“In a way, she may have saved my life,” said Simon, pronounced ‘see-moan.’ “I wasn’t doing very good, but she was so nice and understanding. I knew I had to go into treatment, but I just couldn’t do it. She really coaxed me off the ledge and made me realize it had to be done.”
It’s about 4 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon earlier this week. Simon seems a bit frazzled. He just got finished working a full day as a Home Depot sub-contractor and he’s trying to figure out how to juggle this interview with an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, dinner and a Step study with his sponsor. But after a few minutes, he smiles, realizing these aren’t the worst problems to have.
“It’s hard to believe how far I’ve come in a few months,” said Simon, a Hollywood, Fla., native with French Canadian roots. “It’s hard for me to even understand how far off track I got. I was doing really well and then things god bad.”
For Simon, who came through Rock Solid initially in 2015, the fact that he is in recovery isn’t all that big of a surprise. He said from about the age of 13 or 14 he knew he was headed down a tumultuous road.
By his mid-teens, he was ensconced in the grimy underbelly of the drug-fueled landscape of southern Florida. And after a few stints in various Florida jails due to his misaligned, addiction-riddled behavior, Simon finally attended his first rehab. But riding off into the sober sunset was not in Simon’s cards quite yet.
According to Simon, he spent most of his 20s dabbling in sobriety, but never truly found the traction he so desperately wanted. He would string together periods of brief sobriety — 30 days here, 90 days there — but they were always punctuated with a relapse, each being far worse than the one before. But Simon’s despair took an even deeper trajectory when he was introduced to crack cocaine a few years ago.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” said Simon, intently trying to contain his emotions. “It took my disease to a whole other level. It was very hard to escape from its clutches. I never, in a million years, thought I would be that person.”
It was shortly after his introduction to crack when Simon knew it was time to really get serious about his sobriety. He says he called upon his pastor in Florida last year, who arranged for Simon to check into Rock Solid Recovery, one of Solid Landings’ men-only subsidiaries.
“Rock Solid really did a lot for me,” said Simon, referring to his first stint in 2015. “I think the one thing I am most grateful for is that they showed us how to have fun in sobriety. I never knew how to have fun unless I had drugs and alcohol.”
According to Simon, his sobriety blossomed fully when he had a spiritual awakening of sorts on a Peaks&Valleys’ (Solid Landings’ adventure program) trip to Big Bear last summer.
“I was really doing the deal,” he said. “I had commitments at meetings, I had a sponsor, I was working with the newer guys at the detox houses. I thought I was destined for a life of sobriety.”
But as any veteran of the sobriety game will tell you, a person’s sobriety is only as strong as the work he put in on that particular day. And soon after he returned to Florida to help his father with the family business, the proverbial demons started to stir.
“I put my dad’s business before my own recovery,” said Simon. “I left very spiritual but slowly it faded away. I was skipping meetings to make sure my dad was happy. I was too worried about making my dad proud.”
Little by little, Simon slipped back into the darkness and it culminated one night in December when he was hanging out with a few women of lesser repute. Later on that evening, they asked Simon if he could “score some blow.” Simon was happy to oblige and he relapsed less than hour later.
“I went on a two-month run and it was way worse than any of my other relapses,” he said. “I lost everything.”
These days, Simon is clinging to his sobriety like a newborn child – he refuses to let go and nurtures it incessantly by attending meetings and meeting with his sponsor. At 32, Simon says he has finally learned what he needs to do.
“If you don’t get a spiritual connection or a higher power you will fall,” he said. “I don’t care if you are in AA, NA or alternative, you need guidance. You don’t have to believe in God but you have to have some sort of spirituality. To get sober, you need to be around other sober people to learn. It’s all a learning process.”
As for his future, Simon is hesitant to get too clairvoyant. He has learned over the years that nothing in life is for certain. But he likes the direction in which he’s headed.
“I know today I won’t drink,” Simon said. “I don’t know about tomorrow. Tomorrow is never promised. I feel like I am going in the right direction. This time around, I know I really don’t want to be that person. I love sober Simon. I don’t want to be that person any more.” — J.C.
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