Recovery Spotlight: Andrew Schultz

My name is Andrew Schultz and I have been an alcoholic and a cocaine addict nearly all of my life. It all started with a joint and a 6 pack back when I was in 8th grade, and it was off to the races from the start. I drank, smoked pot, and snorted cocaine nearly every day throughout high school, with the exception of when I was in an inpatient drug rehab. I was raised by an abusive father who instilled in me that I would never amount to anything, that I would make it nowhere in life. I was humiliated in front of my “friends” by him, and never measured up. That mentality gave me an abnormally low sense of self-worth. I took that attitude with me for the next 15-20 years. During high school I never fit in anywhere. I bounced from one group of kids to another. The jocks, the popular kids, the emos, the misfits. The only thing I knew how to do was use drugs and alcohol, so I always had money and I always had drugs. That is how I fit in, sharing my drugs, but I was always the one how took it too far. I drank alcohol to the point of puking every single time. I mixed drugs together all the time, with the purpose of catching the best buzz imaginable. I took that to an extreme as I did with most other things. After a few near death experiences, I went to a long term rehab, well….90 days, in Baltimore MD. I decided I was going to use no matter what happened, I had no desire to quit and I was on a crash course with death. I graduated High School shortly after my stay in Baltimore. I was off to the races as soon as I graduated. I had free time, and a job, and with that job came with money. I met a few people at work that partied hard, so I began hanging wherever the party was. Snorting cocaine and playing beer pong until 6 AM, going straight to work and snorting cocaine all day long. Usually staying up 3 or 4 days at a time. Between me and my friend, we were using $500 a day. We forged checks, stole things, pawned things…whatever it took to catch that buzz. My family gave up on me and told me they didn’t want me around in the midst of all of this, so I bounced from house to house, friend to friend. One day I decided I was going to go on one last binge. A fifth of Southern comfort, 10 Percocets and a handful of other pills got me a one way trip to the emergency room. I had overdosed, pissed all over myself, blacked out and have no recollection of how it happened. Upon my release from the hospital I reached out to my family who wanted to help me. I was desperate. My mother let me move in with the agreement that I attend Alcoholics 12 step meetings. I was 20 years old, the youngest in the meetings, and I was terrified. I had no self-esteem. I was in a room of “Adults” and I had no idea of who the real Andrew was. I went to one meeting a week and stayed sober on and off for a few months. I did not understand that this was suffering from the disease of addiction. I had no idea that I could quit, I was lost in this world. I was unique, and nobody understood. The only place I could fit it was at the workplace. In my attempt at sobriety I pulled myself together enough to get a career opportunity. I was a phenomenal employee. Working hard every single shift, proving myself, motivated by the “I’ll never amount to anything” attitude instilled in me by my father. I drank alcohol, but quit drugs for a few years. I concentrated on working and showing the world I could be successful. I was soon promoted, and then promoted a few more times, all within a few short years. I performed at work with the work hard – play hard mentality. Soon enough I was running a 2.5 million dollar business, and doing it well. With success came money and I began using cocaine again. I was quickly using $300 a day by myself, staying up 4 or 5 days, snorting coke around the clock, paying my drug dealer double to meet me if he would leave work and serve me. I found that I could not maintain this lifestyle, and like a drowning man, reached out to AA to reign my addiction in. For the next 4 years I fought my ass off to get clean. I couldn’t make it. I did everything I could at the time, I went to AA meetings, I called sober friends, I did most of what was suggested. Then I was finally diagnosed Bi-Polar and that was the missing link. I began the frantic search for medication to help me with my mood disorder. I could not stop drinking or using long enough to let the meds work. The next few years were desperate and disheartening. I wanted to get sober, but I couldn’t keep my mind stable enough to make it through. I was full of energy, always on the move, always working, trying to maintain my career and barely keeping my head above water. For over a year I went to a 12 step meeting almost every day. I could never stay sober longer than a month or two. Always went back for another binge. Eventually I gave up on