I wasn’t always happily married, yet. I was a miserable, broken up, and a train wreck when first going into rehab. Before I was happily married I had ruined the only relationship I “thought” was love, by abusing heroin. “I’ll leave you if you do it again!” she said. The sad truth was, I was the other guy she had been cheating with, not on. For 8 long years. I thought it was true love, but it was just truly sad.
A lot of you in early recovery may be in this situation. Or you may have a brother, sister, or loved one who is heartbroken from drugs and failed relationships. But let me tell you, early recovery doesn’t make it any easier. I couldn’t even love myself, yet another person. I thought I did; but I didn’t. Sadly, it was just a lie to get high on illicit romances. The good news is that it doesn’t stay this way forever.
I started to gain back some of a social life after detoxing, even if it was just going out with my parents to dinners. I was trying, as I’m sure many of you are as well! It’s not easy when the only thing we knew was, “Dude hold my joint while I beer bong this sh#!” That’s what love looked like when I was using. I couldn’t see her face or the things I’d destroyed to love enough. It was purely, one illicit substance, or being, to the next. I just wasn’t capable. I was in a fog, or illusion, created by the abusing behaviors. But, it gets better.
The more I tried, the more socially awkward I felt. The awkwardness was kind of like a new right of passage though. Just like you’d have to get a right of passage with using drugs and earn your tolerance. It was the same concept with reality and society. I had to earn my way back. I started by doing what my father had urged me! And thank God I listened to him; thanks dad! I went back to get my secondary education. If it wasn’t for my parents pushing me to get out of bed from the depression in early recovery, I don’t think I would have ever started to make a difference in my life again. To all of the parents reading this, whether you think it or not, you are the difference in this situation.
When I went back to school it was kind of a time to focus on myself. It was a lot different than high school. No one pressured you to do this, or to that, while at the Community College. It was like I was there for a reason, a test… and no not the kind that you bubble in answers to. But as life went on this test became a reality and I started to live it. I was put into situations that I would have never discovered if I was just sitting at home or reading a book. Again, thanks mom, thanks dad! I love you both!
I developed new friendships, even if they didn’t stem beyond the classroom for the time being. It was more than I could ask for though. It was a blessing in disguise no matter all of the social awkwardness. I wasn’t really “looking” for love, although I always said I “needed something” back into my life.
Eventually I found myself in a good spot, and hope started to arise. I began helping people and fell in love with that aspect of life. I started being a leader in group tutoring, but at first I was scared. My father said this right before I took the job, “You don’t know unless you try. Son, you’ve tried a lot of things in your life and this one will NOT kill you. What’s the worst than can happen? You get a paycheck for helping people.” I proceeded to nod over the phone while outside the employment office at the Community College. I asked dad, “Do you promise?” He assured me that he did. To this day he’s never broken a promise. Thanks pops <3
After that I moved onto the University where I was continuing to get my bachelor’s degree in Sociology and then finally added on Substance Abuse to it too. Sure, I went out with friends, but didn’t do any of the partying you’d think a normal college kid would do. I went out and just tried to break that barrier. My parents were so happy to see me get out of the house, but in a good way. My mother cried, but only because she knew I was doing something that made us all proud of me. After all of the struggle in my life I was doing what dad had always said I could do, which was, “Moving on and moving up!”
This was about three years into my recovery and I wasn’t happy with any of the situations I found myself in romantically at the University. One day I was sitting by myself with the TV on and overheard an advertisement for online dating. They said that 1 in 3 relationships start online. I was doing homework and it took a few months for this to sink in. I was right in the middle of midterms. But as soon as the semester was over, my new book published, and my affairs in order I tried to date online. Funny thing was that I started dating on an international website. I mean, I’d always traveled, but this time it never felt so right.
The first woman I met on there was 21 years old and she was from the Philippines. I met her and the first question I asked her was, “Are you real?” It was kind of like my socially awkward ice breaker. About two seconds later she video messaged me and said, “Is this real enough?” I then deleted my online dating account. I became friends with her on Facebook, and even though we were 8,000 miles away it was love at first site. Not to say that there weren’t any problems in our relationship during the time we dated, but it was miniscule to the bad relationships I’d had before. Usually they all started with miscommunication due to talking over the phone and some cultural differences. This was to be expected right? Right!
