To somone struggling with recovery:
Whenever I struggle with recovery, I remember how miserable I was in active addiction & even when I was a dry drunk. I was completely self-centered. I was hurting others by my actions. I never thought of others, ever. At the end of the day of active addiction was never better than a day I have had sober. I don’t have to live in fear anymore or on edge. I decided to live in God’s will every day. I still have hard days but it’s not never as hard as active addiction.
Last week, I took my first drink after almost three continuous years free of drugs and alcohol. Those three years were some of the most challenging years of my life. However, they were also by far the most rewarding. Every struggle and every meltdown that comes with the beginning challenges of getting clean led me to live a life beyond my wildest dreams. I was attending an incredible school in an incredible city, I had developed a solid group of genuine friends, and most importantly I was living my life in a way that directly reflected my values. However, shortly before celebrating my three years of clean time I began to take for granted all the things I had worked so hard to earn. This was due mainly to my own lack of gratitude. Luckily, I was able to get right back on the wagon and return to the program after only a week of active use. I received my white newcomer keytag and began the process over again. Despite my relapse, I know that it does not mean that I am a failure or have thrown away all the work I have put into getting clean. All the knowledge, and experiences I gained while in the program are still there in my head. Those things did not disappear, and will remain a part of me. Time is just a number and the amount of clean time that a person has is not what designates how strong their program of recovery is. What designates the strength of a person’s recovery is the way that they choose to live their lives, one day at a time. I hope that the following letter will help another struggling addict to relate to how I was feeling prior to my relapse. Hopefully this letter will also motivate them to reach out and be proactive before they decide to take that drink or drug.
To any young addict that is contemplating relapse,
Here are three lies that I told myself before my relapse:
1) “These are the years I’m supposed to be getting really wasted”
If I look around at most people my age, it is plain to see that most of them are spending their college years getting very drunk and very high the majority of the time. However, drinking isn’t what defines your late teens/early twenties. These years are supposed to be meant for finding yourself, forming your identity and learning more about who you want to be and how you want to spend the rest of your life. Alcohol gives people a skewed perspective on things, and makes it difficult for people to see things clearly. If somebody is drunk all the time, they aren’t spending time thinking about their identity. The fact that I don’t drink does not mean that I am less important or less cool than those who do. The reality is, I will be years ahead of most of my peers in regards to knowing who I am and what I value. Just because the majority of my peers are doing something does not mean that I am required to. Heck, I’ve never been one for going with the grain, that’s for sure!
2) “If I don’t drink or do drugs, I won’t be able to make any friends”
Although alcohol does serve as a social lubricant and alcohol is a staple at most social events, it can result in a very false sense of connection that wears off once the alcohol does. When the foundation of a friendship is built on something as superficial as intoxication, that friendship can be very easily broken once the drink or drug is out of the picture. There is nothing in this world that can compare to the feeling of having genuine, loving friendships in your life. And I am lucky today to experience those friendships everyday. I would not trade that feeling for all the drinks in the world.
3) “I won’t be any fun unless I drink”
False. False, false, false. Alcohol doesn’t make people fun. It makes people stupid. And stupid people laugh at other stupid people. The fact of the matter is, I can brush off anybody who tells me that I’m boring just because I don’t drink, because I know that they haven’t considered the fact that maybe they need alcohol for their dull personality.
Although it is sad that I had to go through a relapse to figure these things out, that relapse has made my recovery stronger than it has ever been. For that I am truly grateful.
I found my solution through working the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous as they are written in the first 164 pages of the “Big Book.” Through studying the book with many spiritual advisors I find that there are three things indispensable if one wants true recovery. Trust God. Clean house. Help others. In the words following, I will mention “God.” I of course mean a higher power of my own understanding.
I have been in and out of institutions since I was fifteen. For years I thought all I had to do was get rid of old friends, avoid “triggers” and find some new hobbies like knitting or making friendship bracelets, if I wanted to stay sober. For years I failed again and again. I signed out of New Haven a few weeks after my eighteenth birthday, fully believing that I could stay sober on my own. I had been sober for over a year after all. I disregarded that my continued sobriety may have something to do with not having access to any mind-altering substances that entire time. I decided that I wanted to get dropped off at an AA club in Salt Lake City, thinking the sooner I got to a meeting, the better. Within 48 hours of arriving there, I was drunk again. I continued to attend meetings, putting together a week or two sober here and there, baffled every time I found myself drunk again. I would attend about two or three meetings almost every day of the week. I found a woman to call my sponsor, and I made coffee before the meetings. I was doing all these things I heard could fix my problem and yet I continued to fail every time. Four months later I returned to my home in Minnesota to live with my parents, thinking a change of location could help me. I continued to use and became very depressed. I started seeing a therapist weekly and I found myself a boyfriend who was sober, believing that these people could help me and give me a reason to stop my drinking and drugging. After a year of incomprehensible demoralization, I again crawled through the doors of AA. That was September 24th of last year. As I said, there were three keystones to my recovery, out of my own experience.
