Addiction Recovery – Living the Solution
I did not start out living the solution of addiction recovery.
Instead, I evolved into this life. It has been quite a journey. When you tell this story in traditional recovery circles, you start at the beginning, and explain what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now.
So let me explain those things, and you can see how I got to where I am today in my recovery.
What it was like
I waited until I was out of high school to experiment with drugs or alcohol. No one pressured me to try these things, I sought them out myself because I was curious. To be quite honest, people in my life had tried to shelter me a bit from drugs and alcohol as I was growing up.
When I first tried drugs, it was a real eye-opener for me. I was like I had found my calling. Something inside me had been broken for my whole life and drugs and alcohol fixed that–whatever “it” was. A big part of this was social anxiety, though I had never been diagnosed with this. I was just tired of living in fear. Drugs allowed me to live without worrying.
But of course, all that changed over time. At first, drugs and alcohol were a lot of fun, but eventually they became something that I had to do. I had lost the power of choice in the matter. I told the world that I loved “partying” and that I would never stop, because that was what I loved to do.
This was denial, plain and simple. I had become a shell of a person; someone who lived in fear and had to keep self medicating in order to feel “normal.” Being messed up became my new baseline for existence.
I was afraid to face life without drugs. I was afraid to feel my emotions. So I had to keep using so that I could hold things together.
This was a big breakthrough for me, to look back see that I used drugs out of fear, not because I liked to party. I used to party when it was fun, but after addiction takes over and you have to use, it stops being a party.
The party was over long ago. Many times I left a party, still drinking, wondering why all the “normal” people had gone to bed already. I wanted to keep getting messed up! Didn’t these people know how to party?
And so that was my world. I lived in fear, continued to drink and use drugs, and ultimately pictured my perfect life as being one where I had enough money and enough drugs that I could feel confident that I would never run out. That was my ultimate fantasy: unlimited drugs and unlimited cash, with no responsibilities.
Kind of sad, no?
Some people who come into recovery do so because of a big, cathartic event in their life. Perhaps their spouse leaves them or they lose their job or they smash their car up. In my particular case, none of these things happened but a certain set of circumstances still caused me to hit a bottom of sorts.
What happened was that I was living with another addict, and I was involved in a relationship with her. At the time, she had left on a vacation with her family, and I was left by myself for a few weeks. That I was left alone for a while was probably important for what happened next. Apparently I was forced to really look at my life and how unhappy I was. I was alone and drinking every night and using lots of drugs and I was finally realizing that it wasn’t working. I could not drink enough to get to that “happy place” any more. The alcohol had stopped working for me and it stopped doing what I wanted it to do. It was no longer fun. And, I realized it.
A chance conversation with a family member opened the door for me to try to change. For some reason, a switch was flipped in my head and I had the willingness to give rehab another try. I had been twice before but never with the intention of stopping all drug and alcohol use. This time was different because I had really surrendered. I was not jumping for joy about going to treatment, but felt like I was finished with the idea of medicating myself every day for the rest of my life.
My family made the calls and arranged for treatment. I stayed with them until they could get me in somewhere. That was the start of my new life in recovery.
The importance of treatment
For some people, treatment is not so important, and might not even play a role at all in their recovery. They might just get sober one day, or start going to 12 step meetings, or whatever. But for me, treatment was a huge part of my early recovery. Without it, I seriously doubt that I would have made it at all.
I went to a local treatment center and stayed for detox and also for a few weeks of inpatient treatment. There, I attended the groups and the lectures and the 12 step meetings that you will typically find at pretty much any drug rehab.
Now I had been to treatment twice before but it had not worked for me, so this time I decided to try something different. One big thing that I did was to follow their suggestions, and that meant attending long term treatment as well. I ended up living for 20 months at a long term treatment center for men. This was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Long term treatment might sound like a death sentence, but it was actually the very thing that gave me back my freedom in life. Sure, I was held accountable, and I also had to live by their rules, but this was the structure that I needed in my life in order to find my footing in early recovery. This is what opened the door to my freedom. For anyone who is struggling to get clean and sober–and especially for anyone who has tried and failed at residential treatment centers–I highly recommend long term treatment.
What it is like now
Fast forward 8 and a half years later and I am still clean and sober today, living a full life in recovery. My life is very different now. Here is how:
1) I no longer live in fear.
2) I work with sick addicts and alcoholics every day – this is a huge part of recovery for me, as it helps keep me grounded as to what is important in my life: sobriety and helping others. In addition to this, I have found other ways to reach out to struggling addicts, such as through the internet.
3) I have found happiness without self medicating – I truly believed that I would never be happy unless I was drunk or high. Turns out that is not true. Now I am happy while being clean and sober.
4) I have found purpose and meaning in life – Life is worth living again. I did not think that this would be possible either, when I was still drinking.
5) I am growth oriented now – I am not really content to simply coast through life anymore. I now push myself to grow and learn new things.
6) I care about my health and have regained self esteem – I quit smoking, started exercising, and generally care much more about my own well being than I used to. As such, my self esteem is much greater now and the motivation and energy that comes from this is pretty amazing.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism, I would encourage you to explore this website. You might want to learn about my personal philosophy of recovery, or you might also want to know more about how to help an alcoholic or an addict. Good luck!