medication for Bi polar and began to drink really heavy. I had acquired my own house – with a mortgage, 2 cars, nice material things, and I was ruining it all. I had everything you could ask for, looking good on the outside….even successful. I desperately tried to show the world I would amount to something and the material items were my front. I had to keep up the image. A long coke binge, maybe 8 or 9 days, I got in an altercation at work and lost my job. Over the next two or three years my life went haywire. I lost my image. I had no idea who or what I was. I had become a zombie, feeling empty on the inside, a totally isolated feeling. I had no clue how to be in social situations, no idea how to act, bi polar illness made me look like a crazy person. In that respect I was different, mood was outrageous. Super energy, super depression. There were points I wouldn’t get out of bed for a week or more. Then there were times I wouldn’t sleep for days. People looked at me like I was a maniac, and I was. But there were a few close friends that stood by me. It is because of them I am alive today. One day I robbed my drug dealer, and went to my townhouse (which I hadn’t paid the mortgage in six months) and sat there snorting cocaine. I guess I was in there longer than I thought, my mom hadn’t heard from me in over a month. While I was snorting cocaine, on the third day there was a knock at my front door. I tip toed to the peep hole and it was my mother. She was screaming and crying on my front stoop. “ANDREW….ANDREW, PLEASE OPEN THE DOOR, I THINK THAT YOU ARE DEAD, PLEASE LET ME IN, PLEASE BE OKAY, I CALLED THE POLICE AND AMBULANCE” I had not showered in over 2 weeks, let alone cleaned my house or brush my teeth. I had drugs everywhere so I hid all the drugs and walked on the porch and from across the parking lot, I told the police I was fine, and to my mom that I was okay. I promised to go to rehab and my mom sat in her car crying. Off the rehab I went. It was the deal I made with the mobile crisis unit, so I went to a 28 day program and planned an escape. My mom was scheduled to go on a cruise 10 days after I went in to the rehab, so I made a decision to leave against medical advice on the 11th day. While I was at the rehab I met a guy names Will, who asked me what my drug of choice was. We told each other stories about our using, usually nothing topping my 8-10 stints of no sleep. Will told me I was wasting my money snorting cocaine, and proceeded to teach me how cook cocaine in to crack and how to smoke it. Off to the races. On the 11th day, I was in a car on my way to try crack cocaine. This started a very fast decent in my life, making things worse than ever. Before I left, Will told me “Andrew, I wish I never taught you this, but if you follow through, you will end up in jail or in a psych ward sobbing uncontrollably.” I kissed AA goodbye, I kissed all relationships goodbye, and I was living for one thing – cocaine. I was driven on what seemed like auto pilot and I had little judgement on the decisions I was about to make. I went to my hometown and found a dealer to serve me crack cocaine. I made a crack pipe and took my first hit. The high was incredible, I had never felt such a rush…I was in love. This was the beginning of the end. Every minute of every day was consumed with getting, using, and finding more crack cocaine. I stole from everyone I knew, I robbed my mom’s house so many times she had to put metal brackets on the windows…she couldn’t open her own windows if she wanted to. I stole allowance money from a neighbor, I stole from stores and pawned things. Very quickly I was using $600 a day. I found a way to borrow my sister’s car and decided I could not live this way anymore. I was living for drugs, that’s it. No passion, no drive, no choice…cocaine enslaved me. I went to a store and stole a hose, driving to an abandoned parking lot where I was going to end my life. I got out of the car, hooked the hose from the tailpipe to the driver’s side window and started the car. I sat there until my eyes got heavy, here it was, I was almost through with this life. My phone went off and it was my dealer offering me free drugs for a ride. I jumped out of the car, threw the hose, and at last, I was going to get high. God answered someone’s prayer and He answered it in a wild way. The next day I asked my family for help and they drove me to the psych ward. I was admitted due to my recent suicide attempt, and slept for 4 or 5 days straight. When I woke up and had energy, the unimaginable craving came up and I had to get high…at whatever cost. I demanded the Doctor release me and he had no choice. I made my way to town and decided I needed money for drugs. Walking down the main street, I was a zombie, walking with one purpose and one purpose only. I want to get high and then die. I walked into