Window of Grace

By
Jeff Sanders
Tell us about your (or your loved one's) recovery journey. What has been the most rewarding part?

Addiction has touched every aspect of my life.... and my recovery from it insists that I remember and respond daily to help others when asked in order to preserve my own life LIBERTY and happiness...

Do you have a message for the Shatterproof community?

Addiction is a medical problem not a moral failing! Drug addicts have been to often treated like criminals locked away in facilities that are not rehabilitative only to be released to the community with a mistreated and misunderstood medical condition. Addiction is preventable, treatable, and education is needed to help all people see the benefits that occur within an individual, a community, and the country when the illness is properly addressed. It will require systemic change at all levels of government and all sectors of the public until those changes happen people will continue to die at alarming rates and cause unnecessary and preventable harm and damage to others. America has faced and overcome greater problems when We come together nothing can pull us apart...not even addiction. So let's Rise up Together rather than die apart...we owe it to those we loved who have been taken by the illness and their family members.

Shatter Proof....is quite a fitting name...when it comes to my story. I am a person in long-term recovery. My recovery date is April Fools Day 1994 and that has only been possibly because of God, my loving family, and my community. I grew up in a blue collar working class family in the Midwest, Warren Ohio specifically a small town by Youngstown Ohio in the Mahoning Valley at one time a crucial component of the steel industry and the industrial revolution. I was raised with good wholesome values, a strong work ethic, and I was taught to value God, Family, and Country. We worked hard and played even harder. We played football or baseball in my neighborhood afyer school usually until the street lights came on and we went home frequently covered in mud or grass stains from taking and giving hits on the playing field. Whether you were hitting or getting hit we always helped each other back to our feet at the end of the play. I grew up during a recession when the Steel Mills closed their doors it caused an economic earthquake in our community that was accompanied by the declared wars on Poverty & Drugs. I got drunk for the first time at age 12 and my use of drugs quickly followed. The war on drugs at that time consisted of "Just Say No" I wish it would have been that simple. My Mother tried to warn me to stay away from those older kids around the corner because they were "stealing bicycles and lawn mowers" however curiosity, self esteem issues, and grief seemed to get washed away by the drugs they were using. What I failed to understand at that time and what had not been communicated to me properly was that as drugs were temporarily making me feel good they were also adding to my list of things to feel bad about and brought more grief and trauma which only perpetuated more and more use of drugs. I remember hearing over and over that drugs are bad for you....however when I used them they made me feel wonderful. It was a confusing time. By age 15 I was smoking crack cocaine, one of the boys my Mom had warned me about had been sentenced to death row for robbing and murdering an elderly couple onme and my brothers paper route. I had acquired a probation officer and finished my freshman year of high school in an inpatient drug treatment program. By age twenty I had went through 6 very similar treatment programs, I had been to the local juvenile detention center multiple times due to behaviors related to my use of drugs. I was hauled off to boys reformstory school at age 16 in handcuffs and shackles for 3 counts of felonious assault which did not seem to help my esteem problems. By age 20 I had been arrested in 3 states and I was AWOL from the U.S. Army Reserve (which I had joined in an effort to escape the war on drugs that was occurring in my mind and in my community at that time). Because of my use I couldn't maintain a job and or commitments I had made to attend college and serve our country. I found myself on spring break in Panama City Florida 1994 and something I now know as God came over me. I had an overwhelming desire to change my life at any cost. I called my Mom who with the help of our Pastor made arrangements for me to enter a detoxification program in Ohio. With the aid of another Pastor in Panama City my "Good Samaritan" I got on a greyhound bus headed for Ohio and started detoxing on the bus. When I arrived at the hospital in Ohio I arrived two days late and they no longer had a detox bed available for me, there also wasn't a bed available on the psychiatric floor. I was admitted to a general medical floor was sedated and tied down to the bed in 4 point soft restraints. On April 5, 1994 after 4 days of not using I come to in the bed and realized I was tied down and I immediately went into fight or flight. I ripped out of the restraints and ran out of the hospital room. I was greeted by two hospital security officers that looked like police. Whaf they werent aware of at that time in my life when I saw police officers I didn't see "protect and serve" I saw "your getting beat up and going to jail" so I ran from them even though they were trying to "Help" my brain was programmed from past experience to think "Hurt" ...and so I fled jumping head first out of the second story window of the hospital. Fortunately I landed on the first floor emergency room roof head first breaking both my arms and my neck in two places. The injuries i sustained that day have left me paralyzed from that day to this. So the idea of being SHATTERPROOF is quite fitting to me. I have been drug and alcohol free since April Fools Day 1994 and I've only walked for 4 days of my recovery. I had to learn to do everything over again from putting on socks to driving a vehicle. As I laid on life support on a ventilator crying in the darkness I remember making a personal decision to want to go back to college to fight addiction for the rest of my life and I knew education was the place yo start. I went back to college and obtained my BA in psychology in 1999 and my M.Ed. in counseling in 2003 with the assistance of monies afforded to me through the Ohio Bureau of Vacational Rehabilitation and the PASS plan (plan to achieve self sufficiency) through the Social Security Administration. I have been gainfully employed full time for the last 18 years as a result of these programs, community support, and a loving God. I have also lived a reasonably happy and productive life. Recovery is not always easy but it's worth it and it's possible under any circumstances. God Bless us and keep us as we try to Shatter the miseducation, misunderstanding, and miscommunication within Ourselves, Our Communities, and Our Country so that the Freedom and Liberty of Recovery is easier to access for those still suffering from this illness today and into the future.