Morgan’s Story in honor of MHA Nation’s Recovery Month

Morgan’s Story With Addiction Begins During His Sophomore Year In High School

Live Interview of Morgan

by: Anne Morsette,

KMHA Radio Station Manager 

“If it weren’t for basketball and sports, I might not have showed up to class every day. That’s how it was for most of us boys. When basketball season would come around, you were in class, doing your work, and you were trying to stay out of as much trouble as you could. Everyone likes to play basketball, and me, I liked to run too. I was on the cross country and track team. But I was always smoking weed. I always think about my potential too, looking back on it. I was always getting caught by my dad, who adopted 

me. It was always just my dad and I there in the beginning when I started using and smoking weed.  During my freshman summer is when I first went to treatment. Back then, we just had the treatment center in Williston. I went to treatment right away. I remember the first or second day I got back from treatment; I was drunk right away at the lake. I remember my dad pulled up on his boat and came up to me yelling. I always remember telling my dad “I didn’t go to treatment for alcohol, it was for weed!” That sticks out to me now looking back. I was trying to get around it, finding ways to maneuver, to lie, and to justify. So, it started right there.”

All the cool popular people were doing it

“The thing is, is that it’s normal. All the boys and everyone were drinking on the weekends. It started out small and progressed real fast. First it started out with beer. I think back then, that’s when Mike’s Hard Lemonade first came out and we were drinking that. Pretty soon it gets to the hard alcohol. I just remember, you were boring or an outsider if you weren’t participating in drinking. It went on like that my sophomore year. At that time my family owned the grocery store in town. My dad always told me, “you’re either going to work or you’re going to go to school.” So, I did both and I always had a little bit of money in my pockets. I was always able to buy weed or whatever. I kept my grades up enough and passed my classes.” 

Juvenile Delinquency 

“Back then we didn’t have the justice center, we just had the jail by the fire department. We’d get picked up out north of town or cruising around. Back then they’d just bring us to the jail and call your parents to pick you up. I got picked up a couple times. The principal really loved us boys and he’d give us a chance. That’s just how it was back then. There was no juvenile jail.” 

Junior Year As An Addict

“My addiction kept progressing. By my junior year, I began experimenting with prescription pills like Percocets and Vicodin. I had a girlfriend at that time. I just remember always trying to push it. I was always partying on the weekends. I still ran cross country and during my junior year we won state. That was the first year we won state and I always remember that. Again, I talk about my potential because I would get high and go for a 6 or 7 mile run for cross country practice. I did that and was able to win. During my junior summer I found meth. At that time, they were building the new bridge. I started to sell meth right away too. I was living with my girlfriend at the time in town. I was just running amuck with a couple older friends of mine. I was always doing the most.”

High Functioning Addict 

“During my senior year I was able to chill out a little bit and go to school, get my work done, run cross country and play basketball again. I was still smoking joints behind the school on my lunch break, skipping class, running around and it continued on. I graduated in 2005. I remember putting my robe on, getting ready and walking the stage. I was high. I was always high. By that time, it was second nature to always have something in my pocket, and not living in the moment but always looking forward to what we were going to be doing on the weekend. I managed to do my homework just enough to pass all the while worrying about who had the weed or who was going to buy for us. Something else I was thinking about too, because all of us boys liked to play basketball and other sports. Some of the most talented athletes I’ve ever known never really got a chance because of drugs and alcohol. During my senior summer, we kept using meth and partying. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at the time. I was still living with my girlfriend in town off and on. I was thinking about going to the Marines. I wasn’t too sure. A couple of my good friends went off to college. I was just running around and raising heck, still selling meth. One day my dad came and found me in town at this old motel. He said to me that he had found a junior college out in Washington state that had a basketball program. He took me out there. I packed up all my stuff higher than heck. It’s about as far northwest as you can get in Washington. I went there and stopped doing meth. I was still smoking weed though. Out there its more lenient. In high school I was always listening to music like The Doors and other old school music. I was always fascinated with substances and trying new things. So ,when I got out there, that’s exactly what I did. I was going to school, playing basketball, and experimenting with new things. I tried ecstasy, cocaine, mushrooms, acid; I was doing it all out there. All the while, I was somehow able to make my 2-a-day basketball practices and still making it to class. I somehow found a fake ID out there and would go to the clubs. Like I said, my addiction kept progressing and again, I was always worried about parties, trying new things, and girls. I was not being responsible and having unprotected sex. I was just being a very irresponsible young man. That’s how all my peers were too. Most of us boys on the team were all gifted, talented, young native men with so much potential, all the while we were smoking weed and getting drunk. It went on like that.”

