Jesse's Story


The first question that I’ve been asking is actually not on the sheet.  I like to start off with what language you like to use for your recovery, because I know that using sober or clean, different words have different connotations and I want to be true to what’s true for you as we go through this.  

I attend NA so we use clean.

When did you start using?

I started smoking cigarettes and drinking beer at age 10.  

Okay, so how did things progress from there?

Let’s see, I started smoking marijuana when I was 14 and started doing cocaine and methamphetamines when I was 16. 

Was that all kind of in the same area?

Yeah, all here in Walla Walla.

What was the initial reason that you started any of the above?

My peers.  My peers were doing it, yeah. 

Kind of a belonging thing?

Yeah, that’s what everybody was doing that was out and about. 

When did your use start causing problems for you or your family?

Well I started getting into y’know juvenile trouble when I was 16.  I was put on probation.  Then later on in life I saw more consequences as my disease progressed, like homelessness.  More trouble with the law, more trouble with family. 

How long did you see your disease progress before you got to a point where recovery was necessary for you?

Oh, several years.  I heard it put that addicts have a high tolerance for pain, and yeah, I was no different.  I would get back on my feet and then I’d lose it all again, get back on my feet and lose it all again.  Even though I was seeing consequences, I was continuing to use, just would not surrender. 

Was there a specific incident or moment that prompted that surrender?

Well, the time that worked…This time, I was at home and everything was falling apart.  We were about to be kicked out of this apartment we were in and I was detoxing from heroin, and I was having to come up with a plan to go out and steal again and I was tired, tired of going and ripping off the same places and my sister came over.  It was the first time that she had come over and been right there, and she asked me to go get help.  I was tired, so I agreed that I would throw in the towel and try recovery again.  My fourth treatment center. 

Did you attend a different program each time?

Yeah, I’ve been through different programs as far as treatment centers.  I always went to NA.  I’ve gone to AA a few times, but NA was the language that best fit me. 

That language piece seems really important when I’ve talked to different folks.  Something resonates and then it really works.  

Right, y’know, I guess if I was just drinking every day, maybe the Alcoholic Anonymous would really work for me, but because I’ve used a variety of different things I felt like I was more welcome to speak openly about stuff in Narcotics Anonymous.  Felt right to me.

So it sounds like you got to a point of recovery that stuck for you through a combination of a treatment center and NA and maybe some family support?

Yeah, I mean, definitely family support.  My family never gave up on me, even my stepdad.  He adopted me, recently, myself and my sister.  He was the Juvenile Director of Court Services and he was also running the County Jail for a while, and he had never given up even though there had been several times I had come to their house and detoxed on their couch and caused all this stress, but they never gave up on me.  They would always give me another chance to get back into recovery.  This time I finally hit a point when I was in the treatment center when I decided that I was going to do the 12 steps.  I decided that would be the turning point for me, I had never tried actually doing the 12 steps.  I went into an Oxford House also, I spent 17 months in an Oxford House and that was huge.  That kept me focused and grounded.  I just started reading the literature, got a sponsor and working the steps, did everything they had been suggesting for me to do but I had refused to do.  It was like if I’d had cancer, and I went in to go see a doctor and my doctor was prescribing me these things but I was refusing to and then as my symptoms got worse wondering why that was, well it was because I wasn’t taking my medication.  So I finally decided I was going to start taking my medication.  And then once I treated my addiction I started turning my life around.

What keeps you in recovery now?

We keep what we have only by giving it away, so I will never stop going to meetings.  I went to three meetings yesterday: the morning meeting, the afternoon meeting, the night meeting.  I also went to JJC and did a meeting in there with the kids, so I did four meetings yesterday.  That’s what keeps me in the middle of the plate so that I don’t get complacent and think that— ‘cause life always gets busy, and before you know it I’ll wind up getting loaded.  I can’t ever think that I’ve put this thing behind me because I definitely believe that it’s something I have to live with for the rest of my life.  So I just have to keep going back to NA and taking my medicine, working the steps, working with sponsees.  I got sponsees now. 

That’s awesome.

Yeah, so just giving back.  I feel like I have a purpose.  I’m not my job, I’m not my car, I’m not my apartment.  I’m a recovering addict.  That’s my purpose in life.  I’m okay with that. 

Okay, so service seems like a really big component of your recovery. 

Oh yeah.  For sure.  For a lot of us.  That’s what I’ve been shown. 

{chuckles) Yeah, that’s definitely not the first time I’ve heard that.  It sounds like you probably have some idea of what your advice would be to somebody new in recovery, since you’re working with some sponsees. 

Yeah, I mean, it’s as easy as just going to meetings with whatever language fits you best, if it’s AA, NA, CA, OA, MA, it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter what Anonymous you want to attend, whatever language works for you, but work that program that is designed in that Anonymous…because they all have the 12 steps.  Working the 12 steps, getting a sponsor and being of service.  Chairing a meeting, finding a way to feel like you’re connected and that you’re part of the group.  It does take some courage to get up there.  A job that’s easy is making the coffee or doing something that makes you feel a part of the group.  Once I started feeling like I was connected and a part of the group it started getting easier for me to open up to people.  And then I really felt like I had some skin in the game and I wasn’t just a wallflower anymore.  

