I have been fighting depression, anxiety, and self-harm off and on for the past 13 years. I moved to Los Angeles to follow my dreams of becoming a published writer four years ago. I am now 28 years old and I am still living in Los Angeles. I was happy to be living my dream when I moved here but unfortunately for me, my happiness was only temporary.
Like most people who struggle with mental health, I fell into substance abuse issues. I turned to drugs and alcohol to the numb the pain I was feeling. I would also cut my wrists when things got really bad. I seemed so happy and alive on the outside but that was far from the truth. The darkness I was feeling on the inside consumed me. I was a tortured soul living in disguise.
I slowly felt myself losing touch with reality. My physical and mental health deteriorated to the point where I was underweight, experiencing hallucinations, emotional distress, and dealing with insomnia. Moving back home to live with my parents allowed me to sleep better at night but my anxiety got so bad that I would get panic attacks.
I spent the following year getting my life and mental health in order. I saw a doctor and a therapist. I went on medication to help with my anxiety, I got a job at Chipotle, and with the support of my family, friends, and my faith, I was able to stay sober. I accepted Jesus Christ as my lord and savior sometime in August after recommendations from my mom and her friend Maria. I repented for my sins and I felt a shift inside of me. I felt like a changed man. I was a changed man.
I am proud to say I officially reached one year of sobriety on September 23rd. It’s also been one year and five months since I last hurt myself. When the side effects from my medication were too much, my doctor told me I could stop taking them. He told me, “You should be proud of yourself. Not a lot of people can be in the position that you’re in. You should give yourself a pat on the back.”
I never take for granted the fact that I am able to do what I want. Like my favorite rapper Drake says, “You can still do what you want to do, you gotta trust that sh*t.” Even though anxiety kicks my ass on a daily basis, I still go to work. I still write. I volunteer. I love. I smile. I laugh. And sometimes I cry. I fight for my happiness. Every day is a battle and I will never give up.
Although God and Jesus Christ have been the sole reason I am sober and clean, I also attribute me being sober to my nephew Adrian. A lot of things from my past bum me out. None more so than when he would ask me to hang out and I would say, “Not right now. We’ll hang out in a little bit. I’m going to sleep.” He would be disappointed and say, “Aw man. Come on. Why do you sleep so much? You sleep too much.”
It breaks my heart knowing I would have rather gotten high than play with my own nephew but I am proud to say I am no longer that person. I apologized to my nephew before he went back to Florida where he lives with his mother. I’m not proud of my past but I had to hit rock bottom to see I was blinded by addiction.
I’d be lying if I said the past five months I have been living in Los Angeles have been a second chance at living my dream because Lord knows He has given me more than two chances. This is like my millionth chance at living my dream and I am more determined than ever to not let it go to waste. The last two months before I had one year of sobriety were the hardest. I struggled with temptation and going through a break up made things even harder.
I ended up moving on with the support of my best friend and co-workers but that doesn’t mean I don’t crave love and affection from another female. I struggle with my faith and at times I feel like God isn’t enough. I have everything I want (health, sobriety, money saved, love from my family, and I’m living in Los Angeles) yet at times it doesn’t feel enough. I reached a low point a couple of weeks ago when I was three days away from being sober.
I was upset over things not working out with a female co-worker and I fell into the vicious cycle of wanting more. I talked to my best friend and he asked me, “Richard, what do you want?” I replied, “I want my own place. I want a car. I want a book deal. I want a better job. I want it to be November so I can visit my family. I wish you lived here.” He then told me something that blew me away. “Richard, you’re asking for the same things you asked for when you were living in Massachusetts.” I didn’t realize it when I was saying those things but he was right. It showed me that everything is mental and it’s all inside of my head.
He told me, “It’s okay to want materialistic things because we are human. But what you need to do is seek something that’s ever-lasting because when you have those things, you won’t be happy anymore. That happiness will only be temporary.” I then told him, “I want peace and patience. I want the peace that God promises all of us. All those things I asked for I know I will get. I just have to be patient.” I felt a bit calm after talking to him but I had one thing on my mind and that was to hurt myself.
I laid in bed for 30 minutes but I couldn’t fall asleep. I went into my kitchen and I grabbed a knife. I placed it in front of me as I sat in my kitchen listening to music and doing everything in my power to not hurt myself. I then did what my best friend recommended I do in my moments of darkness, weakness, and vulnerability. I prayed. God, please don’t let me hurt myself tonight. Let me see you in this moment. Show Yourself. I pray that You protect me. A few minutes passed by and I was ready to put the knife away but a part of me still wanted to hurt myself. I couldn’t put the knife away.
I put the blade on my left wrist. As much as I wanted to hurt myself (and trust me, I did), I couldn’t do it. When I had the knife on my left wrist I kept thinking about my family, my mom, my nieces and nephew, God, Jesus Christ, and myself. I told myself that I want to keep moving forward. I don’t want to go backwards. I then put the knife away. I realized God answered my prayer. Jesus Christ protected me. God revealed Himself to me in that moment. I’m not proud of myself for letting things get to that point but I’m even prouder that I didn’t hurt myself. God never fails me.
Doctors, counselors, friends, and family members always say, “Things will get better.” I would say, “That’s easy for you to say.” But you know what? They were right. Things do get better.
I may have fallen but I have also risen. I am here to share my story of hope, recovery, and the pursuit of happiness. I used to cry every night before going to bed. I used to pray for the peace and happiness I currently have. I know things won’t always be easy but I have faith in God. I will continue to rest on Him. Please don’t give up. Things really do get better.