Hi, I’m Vernon Magsino and I’m from Chicago.
I was 15 years old and I was in my sophomore year of high school. I went to a Catholic Jesuit high school. It was one morning, I was on my way to class and I was passing by the football field and I saw the guys practicing. It was the first time in my life where I’m like, “Wait a minute – why am I thinking of those boys in a different way than most other people were?” I thought I should be looking at the cheerleaders who are rehearsing right next to them, but I’m finding myself attached to them, to the boys that are practicing. And I thought to myself – maybe I am gay? That was the very first time in my life I thought about that.
That same morning, I went to scripture class. My teacher got up at the podium and told us, “Today, we’re going to talk about Sodom and Gomorrah.” My hands shook – I had to shake onto my desk, thinking whatever I thought this morning – maybe I thought I was gay. What do I do now? Who do I talk to? I can’t tell anybody.
In college, drugs came into the picture. I got kicked out because my grades were failing. I end up moving back here to Chicago to my parents’ house, getting a $7 per hour retail job being a cashier because that’s all I was capable of doing because in the evenings, I was still doing drugs, on the weekends, still doing drugs, and living the basement of my parents’ house, thinking that that was going to be my life.
On December 30th, 2002, I went to an after hours party, I went there like I normally do to my friend’s place, you know, just going to hang out. One of my friends came over and he told us, “Hey, guess what, guys? I have something new!” It was crystal meth. At the time, they called it Tina. So I did it and it felt amazing.
New Year’s Eve was the next day so we were going to a party at a hotel in downtown Chicago. The next night – I’d been awake for 40 hours. I hadn’t slept in 40 hours because of this new drug that I just tried. Because it made me feel like Superman, I thought I could tell anybody anything,
At the stroke of midnight, I jumped on the table and I told everybody when it rang 12, “Guess what, everybody? I’m gay!” I had spent nine years hiding the fact that I was gay and now I’m out. I’m out to everybody.
I only used drugs at first because things were going great. But then things were not going so great. It got a point where I OD’d. I OD’d on crystal meth and other drugs on January 31st of 2005. At that point after, I became so dismal with my life. I became powerless over crystal meth. I didn’t care at that point if I lived or died. I didn’t want to use, but only thing I knew what to do was use.
It got to the point where I was living with this guy here in Chicago. I hadn’t slept in 17 days. I passed out on the couch. He proceeds to, while I was sleeping, to call my parents in the middle of the night, demanding them to put him up in a hotel because the FBI was after him because of me. My parents removed me from that situation and brought me back to their house. I woke up the very next day and they brought me to treatment.
At the treatment center, one of the things that the intake person said, “Why are you here?”
I said five simple words, “I don’t want to die.” I’m in there for a few days. They teach me about how to live my life, how to have safety, security, well-being. My treatment center started telling me that I need to start getting support groups outside of the treatment center because I was only going to be there for four weeks.
So I started going to my support groups. When I went to start meeting other guys, when I went to my first meeting, and I met thirty gay men who were not using drugs and/or crystal meth, that literally shattered my thought. Maybe there is something to sobriety. Maybe there is something to my treatment, what my counselors have been telling me.
The capacity for me to become sober is a gift, is a God-given gift. I have a right to live.
So now I’ve been sober for twelve years. Exactly four-thousand, six-hundred and twenty-six days. And those are four-thousand, six-hundred and twenty-six miracles.
That drug addict, or alcoholic, or if you don’t even know you are, there are so many ways to get sober. If you need help or you’re seeking help, there is a way, there is recovery. There are ways you can not pick up and that’s the message that I want to send out today.