Richard King’s childhood in Southern California was idealistic and happy. He had very loving and supportive parents and grandparents, he never needed or wanted for anything, and he had a great relationship with his sister. He spent his days playing without a care in the world and he was generally very content. It wasn’t until high school that he began to realize he was different than everyone else.
“I went to a high school where extreme wealth was on display at all times,” he says. “I felt less than a lot of the people around me. That was on top of realizing I was gay in the late 1990s when it wasn’t as acceptable as it is today. Other people in my school were openly gay but I didn’t fit in with them and I didn’t fit in with everyone else.”
Although he smoked pot occasionally throughout his junior year of high school and started drinking his senior year, his substance abuse didn’t become a lifestyle until he left San Diego to attend college in Los Angeles.
“It was a way for me to numb the feelings of not fitting in. When I was drinking, I felt at peace. I felt like I could be myself,” he says.
In college, he met other gay men like himself, but he wasn’t necessarily comfortable with it. He internalized his homophobia and masked his feelings of discomfort with alcohol and drugs. As his addiction grew, Richard continued to hide his lifestyle from his parents because he was fearful of what their response might be. They were financially supporting him and paying for school and he needed their support.
Living the LA Lifestyle
Richard’s drug and alcohol abuse quickly spiraled out of control, but he continued living a lavish LA lifestyle, supported by his parents. His daily life consisted of meeting friends for brunch, going shopping, and then going to the clubs. He never went to class, and instead, spent his time making sure he fit into the local scene of wealthy people who didn’t have to work or go to school.
“I didn’t think I had a problem for the longest time,” he says. “Growing up and living in the LA area, drugs and alcohol were just a part of that scene.”
Nine long years passed as Richard sank deeper and deeper into addiction. He abused cocaine daily but still convinced himself he didn’t have a real problem. Sometimes he would go weeks or months without using, but he’d always return to it. And when he did, the substance abuse was more extreme.
At this point in his life, Richard was severely depressed and had just ended a toxic six-year relationship that had been verbally and physically abusive. On April 28, 2010, he reached an all-time low and drank weed killer, attempting to end his own life. He was rushed to the hospital where he had his stomach pumped.
“I saw my life falling apart, but I didn’t think it had anything to do with the drugs. I just thought my life sucked. I didn’t think I had a drug problem. I thought I had a problem with living life,” he says. “After I tried to commit suicide, my family realized it was more than just me being depressed. They realized there was something mentally wrong. I had never seen my father cry before that moment.”
Richard survived his suicide attempt but was still trapped in a vicious cycle of addiction and depression, continually hiding his drug abuse from his parents. There were moments when they would tell him that he needed to get his life in order, but he wasn’t interested in listening. Instead, he began to use his mental illness to manipulate them into doing what he wanted.
“One day I told my parents I was suicidal because I was HIV positive. I knew that would shut them up for a while and it worked,” he said. They realized that if they said the wrong thing or denied me something, I had already shown them I was capable of trying to kill myself.”
By the end of 2012, Richard was still using cocaine heavily and occasionally abused meth too. He had also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and still struggled with depression. One night, he was in Detroit with a friend for New Year’s. They had been out drinking and he wanted to get high but didn’t have his meth or cocaine with him. He did, however, have Adderall, Klonopin, and Seroquel. He took all three bottles and immediately started convulsing.
“I had overdosed and was rushed to the hospital. I just wanted to get high, I didn’t want to kill myself at that point. But I still used it to manipulate people,” he says.
By the time Richard was 30 years old, he was living in Dallas, still under the dark cloud of addiction. His friends were all young, successful professionals and all he wanted was to fit in and be “normal.” He hid his meth use, cut back on the cocaine and drinking, and everyone thought he had his life under control. In reality, the truth was very different.
Richard was using meth on an everyday basis and he always needed more drugs. He was charged with theft, helped one of his dealers commit credit card fraud, and all the while, maintained relationships with multiple dealers so he never ran out of drugs
His parents were starting to realize something was up, so they stopped giving him as much money. As his parents tightened the purse strings, he found it more and more difficult to maintain the image he had built of a luxurious life and felt increasing pressure to keep up with his friends.
