On the way home, I pulled behind a strip mall only a few hundred yards from my front door. I stepped out of my car and then bent down and reached back inside to collect a few things I had stashed in my center console.

My hand searched blindly until I felt the cold metal of a spoon. I pulled it out into the daylight only long enough to catch a glimpse of its slightly but permanently burnt bottom and placed it on the roof of my car.

Bending back into my still-running car, I found nine used syringes. The package had come with ten, so I looked around my car and thought about where the missing rig may have gone. I hoped that I didn’t forget it in the bathroom stall at work.

I located every piece of contraband I could find and stuffed it into a plastic grocery bag. I hesitated for a moment, then walked the few steps over to the dumpster and tossed the bag in.

I didn’t want to keep using drugs, so I wouldn’t need this stuff anymore. That’s what I told myself, but this wasn’t the first time I had stopped at this dumpster on my way home. I finished the short drive home to my wife, my dog, and the house of cards that I lived in.

The next morning, I woke early, already feeling sick. I quickly showered, dressed, and left the house two hours before I needed to be at work.


I pulled back into that strip mall parking lot and again parked beside the dumpster. I slid open the sticky plastic door and looked inside. Luckily, it had only been a handful of hours since I was last there, so I was able to find my discarded items quickly.

After digging my syringes and burnt spoon from the dumpster I drove urgently to my dealer’s house. The caps were still securely on the syringes and they were only in the dumpster for one night, so they were perfectly fine. I didn’t give it a second thought at the time.

I did this constantly. Purging my car and home of any contraband that I could find. It was like those items were a representation of my drug addiction, a failing marriage, financial ruin, emotional pain, and childhood trauma. I thought I could throw all of those things away with the used syringes and spoons.

I would also only buy enough drugs to last me a single day. I could have saved myself time and money by buying in bulk, but it was always just enough to get through the day. Tomorrow was going to be different, I told myself.

When a nonbeliever starts praying, you can be sure that they have reached a new level of pain and desperation. I often prayed that someone or something would come and save me from myself even though I wasn’t quite sure who I was praying to.

I didn’t want to be addicted to drugs and I didn’t want to live a life of chaos and misery. I didn’t know how to get out. It seems so simple when you look in from the outside, however, applying rational and sober thought to a situation that is anything but, just doesn’t work.



When I was freshly sober, my sponsor told me something that has stuck with me:

“Recovery is a program of action, not wanting.”

I don’t recall where he heard this or if it’s located in some literature, but the lesson is an important one. I’ve likely referenced this same idea in past columns because it’s important enough to repeat.

I’ve never met someone who doesn’t want to stop ruining their life with drugs. The point is that you can’t want your way out of addiction, or any poor circumstances. The key to successfully overcoming an obstacle in your life is action. It’s a lesson that’s applicable to all of us, not just those who inject drugs.

I spent years waiting to be pulled from the wreckage that I had caused. I never knew who or what I was waiting for.

We can all benefit from support and I wish everyone received the same amount of help that I did on my journey. I have an amazing group of friends, family, and professionals who I couldn’t have recovered without.


The title of this column isn’t meant to devalue the help of others or discourage seeking that help. The point is that doing nothing results in nothing. The key isn’t a desire to change, it’s turning the desire into action.

If you have people around you who can help, you have to first reach out. You have to participate in your own recovery.

Growing up, I played youth football. As young boys starting our athletic careers, we were thought several sayings that would help us play better. One of those sayings was:

“When in doubt, fire out.”

This catchy saying meant that if you couldn’t remember who you were supposed to block in any given play, just fire off the line quickly and hit the opposing player in front of you. You can’t think your way out of addiction or other challenging circumstances you may find yourself in. Taking what might not be the best action will almost always have a better outcome than taking no action at all.

If you live in Maine, dial 211 on any phone to be connected with someone who can help you navigate addiction treatment options. You can also text your zip code to 898-211.

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