Suntrust Bank on the busiest corner of town and took a note to the teller saying I had a gun and to give me the cash. I had no mask, and someone in the bank knew who I was, in fact they tried to start a conversation with me which I was not having. I walked out of the bank, and bought a big bag of crack cocaine and then went to find a place to smoke it and then commit suicide. A few hours went by and the police were searching for me. I headed back to my townhouse which was in foreclosure. As soon as I entered my neighborhood Police were everywhere. They saw me and I ran, and dove under a deck and smoked crack as fast as I could. The K-9 sniffed me out and I was ordered to come out, and I didn’t budge. They let the dog loose, and I shoved my arm in his mouth and pushed him towards the police. 8 stitched and then off to jail. My first night in jail, I sat, sobbing uncontrollable and trying to find someone to bail me out. Everybody knew I was on a crash course for death, so jail was the best place for me. Nobody bailed me out, and I was stuck. Here I went from having a successful career and all the things I could ever ask for, to a bank robbing, suicidal crack head. I knew the highs in life, and I knew the lows in life, both in extreme measures. Over the next 3 years I was in jail for seven months, and a psych ward the remainder of the time. While at the psych ward I was diagnosed with cancer, and was released to my mother’s house. After a few weeks free, and going through chemo, I went on a huge crack binge for 3 days and decided no matter what happens I cannot live this way. I went back to my mom’s house, Cancer Doctors trying to save my life, family trying to console me because of my cancer, and I am killing myself. After a long day of using drugs, I went home and felt like such a piece of trash. I was worthless. I saw a bottle of pills, and swallowed 36,000 milligrams of my bi polar pills. I went in to seizures and my mom found me. 4 days in ICU and I survived. Again, God had been answering someone’s prayers. Back to the psych ward I went to complete my chemo and get back on my feet. My psychiatrist at the time, Dr. Okusami, told me he wanted me to find a member of AA to come out and talk to me, and that he would allow me to go out to meetings with this person. I met a guy named Ron who came out and saw me every week, and even drove me two meetings every week. I participated in therapy and became a “learned optimist”. I saw the world in 100% negative light, and after months and months of challenging the negativity in my mindset, I now see things with hope, and positivity. What a miracle. Ron walked me through the 12 steps of AA and I found out who I was. I was able to shed myself of guilt and shame. Years of pain and resentment toward my father vanished. I changed in such a way I could not even imagine. Looking back on that crazy bi-polar cocaine addict, to where I am today is nothing short of a miracle. I took it one step at a time, one instruction at a time, and followed advice from anyone that had something constructive to say. I finally saw that I had a disease, and I could do something to arrest it. I saw that I am worthy of God working in my life and that nothing I have done bars me from Gods love. I understand the good and bad about me and am willing to work on both ends of the spectrum. I live right by God, and right by my morals today. I apologize if I treat someone wrong, I help anyone I can whenever I can. I am finally free, I am no longer slave all because of the 12 steps and a few people in Alcoholics Anonymous. For the first time in my life, I am able to talk to another human being without being judged. I don’t have to be liked by everyone, I can make mature, responsible and rational decisions. I share my thoughts, and decisions with someone that may be able to guide me I am in danger of making poor choices. I have been through so much, and I have experience to help others. I am stable on medication, I am in nearly all respects normal. I have been sober since April 20, 2015. Almost a year and a half and I am not looking back. I have a relationship with God today that I know I can rely on. I stick with the basics, AA meetings, readings, phone calls, love, compassion, and integrity. I have peace of mind, I put action behind my words. Talk is cheap. I walk the walk. It is exciting me to wake up and be the absolute best person I could be. I repeat, the person I COULD be. I am never satisfied with where I am currently. I want to be better. God expects that…at least from me. I overcame almost every obstacle in my life. I overcame cancer, I beat addiction, I defeated Bi-Polar. I am sincerely happy, and I would not change any experience I have been through, nor the work I put in to grow into the person I am today. People ask me how I am doing today….My response “LIVING THE DREAM”.