1. Trust God. I am beyond human aid as I proved to myself time after time. I sought help through therapists, my parents, my boyfriend, and anything else I thought I could use to fill this God-sized hole inside of my heart. I rely on anything external that I think can help me. I am naturally codependent, as is any other run of the mill addict or alcoholic, thinking that the drink or drug can fix the “self” problem. I must learn dependence on a power greater than myself if I am to be successful on my journey.
2. Clean house. In reference to the “self” problem, I find that the drugs and alcohol are but a symptom of the true issue, which is that I refuse to run life on any terms other than my own. My problems are of my own making. Through working the steps I sweep away the wreckage of my past. It is through this process, if I make a vigorous attempt, that I am able to remove all things that have blocked me off from a higher power of my own understanding. Once I entrust God to remove my defects of character I am able to go out into the world and right my wrongs.
3. Help others. I now stand in the Sunlight of the Spirit. I have had a spiritual awakening as a result of the steps. I am a changed woman from the girl who crawled through those doors nearly a year ago. Where do I go from here? How do I keep from regressing? The book tells me I must share the solution with others who seek it if I want to maintain my recovery and spiritual growth. Today I show women where the actions of the steps lie in the Big Book. I bring service commitments into treatment centers, detox units, psych wards, and homeless shelters. I was fortunate enough at six months sober to start a service commitment at a residential treatment facility for underage girls, much like the ones I bounced in and out of for years. It is these things that get me “high” today. Recovery grants me everything that alcohol and drugs promised. And so much more.
“To someone struggling in recovery, here are 3 things that helped me”
When I left New Haven 3 years ago, I joined Alcoholic’s Anonymous to pursue my recovery. Recently, I have switched over to Narcotic’s Anonymous but continue to enjoy the benefits of both twelve-step programs. In the many months that I’ve worked these programs, I have come to accept that I am an addict, always have been and always will be one. I suffer from a progressive disease that when left untreated results in jails, institutions and death. At my rock bottom, I chose to fight my addiction in hopes to sustain an ounce of happiness in my life. I went to meetings and took the suggestions of the men and women of NA who came long before me. Here are 3 of the most indispensible pieces of knowledge I’ve picked up throughout my journey in recovery.
It Gets Better – The first year of recovery is supposed to suck. If you’re struggling, that’s normal and expected of you at this point in time. Just because we removed the substance from our lives doesn’t mean we are entirely cured. We still suffer from the spiritual, emotional and mental aspects of our disease. We are still in a lot of pain even after our physical addiction has been arrested. This is why we must dive into recovery immediately before the pain of abstinence drives us back into active addiction. Our disease is progressive, but so is our recovery. It gets better over time so don’t give up before the miracle happens.
Meeting Makers Stay Clean – There’s 2 things you find at any meeting that are necessary for recovery: addicts and other addicts. We can’t do it alone, and if we try, we will surely use again. The fellowship is a key part of NA and AA because making friends in the program and creating a support system helps us to stay clean. The rooms are where you hear the truth about your addiction and suggestions that you should take. I come away from a meeting with more knowledge and insight than I ever did reading a chapter or so from the literature. Get to as many meetings as you can.
Call Your Sponsor Everyday – The most valuable part of the program to me is sponsorship. As women, we ask another woman to be our sponsor, and if accepted, she becomes our guide through the 12 steps. Call her when you want to talk to her and when you don’t, everyday, no matter what. The most important part is picking up the phone. Through this simple action, we develop the essential habit of reaching out to another addict. You may be resentful, like I once was, to pick up the phone everyday and talk to a woman you barely know. I promise that if you keep doing it, eventually, you’ll actually want to call everyday and even enjoy it. Calling my sponsor every evening helps me to process my day, take inventory, correct things when necessary and make goals for the following day. I am more in sync with my recovery when I call my sponsor on a daily basis. Pick up the phone and give her a call.
