I had a good life, I had good parents. I lived in a good neighborhood of Albany. I worked at PGE for 10 years, and I had a beautiful wife.
But I was addicted. I’d been doing drugs my whole life. I was doing crystal meth almost every night. Then I got hooked on Vicodin and Norcos. It gave me problems with my intestine, and I had to go on disability. That’s when things happened. I was so manipulative in the doctor world — I knew how to get pills, and I got them.
I would disappear for weeks. At the end of my runs, I didn’t come home for like a month. I’d walk in and my wife would be in her robe. She could barely open her eyes. It’s like three in the morning. Where have you been? It gives me nightmares to this day.
At one point, she found a crystal meth pipe, and she dropped to her knees, hugged my legs — ‘Stop doing drugs! I love you.’ I was like, ‘I’m not on drugs, I got health problems.’ I had no feelings — they were all drug feelings.
Then one day I came home, and she wasn’t there. She just left. She just got tired and left.
The last couple of years of running, I would cry. I wanted help. Because I loved my family and drugs just wiped me out. And I couldn’t get away from it. I got three DUIs in two months. They’re like, here’s your third DUI, do a week in jail. Then I was out on the street homeless because the car was where I was sleeping.
I was starving and all my money was gone. I was humiliated. That’s when I found St. Anthony’s. Somebody told me I could go there to eat.
Later, I went to Father Alfred Center, and that changed my life. It really did. I was 36 years old when I went in, but I had the mind of a kid. They taught me how to be a man, how to be responsible, how to be a dad, and how to be a partner.
The hardest thing about recovery is feelings — hands down. I’m very sensitive. I catch a lot of feelings. I’ll make this big story in my head when someone hurts my feelings.
Before, I’d crack a beer after work — I had a horrible day, but it’s okay, I’m drinking. Or I’d roll a joint, and just like that I’m smoking again. Now, I’ll go straight up to the person who hurt my feelings and tell them how I feel. I don’t have to drink, I don’t have to use drugs. It’s like all those little tools that Father Alfred and NA taught me. They taught me other routes than to drink or do drugs.
I changed a lot. I was two years sober when I saw my ex-wife on the street. She couldn’t believe it. She told me she thought I was dead. We’re really good friends now – we talk all the time. Sometimes I call her up to tell her I’m sorry for everything. She just cries and says, ‘Don’t worry about it. You’re doing good now.’
Recovery to me is everything. My girl now has 13 years clean. I got nine. We had a daughter together and that was beautiful. I never thought I’d be a dad. I wanted to have kids, but I didn’t because I knew I was a full-blown drug addict. My life was in crumbles for like 20-something years. Instead of death, instead of jail, I came out into the light. And that’s something that I have to hold on to.
Erik started working in the St. Anthony’s Dining Room as a dishwasher nine years ago. He spent seven years as a prep chef, and recently transitioned to truck driver, picking up food donations all around the Bay Area. He is nearly 10 years sober.