The following was submitted by a Clearbrook alumni, who asked us to share this with you:
I honestly thought I would never get sober. I lived under the assumption that I was destined to die a junkie. I had been to several treatment facilities and even had a small taste of recovery at one point, but I eventually went back to what I knew best. I convinced myself that recovery just wasn’t for me. It may work for some people, but I was just too far gone. It was easier to say these things, rather than admit the truth about myself.
The truth was, I was lazy. I didn’t want to put forth the effort. I was entitled. I was fearful and ultimately, I loved to abuse drugs and alcohol. Heroin took away every worry, every uncomfortable feeling, and made happy times even better. My life revolved around it, and for a long time, I was content with that. Using drugs and alcohol was my solution, and I wasn’t willing to give it up. Until the pain of addiction got great enough.
Scoring heroin in the ghetto was no longer fun for me. Lying to my family eventually hurt too much. Stealing and selling everything I could get my hands on was a horrible feeling to say the least. Constantly felling dope sick or literally being driven mad by the obsession of using…Heroin was no longer my solution, it was now my nightmare.
Walking back into treatment was scary. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I figured, I might as well try. And REALLY try this time. Not a superficial, I’ll give you the answers you want to hear, attempt at getting sober. A hard honest look at myself, my actions and my demons. This time, I listened to people. I didn’t listen to respond, I listened to hear. I stopped asking why, and I just did.
Because of that, I have been sober for quite some time now. Recovery is a continuous daily process. With that said, I am still not perfect. There are so many things I am still learning and working on, and I will probably be doing that for the rest of my life. Yet, recovery has given me so much. It has been, by far, the best teacher I have ever had, and what was once my curse, is now my gift.
This is for those that are still out there struggling. The addicts that believe they are too far gone. Or those that still believe using is the better option. Recovery is absolutely the best decision I have ever made for myself. If you are out there suffering from the disease of addiction, please know there is hope and you are worth recovery. Here are some things I have received in sobriety, although they are just the tip of the iceberg.
Self-Worth & Integrity
Before: They say integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. In my active addiction, integrity and character didn’t exist for me. As my disease progressed, every moral and value I was raised with, was thrown out of the window. To say I had no integrity is an understatement. Of course I didn’t do the right thing. Nothing about what I was doing was healthy or honest. Here’s the kicker…I didn’t care if people knew. When no one is looking? At the end of my addiction, I would do whatever I needed to get the next one, no matter who I had to hurt in the process.
Self-worth is a difficult one. It is hard to say if I ever had self-worth before recovery. It’s one of those quandaries, like the chicken or the egg. Did I always think less of myself, or is that feeling a result of my addiction? Either way, self-worth didn’t exist for me. I hated myself. I never thought I was good enough. I was not worthy of love, recovery, or a better life.
After: Here’s what I have learned on the matter. Recovery is not about just putting down the drink and drug. I had to change the way I behaved and if I did that, eventually my thinking would follow.
They say in order to build self-esteem, you have to do esteem-able acts. I started caring about people, even in the simplest of ways. Holding a door open for someone, saying good morning, being there for others in a time of need. Behaviors that were a part of the lifestyle of addiction, were no longer acceptable in recovery. I tried to stop lying. When I failed, I would admit it and try again, until I stopped altogether. I stopped stealing. I stopped gossiping. I no longer told someone I was going to do something and not do it. I stuck to my word. I no longer looked over my shoulder when I did something, because now I had nothing to hide.
Because of this, my self-worth was established. Little by little I started to like myself again. After a few months into my sobriety, I thought to myself, “Maybe this recovery thing is for me.” I started to believe that I was worthy of more than that what I originally set out for. Today, I am able to establish boundaries. I can tell people when and if I am uncomfortable with something, and because of that I have healthier relationships with people today. Because I am becoming a better person, I attract better people. As the saying goes, you are what you attract.
Relationships With Family & Friends
Before: I gave a lot up for heroin, including relationships with family and friends. Growing up I was “Daddy’s girl”, I was close with my grandmother, and I had tons of friends. Things eventually changed as addiction took over my life. I started lying and stealing from my father. My grandmother just became a burden I was forced to visit every month. My friends were no longer “fun”, so I found new ones. Eventually people saw me for what I was. A girl with a drug problem that couldn’t be trusted. At the end, my father didn’t even want me in his house. Grandma asked me to stop visiting. My friends, well they stopped answering their phones. I had no one and I did it all to myself.
After: Recovery has afforded me the opportunity to right my wrongs. Through extensive work, effort, and time, my family and friends trust me again. After my 9th step, of making amends to those I have wronged, I’ve found the freedom everyone in AA talks about. I’m no longer bogged down by guilt and shame. Furthermore, because of that 9th step, I have my loved ones back in my life today. My father is my best friend. I speak to him on a weekly basis, if not more. He says he’s proud of me today.
My grandmother died right around the time I was making my amends. While I was never able to actually say the words to her, she was able to pass knowing I was sober. I was with her the night she died. I believe that is the night I changed. I became a grown up. I put my own feelings aside and was there for her, my father and my family. Today I make a living amends to her.
Last but not least, I have stumbled upon my other family. My brothers and sisters in Alcoholics Anonymous. The ones I’ve spent sober birthdays with, holidays, good days, bad days, all around regular days. This is probably the most special piece of the program and recovery. The people you come across and the bonds you make along the way.
Before: For a long time I convinced myself that I was just having fun. I’m young, I deserve it. It’s my life and I am going to enjoy it. But really, nothing about heroin addiction is fun. Maybe there were a few good times at bars, but once I crossed the line into addiction, fun no longer existed. Heroin addiction was more like a chore. I woke up. Used if I had anything. If I didn’t, I had to figure out what scheme would work that day to get cash. Got high. Did it again the next day. My life was habitual and I was comfortable with it that way.
