The first time I ever got drunk was when I was 9 years old from an anise-flavoured drink we call Aguardiente. I come from a Colombian-born family who immigrated to Southern California and naturally, Colombians love to party. I was a curious kid and I loved how it made me feel, but things escalated.

At age 14 I smoked marijuana, at the age of 19 I tried meth and at the age of 23, I ended up arrested in Idaho on drug charges and was given a two-year sentence. I came from a loving family, my parents worked hard to provide for my siblings and me. After many mistakes, many relapses and hurt, I decided to get into a rehabilitation program.

Recovery was a hard road, but every step of the way was worth so I could get my life back. While I was on recovery there were some things I wish people had known, I would like to share six of them:

I didn’t choose to become addicted

Addiction is a disease that can strike anyone regardless of race, religion, education, sex, income or social class. Some addictions start just by experimenting with a substance once, such as methamphetamine and ecstasy, which are highly addictive.

Plenty of people can develop an addiction over time like prescription pills subscribed by a doctor, or even an addiction to alcohol, which is something given freely in social events. Sometimes just a taste of these drugs or alcohol can start a destructive pattern of abuse no matter who you are or where you come from.

I didn’t want to hurt or disappoint anyone

When I was a heavy user, I wasn’t aware of the repercussions that my actions were making to the loved ones around me. The substances I was using fueled my explosive behavior and my actions, and it took the worst out of me. It was my addiction and I gave into it.

My disease was nobody’s fault, not mine and not my families. My disease can only be controlled and cured by professionals, and I am the only one that can choose to be treated. Most importantly, my family and friends could not control my addiction; it was my disease.

The love, support and encouragement that I received from my loved ones were the things that HELPED me get sober and stay that way.

I want to move on from my past instead of hearing about it during recovery

Reliving and dwelling on all my past mistakes during rehab was counterproductive. Focusing on a new, healthy life is what helped me become sober. Coming to terms with my past and trying to make amends for any harm that I had caused to myself and my loved ones became an essential part of my recovery process.

The person I am TODAY is because I worked for it and bringing up my past as if nothing changed will only cause me to feel resentment.

I was still ME underneath my addiction

Society is quick to label people with addiction ”drunk”, “junkie”, “druggie”, “alcoholic.” I never wanted to be defined by my disorder; the addiction disease puts a person’s body through physical and mental turmoil and disturbs their normal needs and desires’ hierarchy.

Nevertheless, I was sick and I was still the same person underneath it all. During and after treatment, my true self began to shine through again; I still had hopes, dreams, goals, regrets and feelings just like any other person.

I am always going to struggle with addiction

I relapsed once after entering into a rehab facility in Idaho and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Struggling with addiction after recovery is an everyday battle. I’ve been proudly sober for 5 years now but there’s always temptations around whether it’s people innocently offering you a drink at a party or having a bad day that can trigger up some old emotions.

Regular meetings with my AA sponsor helps me to focus on how far I’ve come and how new opportunities that have come into my life leave me with so much gratitude for my progress. I will always struggle not to let my history repeat itself.

I will always need support

Millions of people around the world need but do not receive treatment. These statistics show that addiction is a major problem and cannot be ignored. The love and support that I received from my family and friends were my personal guardian angel of the time and to this day, I still need their encouragement to ensure that I stay on the right path.

Feeling loved and supported provides you with more than just the reason to get sober for yourself, but also to make your loved ones proud of how far you’ve come.

Getting sober was not easy by all means, but with these 6 things that I wish people knew at the time, it would have been a great help to my recovery. Do you have a loved one that’s going through a tough time? Let us know in the comment section if there’s anything else you can suggest to help others understand the road to addiction.