We are pleased to feature a guest blog written by our friend and fellow recovering addict, Jon Quinton. Alcoholism and addiction are progressive, fatal, and incurable…but we can recover! Our stories can offer inspiration and let the suffering addict know there is a solution. We thank Jon for sharing his experience, strength, and hope with us today.
An Interview with Jon Quinton:
What was your addiction like? When did it start? What drugs or alcohol were you addicted to? Were there any behaviors, such as sex or gambling, involved in your addiction?
Life in full blown addiction is like a living hell. My drug of choice was cocaine in rock or powder form. The only way to describe it is like a pet mouse in a cage. They have that little exercise wheel that spins and spins, but goes nowhere. Subsequently the mouse has no idea that no matter how fast they try to run on the wheel, but they will go nowhere.
When did it start? The story of my addiction is based on the tale of my two uncles (Good Uncle, Bad Uncle):
My very first experience with any drugs was when my older brother gave me a few puffs of his marijuana joint at the age of eight. He was on his way to a Parliament and Funkadelic concert with George Clinton, so he and my older cousins thought it would be funny to see me tripping before they went. I did not experiment with any other drugs or alcohol until I was a teenager.
I started selling crack, PCP, and marijuana when I was 15 to pay for my girlfriend’s abortion. As a teenager, all my brothers and friends used alcohol, marijuana, and/or PCP. Hence I smoked weed for a few years and used PCP once or twice until I was 15.
I was arrested for selling PCP in my high school gym locker room. I was expelled from Prince Georges County Schools for life. I did a few months in a juvenile detention center until my Good Uncle Hassan El-Amin, a Muslim lawyer and PG County Circuit Court Judge, represented me and obtained my release.
When I was released I was “scared straight” from that lifestyle and went to live with my father at the age of 16. I did really well in school when I was with my dad. I played sports, had good grades, and was dating the prom and homecoming queen. I graduated high school, received an academic scholarship, and went to college.
The summer before college I wanted to make some fast money, so I started hustling for my surrogate uncle Antoine Jones. I sold drugs to pay for my college tuition and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice (irony and paradox.) I was introduced to using powder cocaine during my early college years and became addicted after I graduated from college. Basically, I had multiple kilos at my disposal, so as a drug dealer I became my own best customer.
Describe the mental, physical, and spiritual effects that you experienced in addiction. What was the obsession like? Did you experience a physical inability to control your addiction? What did it make you feel like?
Cocaine is extremely addictive because it interferes with your brain’s serotonin receptor regulation. Serotonin is the chemical that regulates your feelings of reward and pleasure, and mood. Consider the Pavlov dog experiments, where as a dog receives rewards after he responds appropriately to motivational indicators.
Similar to Pavlov’s dog, a drug addict will replace normal rewards–love, companionship, food, well-being health–and replace it with the reward of the “rush” from the drug high. It gets to a point where you don’t want any other reward except the drug. The obsession to get the next “hit” is a deadly cycle of Seek, Obtain, Quick Pleasure, Extreme Guilt, Shame, Depression, and then Seeking all over again.
Therefore, cocaine is more of a mental issue. Cocaine technically does not have a tangible or substantive physical attachment to the human body. Although it is one of the most powerful psychologically addictive drugs. Your brain makes you think it’s physical, but that subsides after a few days since cocaine metabolizes fairly quickly in the human body.
After a few days the cocaine metabolites are gone from the system. The only thing that remains is the mental affinity for the feeling of that reward from the rush. Cocaine, especially crack makes you feel like Superman with an intense adrenaline rush that last only for a few minutes. What follows is paranoia, heavy breathing agitation, and emotional depression. Cocaine can also have an effect on your health after long-term use. Consider Whitney Houston, whose heart was enlarged from years of cocaine abuse.
Fortunately, and through the grace of God, my addiction did not take me to some of the dark places of others. As an adult functional crack addict, I never lost my job, livelihood nor freedom to using. The thing I did hurt was my personal relationship with God. That was my mental prison. I could not pray, stopped going to church, and rebelled against the word of God when I was at the depths of my addictions. I was extremely paranoid, and felt everyone was out to get me. I started carrying guns, and was quick to start a fight with people.