After: When I first came into recovery, I thought my life was over. I was in my early 20s and now I had to sit in church basements with old men, talking about their glory days…or worse, their feelings. I have to say though, that was anything from the truth.
AA is not your stereotypical movie scene of a support group. Yes, there are men in the rooms that are a bit older, but so what. There are also young women, men, married couples, and people my age trying to figure it out. Old timers that have experienced life sober and are around to tell about. AA is one huge mixing pot of people, all there for one thing. A solution.
From the moment I walked into my first meeting, people surrounded me. They embraced me and told me everything was going to be okay, as long as I didn’t pick up the first one. I still wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I wanted to be sober so desperately. Soon, those same people showed me what it was like to have fun in sobriety. From picnics, to dances, to camping trips. Even simply getting a bite to eat with good people and laughing until we cried. And that was only the beginning.
Today, I can do anything I want. Anything in this world, except for two things; drink or drug. I go to concerts today and remember them the next day. I go on vacation and I don’t have to worry about rationing out my stash for the entire trip. My friends and I go to amusement parks, to the beach, to ball games. There are so many things this world has to offer, and now because I am sober, it is mine for the taking… It could be yours too!
The Ability To Help Others
Before: The root of alcoholism and drug addiction is selfishness and self-centeredness. Every thought and action is centered on self and how to best serve one’s needs. No one else mattered or existed to me in active addiction. When my father gave me grief about my behaviors, I would say to him “It’s my life. It’s my business. Why do you care what I do with it?” Being there for others was not in the realm of things I ever did with my time. If it wasn’t convenient to me and the things I needed to do to feed my addiction, then there was no possibility of me even considering it.
After: Recovery has given me so many wonderful things, but one of the most mentionable would be the ability to help and be there for others. AA teaches us that we can only keep what we have by giving it away. After going through the steps with my sponsor, it was my time to help the newcomer. I would have to say one of the most remarkable things about this program is the opportunity to see someone come into the rooms broken and watch them develop into a brand new person. Going through the steps with them and seeing the light come back into their eyes, is by far the most amazing experience I’ve had so far…but that is not where it ends.
While the 12th step asks us to carry the message to the alcoholic, it also says we must practice these principles in all of our affairs. So, helping others is not only limited to those in AA. It is applied to everyone in my life today, family, friends, and co-workers. It is about doing nice things for people, not because you want something in return, but because it is simply the right thing to do. Holding the door open for someone, being polite to the girl at Starbucks in the morning, helping an elderly woman to her car with her groceries. It’s the basic things we learn in kindergarten but forget as we get older and are bogged down with our own lives and circumstances.
Today, I show up for family events. I answer the phone for a friend when they need someone to talk to. I am courteous to strangers. Ultimately, I make myself available to people, without expecting things in return. With that said, I am far from perfect. There are days I do not want to be helpful or kind. Sometimes I find I am stuck in self. At the end of my day, I do a daily inventory of the past 24 hours. I try to admit my wrongs and correct them the next day. I try to be the best version of myself possible, and when I fail, I attempt to do better the next time around. That is all any of us could do.
Serenity/Peace Of Mind
Before: As I stated earlier, I was driven by one thought for a very long time. Getting high or drunk. Due to that obsession, which is maddening in itself, there was absolutely not one ounce of me that was serene. Addiction is this constant rat race for the next one, while this overwhelming feeling of impending doom consumes you. Having to remember the lies I told, and the lies I told to cover up the first lie. The people I hurt and the shame that came with that. The morals I compromised and the disgust I felt for myself. I carried all of it around with me for years, as I continued to do the thing I thought I was destined to do. Be a junkie & die a junkie.
I remember watching people; leave for work, walk down the street hand-in-hand with their significant other, or play with their kids in the park. I would wonder, how do they do it? How is it possible for them to be so happy and not have some sort of chemical in their system? I couldn’t go a day without feeling like crawling out of my skin and having to constantly numb that feeling.
After: Today, I understand how they did it, because I am now one of those people. Through working the steps with a sponsor, getting involved in AA, helping others, doing work on my inner self and self-esteem, I can tell you, that today, I am okay with me. The only person I strive to be better than today, is the person I was yesterday.
Of course there are days that I feel insecure or I second guess myself, but those feelings are fleeting. I also still make mistakes. I am not perfect. When I fall, I talk about it with someone in the rooms, and we work out a solution. Although I have been sober for a few years now, my disease lives on. There is no cure for addiction, only a daily reprieve. In order for me to stay well, I have to continue doing the things I did in the beginning.
Today, when I put my head down on my pillow, I can fall asleep. I’m not kept up at night by the things I have done wrong. I have looked at my past, I’ve accepted it and I know my truth. I am no longer consumed with guilt and shame, for my past is now my gift. The 9th step promises tell us, “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others”.
Ultimately, I can breathe today. For so long, I was strangled by my disease. The feeling of never being good enough and impending doom controlled my life. All I ever wanted was to be able to breathe easy, knowing everything was going to be okay. For a long time, heroin gave that to me. Now, the rooms of AA and my Higher Power give that to me. Today, I have peace of mind.
If you are struggling with the disease of addiction, know that you are not alone. There is a solution and help is available. This does not have to be the end of the story for you! Reaching out for help and deciding to go to treatment was the best decision I have ever made. I honestly never thought I would be where I am today, but through the help of others, I am living proof that there is hope.
Contact Clearbrook Today
For over 4 decades, Clearbrook has been offering effective treatment for those suffering from the disease of alcoholism and addiction. Our dedicated and knowledgeable staff is available 24 hours a day to assist you. Contact us today and see what recovery has to offer. Our Admissions Specialists will perform an intake screening over the phone with you and offer the best options possible for a successful future.