by April Scheinoha
Rob Rowsell decided to be honest when he filled out the packet of information for his appointment with probation officer Jennifer Adams. He wrote that he had a warm crack pipe in his pocket.
After reading the document, Jennifer said she knew a bed was available at a nearby drug rehab facility. She asked if he would be willing to go. That was in November 1999, and Rob has been sober ever since that time.
The Californian shared his story Wednesday, Sept. 20 at RiverView Recovery Center in Thief River Falls. “My goal is to share what it was like, what happened and what it is now,” Rob said.
Rob’s presentation was held in recognition of National Recovery Month. RiverView Recovery Center and the Glenmore Foundation hosted the presentation.
At the age of 11, Rob began smoking marijuana. The following year, he began using crystal methamphetamine. Rob recalled he was a functioning addict for a while. Then it snowballed to the point that he was homeless and unemployed. “I was a train wreck,” he said.
Rob would shoplift, commit fraud or come up with a scheme to obtain his drugs. To this day, he still shrivels up a little bit when walking through the shoplifting alarms at Walmart and Kmart.
Rob, then 33, was in jail more often than out of jail. There were warrants out for his arrest in eight courts in Arizona. His criminal background included 38 charges for incidents ranging from domestic assault to issuing bad checks to grand theft auto to aggravated driving under the influence of crystal meth. “All of those judges knew me unfortunately on a first-name basis,” he said.
Rob also owed $40,000 to the IRS and $8,000 in restitution for the bad checks. Plus, he had to pay $15,000 before his driver’s license would be reinstated.
Most of his personal relationships – with the exception of his marriage to Claudia – had gone down the tubes. He wasn’t allowed to see his eldest two children, who were teenagers at the time. “I had pretty much burnt my bridges with everybody at this point,” he recalled.
Rob had missed two appointments with Jennifer since he had been incarcerated at a jail. If he had missed the third appointment, his probation would have been revoked and he would have been sent to prison for two years. Rob decided to go to the appointment. It changed his life.
A block away from the rehab facility, Rob threw his crack pipe out of the window. He chain-smoked cigarettes in the parking lot. He also went down the street and grabbed pieces of the broken crack pipe. Inside the vehicle, Rob burned himself as he smoked crack out of the broken crack pipe. “I was at that fork in the road that we’ve all been in in the past,” he recalled.
Rob then entered the building and began 30 days of drug rehab. “I learned a lot about my disease,” he said. “I learned a lot about myself.”
While in rehab, Rob obtained a sponsor or mentor who had been sober for at least one year. He also lined up backup sponsors in the event he was unable to reach his sponsor. He encouraged attendees to get to know their sponsor and backup sponsors before help is needed.
Rob also joined Cocaine Anonymous and tried to live by the saying “90 meetings in 90 days.” He encouraged attendees to be a part of the meetings by helping or simply arriving on time. “People should know you’re there,” said Rob, who noted other group members will contact those who missed a meeting. He also encouraged recovering addicts to make God a part of their life.
Rob also changed the people, places and things that led him to use. “That meant everything in my life had to change,” he said.
Before long, he was able to go on excursions outside of the facility. On one such excursion, he and Claudia went down the street and learned a home was for rent. Falling on bad habits, Rob lied on the application. He wrote that he was employed – by someone who had employed him three years earlier. It just so happened that the landlord knew the employer.
After leaving, Claudia made her thoughts known to Rob. In anger, she dropped him off outside of a grocery store. Rob didn’t know what to do. In the men’s restroom, he prayed for wisdom and then called his sponsor. He wasn’t available, but a backup sponsor, Doug, was available. Doug read him the riot act and instructed Rob to tell the landlord the truth. The landlord couldn’t fathom that Rob had called him back and told him about his past. He eventually rented the home to Rob and Claudia. Fellow members of Cocaine Anonymous provided household items for the couple and their infant daughter. At the time, all of their belongings fit into a two-door Geo Prizm.
Rob decided that he needed a job and filled out an application with Work a Day. In the past, he had scammed the business by lying on his application in order to obtain a higher wage. At that time, they showed him the door. This time, he was honest and listed his qualifications. Reading the application, an employee learned that Rob had worked as a service advisor at an automotive repair shop. Her husband, Richard Broadwater, was seeking such an employee at his shop.
Rob completed his three-week electrical job through Work a Day. Richard then hired him even though, in Rob’s words, Rob was missing teeth at the time and looked like Skeletor due to his addiction. Rob continued to work there for four-and-a-half years – until he and Claudia purchased their first auto repair business. They now own three auto repair businesses and a business that buys, fixes and sells homes.