When I was younger, I was that kid that would “never do drugs” and harshly judged people who did. Alcoholism runs in my family, on both sides, so I had seen what it does to people and their families. I KNEW that I would NEVER let that happen to me.

Looking back, the people that helped me come to that conclusion were what I would now refer to as “functioning” alcoholics.

I had no idea how much lower it could actually get.

Don’t get me wrong, I grew up surrounded by love, an amazing family, and a great upbringing. I’m just saying that even at a young age, I saw what alcohol could do to someone and never wanted anything to do with it (or anything like it).

I held onto those beliefs into my early teens, until I heard something that made sense to me: “Doctors prescribe these pills to sick people and old people, so they can’t be that bad.” It completely changed my perspective on this one specific class of drugs.

So I decided to try a couple of Vicodin, and for the first time in my life, I felt like ME.

I didn’t even know that I hadn’t felt like me leading up to this new “perspective”. And I decided right then, that I didn’t ever want to NOT feel like this again.

I did a pretty damn good job of keeping that promise to myself for quite awhile. The messed up thing is, for awhile, it worked! I thought I had found the answer! I had life all figured out! As long as I didn’t run out.

But as these things go, 5 pills stopped being enough.

Then Vicodin stopped being enough. Then taking the pills orally stopped being enough. And at some point along the way the drugs stopped doing what they were “supposed to” do. My solution had somehow become my PROBLEM! They turned on me.

I was back to feeling like I wasn’t me, but now I was a homeless junkie with a record, leaving behind a trail of burned bridges everywhere I went.

Along this journey, I let go of my “I’ll only use these pills” beliefs and I started shooting heroin, meth, and cocaine every day.

I committed crimes to afford my habits, had legal trouble, and overdosed 8 times.

I became homeless, had a family that no longer wanted me around, destroyed my credit, and all of the other wonderful things that come along with the lifestyle I was living.

At one point, when I thought I was doing a little better for a while, I had a pet duck named Kush (yeah yeah yeah… I know…) that I REALLY bonded with. When things inevitably got worse again, I had to find a new home for him because I couldn’t even care for myself, let alone another living creature. And as ridiculous as this sounds, it really messed me up. I was heartbroken!

After my 6th or 7th inpatient treatment (I don’t even know, I lost track of how many times I tried to get clean), things were worse than ever. I was sitting in a hotel room with a gun on the table and a phone right next to it, trying to figure out which solution to choose. So I decided I would give it ONE more try to get off the dope. I called the treatment center and had a bed lined up a couple of days later.

This time, I did things a little differently. I actually followed (some of) the suggestions.

And I stayed clean long enough to really start to see how much better life could be without drugs in it! At that time I met the woman who is now my wife. I had a job, we had a car, my family wanted to see me again… It was amazing!

But then I got it in my head that alcohol wasn’t my drug of choice, so I should be allowed to drink. Long story short…You guessed it! I was wrong. Now I was a homeless, hopeless junkie WITH someone else. My now-wife relapsed with me and we were back to the horrors of addiction together.

Luckily that time that I had without substances had allowed me to see the beauty life had to offer, so I was willing to try AGAIN…! And on February 11th, 2014, I got high for the last time.

It has now been 7 years without ANY substances!

In that time I have repaired my credit, got a car, held down a job, went to college, have a roof over my head, and married the love of my life (who is also still clean). I even own a sober house where I get to help others find recovery!

I am also now a part of my family again and get to be very close with them! Today I get to be someone my younger siblings can look up to, instead of leading by example for what not to do.

As I am coming up on my last semester in school, I have an internship in my field of study. I don’t have any children but I have 4 amazing pets: 2 dogs, 1 cat, and…

**drum roll please** …. A DUCK!!

This time I named him Ben Afquack – instead of naming him after weed, and I am able to give him the life he deserves! I take him on all the adventures I take the dogs on, he goes everywhere with me, even on the motorcycle.

Photo Credit: Derek

We started documenting his adventures online and actually have a Guinness world record for followers on Instagram (shout-out to @minnesotaduck! Shameless plug.)

If I had settled for all of the things I had once dreamt of, I would have sold myself short by a long shot… I have been given a second chance at life that is better than I ever thought it could be. I have been able to do things that I didn’t think would ever be possible for me.

Recovery is one day at a time for me, but so far the momentum has yet to slow down, and things just keep getting better!

The biggest change for me was when I realized drugs weren’t the problem, I am the problem. Eliminating drugs wasn’t enough, because I was still left with the “me” that sought them out to begin with. I had to start working on myself, and figure out who I am, to move forward and begin this beautiful journey that doesn’t include drugs.

***DISCLAIMER: This website, jugglingthejenkins.com, is not affiliated with any specific recovery program. Different avenues work for different people.***