THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
(Editor’s note: This is the last of a year-long monthly series about how alcohol and drug addiction affects the community and how those affected work to achieve a better life.)
Edward Davis has been a busy man this year. He is taking classes at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus and pulling straight As, working a job on campus, spending time with his kids and family, and most importantly, staying clean and sober.
This time last year, Davis was finishing a six-month stint at the New Mexico Men’s Recovery Academy in Los Lunas. He was counting down the days to his release from the program and returning to the “real world.”
During his time at the academy, Davis learned how to cope with stress that previously would have sent him on a drug-seeking path. He learned about the impact his behavior and his choices had on his family and friends.
But even with all that knowledge, Davis still wasn’t sure he’d be a free man for long.
“I didn’t think I would be here,” Davis says, sitting at the dining room table at his brother’s Los Lunas home.
He drinks straight from a three-liter bottle of generic root beer as he explains.
“Life’s hard. And the hardest thing for me was living by myself,” he said.
After his release from the academy, Davis was able to rent an apartment in Los Lunas from a man who believed in giving people a second chance. But idle time alone made Davis nervous, so he moved in with his brother, Armondo Holguin, and his fiancé, Miranda Loo.
“I keep busy with friends or family. I’m worried if I don’t find something to fill the time, I will sit here and start to regret stuff, and it will all build up,” he said.
And he sees that build up leading one place — relapse.
So he stays busy, washing and waxing his car, taking motorcycle trips with family to places such as Chimayo, joining a local car club and handing out candy during the city of Belen and village of Los Lunas Christmas light parades.
Davis also stays busy by spending as much time as he can with his children. While they are a source of great joy for him, they were also part of the reason he wasn’t sure he could stick with sobriety and stay out of jail.
“Part of the reason I didn’t think I’d be here was the relationship with my kids,” he said.
When Davis was using meth, he lost any connection with his children and their mother. He was worried he would have a hard time rebuilding the relationship with his children.
“Would my baby-mama make it hard?” he said he wondered. “But it’s been great. I have regular visits and she and I work together to coordinate schedules. It’s been helpful to have them; it’s contributed to lower stress.”
Another source of worry for Davis was being on probation for the next 18 months after his release from the academy. A frequent guest of adult probation and parole in the past, Davis wasn’t sure how it would go this time around.
“Since I was such a (expletive) up back in the day, I wasn’t sure how my parole officer would treat me. Was my PO going to give me a fair shake?” he said. “Now I can honestly say, they are here to help. If you follow the rules and do what you need to do, things go fine. Who knew?”
He laughs and shakes his head.
And who knew Davis was a straight-A student. Not him, that’s for sure. He had copies of his permanent file from elementary school. Reading through the documents, the word “aggressive” is used a lot, it is noted that he needs constant supervision, someone to watch him, that he has a learning disability.
“Hearing all that, I thought I’d never go to college,” he says.
Instead he enrolled at UNM-VC and got into the TriO program, a federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.
And thanks to TriO, Davis found his learning style.
“I can’t read a book and do a worksheet very well, but if I do something hands on, I pick it up like that,” he says, snapping his finger.
After two semesters and a summer session at the local campus, Davis has earned nothing less than an A. And that is due to the supportive people at the college, he said.
“A big things is all the people at the college. Valencia County has a little secret up there — there are good people located at the school,” Davis said. “A lot of times people are fast to judge. I’m a felon and everybody at the VC knew and didn’t judge.”
Those high academic marks have earned Davis not only a sense of accomplishment but also cash in the form of scholarships to continue his education.
At the UNM-VC scholarship recognition reception in October, Davis received a $10,000 STEM scholarship, a UNM-VC student government scholarship for $400 and a $500 scholarship from Sandia National Laboratory/Lockheed Martin.
Knowing his time at UNM-VC is limited, Davis has started looking at other schools to continue his education. He has decided he wants to transfer to New Mexico Tech in Socorro and enter its petroleum engineering program. But he has some conditions.
“The first question I asked at Tech was, ‘How do you treat your felons here?’” he says with a laugh.
But he is serious. Davis makes no bones about who he is and his past.
“She said that unless I’m a registered sex offender, it’s all good,” he said.
During his visit to Tech, Davis found two things about the school that convinced him going there is the right move.
“They have a cafeteria to die for,” he says with a huge grin.
Food quality aside, Davis said the way Tech approaches teaching fits perfectly with his learning style.
“They way they do things is excellent for me — there’s classwork and hands on things too,” he said. “I’ve learned the way I learn is by doing and there they do both all at once.”
During a tour of the petroleum department, Davis got to see a simulation of an oil rig in one of the classrooms.
“I fell in love with it,” he says with a kid-in-a-candy store grin.
Davis is excited to take on the challenges of Tech, and he has a plan to avoid failure. He makes it a point to check in with his professors at least once a week to see how he is doing in class, making sure he is keeping up with his grades and the workload.
“I don’t let it get to the point where there’s a week left in the semester and I’m failing,” he said. “I always keep an A in the class so even if I bomb the final, I will still pass.”
But what if the best laid plans go awry and he fails anyway?
“Well guess I’ll quit and get a job,” he says, grinning.
It’s a far better answer than the alternative of going back to getting high.
Davis said the biggest change he has seen in himself and that others have seen is simply his knowledge of things.
“Being able to go to college, being proud of nothing more than a good grade, my expectations about what I want out of life,” he said. “That’s all changed. I want to do the right thing.
“Used to be, if I wanted something, I would sit on my ass and get high until it happened. Now, if I want something I know I have to do this and this and this and 1,000 more things and then maybe, next year, I can do it,” he said. “All this makes me want to succeed. I spent a lot of my life making money illegally and I lost it quick. Now I want to do what’s right and be successful so I can do all the things I like.”
As Davis sits and sips on his root beer, you can see some of the things he likes scattered throughout his brother’s house. There are pictures of his kids up on the wall and underneath the Christmas are a lot of presents wrapped in “SpongeBob SquarePants” wrapping paper.
“I told people this year, if they want to get something for me, get it for my kids,” he said.
A year ago, he was decorating cookies at the recovery academy during family day. Now he’s sitting in a home shared with his brother, full of Christmas cheer and a the warm crackle of the fireplace.
As the year comes to an end, Davis is enjoying his winter break from classes. But there is still the need to keep busy. He and his brother have taken up jogging to get tuxedo ready for Holguin’s wedding next summer.
Davis keeps true friends close and has set aside those who aren’t.
“There are people waiting for me to fail,” he said. “I don’t talk to them no more.”
He hopes to meet someone special someday, but is willing to wait for somebody he can have sober, clean fun with.
“The dating scene is hard when you’re sober,” he says with a laugh.
And while he is sober and now a jogger, he hasn’t given up all his vices. When asked if he’s quit smoking, Davis gives a little smile and throws you a side-eye glance.
It’s just one more thing to be conquered on his continuing road to recovery. And in the end, there’s really only one thing that matters. Is he happy?
“Yeah. Life’s great,” Davis said with a genuine, life-affirming grin.
-- Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.