Recovery Spotlight: Charlie O

My life started off pretty normal. I was born to a relatively normal family. I grew up in Walkersville Maryland. And to anyone looking on from the outside I looked like I had my life together and I was enjoying it. I was involved in baseball and achieved Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts at 14 years old. I only say this to show that I was involved in many team activities and I should feel like a I belonged. But the fact of the matter is something always felt off. I could sit in a room full of people, even guys I was friends with and I’d feel like I was alone and didn’t belong. So this went on for years and that missing part feeling stayed and intensified. I always jumped around friends and I generally didn’t keep the same crowd for more than a few years. Even well before my drinking I would make friends with people because they had something I wanted and I was looking for a way to get it. I remember going to the store when I was like 7 or 8 with my mom and stealing dumb things like lead pencils and in school I’d steal peoples stuff, like Pokémon cards. I wasn’t raised to do stuff like that, my dad would have beat my ass if he knew that was going on. But I just want to paint a picture of how I thought. I was always looking for a way to get over even from a young age. So around the age of 14 I went to a wedding for my aunt and uncle and at the reception the whole family even my cousins were drinking and enjoying themselves. So I asked my mom if I could have a drink and she said no. Looking back now that probably scared my parents. But I didn’t like the answer so I took it upon myself to have that drink. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t drink when all my cousins were drinking and they were only a little bit older. So after everyone went to sleep I went down to sleep in the basement. That’s where the beer fridge was. I went in and grabbed two natty lights. I chugged them and waited to catch a buzz. I felt alright but didn’t get drunk and I was disappointed. But it started the cycle. I did obsess about drinking for over a year. I didn’t know how to get beer and all the kids I was hanging with now didn’t want to drink. So I found a buddy of mine who I knew his parents partied on the weekends and had a lot of alcohol in there house. We hung out every day and I would make a point of trying to talk Him into drinking every day. Eventually after a month or so his parents had a party and it was time. I drank gin and iced tea the first time I got drunk. It was disgusting. But I finally got what I wanted. I got drunk. And that empty feeling I always had disappeared. I felt like I finally a solution to all of my problems and I wondered why anyone would ever want to be sober. Well most people want to be sober because they aren’t alcoholics and that’s exactly what I was. I was off to the races fast. As soon as I drank I smoked weed a week later. And I didn’t stay sober until I was sent away at 17. My first drunk was a couple months before my 16th birthday. By the time I was 17 I had accumulated about 6-7 arrests. I was on probation and was about to fail out of high school. I started using and drinking my junior year of high school. I had 3 classes to complete and graduate but I had stopped attending school. I went to 180 days of less of school in my junior and senior year combined. I didn’t care. All I wanted was to smoke weed, drink and steal what I needed to make that happen. I had wrecked two cars as a result of my drinking and that was just by 17. When people like my mom or dad tried to help me I would fight back against it and I’d even get violent. Forcing my mom to call the cops on me. I was kicked out of my parent’s house or I’d leave and not show up for months at a time. I couldn’t be around them because they would stop my drinking. And that just was unacceptable in my mind. I got into selling weed to get more money in my pocket also and that in itself was addicting and I couldn’t stop. One day when I was 17 I got the flu and called mommy to come help me. By the end of that day I had 2 1st degree assault charges on my brother and my mother and they sent me to a mental hospital in Baltimore, from there I went to a rehab in Annapolis and then another one in Sabillasville MD. It was either do these treatment programs or face the judge and go to court for my assault charges and the other 3 charges I had pending. It was very apparent to everyone that I had a drug and alcohol problem and luckily I got a chance. But I couldn’t or just didn’t want to see my addiction for what it was. While in Sabillasville I graduated high school. I did the three classes and curriculum work and they actually let me walk. While all my “friends” were going to senior week I was going back to rehab. Also in that rehab you get home passes. On my first home pass I got hammered drunk and smoked a lot of weed and did some coke. Thinking I could cheat my piss test when I got back. Well I failed. And they almost kicked me out but instead I got put on restriction for the rest of my time there. When I left there. I tried to stay sober on will power. They introduced me to NA and AA meetings and I went but I didn’t do any of the work that comes with it. I was back to using and drinking within a week of being home. On my 18th birthday I got arrested and sat in jail. I got back into selling drugs and when I wasn’t doing that I was stealing. Along with drinking heavy. I continued the cycle. I drank and used and didn’t let anything get in the way of that. My family tried to get others to help but I would shut that down. It got in the way of my drinking and I couldn’t have that. I fell into a group of friends that drank like I did. I found OxyContin and I found out how much money I could make if I sold it. So that’s what I did and it took off. I was using it on occasion at first but once I had a bunch in my possession I started