A New Life Is Brought Into Chaos

“I had my first daughter during my first year out there in Washington. I wasn’t ready. I was still a boy. A big 6’5 Native young man but, I was immature and irresponsible. I was not ready but I did my best. I continued to be in a relationship with my daughter’s mom at that time. I tried to slow down but in reality, I just got better at hiding it. I learned how to manage my usage. I was still smoking weed and using things but would still try to slow down a bit to manage myself. (“Did you have user’s remorse?” -Radio Personality questions) Yeah I did, but it didn’t last long. I was spending most of my financial aid slowly but surely on weed and pills when I should be buying pampers and gas money. Things like that, I knew better. But I thought “I’m young” and thought that there would always be an out. When you’re an addict, you always think like that. I was really selfish. I had this big ego ever since high school. I was an only child. My dad and step mom really loved me and always wanted the best for me. I think I got away with a lot. I was probably spoiled. But I thought everyone was like that. I was really into myself. Girls would raise heck with me in high school and say, “geez this guy is walking around with a stick up his butt.” And that’s how I was as an athlete. All that carried over even more so when I got to college. Everyone looked up to us boys on the basketball team. Everyone was always trying to help us out, for good and bad. There’s a lot of opportunities I messed up. A lot of girls and other people wanted to hang out with us. There was a lot of good, but for the most part I took advantage of it and wasted a lot of it.”

Getting Caught Jeopardizes Everything

“At this time, I found harder prescription pills and got hooked on those. I was smoking pills and got caught with marijuana my second year out there. That messed up my eligibility for 6 months. I went to treatment again. I went to school for 3-4 years. I acquired 96 credits and never graduated out of a two-year college because I had to drop out and go to treatment. I was trying to save my relationship I was in. I was trying to save my eligibility so I could play basketball again. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t realize I needed to go to treatment and quit for Morgan. It was always for somebody or something else. It continued on. I went to a different college for mapping and surveying technology under an apprentice grant with my kid’s tribe in Washington. They were paying me to go to school, paying my mileage, and paying everything. They even paid $8 an hour just to be in class and I messed that up within a year because of my using and nobody knew. My kid’s mom at the time didn’t do any of that. All she knew or condoned to was me smoking weed. I would hide my pill usage under that. If my eyes were red or if I was acting weird it was because I was high on weed not because I smoked a couple pills. It was always weed. Around my third year out there, my kid’s mom had a house and we had a neighbor two doors down. I jumped through his house window and stole some stuff. I got arrested and got charged with residential burglary, which is a felony. At that time, I was forced to realize and acknowledge what I was doing. My parents back home would call me and ask how I was doing and everything was always “good” and I’d ask for more money. They didn’t know it was that bad; my kid’s mom didn’t fully understand what was going on either. But when I got caught, I had no choice but to answer them. “What the heck you doing stealing laptops and guitars?” “What the heck is going on?” I finally had admitted to smoking pills and it was kind of a relief looking back on it.”

