Six months ago I entered Santa Barbara, California for the first time in my life. It rained for two straight weeks. Home sweet home. I hadn’t seen real nature in nearly two years unless you count the Culver City Stairs on a starry night. I remember thinking to myself every morning as I looked into the marine layer of the hills of Santa Barbara, “What a majestic place to kill myself.” I knew the fog would eventually clear from the marine layer, but my head was a different story as I dealt with my addiction.
Even though I was still breathing I couldn’t help but feel like I was suffocating, and the walls were closing in on me. In the past 6 months, I had lost two apartments, my job, my sanity, and nearly my life. Somehow, I landed in a town with only three streets that all rhymed: Carrillo, Cabrillo, and Castillo. At least I still had my girlfriend, right? All I had to do was get a little money and get back to her and the City of Angels, surely they would save me.
My last real memory of living in LA was on a mattress on the floor in my studio apartment in Koreatown. It smelled like someone died in there, hopefully, I was next. I got a callback from a friend of a friend. The girl I was seeing at the time got in contact with one of my old roommates from sober living asking him for advice. She was the only one left in my life and had no idea what to do with me. He suggested I call his friend Sam Dekin. Apparently, he was opening a new outpatient program in Santa Barbara. I figured I’d call him and it wouldn’t work out and I would move in with her for free after everything was lost. At least I could tell her I tried, right?
He actually called me back. Why? I was a 27-year-old loser from Kentucky. I had no degree, no job, and nothing to offer. Didn’t he know that I had done nothing but take from everyone I ever encountered in my entire life? I’m not going to lie it felt pretty uncomfortable. The guy on the phone sounded like a true intellectual and a scholar. Little did I know, he was a 40-year old teenager who surfed every morning and had the tendency to turn a friendly game of ping pong into The Championships, Wimbledon. I, on the other hand, disappeared for the previous 48 hours in a complete drug-induced psychosis, running through the alleys of Inglewood with no shoes or socks. I woke up in the hospital, got dressed and told them to put it on my tab.
I was out of options. If Inglewood couldn’t kill me, surely Santa Barbara wouldn’t. One of the most difficult decisions I ever made was the simple three letter word: yes. Yes, to leaving my pathetic life and trying something new. Yes, to trudging through the pain and believing that there’s something better for me on the other side. Yes, I’d go to treatment. Everything else could wait: the girlfriend, the money, every grandiose idea or philosophy that I had for my future. Sam, this voice/person on the other end of the phone had coached me through finding a detox and how to make it to Santa Barbara in one piece, so I could give myself one last chance.
I wish I could say that was the hard part, but I realized that the work had just begun. There was more work to do then a change of scenery. Even though I was sober, I was broken. If this was the answer to life, then why didn’t I feel better? Why did I think that my best option was my demise, hiding behind the fog of those hills? It was told to me that I wasn’t supposed to feel amazing. That there was still work to do. That was where my journey in sobriety started. As phony as it sounds, my journey started with a smile and a “good morning.” I was so confused as to why people sounded so excited to see me every day. All I had to do was show up.
Very quickly that changed from showing up, to showing up on time. Its crazy how doing one thing that seems so minuscule will change your entire perspective on sobriety. My mind shifted from “I can’t do this anymore” to “I HAVE to get there on time.” And every time I did, I would get that smile, and “Good morning Jordan!” from the staff and treatment team. Before I knew it, I was smiling back and saying “Good Morning Christina, Hi Melissa!” I don’t know what was more impressive; the fact that I was on time (most of the time), or the fact that I was happy to be there.
My purpose grew over time. I had spent a month in groups with people who on the surface looked nothing like me, but on the interior, we were the same. We connected, slowly but surely. I received help from the most likely and unlikely candidates. I guess one thing I’ve learned through this process is you don’t really choose who helps you the most. We did yoga together, music therapy, hikes, and meditation. After treatment hours we would go surfing every day, or pack up the car and go to Big Sur, and experience nature, and of course surf, “YEEEEW.”
More importantly, we laughed, we cried, we fought with each other and forgave each other. We were finally living. My perspective shifted from what could I get from the program to who could I give back to? Not because I’m self- righteous, or arrogant; for I am both of those things. But because I wanted to give back, because I feel like I didn’t deserve the help that I had received. From the clients, and the staff. I truly feel like I can finally be one of those people who say “that program saved my life.” The irony is that I used to hate those people.
Since leaving the program I still surf every week. I’m employed, I have my own apartment, and I even found a sober roommate who I can call my best friend. Its been a while since I can say that I’ve had one of those. The relationship with the girl didn’t last, but I had this program to fall back on. My therapist always listened to my rants about love lost and love found. Really, I think she knew that I just needed someone to talk to, and eventually I would be okay. So, I was.
Now when I think about Los Angeles, its to go to my old homegroup and thank them for watching me come in and out of the meeting. I think of going to a Lakers game with my new friends that I have met at my job that I am currently happy with. Or when I am looking into the marine layer its usually at 7 AM from a surfboard in the water, as I think to myself how stoked I am to be alive. After all of this, I can finally say that I have found a home in Santa Barbara, I live off Castillo St. I can also end with saying Sam sucks at ping pong, but he’s an alright pool player.
– Jordan, Mission Harbor Alumni