I remember thinking to myself that I had a problem before I ever even began to think about admitting I needed help from others to aid in my recovery. I remember the day I told my mother that I needed to go somewhere, anywhere, to get away from everything and have time to clear my head. I remember it was my fourth or fifth day at PORT in Burgaw that I decided to pack my bags in an attempt to leave. It is quite funny for me to think back on that day considering where I am today. It wasn’t until a full couple of weeks at PORT that I truly began to think clearly. My mind was cleared of the fog that had been clouding my judgment for some time but I still had quite a ways to go, and I did not even realize it.
Monique Hroncich was my counselor at the time and Jimmy Faulkner was the director of the PORT campus. Jimmy and I still keep in contact and I always love when I get to talk with him. He was incredible while I was at PORT because he never made me feel alienated from the world for having this “addiction problem”, rather he treated me like a normal teenager who was going through tough times, and wanted to know how he could help with my journey.
Monique and I created a very special bond. She came to understand me as a person which better helped me help myself in my recovery. She understood when I needed tough love and she also understood when I needed words of kindness. We worked through so many different aspects of my life. My insecurities, relationships with my family, self-respect, and obviously my drug use. I had been struggling with addiction for quite some time and had been to a few different facilities prior to attending PORT. PORT was special in the sense of how much the faculty seemed to care about me and my family relationships. They truly worked to understand me as a person first before ever attempting to make assumptions about my situation.
I also came to form a bond with Ricky Brown. He is still a counselor at the PORT campus in Burgaw. We had some very serious conversations about life in general while I was at PORT. We talked about what my family meant to me, how much I wanted to achieve in my future, and how I planned to get there. Ricky was just an all-around incredibly healthy outlet for me while I was at PORT, he and Monique both. All three of us still keep in contact to this day and I am so thankful for that. I am constantly updating them on my accomplishments.
I am in my last year at UNCW for my undergraduate studies, double majoring in political science and international relations along with obtaining a pre-law minor. I have plans of going to law school next year and I am very much looking forward to that. I am also on the surf team at UNCW while also being lucky enough to have an internship at a local law firm. I have also been lucky enough to be a part of a start-up company called opiAId. opiAId will be a technology-assisted therapy leveraging the latest advances in data science to aid both our “neighbors” (those struggling with addiction) and “the partners” (organizations that are directly caring for them). For me to be able to be a part of this team and have an effect and influence on an issue that is so dear to my heart is an enormous blessing. The best part about all of this; my family gets to witness and join me in all my accomplishments and hard work. If it weren’t for them, I would not be where I am today.
February 3rd of 2019 will be seven years clean and it all started at PORT. If you told me seven years ago that I would be where I am today I would have told you that you were insane. There came a time in my life that I stopped running away from my past and started running towards my potential. My health, mental and physical, mean everything to me now. I usually wake up around 5:00 AM every day to go to the gym. A lot of people don’t understand that the gym, for me, isn’t about getting “jacked” or “looking good”. The gym for me is my anchor, it is my time to release any stress that I have and truly work on myself. It is all about self-discipline. If I can start my day in the gym every day challenging myself there, then it sets the tone for the rest of my day. Because sure, there are days that I wake up exhausted and drained, but those are the days (in my opinion) that matter the most. Again, it is all about consistency and self-discipline (again this is my opinion). Hard work, works. It sounds like common sense but it seems that common sense is not so common anymore. My goals and dreams mean more to me than any instant gratification. I am willing to miss parties and late nights with friends if it means long term success, and I think this mindset has carried me great lengths to get me to where I am.
There comes a time in your life when you have to make a decision. One of the most powerful things I ever realized was that I am the one solely responsible for my future. What I do today will affect me tomorrow and days to come. I also still go out to mentor and speak to the kids at PORT in Burgaw from time to time and I always seem to be asked if I would change anything. Honestly, my answer is always no. Going through these struggles allowed me to find out who I am as a person and allowed me to mature at a much faster rate than my peers. I would not be the man I am today had I not gone through those trials and tribulations. Self-respect, focusing on my mental and physical health, and creating healthy relationships have all aided in my recovery. If I can use my story to help individuals, then I will feel like I have made a difference. Jimmy, Monique, and Ricky had a direct impact on my life during my time at PORT and I am so grateful for the relationships I have with them.