“Around July of 2014, everything really caught up with me. I realized I was 30, I didn’t have a degree, I was living off my parents, I couldn’t hold a relationship, my sister wasn’t talking to me anymore, I had no real friends and no self-esteem … I was a mess,” he says.
Finally, Richard realized he couldn’t continue down this path. He knew he was either going to die or get sober, so he decided to get help.
Discovering the True Meaning of “Sobriety”
Although Richard had known people who had gone to drug rehab, they had never stayed sober. All his friends’ experiences with sobriety were short-lived and he had only met one man in Dallas who had a successful recovery story. Thinking back on his conversation with that man, Richard realized he had a problem and something needed to change. He did a quick Google search and found Nova Recovery Center. He was finally going to treatment.
It wasn’t easy convincing his parents that he really did want to go to rehab. He had a long history of lying to them and they were convinced he was just trying to scam them out of their money, but after a brief struggle, his parents agreed to pay for treatment and Richard enrolled in rehab at Nova Recovery Center.
After arriving at Nova, Richard tried to put on an act and pretend like everything was fine. He thought if he made the counselors think he was okay, he would be sent home from rehab early. He could go back to drinking and smoking pot, but he would stop doing meth and everything would be fine.
“I wasn’t familiar with true sobriety. I didn’t realize I had other problems,” he says.
While he was in rehab, Richard worked with several different counselors and staff members, but one of them, in particular, taught him a very valuable lesson.
“[One of the staff members] always used to make stupid jokes and I hated him so much for it. About a month in, my mind started to clear, and I realized I hated him because he was happy, and I wasn’t. I realized drugs weren’t my only problem and there was something much deeper going on,” he says. “The last time I remember being happy was when I was a kid. My unhappiness stemmed from trying to fill a void and not being satisfied with who I am. I’m more aware of it now, but I still struggle with that. I’ve been working on it since I got sober.”
Although he says he truly benefited from the counseling and work he did at Nova, Richard still wasn’t fully committed to his recovery. He moved into a sober living home right after treatment, but only because he didn’t have anywhere else to go. He didn’t necessarily believe that the 12-steps would help him, but he kept working them anyway and felt happier than he had been in a long time.
“I got a sponsor, I was meeting people, going to meetings and getting involved, but I still didn’t have full faith in my recovery. I was doing everything because I was required to, not because it really meant something to me,” he says.
After about a year and a half of being sober, Richard moved out of his sober living home and into a new apartment with some sober roommates. He attended Club 101 meetings and stayed clean, but he was just going through the motions. He realized he was just as unhappy as he had been back when he was actively using, and he knew the moment he moved out and started living on his own he would relapse.
Eventually, he connected with a new sponsor who really challenged him to thoroughly work through the 12-steps again. He also gave him frequent writing assignments that required quite a bit of self-reflection.
“Each step became more involved and more eye-opening. It was something I really needed at that time,” Richard says.
Since Richard’s most recent journey through the 12-steps, he has repaired his relationships with his sister and family members, he has a nephew who has never seen him high or drunk, and he’s motivated to keep moving forward in his life of sobriety because it’s what he wants for himself—not because it’s a requirement.
Richard has been sober for nearly four years now and he says he’s still working to figure out who he is. Every day is a new challenge but he’s okay with that. A current Austin resident, Richard is also a full-time student at Concordia University and a part-time barista at a local coffee shop. He is the Co-Director of Operations on the Austin Roundup Board, an annual LGBT recovery conference, and he has plans to run his first full marathon this summer.
“I’m grateful for my family’s support and I know I will be on my own soon, but despite everything I’ve put them through, they’re still willing to give me a chance,” he says. “My sober friends have seen me at my worst and I can still go to them today for support … If you’re struggling and you’re sober, the thing that I’ve found to be very helpful is to be honest and open. At meetings, just be honest about where you are. It’s uncomfortable, but people who have more time sober than you will share wisdom about how they got through the same things you’re struggling with.”
Richard’s journey to sobriety has been a long and challenging one, but his experience at Nova, his strong relationship with his current mentor, and his 12-step work have all helped him achieve overall happiness and stability in a life of sobriety.
If you’re suffering from addiction like Richard was and you need help, call Nova Recovery Center today. Our 90-day program provides valuable time for healing and in-depth 12-step recovery work that will help you achieve lasting sobriety. Call (512) 605-2955 to learn more about our recovery programs for men and women.