using more and more. I was no high level drug dealer but I made enough to provide for myself and to keep a drug habit. Eventually they made the OxyContin abuse proof. That’s when heroin started to take its place with a lot of the people I was selling to. So in order to keep making money I went with what I would make money off of and I started getting dope. I was selling dope and pills to people that were using needles and I’d always look down on those people and think I was better than them. How wrong I was. For me an addiction is and addiction and when I judge people I open the door to experience it for myself. Now at this point I’m about 20 years old. I still am catching charges but they were petty and I have lawyer money so I’m not really getting any consequences. But eventually selling dope a few things happened and I decided it was a good idea to stick a needle in my arm. The little amount of things that accumulated were gone in six months top and I ended up where all the wanna be drug dealers end up. Moms couch. I robbed everyone I could that I sold drugs to keep my habit at bay and fight the dope sickness. I stole from my mom and dad. I kept catching charges but now I didn’t have bail or lawyer money. So I ended up going to jail for what I would consider petty charges. I did a couple months my first time in and got out on probation. I got out saw my P.O. once or twice. He told me I couldn’t work out of town and I decided that wasn’t gonna work for me. Because I needed that job. It paid for my drinking and I could drink and use as much as I want while I was out of town. So in my brilliant mind I only had a year back up. I could go on the run and deal with that later….As long as I could keep using. On this run I totaled my mom’s car and I woke up to a dead guy next to me. I called the cops and left the house. Not knowing if I could have done something to save him ate me up. I took a bunch of Xanax when I got home and shot some dope. I woke up to my brother giving me CPR and the EMTs trying to take me to the hospital 5 minutes later. I didn’t want go to the hospital cause I just over dosed. I woke up and went down stairs and shot dope. I ended up back in jail. I did 8 months got out and went to a halfway house. I didn’t do anything to change my behavior and 3 months later I was back in jail. This time I overdosed while driving and hit two parked cars. Being that I didn’t have a license and I had drugs on me my lawyer was telling me it wasn’t looking good. All of my charges they were seeking subsequent offenders and I was looking at 15 years. I finally decided I’d read the big book wheel I was in there. I had pretty much surrendered to the fact that I was going to prison because two public defenders told me I was going to get 5 years. While reading the big book I came across the third step prayer. The night before I went to court I decided I’d say it. Me being a person who was raised up with god in my life I thought god and religion was a weakness. It was something to control people. And god wasn’t something I was going to give the time of day. But at this point in my life I was so broken down I was slightly willing to try what people have been telling me to do my whole life. I went to court the next day. I was sitting in the bullpen and my new public defender came back. He has a habit of stuttering when he’s on the stand. I thought I was screwed. He asked me if I’d like to go home that day! I don’t think I’ve ever been so shocked in my life. They gave me 3 years probation, 18 months of that on VPI and 5 years back up. I got out and decided on my own that AA was probably my best shot at getting off probation and not going to prison. So I went to meetings on my own because I wanted to and I actually got a sponsor and a homegroup. People have been telling me to do that for 6 years at that point but until it was a good idea to me I wouldn’t do it. I didn’t want to lose my solution which was drinking and shooting dope. But I had to find something else because that wasn’t working anymore and it was causing so many problems in my life and the life of all of those that cared about me. I had to beat myself down into a state of reasonableness. Some people get that by getting a hangover. I didn’t. I needed to fail and hurt myself and others in order to get there. I’m not proud of that but that’s just how it was. So I got into step work and while I worked a program my life improved. But I didn’t stay at it. I got a job and was a valued employee and worked a lot. I got a good girlfriend and in my eyes I was good. I was coming up on a year sober. I stopped going to meetings regularly, stopped working with my sponsor, stopped praying and guess what happened. I stopped doing all the things that gave me a defense against a drug. So I ran into an old friend I used with and I was high. Not only did I relapse I brought the girl down that I was dating to. I ended up back in jail after going on the run for about 3 months. I don’t know why but I’m really glad I didn’t go to prison. I’m lucky that saw that my probation saw my problem was centered in drugs and instead of getting my full back up I only had to complete the project 103 program in the jail and I did that no problem. I was well aquatinted with that program. I didn’t work on myself and got out of jail. I was drunk three days later. I got a job with a buddy of mine and we drank and did remodeling. I drank every day and I drank a lot. I eventually ended up shooting dope with the guy I worked with and he ended up back in jail and I went to rehab. Throughout my using I stole a lot of things from people who cared about me. One of those people being my mother. One of the only people to ever come visit me in jail. That list is 3 people. Probably the only person that always had my back no matter what. I took her jewelry, all of it and pawned it. She came down the morning of November 11th 2015. She told me to leave the