family now comes to me for advice and suggestions. They allow themselves to be vulnerable with me, allowing me to see a side of them that they never showed before. There truly is a deeper bond that has occurred with them throughout my recovery. The bonds with my family run deep, however, the bond that I have now with myself are deeper. For the first time in my life, I am able to sit with myself. To actually be comfortable in my own skin, and be happy with who I am. Before, during and even after my active addiction, I hated who I was. I never felt like anything that I did, or who I was, was able to please anyone. I wasn't good enough, strong enough, tall enough, etc. After doing a little bit of work on myself, I now know that I am good enough. I may not be perfect, and I am O.K. with that. I like the person I am today, and look forward to getting to know myself throughout this process.
Q: Anything else you would like to add? (comments, projects, website, social media)
A:We need to come out of the closets of our anonymity, and put recovery into the spotlight. It shows people that the disease of addiction affects ALL walks of life, not just a select few. The disease does not discriminate. It doesn't care about your age, race, sexual identity, creed, religion, or lack of religion. Once we enter recovery, we hide behind our traditions. We are like a secret society that only exists in the basement of churches for an hour to an hour and a half a night. Though the traditions of anonymity are important to ensure the safety of our meetings, and the members of our 12 step fellowships, I am not my disease, or my fellowship. I am a person in long term recovery, that must show others that it is possible to live a life without the use of a mind or mood altering chemical. I have a duty to educate people on the disease of addiction, and to show what the benefits of recovery are. Unfortunately, with the current laws on non-violent drug offenders, we are doing a great disservice to people who suffer from this disease. We (law makers, court systems) take someone who is suffering from this disease, and instead of getting them help, we put them in prison, and give them the best education on how to become better criminals. The cycle of crime and addiction just perpetuates. Without help it is an endless cycle of jails, using, institutions, and ultimately, death. This cycle needs to stop, and it starts with those of us who are in recovery. Only with the education of the public, will this cycle end, and the healing can begin.
Where my journey started.
This is where treatment was
A recovery community in Berks county
where I currently Reside, and have been able to build upon the tools taught to me in treatment.
A great resource for understanding addiction
www.caron.org A treatment Facility in Berks County
www.rtor.org Resources To Recover website.
"The Anonymous People: Nobody Knows You're There". A great film and documentary about coming out of the closets of recovery.