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14 Years Later

Updated: Jun 26, 2020


| This is the 412th story of Our Life Logs |


I was born in 1970 to a poor, but hardworking family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My childhood was normal, you could say, except that my parents worked all the time and barely had time for me. Without them, home was lonely.

Luckily, I had a best friend named Stephen whom I’d known for most of my childhood. We had many adventures and shenanigans together. Unfortunately, both Stephen and I were influenced easily by peers and couldn’t quite stay out of mischief.

When Stephen and I were in the fifth grade, we tried smoking pot together for the first time. It happened one day after school while we were walking along the railroad tracks with nothing better to do. Two big eighth-graders walked up to us with joints in hand and offered us a few hits. We didn’t want to look like losers, not in front of those guys at least, and we took it. That marked the beginning of a vicious cycle of toxicity that lasted decades.

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All through high school, my friend and I used anything we could get our hands on. There wasn’t a weekend that went by where we weren’t on one drug or another. If my boys and I didn’t have drugs to use at a party we wouldn’t even bother showing up. I was pretty good at hiding my addiction so, my parents didn’t find out until I graduated high school. I guess that’s the benefit of having phantom parents; it wasn’t hard to hide something from them since they barely paid attention to me.

My grades suffered as a result and I didn’t accomplish much of anything, as my entire high school life was a blur. Knowing that I wouldn’t get accepted into any decent four-year college, I decided to go to a local community college. I chose the easiest major for me, which was English, so I didn’t have to study much. That gave me a lot of extra time to meet new people.

I met a guy who had access to meth and I would get it on a regular basis. I loved the feeling of being able to take meth all night and into the next day. After about two years of using (this was around 1990), my meth friend went to prison for beating up someone who owed him money. Without him around, I had to switch to coke as my drug of choice.

I recently found out that that guy died from an overdose several years ago.

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Nearly a decade went by and my addiction was draining all my money…at this point, I barely had enough money to put gas in my car. Now, I had a steady job in masonry, but it was almost impossible for me to show up after a bender of drugs and alcohol. For the most part, I was no different than other addicts. I could function just to feed myself and my addictions.

Many times while in a drunken state of mind, I would think about what my life would be like if I was not an addict, what could I accomplish with a sober mind and a purpose in life? I’d imagine having a big house, a fancy car, a beautiful wife and kids… Ever since I was young, I wanted to be in a business where I had freedom of time to live the life I want, but I had been high for so long I forgot what it was like not to be high on something.

Rehab and detox were not for me because I was too proud to reach out for help. I decided my addiction was going to be cured by my own abilities. I got sober twice, once for 60 days and another time for 40 days. But there was always a tiny voice in my head that said, “You’ll be back and you know it.” For a while, it was right.

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One day in 1997 at the Jersey Shore, I met a beautiful girl at a river bar. Her name was Emilia. We hit it off that night and it became a whirlwind courtship. As our relationship progressed, I did not stop my addictions. I just got better at hiding them. I feared that if she knew, then she would leave, and I could never let that happen.

Me, c. 2002.
Me, c. 2002.

Unfortunately, being a user makes you a selfish person. By the time Emilia found out my secret, we were totally in love. When she asked me about it, I assured her that I had it under control, but of course, I didn’t. She believed it, just like anything else I said. Three years later, Emilia and I got married and moved into a house. I started my own masonry company and it looked like I had the ideal life…on the surface.

Unfortunately for my wife, my addiction got out of hand as more and more money came in. Because I spent all the money we had earned, we barely had any savings. Many times, I would disappear for the night and return the next morning intoxicated. Each time she lost some more trust in me, sometimes she would even leave me with a stubborn threat. But every time, I sobered up and assured her I had it under control. And every time, she would believe me…only for me to betray her trust once more. I could tell that she was getting fed up with me, but my addiction needed fed and I always believed that she would come back.

And then, she got pregnant.

With a child to protect, Emilia got much more serious about our relationship. About leaving me. About drawing a line in the sand and standing her ground. Little did I know that my wife had already spoken with her family about raising our unborn child with her parents. Even still, I couldn’t snap into the man I wished I was. I still made half-hearted promises and set fragile goals only to watch them break.

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But then it all changed on February 8, 2005. I worked early that morning and finished with the masonry business for the day a little before 11 AM. With the last $80 to my name, I went down to the bars and started partying, knowing full well I just had to be back home by 4.

My wife arrived home from her job around 4:15 PM so we could go to her ultrasound appointment. She opened the door expecting me to be ready, only to see her husband in a state of intoxication. I remember asking her if she’s ready to see the doctor. She looked at me and said, “You’re a disgrace and you’re not going anywhere with me.” She turned around and walked away.

When the door slammed behind her, I remember thinking, now I can go back out and party without the hassle.

I went upstairs to the bathroom to look in the mirror. I never liked looking in the mirror when I was intoxicated because I knew what it looked like and I didn’t need a reminder. But for some reason, I did look. And I looked different. I waited for the little ugly voice that always seemed to rear its head and scream, “Come back for another!” But it was silent.

All of a sudden, a warm feeling came over me starting from the top of my head to my shoulder blades. It was a moment that I’ll never forget because it truly felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. In the pink-tiled bathroom, I saw myself for who I could be. A new father. A good husband. Someone who could make a difference.

And when I thought of Emilia at the appointment by herself, a deep hurt took over. For the first time in a long time, I felt so selfish. That’s when I knew that my addiction didn’t have control over me any longer.

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When Emilia was done with the doctor’s appointment, she came home to me sitting on the couch. I did not speak, but instead I sat there thinking about how I was going to get her to believe in me again. I knew she was at her breaking point and I thought my actions would speak volumes more than the I lies I created.

The following morning, February 9, 2005, was my first clean day in almost 14 years. This was the day I turned all my energy into making a new life for me and my family. And from that moment on, I never turned back.

Not only did I stop using drugs or alcohol, but I decided to eat clean too. I began exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet of carbs, protein, and vegetables. I made sure that I was a new man before my first child was born.

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I got my wife and our unborn child back. As of today, my wife and I now have three children and I have made sure that they learn the good habits of mine. I don’t hide my past from my kids, but after 14 years of being clean and sober, they’ve only met the best version of their dad. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


This is the story of Will Yau

Will resides in Brooklyn, New York with his family. Starting in the fifth grade, Will became a drug user. Being young, impressionable and not wanting to be a loser, he saw no other way of life. It was fun for the first few years, but it started to affect his academics, leading him down a path of mediocrity. As an adult, his addiction started to take a toll on his job and relationship with his wife. He was about to lose his family until one fateful day when he stared at himself in the mirror and decided to make a change. Today Will is a sober and happy father of three.

Will, 2018.
Will, 2018.


This story first touched our hearts on September 9, 2019.

| Writers: Will Yau, Colleen Walker |

To protect the privacy of the storyteller and those involved in this retelling, some of the names may have been changed. (1)
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