Too Much To Handle

“I had to go to treatment a third time. I tried my best. I stayed clean for 4 to 5 months. I was trying to hold a job, but of course it didn’t last long. I went back to using. Around this time, two of my best friends took their own lives back home. This really affected my life and my using for a while. It was hard. It shook me up, it shook up all of us boys. I was messed up for a while. I loved him and looked up to him. In the midst of trying to be a father, go to school, educate myself; trying to deal with this addiction, I was a junkie that was really good at hiding and suppressing it, I lost two of my best friends. I couldn’t hold a job. It was all starting to come down. I wasn’t the spoiled athlete that I was. I felt like I was falling out of the loop. Being out there away from home, on your own, it can get tough without your boys or your family. It was good and bad. It did help me grow up and learn things on my own but at the same time I didn’t have accountability like I would at home. There was nobody to call me out for what I was doing.”

I Needed Something That Would Make Me Snap Out Of It

“Things got even worse. I started to inject drugs. My addiction worsened. I found heroin out there and it was cheaper and more available. By this time, I had totally quit trying to keep up the school and basketball player image. All the while, my companion at the time was putting up with all of this while taking care of our daughter. I was there to get her dressed and brush her hair every day. I was basically the stay at home dad. But I wasn’t there because I was always high. I have a lot of guilt, shame, and I regret a lot of things looking back on it now. Around that time too, the oil boom had just started happening back home in North Dakota. I had some felonies out in Washington. I wasn’t in school. We thought that if I moved home, that would snap me out of it. There’s work back home in North Dakota and I couldn’t get hired out in Washington, so we moved back to North Dakota. It was good for a little bit. But the same story and same cycle picked up again. I couldn’t snap out of it. I don’t think I really wanted to snap out of it. I did but I didn’t want it enough. Even though I wasted all those opportunities, I just didn’t think I had been through enough yet or it wasn’t that bad. So, we moved back to Washington again around 2012-13. I was able to hold a job. I was still using heroin. My kids’ mom at the time was pregnant with my son. She was 6 months. I had gotten high on heroin, and I came back inside and the last thing I remember I was buying a pay per view movie. That’s the last thing I remember. I went to sleep, I guess. I woke up some time later. I had overdosed. My kids’ mom had to run up the street 6 months pregnant and get her cousin. When I woke up, he was slapping me and hitting me to get me to wake up. My daughter was standing there staring at me. It was no good. The only thing I could think of when I woke up to what was going on was that something was wrong, but I only cared about where my rig and where my drugs were. That’s all I was worried about. Did they find it? Looking back, it was no good. I was really sick. The ambulance got there and I was cussing around and refusing help. I was telling them to get out of my driveway and acting up. It scared me enough to get clean for 6 months though. I got on a medicine assisted treatment called Suboxone and that did it for me. It helped me. I was doing good and doing what I had to do for 6 to 7 months. But like I said, I had felonies and out there and its really hard to get hired with felonies on your record. “

When You Get What You Want But Not What You Need

“We made a plan. I planned to move back home to New Town and find a job with the intention of working and getting a home for my family through the mortgage program. And I got the first part right. I moved home and was working for the tribe. I couldn’t continue my medication though and I fell off. Once again, same story same cycle. I was cheating on her while she was back in Washington. Within a year she was remarried. That was a big turning point for me too. I went back to what I was doing in high school. I started selling drugs. It was crazy during that time. There were a lot of people here from a lot of different places. Some people may not like to hear this but people already know, there’s a lot of drugs here. And at that time there were guys out there from out of state places like Las Vegas, Detroit, California; and they are looking for people to sell drugs for them. They prey on us here that way because we have a lot of money here. So, I did that and sold drugs for a couple years for other people. I didn’t even try anymore. I left my kids behind. I was running around with a lot of money and guns between cities. It got really scary. People were being indicted. It was no joke but I needed to keep getting high, I needed a way to pay for it and that’s how I kept my high going. I was getting high for free and selling a lot of drugs. That’s another thing I feel bad about too. I am trying not to do that again. I just want to help out. My story is not special either. I’m not the only one. That’s the name of the game around here. If you want to use pills, they’re expensive. You start selling pills and you just go until you get caught. We have our indictments that happen pretty much twice a year, winter and spring. It needs to be that way. There’s a lot of people coming through here. But I did that for a couple years. I got used to living that lifestyle. Always using. I didn’t care about anybody. I didn’t even like looking at pictures of my kids on Facebook because I’d miss them so much. I didn’t want to think about what was really going on. I’m a big drug addict, selling drugs, and I left my kids behind. That was the reality of it. I tried to just block all of that stuff out.”

