Maintaining a life in recovery: Celebrating 13 years

By Kurt Stapleton

When someone asks me “How did you do it?” I have 1 answer for them. “I was out of options.” I was facing 20 years in prison and losing everything I had. There was no other option. I had to stop using drugs.

Due to my poor choices made up that point on May 12th 2009, I was going to prison. My substance use disorder had led me to this. I was newly married, out of a job, no money saved, no future plans. I was merely existing and I was miserable.

When I was arrested and sitting in the back of the cop car I was doing the most reflecting I’ve ever done. My thoughts weren’t on “how am I going to get out of this?”, or “what are people going to say when they hear this?” My thoughts were “I’m going to lose my wife.” and “this is where my choices have led me, and I need to change.” That day was the last day I abused drugs. Period. I had no other options. I either stopped abusing and work on myself, or I lose everything I had, which was my wife. She was all I had left and I was no going to let that happen if I could.

So, I started my recovery journey in the back of that cop car. From there I started looking into different programs and meetings and took what I needed and left the rest for others. I chose to work on myself while incarcerated so that I could go home to my wife with a new attitude and outlook on life. By utilizing the self-help books that I had access to, attending AA meetings, and working with an AODA counselor in prison, I was able to see where things started going wrong and address the underlying issues. There were a lot of childhood traumas that went unchecked for many years and the drugs only acted as a Band-Aid over them. It wasn’t until I finally addressed each trauma, one by one, that I was able to finally heal, release the pain and guilt I held inside, and move forward with my inner child. Doing this internal work is what set me free from the pain I held inside and I noticed I was looking at life in a more positive view. I had hopes and dreams for the first time in a long time.

As the years go by, I reflect on those moments and what was going through my head. I was so fixated on getting the drug that I had no concept of consequences. It had no meaning to me at that point. Today I live a life that I had only dreamt of 13 years ago. I did not think this was possible and I’m proving myself worthy every day.

I chose to become a peer support specialist so I can help others who are in the moment that I had been in only 13 years ago. Trying to help them find hope and inspiration so they don’t go blind to the consequences or give up.

Today, I reflect on my past and I see how far I’ve come in my journey. I look back at all of the people who were there to help me along the way and share with me their advice, tips, stories of hope and inspiration.

Today, I am maintaining my life with recovery because of the knowledge everyone shared with me. And for that, I thank you and I will continue to pass that knowledge on to others.