Dear Past Me,
There are so many things I wish you knew about recovery. I wish you knew it isn’t a “one and done” type of deal. I wish you knew what a struggle it is, but how absolutely worth the fight it is. I wish you knew that it takes saying “no” to quite a lot of things, in order to say “yes” to recovery.
When I say it’s not a “one and done” type of deal, I mean that it takes fight after fight for recovery, day after day, to maintain it. There are going to be things that you think you want, that you will have to say no to, in order to say yes to recovery. This journey is about sacrifice. Sacrifice of the things you think you want, for what you truly yearn for in life. They are going to be the hardest sacrifices that you are going to make in life, but some of the most worth it. You are bargaining for your life here. Its serious business.
Saying yes to recovery is going to mean saying no to quite a lot, but although hard things to say no to, they aren’t things that will help you live to the fullest degree. The things you have to say no to are the things that look appealing at first sight, but will only hurt you in the end. Don’t be fooled. By saying no to these things, you get to say yes to things like hope, family, future, passions, love, goals, and so many other things that you want so deeply in life.
The last thing I wish you knew about recovery is that because addiction to various things often presents itself in various areas of our lives, so recovery must do the same. Recovery must not be something we simply “do” sometimes, but something we embody. This is a difficult task for sure, but one that our lives are depending on. As we do this we will recognize that we live our lives with more and more ease, in knowing we are doing the right thing. Always forward.
“Here is what I wish I knew about Recovery”
Having struggled with addiction and having the opportunity to work in addictions myself, there are so many things I wish I knew about recovery. I wish I could answer the question that so many who suffer have, “Why me?” “Why my child?” I don’t know if anyone can ever truly answer this question with a solid answer. Some say, addiction is due to genetics and that the “addiction gene” caused them to become an addict. Others say maybe it’s due to weakness, or no self-control. But what is true?
Someone in a meeting I was in once said, “Drugs were never the problem, they were the solution to the problem, and that is a problem.” This phrase has always stuck out in my mind, and I’m sure many of you in and out of the rooms have heard it a few times. This phrase to me is very simple, I had found the wrong solution, and there is hope for another solution that doesn’t involve a slow and painful death due to addiction.
I wish I knew how to stop this illness and never let anyone else suffer, but we must all learn in our own way, whatever that way may be. One way I have seen tried and true as a success is working the twelve steps of whatever fellowship you choose and letting others hear the message of recovery, another way is finding passion in our lives again. With a lot of passion and a little hope, we can and do recover.
So in the end, it’s not the “why” that matters, but what are you going to do about it. A simple yet so complex statement.
Dear Addict in Denial,
I’m struggling with step one too. I thought I’d write just to tell you, you’re not alone. For me, it wasn’t easy to decide that I had an addiction. I kept telling myself I had control, even after clear warning signs, until someone finally showed me how I was living. Once I saw it, how it crept into everything I thought or did, my reaction was instant and deeply visceral. I wanted to rip my addiction out. I wanted it gone. That sounds good, right? I should want to fight it. I should want to be angry at it. Right?
Except that’s not the first step. The first step is acceptance. Accepting that I am an addict, that I have this beast beneath my skin, and every day will be a new battle. And I don’t want to. What about my perfect image of being a good mother, wife, friend? It’s a lot to give up, at least for me. It’s not hopeless though, maybe I will have to hurt my friend’s sometimes, rely on and drain my husband sometimes, and hell, maybe teach my children to recovery. But someone told me I can’t let perfect get in the way of good enough. And maybe even as an addict, I’m good enough. I’m still getting comfortable with it too.
Sincerely, A F.
Dear friends back home, (or friends of addicts)
I know it can be really hard to support me in my recovery. So here’s what I can tell you, what I now know.
1. A lot of you know this feeling. The feeling of overwhelming pain and helplessness, the shame and desperation to hide it. Even if it shows up differently in you. I will share your strength and you can share mine, and it will help me so much more if you’re willing to fight with me. Sharing your shame helps me live with mine.
2. My addiction is sneaky. Trust your gut, not my reasoning. If you feel like I might be slipping, ask me. If you feel like I’m in denial, push me. Remember to do everything with love and gentleness. In the end I need your help.
