I’ve been using since I was seven years old. I grew up around bikers. As a kid, I stole booze, smoked weed, and sold them both. In high school, I progressed to using and selling cocaine. After high school, I drank a lot and was introduced to methamphetamines.
When I was 21, I was arrested and ended up spending five and a half years in prison. As soon as I got off of parole, I went right back to using and selling drugs. I went through several bouts of probation. Finally, I racked up pretty serious charges that would send me back to prison.
At my sentencing, the judge said, “This is your last chance, Mr. Watson. You need to go to treatment.”
So I attended outpatient treatment and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. I picked up service positions and got sponsees. I thought I would play by the rules to fulfill my probation requirements until I could use again. Before I got off of probation, my perspective changed. I realized that I could have a normal life. I didn’t have to continue what I’d been doing. I could be a normal person.
Almost eight months later, I was still sober, but some situations went awry. I made some bad choices, and I ended up using again for almost a year. During that time, I picked up federal gun charges.
While I was in jail awaiting my sentencing, the prosecutor told me, “If you plead guilty, we’ll release you immediately until sentencing.”
I agreed. I came out of jail homeless with nothing but the clothes on my back. I immediately went to the homeless shelter and began attending NA. Within a month, I was working two jobs, renting a place to live, and checking in with my probation officer.
On paper, I looked really bad. But my probation officer took the time to learn about me. Unfortunately, the reporting probation officer who would speak to the judge on my behalf didn’t take the time to understand me.
Leading up to my sentencing, the reporting officer said, “I don’t know why you’re doing all of this. You’re going to jail for a very long time, and I’m going to make sure of it.”
Despite this, I kept doing everything I was supposed to. About two weeks before my sentencing, my probation officer called me. “You have a little bit of luck on your side,” he said.
“Why is that?” I asked.
“The reporting officer just blew out his knee, and he’s going to be out of the office for six months. I’m taking over the office, so I’ll be reporting to the judge for you.”
At my sentencing, the prosecutor made his appeal to the judge. He said, “From what we’ve seen of Mr. Watson, if there was any way we could not ask for jail time, we would, but his offense requires prison time.”
After the prosecutor was finished speaking, the judge asked me if there was anything I wanted to say.
I stood up and said, “I’ve spent a lot of time working on myself. I’ve been devoted to Narcotics Anonymous. What you see on paper is who I was before. I had to survive prison and the world that I lived in. If I go back to prison, I’m going to have to revert to my old ways and undo all the work I’ve done just to make it through federal prison. I do understand that my offense requires jail time though.”
The judge shook his head, looked down at his papers, and said, “Mr. Watson, not only did the prosecution just try not to give you prison time, but your probation officer also spent an hour and a half pleading your case. Then, when I asked you what you wanted to say, you shared who you are. Unfortunately, you must serve mandatory jail time because of the offense, but lucky for you, I’m the judge. I can decide how much time I want to give you. The prosecution requested the low end of the guidelines which is one year to 36 months, but I’m inclined to give you one year and one day.”
I’d ended up serving a severely reduced sentence — two months in prison and one month in a halfway house. Then, I was home.
When I was using, I met the woman who is now my wife. She got arrested at the same time that I did. When she got out of jail, she stayed clean and never used again. She remained with me while I was in prison. After I was released from prison, we got married in the Temple, and now she works for another treatment center.
We were doing good. Then, I got into a motorcycle accident. I was prescribed pain pills, which led to me using meth. For two and a half years, I lived in my travel trailer on the side of my house, thinking I was hiding from everybody. Finally, my wife said, “Maybe you should go back to NA.”
“I’m never going back to NA. Those people aren’t like me. They can’t help me.” I said. That scared the hell out of her. She cried, and I went out.
Two days later, I was home, and she said, “Look, you either have to leave or you have to start treatment.”
“When do I start?” I knew I was ready. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to stop on my own.
My wife arranged for me to attend treatment at Wasatch Crest. I’m a handyman and I was in the middle of a couple of jobs at the time. So I said, “I have to finish these jobs. Give me four days.”
She said, “That’s perfect. The shuttle will be here this weekend to pick you up.”
When I arrived at Wasatch Crest, I stood on the porch, chain-smoking, not sure when I’d be able to smoke again. Looking over the Heber Valley, with the snow on the ground, an overwhelming sense of peace filled me. I thought, “Man, God’s been helping me this whole time. Look at this beautiful country.” I knew that I was in the safest place I could be. I just knew that everything was going to be alright.
I walked through the door, and all of the clients introduced themselves to me, which eased my anxieties of whether or not the residents were going to like me. I looked like I was straight out of prison, wearing all my biker leather. But I was ready. I knew that I needed to do something different.
The very next night, I attended an NA meeting, and I broke down. During my clean time, I had been an NA leader in my area. I learned everything about the organization — its history, intricacies, and traditions. I had even helped bring the three weekly meetings in my area to 14 weekly meetings. I had felt so ashamed for turning my back on my fellowship. But that night at the meeting, I realized my old NA friends had been praying for me. I knew with all of my heart that I had a whole fellowship that would welcome me in.
During treatment at Wasatch Crest, I felt God’s hand at work. With my therapist, I learned how to communicate better with my wife and grow our relationship. The recreational therapy was also outstanding. We went to the sweat lodge on my first weekend there, which was tough but good. There were a couple of times during my stay when I got frustrated. Tyson, the Sober Living Program Director, helped me understand the situation and let go of my issues.
After I graduated from treatment, I went to a meeting every day for 90 days. I still follow my recovery plan. I have a homegroup, work with my sponsor, and am ingrained in a large community that loves me. I’m also part of a group of people who all ride motorcycles and are in recovery.
I’m working hard to maintain balance. I attend three weekly meetings, as well as spend time with my club, my family, and myself. I’ve restarted my handyman business, which is busy. I like being able to help make people’s lives a little better by fixing things that they can’t fix themselves.
I have learned from experience that my recovery has to come first. If I try to put something in front of it, I end up losing everything.