When I first got help for drug addiction, one of the first things I learned is to accept the past, learn from it and move on. Even though I know this, I still tense up and cringe whenever I think about the person I was when I was high; a dishonest, manipulative and mean-spirited monster who was concerned only with feeding my habit. I traded in my sense of right and wrong for a bottle of pills and almost lost everything good in my life as a result. Now, in my sixth consecutive year of sobriety, I'm sort of scared of losing that shameful feeling, because it has been so helpful in keeping me from relapsing.

When I was 16 years old, I started drinking. A year later I started taking painkillers, first getting them from friends at parties then taking them from anywhere I could find them. I can't really explain of justify why I started doing this other than to say I was bored, curious and cloaked in a feeling of invincibility. I wasn't really making it in school and sort of new that I'd wind up working for my father in lieu of going to college. Drinking and pills were basically a fun little stop-gap on my way to a boring, yet stable life.

Predictably enough, drug and alcohol abuse became less of a "pastime" and more of a compulsion as time went on. There were legal scrapes, parental admonition and idle threats…but not enough to break the increasingly strong hold that pills were gaining over me. My pride and self-respect became less and less important, and I would soon think nothing about stealing pills or money to buy them from friends' parents or complete strangers. It took an overdose to get me to see that I needed bona fide professional help for drug addiction or I was going to die, if not tomorrow then a few months from now.

I checked into rehab shortly after getting out of the hospital. I remember thinking that I couldn't feel any weaker or more depleted; however the first day of detox proved me wrong. Gradually I got my strength back, and it was like someone had moved a truck off my body, a truck that would have killed with just a few more ounces of weight. The best and most accurate thing I can say about rehab is that it made learn how to be a person again. It taught me humility, accountability and and the value of perspective.

On my first sober anniversary, I decided there was more to life than my self-imposed path, and decided to go to college. I've been working diligently toward publishing a novel. Each day poses its own set of obstacles, but also its own rewards. There is an extraordinary amount of power in holding on to the good things in your life. If you don't believe me, just give it a shot.

Contact the National Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Information Center (NASAIC) anytime toll-free at (800) 784-6776 or through our online form, and we will recommend the leading drug and alcohol rehab centers for you or your loved one.