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Gary Wilson
We Do Recover

Thanks to being in recovery I get to see the world with a new set of eyes.

My life as a child was not one you would call very stable. My household was very tense as a kid. I moved around a lot growing up, never staying in the same school very long. There was a lot of screaming and yelling at home, as well as physical and verbal abuse. When I was six years old, I was sexually abused by someone who was very close to me. All of this left me feeling very sad, scared and uncomfortable in my own skin. I constantly was looking for a way out, whether it be a collection or a video game. Later, I found baseball, which did something for me that nothing else could. I felt right there in the moment when I played, and I loved it. Baseball gave me friends and a sense of purpose like nothing else had before. I wanted to be the best at it, so I played all the time.

I had the disease of alcoholism way before I put a drink or a drug in my body.

Once I started something that took me out of myself I couldn’t stop until the next best thing came my way. I took my first drink of booze in the basement of my friend’s house in 8th grade. It felt magical because it took all the negative thoughts and feelings that I had and covered them up. I could finally be the person that I always wanted to be, confident, attractive and funny. People finally liked me, and that’s all I ever wanted. That first drink turned to two drinks, which then turned to 10 drinks. Throwing up, waking up the next morning feeling like death and then wanting to do it all over again.

They say alcoholism is a progressive disease and now I understand why.

I chased that feeling of the first drink for 11 more years until I no longer wanted to live. At first, I drank occasionally, but then it turned into every weekend while smoking pot throughout the week. This cycle repeated throughout high school, and I thought it was the normal thing to do. I was an all-state baseball player and got away with partying while still being able to perform on the field, so I thought everything was alright. It didn’t occur to me that not knowing where I was when I woke up was abnormal. I ended up getting a scholarship to the University of Tennessee to play baseball, and I finally felt free. I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to do it. I was showing up drunk and high to class, study hall, practice and games. Even when I knew I shouldn’t be using, I couldn’t stop. I ended up leaving the University of Tennessee, running from my problems after one semester, just like any good alcoholic would.

I transferred to community college and got injured while pitching, leaving me out of the game for a year. By this point, I was drinking every day. By 20 years old I was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis and had four surgeries on my stomach. The doctor told me I could never drink again and I listened. The sick part was, I thought opiates and ecstasy wouldn’t be a problem. I continued to get high, and my life went further into a downward spiral. I wasn’t playing baseball anymore, even though I loved it so much. It was just me locked up in a one bedroom apartment, hiding from the world.

On March 7th, 2014 I had enough. I stopped doing drugs and started going to AA, but that wasn’t enough. After 100 days of abstinence, I was suicidal again, and I knew I needed rehab. I went to a drug rehab in south Florida for four months and then a recovery house for another three months. It was the best thing I could have done for myself. I learned so much there, and I have been sober ever since. My life after rehab is the opposite of how I used to live. I now have loving relationships with my family, a good job in construction, a loving girlfriend, a house I can call my own and a bunch of friends.

My favorite part about being in recovery is I get to help people.

I used to be worried only about myself, but now I am constantly thinking about others and doing what I can to give a gift that was so graciously given to me. Since getting sober, I have started The Peace of Mind Project, a resource for amateur athletes struggling with addiction and mental health issues. I can relate to what they experience, and I don’t want anyone to have to feel the way I did when I was an amateur athlete. I couldn’t be more grateful today.

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