Author: Patrick Meninga is an Intake Specialist at a Drug Rehab in Michigan, and has over 5 years of experience working directly with recovering addicts and alcoholics. He has been clean and sober for over a decade now and has also conquered nicotine addiction as well. In addition to full time work in a treatment center, Patrick actively writes on the web about addiction, and has contributed over one million words to try and help others to find a path of recovery. He has published several ebooks which are all available for free download in the sidebar of spiritualriver.com. His main focus is on “personal growth as a strategy for relapse prevention.” He believes that staying clean and sober can be done without a formal “program” of recovery, but rather through personal motivation and the push to grow in a holistic manner.
Guest author: Bill Urell is an addictions therapist at a leading residential treatment center. He has also written a book and authored hundreds of posts on his website, Addiction Recovery Basics. His website explores everything from the 12 step model to specific treatment therapies to help treat struggling addicts and alcoholics, and everything else in between. Bill is an expert in his field who has the practical aspects of addiction recovery down to a science. He specializes in working with adults who have chemical dependency issues, but his advice is spot on for anyone who is struggling to stay clean and sober. Bill has contributed to Spiritual River over the years, and even weighs in on a discussion of advanced recovery topics, where his years of experience really show through.
Guest author: Doctor Adi Jaffe is a psychologist who specializes in Addiction. His primary website is All About Addiction but he has also contributed to Spiritual River. His goal is to bring the latest knowledge about addiction to the people who could benefit from it most – those who are suffering because of it. He has published dozens of articles, book chapters, and presentations on the topic of addiction and is currently working on his first book.
* I am a recovering drug addict and alcoholic who has been clean and sober now for over 9 years. I also quit smoking cigarettes almost 5 years ago.
* I work full time in a drug and alcohol treatment center, although I am not a therapist.
* I am in a unique position where I get to watch many, many people try to get clean and sober. I take careful note of what works and what does not.
* I push myself to grow in recovery using holistic techniques. For example, I quit smoking, started exercising on a regular basis, and work to improve my diet and overall health. I also strive for spiritual growth and emotional balance.
* I push myself to explore more about what works in recovery and what does not. I believe that the field of substance abuse treatment is quite young and undeveloped.
* I have written over 1 million words here at the Spiritual River documenting my findings regarding addiction and recovery.
What follows is my story of addiction and recovery (what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now):
I started using marijuana when I was about 19 years old. It was the first time I had ever used any sort of drug. Immediately, I liked it, and commented that I am going to do this for the rest of my life! I was a shy person and getting high fixed this problem.
Shortly after this, I discovered alcohol, and realized that it worked even better than marijuana at fixing my social anxiety. Using both drugs was a daily habit and in a very short time I could not imagine living my life without self-medicating any more.
Just like that, I was now living to use, each and every day. It had become my purpose. Imagining life without drugs and alcohol was inconceivablemy thought was that there just wouldnt be any point to it. I believed that I definitely wouldnt be able to have any fun if I were to somehow get sober.
For the wrong reasons, I attended two different treatment centers over the next couple of years. Each time, the counselors and therapists suggested that I go to long term treatment, and each time, I declined to do so. I felt that long term treatment was far too drastic a solution for my *problem* and that I didnt need to resort to such measures. They were talking about several months or even years of my life! To me, long term treatment sounded like a death sentence, or at least like a jail sentence.
The bottom line was this: I simply was not willing to go to long term treatment, nor was I willing to accept 12 step recovery as the solution to my problem. I hated AA and NA meetings because I was terrified of them. I went back to using drugs and alcohol immediately after leaving both of these treatment centers.
There was no particular crisis that brought me to this last treatment center; I had simply had enough and felt like it was time for a change. If there was ever any hard evidence for a higher power working in my life, it was this: I somehow surrendered to the disease of addictionas stubborn as I amand finally asked for help. This time, *I* wanted to go to treatment. I realized that my life was a mess and I finally wanted to do something about it.
I was finally willing to try and change my life in a real and meaningful way. This meant I was ready to take some action. Because I had been to treatment before, I knew what was in store for me, so I consider it miraculous that I was willing to go back. My belief at this point was that 12 step recovery was not going to work for me. I also believed that if even if it somehow did work, I would be sober but miserable.
Apparently I was miserable enough with my life that I was willing to give it a shot anyway.
My experience in detox was probably fairly typical. I was coming off of alcohol, marijuana, and crack. Nurses tended to me and kept giving me pills so that I wouldnt get the shakes. I was in detox for 5 days. In my journey of recovery, residential treatment is just a little blip on the mapalthough it was still a very important time for me. I was fresh out of detox and might have spent a week or less in a residential treatment facility.
Essentially there were three important things that happened.
One, I attended lots of groups, lectures, and group therapy sessions.
Second, I was exposed to AA meetings on a daily basis, and found them to be somewhat tolerable. I found that I could actually sit through one without freaking out.
Third, I was assigned a therapist that was to help me plan my *aftercare*. This was to be of critical importance. In the past, I was never willing to follow up and do any sort of aftercare, because they always recommended long term treatment. This time, I was suggesting that I go to long term. My therapist listened to what I wanted and found me long term treatment.
The program was set up for 12 homeless men, had two groups a week, and required involvement in a 12 step program. A therapist ran the program and basically kept tabs on all of us. The recommended stay here was 6 months to 2 years, and I stayed for 20 months.
At 25 years of age, the place saved my life.
Let me say that again: long term treatment saved my life. I never would have been willing to commit to a 12 step program without the help and support that I got from living with 11 other recovering addicts. Before I got clean, it seemed like an impossibility to say goodbye to my friends who still used. I honestly did not think that I could just walk away from their friendship. Long term treatment allowed me to do just that.
For what seemed like a long time, all I did was live in that long term treatment center, go to meetings, and not use. It was what I needed to do at the time. The therapist there pushed me to get back into school, which I reluctantly did. I finished up an associates degree and eventually received a Bachelors degree.
The rest of my life parallels this as well: I have become a productive member of society on all counts. I work full time, go to school, live in an apartment, and pay my bills. I have a wonderful family and a cool group of friends. Pretty damn impressive considering the mess I was in before I got clean. I am lucky to be alive.
Whats truly amazing is that I enjoy this life today, and when I was still using, I hated the idea of sobriety. I could not picture myself having fun or being content with this life that I am now living. But somehow I transformed and it did happen.
In my own way, I do what I can to carry the message to other recovering addicts. Through full time work at a treatment center, and maintaining a recovery related website, I would say that Ive got my hands full. It feels good to stay involved in helping other people who are trying to recover.