Sick And Tired Of Being Sick And Tired

“I had met another girl, my companion that I’m with currently with, and we had met out there doing that stuff. We were running amuck. We got pregnant with my youngest daughter and we were probably on the verge of getting indicted and getting caught. Our friends around us were getting caught. We were scared because of course we didn’t want to get caught. We always wanted to quit but its not that easy. We couldn’t quit even though we wanted to. Its hard to say that. (“A lot of people think its like a switch, its not.”-radio personality added) People think because you have a kid you’re going to stop. The reality is you’re not stopping because you want to, you’re stopping because you got thrown in jail or you’re having a kid. It’s not easy, that’s the bottom line. Something had to happen though. We were homeless living in her car at this time. We were trying to burn our drug dealers, scraping up change for gas money to stay warm in the car, ripping people off and stealing. You name it. I’d steal your drugs and help you look for them. It was rugged. Her parents helped us out a little bit in an indirect way, thankfully. They took her car from her and said you’re not going anywhere. It wasn’t really kidnapping either. She needed it. I needed it. Myself, I took off to Bismarck and kept using. I had five failed attempts at treatment at this point. I hadn’t talked to my kids in so long. I had nothing in front of me. I had to use every two hours otherwise I would get sick if I didn’t. So sick that I wouldn’t want to move. I had no money to keep that going. I knew I needed to try again. I knew I needed help. I didn’t want to give up. I talk about my potential again because at that time I knew I still had some potential. I knew I could really do it if I wanted to and I was at the point where I really needed to and wanted to. I was either going to be like that for the rest of my life or I can try again. So, I called Heartview in Bismarck after getting on insurance. I told them I was sick and hurting; I couldn’t come in clean and needed help. I knew they had a medication assisted treatment program there. I knew my only previous success I’ve had so far was with medication help so I chose that route. They gave me a bed date that was a three weeks to about a month in front of me. So, I just bought my time until then. I managed to stay well those three weeks. I found gas money and a ride to take me to the treatment site in Cando. It was a two-and-a-half-hour ride. I remember being high when I got there. I had half a pill and a syringe with me which I used while I was there and then I threw that away along with my two phones. My trap phone and personal phone went into the garbage.”

Complete 180

“ It was 29 days but it was what I needed. I got on some medication. I was up early every day and in the front row of every class. I was learning how to eat food again. I had to learn how to sit still again and talk to someone. I tried my best. I got a good routine going for myself within that short time I was there. Then I came straight home to New Town. I started mowing lawns. I had to humble myself.  I had to start somewhere. Like I said, I was ready. I forgot to mention, a week before I went to treatment my daughter was born on April 13th, I went to treatment April 20th. I didn’t get a chance to be there but I tried. I was just trying not to go back to where I was about a month ago. I started cutting grass, picking up trash in the grocery store parking lot, and I remember having people see me doing all that. I had to get over myself. You don’t need to be cool or need to be somebody or something. Telling myself things like that were important for me while getting clean and sober. I had to get up everyday and keep myself busy picking up trash or going to meetings every day. I continued my Suboxone like I was supposed to as prescribed. Didn’t take more or less or sell it. I did what I was supposed to do by doctor’s orders. They told me Suboxone isn’t going to keep you clean, it will help you feel alright and give you a chance to work on your own. You have to go to meetings, talk to people, and learn how to work through whatever is in front of you. That’s the mentality I had at that time and still have to this day. Things got better real fast. I started mowing lawns, next thing I got hired for maintenance for the tribe so now I was getting paid to mow lawns. At that time, I started a Talking Circle out of necessity. We had the town AA meetings but I didn’t always relate to the alcoholic’s standpoint because I was a junkie user. My companion and I started the Talking Circle once a week and vowed to keep it going. We kept it going and I’d always show up to my own meeting and sometimes I was the only one to show up; sometimes there would be 5 people or two people. The important thing was that I was doing what I set out to do and learning to be responsible and keep something going. Learning how to keep it going. I needed that especially for myself most of all. I wasn’t trying to be somebody. I just needed that for myself.”

