Many who struggle with addiction die or go to prison. Yet, sometimes miracles occur. These are the stories of those miracles
The legendary DJ Cruse tells us how he found his way into addiction recovery
My name is DJ Cruse. I’ve been sober since 2/22/18. So that’s just a little less than two and a half years my man. I’m 39 years old.
I never wanted to be sober before I tried. And September 19th, 2011 was the first time I… No, let me take that back. Two months before September 19, 2011, I decided that I wanted to change. And I didn’t know what that changed was. I knew I wanted to change. Sober for two months. Fell off the wagon for a day. September 19th, 2011 became my original sobriety date. And I was sober until 2015. I thought I could drink like a gentleman and it didn’t work that way.
And when I fell off the wagon, again, I didn’t want to be sober. And then one day I ended up back in… I was on parole as a matter of fact, and my parole officer told me that my life had become unmanageable. And once again I… for the very first time I felt embarrassed. I think I felt embarrassed for not being sober.
2/22/18, I had found myself incarcerated on a technical parole violation. And I was in Maricopa Reentry Center here in Phoenix, Arizona. And I really didn’t know what I wanted my life to look like, but I knew what I didn’t want it to look like. And so I was surrounded by a bunch of guys that may or may not have wanted to be sober. May or may not have wanted a different way of life.
When I found myself, I wanted a different way of life. And I met one individual who looked like he had it going on. He looked like he knew what he wanted in life. And he had purpose and his purpose was to carry the message to another alcoholic or addict that still suffered. I met [Justin Benjamin 00:00:02:57] at Maricopa Reentry Center in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s a reentry center for men that are reintegrating back into society from usually spending a lengthy, a period of incarceration here in the Department of Corrections in Arizona.
And they’re attempting to reintegrate us into a civil society. And most of us that were incarcerated, are incarcerated or were at one point incarcerated have issues with substance abuse and alcohol abuse. And I met Justin there, the reentry center and he was like… He asked me if I wanted a new way of life. And he told me briefly about it a better way. And pretty much I told him, “Let’s not talk about it. Let’s be about it.”
And he introduced me to one person who introduced me to another person. He introduced me to my sponsor, right? He introduced me to my sponsor through way of a 12 step workshop. In this 12 step workshop that… He invited a whole group of giants from the 12 Step Community here in Phoenix, Arizona. Man, who all came there. There was about 20 men I met at once. And [Esther Wallace 00:00:04:47] was one year on one. [Glen Campbell 00:00:04:46] was another. [Cam H 00:04:47] was another.
[Dirty Suboxone Mike 00:00:04:52] was another and [Boombox Billy 00:04:59]. A whole group of just big personalities that were just booming with life. And they had the shine about them. [Jay Alias 00:00:05:10]. All these guys that had a dirty wrecked past, came in to share a little bit about their story. They shared on step one, they shared on step two, three, four. And the funny thing about this 12 step workshop is I had previously had a bad experience in 12 Step Community, not in the first step or the second or, or any of the 12.
It was the 13th step that almost got me like walked right out the program 10 to 15 years ago. And when Justin posed the idea or pitched the idea of having this 12 step workshop in the reentry center, they were almost opposed to the 12 step program, right?
For whatever reason, they weren’t preaching it, weren’t promoting it. And he’s like he worked really hard to get permission for all these giants in the community to come in. And when he got it to come in, all of a sudden, and then the residents, the guys they’re like, “Oh yeah. 12 step workshop, all day under the awning. No, I’m out.” And Justin was like, “DJ, you have a lot of influence with the guys. You care, no denying that.”
He goes, “How about you go out there? And you pump these guys nuts up and you get them ready and show up and show out, because I went through a lot to get these guys in here.” I’m like, “Okay.” And I wasn’t even too sure about the 12 step program at this point in time. But I went out there on that little tiny yard and sold as many wolf tickets as I could to get these guys to show up. And show up they did.
And we just one man after another got up there and shared their personal experience with steps one through 12. And when that individual, that closed up that 12th step, who happened to be… turned out to be a great mentor of mine. He pulled out his card and he says, “Here, man. Here’s my card. Maybe you’ll work for me someday.”