That makes a lot of sense, and it sounds very similar—to kind of circle back to the initiation of your use, it sounds similar to that, like belonging is just a really strong thread through your story. 

Absolutely.  Looking for acceptance from others—I’m a big time people pleaser.  I wanted to be accepted.  It was hard for me to not do drugs when everybody else was, it separated me.  And then when I did drugs with everybody else I was a part of [the group].  And now I belong to something that we don’t do drugs, and if I do drugs that isolates me from the group, so that also helps keep me in the play because the people that I hang out with and associate with don’t use drugs. 

That’s an important insight, so thank you for that.  How long have you been in recovery now?

I’ll have 4 years on July 30th, I got my clean date tattooed on me.  


My sponsee got his clean date tattooed on him, too, he got his with five months clean.  It was pretty shocking. 

[laughs] That’s a big commitment. 

I had two years when I got mine.  But hey, he just celebrated 18 months so we’re real proud of him.  He just spoke last night and he did an amazing job. 

That’s so good!

Yeah, it’s amazing to watch people come to life and then you hear their story.  He’s just an amazing person. 

I love it. 

Yeah, super inspiring. 

How do you feel about alternative paths to recovery like medication assisted treatment, groups outside the Anonymous network, behavioral health approaches? 

Anything that saves someone’s life I won’t speak against. Some people will go to religion, some people will go to psychiatry.  You know, none of those methods were sufficient for me, I had to find something else.  But I know people that have found recovery through going to church, and I know people that take suboxone and they are productive members of society, how can I judge that?  There are some groups that claim that’s not clean time, my opinion that’s none of my business.  I’m really happy to see anybody succeeding in being a productive member of society.  Whatever keeps people coming back, you know, and maybe the day will come in their lives when they don’t want to take suboxone or methadone anymore.  But if their life becomes manageable, more power to them.  That’s fantastic.  And that goes for any outside thing.  If their life’s manageable and they’re giving back to society, then that’s a winner. 

Awesome, thanks.  Last question, I think, before I ask if there’s anything more that you’d like to add.  What do you wish that people who serve folks in recovery or folks seeking recovery knew?  What do you wish treatment center staff, or therapists, or outreach workers, or peer supports, what do you wish people knew?

Well I mean, I’ve noticed that a lot of the good facilities that I’ve been to, their staff is recovering addicts themselves.  The therapeutic value of one addict helping another addict is without parallel.  So I think that just having the staff in place that—are you in recovery? 

I’m not. 

That’s okay!  I think that hearing—when you’re in a spot where you’re in a treatment center, when you’re in some type of a facility where you’re looking for that help—it’s inspirational to hear a counselor who is an addict in recovery.  It gives you a lot of hope.  I like to say, we become examples of dope, and then we turn into examples of hope.  That’s how I was in my family, I was an example of dope, and my mom would say to my nephews, “Don’t turn out like Uncle Jesse.”  And she was right.  And then I flipped that, ‘cause eventually they did start making mistakes and she was like, “Well, you can be like Uncle Jesse.”  And I became that example of hope instead of that example of dope for what can happen to your life.  Hope is a huge thing.  It’s the one spiritual principle that we can give to each other.  I noticed that the treatment center that really worked for me, the staff were really working strong programs and it showed.  It showed in how they talked.  So finding good counselors that work a strong recovery is a beautiful thing.  That’s going to be a winner for a lot of people. 

Is there anything that you feel like we didn’t cover that you want to talk about? 

Well the biggest thing that I hate about the whole addiction thing is the stigma that comes with NA & AA.  It’s much easier for me to go out into society and say that I’m an alcoholic rather than saying I’m an addict.  Sometimes I wish we just had one group.  Me personally, I wish it was just called Addiction Anonymous.  That way we could all have our anonymity about what it was in life that was tearing us down, whether it be food, Netflix, sex, drugs, alcohol, working too much.  I mean there are so many different ways that addiction can manifest itself and make your life unmanageable.  Sometimes when you belong to certain groups you feel like there’s a stigma that hangs on that group and that’s the toughest thing, is you feel the kind of separation instead of the unity.  That’s what it does when you identify the symptom, the alcohol, the cocaine, or whatever.  We all do recover.  There’s just a big stigma in my mind when it comes to addiction to different drugs. 

For sure. 

And that sucks. People just aren’t super informed.  But you know what, it’s not like everyone needs to go out and get informed because I have a disease.  But it’s helpful because one thing, I’ve noticed that a lot of families, there’s people in those families, no matter how prestigious that family may be, there’s some uncle or nephew or someone that’s struggling with some form of addiction, so the more we know as a society, the more we know as a community, the better we can serve those people.  I’m an example of we do recover, and I can be a productive member of society now, in this same town that I used to not be productive member in.   So I would say that’s it. 

Thank you. 


Trilogy Recovery Community
120 East Birch Street, Suite 14 
Walla Walla, WA, 99362

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