Memories I Will Never Escape | James Buckley

Personal Experiences Icon.jpg

“Your decisions are all that’s standing in your way”

Happiness is all I’m really after and I was willing to do anything to get it. Cocaine made me feel like I couldn’t be stopped and it became my reason for living each day. I’ve thrown everything away in the name of what I thought was important more times than I can count. I was asked not to return to two of the three high schools I attended and it wasn’t until I was 22  that I got my GED. When I finished, I went straight to work to support my habits. I started working in a kitchen when I was a teenager and I parlayed that job into a 15 year career in various back of the house positions. I liked cooking, but I stayed because it was where I was finding the dope I needed.


I met my first wife when I was 19 and we hit it off right away because we were both on the dope. While she mostly smoked pot, I took things to the next level. I remember walking the streets of Miami at 4 am looking for the next high. I recall the crimes I committed so I could get whatever was needed that would lead to my next score. I remember my 1 year old daughter watching as I lashed out at my wife in a drunken, drug-fueled rage. These are memories I will never be able to escape. As I look back now, those choices were beyond poor. I should have been a better father, a better husband, and a better person.

One night after binging for days, I burned myself in the kitchen. I had to go to the hospital where the doctor placed an x-ray on the lighted backdrop revealing my NFL football-sized heart on the screen. It was pushing on my rib cage. He said, “I’m not gonna tell you how to live your life, but if you don’t stop doing what you’re doing, you’ll die. Your heart will rupture from abuse and you’ll be gone in about 8 seconds. No one will be able to save you”. It scared the shit out of me. Two days later, I packed everything I owned in a truck and I moved from Miami to East Tennessee. It was the best decision I have ever made. I have been cocaine free for over 13 years. I owe that doctor everything. He saved my life with a simple warning and an x-ray.

In the end, we have to learn to control what we can control and it’s all in the choices we make. Every minute, day, week, month and year. My mother taught me that our choices define us as individuals. She would say it when I would complain about how much I hated my life. “We all make choices in life.” It put the blame square in the center of my actions. Eventually, I started to make better choices, my life improved, and I now have little to complain about. Thank you Mom for that life lesson.

When I walked away from my first wife, I lost my kids in the legal process. My heart breaks to think they sit under the same sky as I do every night wondering where I am and what I’m doing and there’s nothing I can do about it. The kids have decided not to engage with me and I suppose I deserve that. As painful as losing my children was when I got sober, I also lost my Dad to ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. I was unhappy in life so I dove head first into the bottle. This relapse eventually led me to find the powder. However, I got lucky that the cocaine in Tennessee is the worst you can find and I knew I was finished with it forever. It takes a trial to see the relief sometimes.

In some circles, people condemn me to hell. I’ve heard  that some families sit and pray to God that I get ill and die. I’ve wronged so many people in my pursuits for things that I thought were important only to find out it was all nonsense and I should have done something other than what I did. Hindsight's 20/10. I have learned now that none of it really matters. Things are only important for a moment of time, then it passes and we’re onto the next thing. Or maybe we strive for a certain status, only to realize that it’s not real and we just want something else when we get there. All I do know is that one day my kids will come around to ask me the hard questions. Will I be ready for that? Time will only tell. Until that day, I will be a provider for them from a distance, an eye and a heart looking at the same stars because it’s the closest I can get to them.

When I relocated, I was cut off from the environment I was used to. I went from beaches and bikinis, to mountains and moonshine. Separation from the old habits was the best way to get distance from what was clearly killing me. I didn’t have the access I use to have. Because of that fact, I was free to find the person I am without the drugs. I leaned on my family a lot. We spoke often and they assured me that they were very proud of my effort to change. I’d encourage anyone to find someone to talk to as often as possible during detox. I went from talking about the need all the time with my family members to talking about the newfound freedom in a matter of months. I put on weight (a little too much), and I began to spend more time moving forward and finding a path to success. Put all your focus there, and you’ll find success too! Success is my new addiction.

Whatever you might be dealing with, however you’ve had to come through it, whoever supported you and helped you get there, know this- I thank you. I thank you for all that you do in the world that is good and pure moving forward. I thank you for the stories of perseverance you will one day tell your friends and families. I thank you for the choice to change and be better. Strive and provide a valuable contribution to society. Know that you are strong and this to shall pass. Focus on the good and the good will focus on you.

I leave you with this- should you find yourself struggling with grief, loss, addiction, pain, depression, or life’s turmoils have you blinded to what’s important, find me. Choose life. Choose you. Your decisions are all that’s standing in your way.

My name is James and I am UNCrushed.

James Buckley.jpeg

James Buckley

Maryville, TN, USA