And you know what, that happened, man. And that changed my life. And I can’t tell you if it… how it really happened. But I remember taking a walk with him around that little yard. And whether I got down on my knees or I didn’t, in my memory, and in the way I tell the story, I got down on one knee and I asked that guy to be my sponsor, right? And I’m like. He’s like, he looked down at me.
He says, “What are you, what are you doing, man? Get up.” And I’m like, “Man, will you be my sponsor. And I just want to show you how serious I am about this man.” And I told him a little bit about my spiritual experience. Man, I had the visions while I was studying epiphanies in the Department of Corrections. And I had this vision of this eagle at some point in time. And I shared with him the vision of the eagle. I shared with them my spiritual experience and what I wanted in life and what I didn’t and how I was… Man. How I was just chasing that light man and how I was like, “I’m an eagle. I’m an eagle.”
And he was like, he looked at me kind of secretively. And he goes, “We’ve been waiting for you.” And at that point in time, I may or may not have been still coming out of some toxic psychosis. And it was like, “This is where you’ll win. This is where… They’ve been waiting for me. They’ve been waiting for me.” And so all of a sudden I had that magical feeling that every alcoholic or drug addict wants. Is that feeling of being a part of something greater than themselves.
And that man looked in my eyes and I looked at him eye to eye, and I knew that he knew the solution. And he told me he was going to… He told me to master that game and read the big book. And if I could get through that book, I needed to know that book, because he said I was going to sponsor a bunch of men. And I was like, “Man, I am going to sponsor a bunch of men.” And he allowed me just a brief moment of hope and hugged me. And I knew that there was solidarity and trust and love. In that moment. I knew that that my life could be different if I just walked the way that he showed me.
And I know there’s a lot of individuals out there living in a different type of lifestyle and they’re trusting the wrong people. And if anybody that’s ever gone to war, put in work out in the streets or even had a boss that they were loyal to and their boss said, “Go do this.” And they’re like, “Yes, sir.”
And they go run off and they go do it. Man, everybody, most people like direction and like being told what to do and like being… just like knowing for sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do it and how they did it. And they’d like to know that they did it well. Well, through the sponsorship, through a solid sponsor, somebody that I’ve perceived as somebody that was solid and they had a bigger personality than me. I was like somebody that I was willing to trust and almost willing to die for it because this man was willing to share his time, his experience and belief.
He believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. He told me “We’ve been waiting for you.” And it was just… I had this moment of clarity and I saw the eagle again, man. And I saw the light and I felt the warmth and I felt the love. And you know what? Through 12 step recovery, I found a whole community of men that are broken and maimed, feel empty. And today my sponsor tells me “DJ, we’re all sick. But the glory of it is we ain’t all got to be sick on the same day, so that way we help each other.”
And today I do something that’s called, staying in the middle. I call my sponsor every day. And around three to five times a week. At Least three. And during these what they call uncertain times, the COVID-19 era. Man, most meetings are closed. Most meeting halls are shut down. People feel some type of way about meeting in person. And thank goodness. My phone number is out there in circulation because I got people that are calling me from every treatment center across the valley.
And I stay sober just answering my phone. I got, I don’t know how many. I got four to six guys in the book right now, I’ve never seen their face. And I’m going all over the valley in search of meetings where we can meet face to face. One day I’m in Chandler. Another day I’m in a Peoria. Another day I’m in Scottsdale. And I’m just really thankful that today I got a truck that I can fill up the gas tank and just go. And it takes me there. And I really lean into God, my higher power today.
And the adventure of this 12 step program is really a life of adventure. I never know where I’m going to be. If you’re thinking about getting sober and if you’re thinking about a new life in recovery, I would say jump, jump right now because we’ve tried every other way. And if you’re thinking about it, go for it, pull the trigger, Nike, just do it, baby. And just do it right now. And get a sponsor. Get a sponsor and allow somebody the privilege just full-heartedly allow them the privilege of taking you through the steps.
And if you can… We’ve tried everything. Generally, if we wanted to get sober, we’ve tried everything. So just try this, try it one time, go through the whole 12 steps, fully, fearlessly, honestly and rigorously. And if it doesn’t work for you, okay. But try it, just get this. You owe it to yourself, to your life, to your family, to your loved ones, to your heart and your soul. That empty spot inside of you deserves to be filled.
And if you have ever… You know that feeling. If you know that feeling and you would like the opportunity to fill it, get a sponsor, work the steps and help another addict.