"I don’t want to quit. But you should. You have a problem." Faces Of Recovery: Bruce Rauma

In tenth grade history class a friend of mine leaned over during a lecture and asked me if I wanted to buy a joint. 

Having never seen marijuana before and brought up in an athletic focused family, I hesitated to answer him.  But then he said some magic words.  He said “I’ll sell you two for five bucks.”  Because that was exactly how much I had in my pocket for lunch money that week, I thought I’d try spending it on something other than the typical cafeteria food and work my way around lunch that week.  Later that day, I skipped track practice and went in the back of the parking lot behind school and smoked my marijuana with some other friends for the very first time.  Honestly, it did nothing for me.  My friends told me that it always took one good time to get in the system and then from there it would be awesome. 

The next day I went to see my friend in history class again.  I asked if he still had the bargain two for five deal going and he said “of course!”  He said that if I ever wanted any more than just the special deal I could get as much as I wanted.  The second time around was the first experience I’d had being “high” and that was the front door into what I now label as “the life.”

After tenth grade and several special days behind school I developed a new set of friends.  People who didn’t run track or play hockey, but they were people who were always known as the outcasts.  The kind of people that on the playing field I’d look at and deem a burnout/scrub/loser.  I had become one of them, and I loved it.  As long as someone had some marijuana they were my friend.  This new set of friends raised my popularity with so many people in school.  I had the jocks and pretty girls as friends and now I had this whole new group that were interested in more than excelling.  I had become one of the most popular people in school.  That lasted until the day I threw my cap and tassels in the air on graduation day.

Marijuana became my life.  As long as I could get high, I was having a good day.  I was smoking at least three times a day.  The more I could get high the better.  And if I could find it for free, that was better yet.  I went to obscure places to find marijuana.  Parks, people’s basements, long trips out of town, anywhere that marijuana could be found, I was there buying and smoking more.  Pot made my voice scratchy and intense!  It lead to three years of a garage rock band where I lead the vocals and played keys at backyard parties.  Booze, drugs, fist fights and women went with this life and it was good.  As long as we had a show, we were getting high and drinking and fighting for all kinds of new relationships with girls.

Along with the lifestyle marijuana offered, other drugs came with it.  LSD, cocaine, crank, speed, hash all became part of my life because as any good marijuana smoker knows, you can’t always find marijuana, so you take what you can get.   The good news was that I had turned 21 so I could legally go to bars and drink to fill the void when absolutely no drugs were available.

Pretty soon, drugs became too much work.  Making sneaky appointments to go to a basement to buy something that really didn’t do what it did the first time around was exhausting.  One night a friend asked if I’d come over and have a few beers and smoke some pot I took about ten hits of pot when my heart started skipping beats.  It freaked me out so badly that I actually ran to my parent’s home just a few blocks away.  I can only imagine what they thought when they opened the door to see my blood shot eyes, wreaking of smoke.  We all sat in their living room with my feet elevated watching “The sound of music.”  That was the last time I used drugs.

Alcohol was my focus.  It was the one thing that didn’t freak me out, I could find it easily and there were so many choices.  I could buy it at a store and drink at my home, go to a club and drink while checking out the ladies, even get as many beers as I wanted at a ball game.  I drank daily, even at lunch break during work.  In fact, on my lunch break I would race to a liquor store and buy a six pack of beer, slam the beers in the parking lot of a fast food taco shop, get four soft shells and pound them down, smoke a cigarette and throw some eye drops in my eyes and I was good to go for the second half of my shift. 

In any of this story did I explain the ramifications that went with the life?  Maybe it’s because I don’t really want to remember the pain.  To sum up: 3 DWI’s, a head-on collision, multiple oak trees eaten by the front end of my cars, no real authentic relationships to speak of, no money, repossessions of vehicles, loneliness, waking up in every imaginable place on earth, all to end up without hope and meaning in life.  Suicide actively crossed the path of my life, but I never had courage to end it all.

After the third DWI and a minimal amount of sobriety, I went deer hunting with some friends.  My friends said they were going to sit in their tree stands and encouraged me to come in after a while and try to mill about in the woods in hopes I’d kick up something for them to shoot.  They left and before I left the cabin I poured a 64 oz. cup with gin.  I put a splash of tonic water and an ice cube on the top and slammed it down.  Then I went for a walk.  I had a rifle and a cigar.  I did not have the essentials:  compass, rope, knife, more bullets, flash light.  9:00 that evening they found me meandering around the woods in a t-shirt and sweat pants in 10 degree weather.  This was it!  I was done.

When I got home I went to treatment.  The very first night of treatment I planned accordingly, just like I had every evening before, and I had a case of beer and a bottle waiting for me in case the treatment thing didn’t work out. 

Treatment ended and I slammed 8 beers before even pulling into the driveway at my house.  I don’t remember my last beer but I remember this last time being drunk.  As I sat in the kitchen of my townhome in a pool of vomit, I looked at my roommate and told him I had to quit.  He said, “You know Bruce, I don’t want to quit.  But you should.  You have a problem.  And if you want to quit, look in the mirror tomorrow and tell yourself you’re a good man.  That you’re worthy of a good life.  That just for today, you won’t have a drink.”  I didn’t realize it then, but I do now that those were the wisest words I could hear.  I’ve been telling myself those words every day for over 15 years.

Recovery has been the foundation of who I am.  I attend meetings regularly.  I started speaking at meetings and leading new groups.  As I attended and lead, I realized God was doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself.  Jesus had knocked on the door of my heart for years and I blew him off.  I invited him in on a set of railroad tracks one day having been challenged to give my life to him.  He took over my heart and told me that if I live a life for him, he’d show me the best high I’d always searched for.  He was right!  Eventually, He made me a pastor at a church.

 After 14 months of sobriety, I met my beautiful wife.  She had children and I fell in love with all of them.  I’ve adopted my girls and the most beautiful part of our story is that my kids have never had to see me drunk.  They’ve never dealt with mom and dad fighting over who drank the last of the whiskey in the liquor cabinet. 

Today, I lead a recovery group.  People of all shapes and sizes and addictions walk in every week and I’m so blessed to be the hands and feet of Jesus to all of them.  We get together as a family and as I commit to live a life for them and Jesus, I know that at anytime they are always there for me.  My life today is dedicated to helping others and I do it all for Jesus and he was right, it is the best high a person could ever have.