Why did you get sober? Did you decide on your own or did someone force you to? Was there an intervention involved? Did you go to a treatment center and/or detox? If so, what was that experience like?
I overcame addiction because I looked at myself in the mirror one day and did not recognize what I had become. Internally I was bankrupt, and I was extremely tired. However, as an addict, no one could force me to stop. Only God could help me stop. Those who receive sobriety because of someone else are subject to relapse.
I never went through an intervention, as I was able to hide my issues to almost everyone for so long. I never got high with others. I was an isolated addict. However, an addict alone is in bad company, so I did admit myself voluntarily to Broward Alcohol and Recovery Center (BARC.) Out of the 60 other addicts in the center, only four or five of us were voluntary clients. I could leave when I wanted to, but I was there to help me get some space from the using and seek professional help for my obsession.
I do utilize the 12-steps as relapse prevention. The 12-steps also help me in becoming a whole person again. Recovery without STEP work is just someone who is a sober drunk. They still have many of the same bad character behaviors, except they don’t use drugs. Overcoming is more about holistic recovery in ALL areas of my life.
Did treatment work? Well it has worked so far–albeit one day at a time. It is not easy (no one ever said it would be easy), so I just take my time, and manage my emotions. I guard my heart, stay busy, stay in God’s Presence and most importantly, I try to help other addicts.
Treatment did a few things for me. It humbled me first and foremost. It taught me how bad things can really get if I continued on that path. Many of my treatment center brothers had lived through horrible situations. Some were facing long-term jail time, lost their homes and families, lost jobs and wealth. Some had become homeless and hopeless. It reminded me I had too much at stake and many loved ones counting on me to do well, so I definitely learned from the experience. I would always recommend any addict seek professional help. In my eighteen year addiction, I had tried many crazy things on my own to stop using. None of it worked.
What is life like after addiction? Do you do anything differently? Do you think, behave, or feel any differently? What are some major things that have changed in sobriety?
One hundred bad days clean and sober is 100 times better than any one day using drugs.
Again, life is not easy, but it is rewarding now without drugs. I can appreciate things more; I love my family and church friends. I stay extremely active and God has recompensed me in miraculous ways since I totally dedicated myself to him. I don’t believe in religion, as that is a man-made ideal. I believe in a faithful relationship with my Higher Power, Jesus Christ. My relationship with the Father is so strong, nothing else matters.
I basically stay clean One Day at a Time. Financially, emotionally, professionally, spiritually, I am doing really well. My family love me and we spend precious quality time together. My wife, who remained faithful to me and honored our marriage vows through all that mess, is my best supporter, and also my weapon against my demons. My son has returned back into my life. My grandkids absolutely love being around me. I am a few months away from completing a Master of Public Administration at NOVA University. After the MPA I will be entering NOVA Law school in 2015.
I started an acting career, by the grace of God. As such I was cast in three separate roles, including a stage play. Moreover, I started filming my own Biopic Titled, OVERCOMERS, which details an addict’s temptations and his victory based on the 12-Steps. My pastor has appointed me to lead a recovery ministry in our church. I am so free, I can literally tell my story of shame so that others can achieve victory.
Has your own experience with addiction taught you anything? Have you learned valuable lessons about life or about yourself?
I have learned to be extremely humble. God has given me so many talents and abilities. Admittedly, I wasted many years running from greatness. I used drugs as a mask to cover the fear in my heart. I started using because I never really liked myself. I blamed my bad childhood, my bipolar mother, my adulterous father, and everyone else but me for my predicament. I learned I am the master of my actions. No one else can be me, but me.
Speaking as someone who has experienced both addiction and recovery firsthand, are there are any closing comments/remarks/advice you’d like to give?
The only advice I can give an addict is JUST DON’T USE TODAY.
Call someone, seek help, but no matter what: Do not pick up that first one.
Furthermore, I leave with a passage from one of my favorite poems. Written by Marianne Williamson (2992):
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. You’re playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Williamson, M. A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles,” Ch. 7, Section 3 (2992), p. 190
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