Thanksgiving with the AA Family
by Michael Rass
When Will was growing up in Tampa, Florida, he felt pretty miserable most of the time. At the age of 13, he started to experiment with alcohol and marijuana. At 14, he was arrested for the first time for possession of marijuana. Other arrests would follow, while Will started using cocaine, ecstasy, and the tranquilizer Xanax.
He suffered from bouts of depression and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “No medicine I ever took really worked for me, or at least it didn’t make me feel better,” Will told me. “Only drugs and alcohol made me feel good—and not only the drugs but also the people I did them with because I felt I was a part of something.”
Will turned 18 in 2004, and things got really serious. He started dealing opioids and forging checks. He has trouble remembering how many times he went to jail, but he is sure it was “at least ten times.” In order to avoid even more jail time, Will went in and out of rehab, but he wasn’t really trying to get better.
“It was the beginning of my big downfall,” he says today. “I was a full-blown drug user at that point. I wanted to stop, but I didn’t want to do any work to stay sober. I simply thought I was smarter than the disease.” After each rehab, Will would always go back to his friends who were using while his family kept throwing him out.
In 2010, he was sent to prison for four years. After he was released last year, he quickly relapsed. He started drinking again and using pills. But this time his disease was headed for a turning point. The ninth rehab would be different.
In March 2015, Will checked into Lakeview Health in Jacksonville. “I was defeated,” he told me. He was either going to get better or spend most of the rest of his life in prison. “At Lakeview, things turned around, especially on the inside,” he says. “I felt like I had a heart again.”
Will is heavily involved in Alcoholics Anonymous now and has new friends who help him to stay sober. He spent two months at Lakeview in the spring and has his own place now. “God and my program have enabled me to beat the addiction,” he says. “My life is simple, it’s ordinary, and it’s great.”
His relationship with his parents is slowly improving now. He will be home for Christmas for the first time in a long time. “I’m super excited about it,” he says. “I spent Thanksgiving with my AA family cooking a turkey and a ham and we had a great, sober holiday.” He is thoroughly prepared for the trip home to Tampa. “I got a great safety net and a schedule for AA meetings.”
“I respect the disease now and don’t play games with it anymore,” he says.