The question came out about my work and writing, as I was now published for my addiction books, and still doing advocacy for “work.” So, I went all in. With the advice of my father I gave her one of my books. He said, “Either she will love you for it, or she will hate you for it. But, either way she will know the truth. Let her make up her own mind, and don’t hide the real you from her. That’s what’s most important son. I love you.”
This couldn’t have been better advice. I was tired of hiding my addiction issues from people, and barely telling anyone besides writing behind a penname (Your Inner Addict at the time). So, I gave her a book. What happened next was the miracle of recovery working happily through my life for one of—what I thought—first and greatest reasons of all. Love.
The next day she called me crying and I’d asked her if she’d slept. She said she’d spent the whole night up reading my book, and from front to back she finished it. She was from a different culture and different first language. The fact was that she didn’t need to be fluent to understand that this was me, because by now she was fluent in me. She was crying and finally said it: “I love you. I truly do and I know you are a better man today. I swear from this moment on I will be a better woman with you, too. We will grow together.” It turned from dating, to romance and I couldn’t have been happier. Roughly one month later we got engaged, and then I visited her for the first time.
There was no social awkwardness when we met. The first kiss was magic all in itself. We hugged, and I picked her 95-pound body up off the ground and we both said, “That’s the best hug I’ve ever had. Jinx,” and both laughed simultaneously. Fortunately, dad went with me to meet the family. It was the time of my life, although I didn’t eat Balut (unhatched chicken embryo/their delicacy).
I went home a week later and they are right, absence does make the heart grow fonder. But, she did say one thing to me. “Aren’t you glad you’re clean today? After reading your book, you know I’m so proud of you right?” I reply solemnly, “Yeah, but why do you say that?” She replied big eyed and full of lust, “Because if your past didn’t happen you wouldn’t be here with me today. It all happened for a reason. And you’re clean because of it!”
If there wasn’t a higher purpose for getting clean before, I had just found it. This girl was the person I was spending the rest of my life with, but wouldn’t have been possible without my past, and now being clean today. If anything happened from it I was stronger today because of it!
I met her again about three months later on my summer vacation from the University. We lived-in together in a condo I leased at a Filipino resort. It was pure paradise. We were used to each other, but still couldn’t keep our hands off of each other too. Our love was and is like the perfect storm. It was and continues to be Noah meets Allie each and every time our eyes meet. And yet, I sit here creating our own little “Notebook.” It was like this was my calling and a new reason to grow, not only in life but in recovery. It made recovery possible, and it wasn’t just a saying I’d heard anymore. I was living it.
After living together I’d proposed and given her an official ring this time. So, the engagement was official, too. We filed for a K1-Fiance Visa. But, it wasn’t easy. It was 5 months of treacherous background checks, paperwork, and medical exams. I started my new line of work (Substance For You) and needed to prove I was a liable citizen. The government was looking at absolutely everything.
Neither of us cracked under the pressure. She kept me on task even while running two businesses and being in school full time. The greatest thing amongst it all was that I didn’t use, and I even became healthier. I started doing things in my life for the right reason, and staying clean just came to me. She got me into working out and drinking more water, which was something I was lacking. The funny thing is that she whipped me into shape all over the phone! Who wouldn’t deny that we would eventually be happily married!
Today through recovery, and despite my past in addiction, I wouldn’t be the man today if it wasn’t for any of the struggle. I can sit here writing this little notebook to you and say that it truly gets better. We may struggle with social parts of our life and relationship issues. But, like you always hear about anything good is that, “It’ll hit you on the nose when you least expect it. Work on yourself and it will come.” And it did. It truly did, does, and still is. I promise you that.
I got married on December 18th, 2015 and couldn’t be happier. We are both living 100% sober lives, together, and starting the family we both always wanted. We couldn’t be more thrilled for the future. Recovery truly is possible, and don’t let the past be in spite. Embrace who you are because without it I may have never met my wife, nor she fell in love with me if I hadn’t gone through any of these issues.
Recovery is possible. Patricia and Brian McCollom (us) now work together on creating awareness for addictions and recoveries through Substance For You. WE are a family owned organization. And it’s all built on our love and trust for each other. I’m happily married and love it because, recovery is possible!
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