Creating A New Life For Myself 

 “Things got better. I was staying in plaza and traveling back and forth for work. I was really into the Wellbriety movement, which is recovery from our Native American perspective. I was learning about that program and trying to implement it. Dr. Monica Mayer had just got into office at that time. So, I typed up this three paged letter to her explaining who I was, what I was going through, and what my recovery looked like; and it was all focused around Wellbriety. She hired me and gave me a three bedroom apartment. This was all within the first year of being clean. That’s most of what it was like for me while getting clean.”

What It’s Like Today

 “Since then, a lot of good things have happened. I’m still clean, going on my 4th year. Shortly after that we opened The Door and I transferred there. Now I’m getting paid to have my Talking Circle. That’s how I look at that. I wouldn’t’ call it luck. But there’s probably some luck in there. I was really working hard. I’m off state and tribal probation. I finally got some custody of my two oldest kids in Washington state. I get to have them for a month in the summer. I have custody of my youngest daughter. I’m in college here in New Town again. This time I have straight A’s for the most part. I’m trying to do my best to fulfill my role as a father. I’m still working on a lot of things every day. Sometimes I get mad and frustrated. My dad is an older cowboy and rancher. We were raised to be tough guys that don’t talk about their feelings. That’s how a lot of us young men are. We don’t know how to talk about our feelings. One of the things I have to learn is how to talk about what’s going on with me. I can’t just keep getting mad and not talking about it. In my experience, its going to come back in one way or another. I’m going to get mad and do something or take something I shouldn’t. Today I try to be aware of what I’m doing I try to be grateful and thankful. I attend a lot of sweat lodges and I Sundance every year. I am a member of the Fort Berthold Native American Church. I get a lot of support through ways of prayer and worship and also my family and companion. She puts up with me.  We’ve come a long way and you don’t see that too often. We were out there using together and we got clean together. You don’t see that too often because its hard; they say when you’re getting clean don’t get in a relationship right away because its hard. But it just so happened we were already in a relationship. We wouldn’t have been able to come this far if it wasn’t for our family: her family and my family and all the support they’ve given us since the beginning. We’ve come a long way and are thankful for everyone who’s been there for us and supported us. That’s where I’m at today  I try to advocate for people  who are still having a hard time I don’t have the answers by no means, I just know what worked for me. I have my experiences. I’m going to school right now for addiction studies trying to learn about it. The college is a really good place. My instructor does an awesome job and I’m thankful my work allows me to go to school and work. I’m thankful to be able to take advantage of that. I’m also thankful to Dr. Mayer for the chance she’s given me and the support she’s given. I’m trying to do my best. I’m thankful to be alive. I’m sure I left out a lot. I hope I haven’t offended anybody. I want to let people know you can always contact me on Facebook. Come down to The Door. You can get my number there. I want to encourage those still out there suffering that if I can do it you can do it. There’s no way around it other than you have to deal with it. Come out and deal with it there’s no other way around it we are having a hard time out there and losing someone every other week or someone overdosing or someone getting indicted or someone having a hard time its real out there and scary I just want to help the best I can. “

This story was transcribed from audio recorded during a live broadcast on KMHA radio. Hear Morgan’s story and more from The Door Resource and Recovery Lodge on Recovery Month on demand on podcasts.