house and never come back and that she was calling the cops on me. Good addict that I am I waited for her to go to work and then went in the house and stole everything that I could so I could get high. I was thinking at this point I’m either going to kill myself or I’m going to get help. I’m glad I took the second choice. I went to FMH and told them I told them I was suicidal. They took me upstairs and locked me in. Cause for someone like me when I’m going I need to be locked in to dry out. From there they sent me to Massie unit in Cumberland MD. I met a lot of good people there. I met my first sponsor of this go around and I had an amazing counselor. From Massie they got me into the wells house in Hagerstown. I went there with a trash bag of clothes. No drivers license, no job, and no money. I had plenty of free time so I went to group and hit a lot of meetings. I got my job back in Frederick and I paid 40 bucks a day to go to and from work. I went to a meeting every day, worked, and went to IOP Monday through Thursday. I got a sponsor and we started going through the steps. I accepted and admitted I could never use drugs or drink successfully. I then had to swallow the fact that I’m not going to be able to stay sober on my own will power and accept help from a higher power. At first for me that was trusting the process. As soon as I started to take these steps my life got better. I got my license back for the first time in 5 years and a car. I was making decent money. I had people in my life I could count on and I could go to with my problems. As soon as I got the car I moved out of the wells house and got an apartment. I made a list of all the people I had resentments towards. And I realized that all the people I had wronged me I had played a bigger part. Every time I felt I was wronged or I felt was screwed over I had a part to play in it. In order to get screwed you have to assume the position. I had to stop playing the victim. What others do is out of my control. I can only change me and my actions. And I needed a lot of change. The guy I was working with ended up getting back on dope. Unfortunately I couldn’t do anything to help him and he’s now sitting in prison. It sucks and angers me sometimes but he’s alive. This stuff is killing people and maybe that’s just where he needs to be. I left Hagerstown and came back to Frederick and ended up getting a new sponsor. I got into climbing towers and I fell in love with it. I got a homegroup and I started working the steps again. I haven’t always been good with it. I slack off sometimes and I notice my life slowly gets worse the more I shy away from the program of action I’m involved in. The more I get into it and do the work the better my life is and even when it’s not good the better I react to it. I had to find out why I do the things I do, my defects and assets and I had to give all of that up to a power greater than myself in order to find what I’m looking for (peace and happiness) and I have to continue to do that. I now work with other men in the same process and try and give them what was freely given to me. My past is not always something I’m proud of but it’s my greatest asset. It’s what I can use to try and help the next guy. I took and took for so long and now I’m in the process of giving back. I owe it to all the people I’ve harmed and I owe it to myself. I now show up for work on a daily basis, I’m accountable if I say I’m gonna be there I’m there. That huge for me. My mom doesn’t hide her purse, my parents don’t lock their doors even when I’m in the house. My parents used to have to lock my house down if I was around cause if I came in something was going out with me. My dad actually let me borrow his car on New Year’s Eve this past year. That’s never happened. My mom doesn’t worry if I’m alive or dead anymore. She doesn’t have to sleep with everything she has of value in her pockets. The biggest thing for me is I wake up in the morning and I’m happy, I talk to a god and I know he’s got my back. I used to wake up mad that I woke up and that i didn’t die in my sleep and I hated god for that. I’ve been given the best gift I could ever receive, life. I’m not the child I was 3 years ago. I’m an adult today. I’ve got an amazing girlfriend, great sponsorship and people I can count on and those who can count on me. Like a friend of mine always says, I’m over paid.

Now one of the dumb things I did when I was in active addiction was getting a bad tattoo that I’ve wanted to cover up for years. It’s an anti police badge and it has born to die written on it. I’d like to get it covered up but it’s just not something I can afford at the moment. I saw your guys post on Facebook and thought I’d submit my story and see if I have a shot at getting it covered up. If not it’s ok because I know someone who needed it more than me got it. But if I could it would be awesome.  -Charlie O

5 Comments
  1. Awesome, Charlie!! Thank you for sharing your story, so that maybe some one else will follow your path!!

  2. Bless your heart. You have persisted under some of the hardest circumstances. Congratulations on your sobriety.

  3. My goodness Charlie, I’m so proud of you for fighting to get better. That’s such a long hard road you were on and so many who love you are glad to have you back. Thank you for sharing your story, it will help others in so many ways. Stay strong and keep on fighting and winning.

  4. One hell of a story.

  5. Great story. I know it will give hope to those who have or are walking the same path you did, that they too, can beat this addiction, and actually live. I’m so happy you finally decided to do the work to beat it, and chose to live.

    Stay strong, stick with those who are good for you, God, and stay true to yourself. I hope you get your tattoo removed. Just be patient. You’ve learned how to do that.

    You are worth it!

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