An orange spork scraped the remaining bits of tuna gravy from a plastic meal tray before being stacked on top of others near a massive stainless-steel door.
Wearing an orange jumpsuit and plastic slippers, I ambled back toward my bottom bunk bed and fluffed my wool blanket-turned makeshift pillow. Draping the other wool blanket over myself, I laid down and stared into a concrete wall, wishing I was anywhere else in the world.
After 10 years of fighting a never-ending cycle of drug addiction, this is where I found myself; Pacific County Jail in South Bend, Washington.
As a kid, I never envisioned this is where I’d be at 26-years-old.
Growing up, I’d been a sports fanatic. I had a massive tub full of tattered baseball cards, and I’d memorized all the names and stats. Most of my pictures from childhood have me wearing Seattle Mariners or Seahawks shirts and hats. I never wanted the life I found myself in at 26.
When I first began experimenting with drugs at the age of 15, I never told myself, ‘I want to be a meth addict.” It doesn’t start out like that. I never envisioned that drugs would take over every aspect of my being.
I wanted to be Ken Griffey Jr. I wanted to be Cal Ripken Jr. I wanted to be any junior other than Eric Trent Jr.
My dad, Eric, has been in and out of prison my entire life, never free long enough to build any type of impactful relationship with me. As a result, it festered into the most painful aspect of my life. I resented my dad for never being there for me.
Hanging out at friend’s houses as a kid, I was able to see how fathers interacted with their sons – and I wanted that. I remember standing next to my grandparent’s garage in Menlo, Washington, throwing a tennis ball against the side of the garage with a baseball mitt on, playing catch with myself. All I wanted was a dad to play catch with.
I asked myself for years, “How come he doesn’t want me?”
Through elementary and middle school, I was a troublemaker. Many recesses were spent in the classroom, writing things like, “I will not run in the halls. I will not talk during class” over and over before being allowed outside to recess.
By junior high I was starting to experiment with alcohol and marijuana. After my first time trying each, I was hooked. I had finally found something that alleviated the pain of reality.
By the time I was 21, I was smoking meth and heroin. By 24, I was injecting drugs to get high.
After high school, I worked various commercial fisherman and oyster cannery jobs, no longer than six months at a time each, before succumbing to my addiction, missing work and getting fired. Then the job cycle would start over again.
Coming back from commercial fishing in Bristol Bay, Alaska, during the summer of 2010 is when everything started to spiral out of control. I began injecting drugs.
Before long, I was homeless, broke and my addiction had become a bottomless pit with no way out. I could no longer see the light. I cried myself to sleep at night and remember thinking I would never be able to spend a single day of my life sober ever again. I couldn’t picture it.
The only future for me was drugs, institutions or death. Then something remarkable happened.
I had been on the run from police for three weeks with a felony warrant out for my arrest. One morning while hiding out at a meth house, I made a conscious decision to better my life. I turned myself in. A first for me.
I had finally grown tired of running from the police and not sleeping, eating and showering for days at a time. I finally had enough.
While sitting in county jail for three months and contemplating my decisions and failures at life, I decided I didn’t want spend another day of my life in jail eating tuna gravy for dinner and using the restroom in front of six other men.
On June 3, 2013, on a sunny, Southwest Washington morning, instead of running to the nearest drug dealer like I had done so many times before, I ran, literally, to my grandmother’s.
With a head recently shaved with a one-razor Bic, a three-month long beard and wearing the clothes I had been arrested in, I must have been a scary sight.
On the way to my grandmother’s, I ran into an old using friend who asked, “Are you going to party tonight?”
I kept running to my grandmother’s and never looked back.
Fast forward to 2018.
I’m now a senior journalism student at Western Washington University, where I’m the sports editor for the student newspaper, The Western Front. I was recently hired as managing editor for spring quarter 2018.
During the summers, I’m a quote runner for The Associated Press, conducting post-game interviews at Seattle Mariners home games. I’ve freelanced for newspapers across the country, from The Detroit Press to Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah.
On Thursday, March 8, I covered two Big East Tournament college basketball games at Madison Square Garden, part of the College Media Association’s pre-conference sports workshop.
I no longer need the effects of drugs to get me through the day. Instead of using all my time, energy and resources to find drugs, I push myself to become a better person every morning. Instead of suppressing negative emotions and feelings like I had done for so many years, I face them head on.
My senior year in high school, my English teacher got me a job writing high school football articles for the small local newspaper, The Pacific County Press. That is when I knew I wanted to be a sports writer. I couldn’t imagine anything better than getting paid to watch sports. I still can’t
Some of my earliest memories are of my mother reading to me. That built the foundation for me, and once I started writing, it all started to come together.
My dream is to become a professional sports team beat writer for a major publication.
I will have five years clean and sober on July 6, 2018. I can finally live one day at a time.