- Friends & Family
- Mental Health
A good friend once told me that while pain is inevitable, suffering was a choice. These days I’m glad I choose differently. I came into recovery in the fall of 2012. My sobriety date is January 5, 2014. I arrived with nothing. My body was a battle-worn mess of scars. My mind had shattered underneath the weight of all of my mistakes. My heart wouldn’t speak to me. I was a hollow shell of a human being. I’d spent almost 10 of my 18 years burning through all of my friends and family; and in the end I got just what I said I always wanted. I was completely alone.
I wasn’t exactly optimistic at first. Somewhere between the “higher power” talk and the crap clichés, I had developed a healthy skepticism for recovery and everyone in it. But for the first time in a very long time I not was by myself. For at least one hour a day I was surrounded by people who acted like they cared. I wasn’t alone anymore and that felt good. So I kept coming back.
I wish I could say that the love of God and my fellow man cured me instantly and I never used again; but that simply was not the case. There is something very familiar about misery. Depression was a familiar friend that had shadowed me for years. Even when presented with a way out of the labyrinth of chaos and masochism, I allowed fear and doubt to keep me imprisoned.
I was “recovering” but unwilling to let people in. I was “recovering” but I was unwilling to love myself. I was “recovering” but I was unwilling to let go of the rage I had towards those who had hurt me. And when I had allowed the pain to become blinding, I turned to the one thing that always took it away. I got high again.
There is something about relapse that no one told me when I first got here. Relapse isn’t difficult. I am an addict. I know how to use. Coming back after a relapse is the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. The voices in my head were louder than before. The desire to use was stronger than before. I had driven myself to the edge of madness. After a year of stringing together a few weeks of clean time only to fall into relapse again I began to believe that I would never be sober. I stopped fighting with my addiction and just accepted the fact that I was going to die. The holiday season of 2013 were the most peaceful I’d had since childhood. I had no need to stress because I believed that my time on earth was coming to an end. I was 19 years old.
I’m not religious person and I have no theological training to speak of but I can tell you this: the human spirit is the most resilient part of the body. Almost every cell in my body told me to let go that night. Almost. But there a small whisper from my inner most self that said “keep pushing.” So I did. I dragged my exhausted body to our local hospital. I allowed every piece of clothing I had to be stripped from my body. I tried not to cry as my naked body was searched by two nurses for contraband. I pretended not to care as they stared at the cuts and scars that covered me. I watched the door close and lock me onto psychiatric ward. And as I lay shaking in my bed while the rest of the world welcomed in the New Year I made one promise to myself. I promised myself that I would never feel that way again.
When I was released from the hospital a few days later I picked up my last white chip. Recovery for me is so much more than not drinking or using. Recovery for me was hitting the reset button on everything I thought I knew and doing it all differently. Recovery was allowing people to carry me until I learned to use my own legs. It was taking suggestions. It was feeling everything without running away. Recovery was facing every emotion, every trauma, every memory that I had been shoving down inside of me. Recovery is the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to face. It has also been the most rewarding.
Slowly but surely, I began to live again. I began laughing and smiling. Making friends and going out. Sleeping without fear of nightmares. I wish I could remember the date (because I would celebrate it every year), but I woke up one morning to the most profound revelation I’ve had in my short life; I did not want to die anymore. I have been chasing life ever since.
There are days when sobriety is a butt. It doesn’t matter how great your program is, how amazing your sponsor is, what step you’re on, or how much clean time you have. Sometimes, sobriety is a butt. And that is completely okay. While I was in the hospital, my roommate asked me how a person could get hooked on painkillers. I remember telling her that the pain of living with no heart and a broken spirit had gotten so unbearable that morphine and fentanyl were the only things that could take the edge off.
I don’t live with that pain anymore. I wake up in the morning grateful that I did. I cry, I laugh, I scream, and I get through the ups and downs of living in a world that is not also working a 12-step program. When things get overwhelming (which still happens fairly regularly) I return to a meeting; I unload my burdens into the arms of my recovery family and I help carry theirs. Together, we trudge through the bad times.
If I could say anything to a newcomer it would be this: put yourself first. Forgive others, but forgive yourself first. Love others, but love yourself first. Help others, but help yourself first. Recovery is a life time journey. And I have a deep respect for my fellow travelers. Because it doesn’t matter who we are or where we came from, we walk this road together.
Recovery gave me a shot at life. It has given me hope, taught me faith, and shown me the strength that has been inside me all along. Every day that I stay sober is my small way of saying thank you. Recovery gives us one of those rare second chances. An opportunity to do things differently. To do them better. I cannot speak for anyone else, but I have no intentions of wasting mine.