Shawn's addictions to drugs and alcohol brought him in contact with acts of violence. Now sober, he works as a motivational speaker for others struggling with substance abuse.
My name is Shawn H. I’m from Cleveland, Ohio. I was born in an urban neighborhood. My mother was a drug addict and an alcoholic. My father was not present. I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol at an early age, marijuana and alcohol. Started experimenting with cocaine at about 14 years old, did not become addicted to it until I was about 16. Between 14 and 16, I smoked crack cocaine with my mother. I smoked crack cocaine with other adults. I hung out with adults, and I ran away from home. By the age of—during that period of time, I was in group homes, foster homes, youth development centers. By the time I turned 18 years old, I was on my way to the penitentiary for drug abuse and breaking and entering. I came home from the penitentiary in 1993. The first day I came home, I immediately got back involved with drugs and alcohol, preferably crack cocaine. After swearing it off for the whole stint of my penitentiary stay, I ended up using cocaine the very first hour that I was back in my old neighborhood.
There were a bunch of great tragedies that happened to me while smoking cocaine. I got stabbed five times with an icepick over some drugs and alcohol that were not mine. I was trying to sell them for someone else. And somebody pulled up in a car and tried to smack the drugs out of my hand. I jumped in the car, and we were wrestling, and I felt him scratch me on my leg, and I felt him scratch me on my chest, and I felt him scratch me on my shoulder. Then I felt him scratch me under my eye. And I grabbed his hands and pinned them to the dashboard, and realized that the scratches I was feeling was actually this man stabbing me an icepick. I had never been stabbed by an icepick before, so that’s what it felt like—scratches. I dove out of the car. I still had three rocks left from what the gentleman had gave me. He saw the interaction of me diving out of the car. I was bleeding, offered to take me to the hospital. While in the hospital, the only thing that I focused on was the fact that I had cocaine in my pocket, and I remember rushing the doctors and nurses out of the emergency room so I could smoke these crack rocks that had blood on them. I put them in an antenna and I lit it with matches and I smoked cocaine—bloody rocks—in the emergency room.
Another incident that I got myself into during this period of time was that I—a guy thought that I had robbed—had him set up to be robbed for some crack cocaine. Him and about nine people came into an apartment, kicked me, stomped me, hit me over the head with a TV, and then they sicked a pit bulldog on me at gunpoint. They allowed this dog to bite all up and down my left arm and then my right arm. Bit a hole in my chin. Bit onto my right ear, ripped my right ear in half. Then they kicked me, stomped me some more, and then they left. After taking this brutal beating, I remember washing my face and I put my hands in my pockets and I had a few more dollars left. And I walked around trying to get some cocaine, disfigured, with my ear hanging off head, and very badly swollen and beaten. That did not—that was not the last time I got high. That was not the lesson that changed my life. It went on for some more years.
In 1994, I attempted to get sober. Sobriety came with a bunch of structure and rules. I was not interested in rules or following rules. So I did not take the suggestions. They told me to go to meetings, and I said, “Why?” They told me to get a sponsor, and I said, “Why?” They told me to read the big book, I said, “Why?” They told me to build a relationship with God, I said, “Why?” I recall that I never asked the guy at the liquor store to give me more information about Jack Daniels, if he was a Christian, or a God-fearing man. I never asked the guy at the liquor store who was Jim Beam, did he have a family. The point is, I did not question anything that was killing me, but when people offered me assistance, I immediately wanted to question and debate and argue with them. So in 1994, I was not successful with staying sober. Sobriety is achieved by those that are willing to listen and follow directions. I was not.
October the fourth in 1995, I was 21 years old. It was my final attempt at attempting to get sober. The difference between ’94 and ’95 is that I was willing to take suggestions. I was willing to listen to other people. I was willing to make sacrifices. So between 1995 and up to this date, I’ve been sober. I’ve been sober 23 years. I am currently an international circuit speaker for Chemical Dependency, Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, motivational speaker. I have spoken in London three or four times. I have spoken in Scotland. I have spoken in Quebec. I’ve been offered to speak in Spain and Sweden. I speak all across the United States, and locally in Ohio at anniversaries and little events.
If I can say anything, between my struggles and my time sober, it would be that recovery is achieved by those desperate enough to follow directions, to do what they’re told, and leave the results up to whatever god that they pray to. The 12 Steps have been the biggest instrument that I’ve used to introduce me to a god of my understanding, and the god of my understanding has helped me or aided me with being sober. What I do today, I spend a lot of time at treatment centers and sober houses, wherever sick people are or people with alcoholism and drug addiction. I try to make myself available so that I can be of assistance to people who probably think that there’s no way of getting off of drugs and alcohol.