I woke up one day and realized I was this white, Jewish kid from a good family, and I really didn’t fit in jail. My parents agreed to help me one last time, and I went to rehab.
The therapist there changed my life. I walked into his office, and he said, “Listen. You’re 18 years old, and you’re a heroin addict. You can either get sober or die.” To this day, what he said sticks with me because those were the facts. I was 18. I was a heroin addict, and I had nothing going for me. I had thrown away my education and become a criminal. It came down to how willing I was to do something about it. So for the first time in my life, I decided maybe I was going to take some suggestions, listen to advice, and do some work. At some point I just bought it. I admitted to my innermost self that I was an alcoholic and a drug addict.
The God thing was tough for me, but I did believe there was something out there that could help me. I met Eddie, the man who became my sponsor, and who entirely changed my life. He gave me a list of things to do every day to keep me accountable.
I didn’t want to do the stuff on his list, so I called him and said, “Hey I’m actually just into drugs, so I’m going to get a sponsor in NA.” He said, “Daniel, I’m your sponsor, and we agreed you were going to call me at 6:15 each day.” The next day when I called him at 6:20, he asked me if my clock was broken. Then he hung up. For the next three years I called him every day at 6:15. He taught me a lot during that time—more than just the steps. He showed me how to grow up to take responsibility for my actions, to be an honorable man, to show up when I say I’m going to show up, and how to be honest. He told me I couldn’t just sit around and get comfortable, and that I needed to move forward. I went back to high school and finished, but I had no idea what to do afterward. Eddie told me I was going to go to college. I was terrified because I had failed so consistently all my life and never felt smart enough. People in the program helped me fill out a college application, and I took two classes: I got an A and a B and felt pretty good about it. I was working for minimum wage and had my own apartment and a puppy, a Lab named Zoey, who I still have after nine years. I went to a meeting every day, and that was pretty much my life. I had a car, a sponsor, and I was sponsoring guys. Life was really pretty good for the first time.
I had a tutor who helped me for two years and brought me up to speed on all the things that I had failed to learn because I had kept dropping out of high school. I ended up with one B and all the rest A’s. I scored high enough on my ACT to get an academic scholarship to a four-year school in another city. It seemed so hard to leave where I had been living that I decided I was going to take what I thought was the easier, softer way and go to a less rigorous school. I called my sponsor, who said “Daniel, that’s a bad idea.” He said in order for me to grow spiritually, I needed to get out of my comfort zone. I knew he was right, and when I showed up at Southern Miss, a bunch of guys from AA there helped me unpack my new apartment.