3. My problem isn’t with my drug of choice, it’s with self-compassion/self-worth. If you want to ask me how I am, don’t talk about my drug of choice. Ask me, you know, how I am emotionally. And Dear God, do not talk about how I look. Even if it is positive. Just don’t.
4. I am a mess. I am an addict. Love me anyway. Don’t let me pretend I’ve got it down. I never do.
5. I love you.
Sincerely, A F.
Dear People of Earth,
I am from above, think of me like Horton, and Earth is the spec on the dandelion flower. (If you have seen Horton Hears A Who ) I see you mortals engage in many things that they don’t actually want. When it comes to the chemicals that you might ingest, inject, in any way shape or form the thing I must tell you is: STOP, DROP, and ROLL. When I say that, I mean stop yourself, think, drop your pride and bull crap. Ask yourself, “Do I really want that?” or do you want it more than your family, friends, jobs, potential lovers, etc. Think if you want to be able to think or control what you say, do, believe. Then if you want to get so low in life that you break down, scream, punch, and eventually die just for some more of what you want. Then go do it.
BUT, if you want love, and to eat tasty food, and the smell of French vanilla, and to touch a cute furry dog, and dance to Hannah Montana with your friends— then go grab a healthy boy/girl relationship to snuggle with, get some French vanilla beans, buy a puppy, and blast some Hannah Montana my friend.
Love, Horton! Also known as Sara B.
“God grant unto me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; and Wisdom to know the difference” (The Serenity Prayer – utilized by AA and other 12-step treatment programs). In looking up some of these key words in the Encarta Dictionary, here is what we find:
- Serenity: “Without worry, stress, or disturbance”
- Courage: “The ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action”
- Wisdom: “The ability to make sensible decisions and judgments based on personal knowledge and experience”
At New Haven, when families are faced with a crisis, we encourage them to ask themselves three questions:
Question #1: What do I not have control over in this situation? The goal here is to acknowledge and accept the lack of control; making peace with such instead of fighting such. Redirect the energy attempting to settle here to Question #3. Spending your energy with things not in your control only increases feelings of anxiety, frustration, fear, and hopelessness. It sometimes even further perpetuates the issue. Spending large amounts of energy here is counterproductive.
Question #2: What do I have control over in this situation? It is helpful to acknowledge specific things within your control and clearly define the limits of your control. Without clearly defining this, we often lose sight of the fact that many things remain within our control and influence.
Question #3: What will I begin doing with the things in my control? This is where your energy needs to be. Make a specific plan based on things within your control, according to your desired outcome. Begin implementing the plan immediately, even if it is a small step toward your desired outcome. At any time your energy begins to center upon things outside of your control, redirect it back to this question and carrying out your defined plan. Let your energy rest here…
At New Haven, our hope is that these three principles will help any of us who are struggling with difficult times. Let’s thrive!!!
To girls who are struggling in their addiction, here are 3 things you should know,
1. YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Honestly, It doesn’t matter what kind of addiction or how intense. You are never alone. So many times when someone is struggling, they are too deep into their addiction to notice the people willing to help. Take a step back, breathe, and REACH OUT. Parents are a great support, and so are recovering addicts with a good amount of clean time under their belts. There are so many different types of groups for support, if you can’t get to one, there are internet groups, but be careful it’s still a chatroom.
2. COPING SKILLS ARE IMPORTANT
Though in treatment we are always talking about coping skills and tactics to distract ourselves in the moment, many times we don’t even think about using them in the moment. However, they are EXTREMELY useful when dealing with an urge. Write up a list of possible coping skills and keep it somewhere you know you have easy access to during the day, for many teens this could be writing it in the notes section of your smartphone, this gives you no excuse for not having that list! When confronted with a situation, I am aware that sometimes it isn’t so easy to look at the list because of impulse and because sometimes we forget, but practice makes permanent and eventually it becomes second nature. You will most likely just remember them and not have to look at the list anymore. I also found it extremely helpful to put a list of my values right next to that list so that if I feel that I may be doing something that might compromise my values I have them right there.
3. LAPSE DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO HAVE A FULL BLOWN RELAPSE
While many addicts call a bump in their recovery a “relapse” many times it is actually a “lapse” which is a term I like much better, because it implies you are pulling yourself out of it instead of spiraling out of control. Many addicts have the mindset of “when it rains it pours” or black and white thinking. We are going to make mistakes, we are human. It doesn’t give us a go ahead to just lose our heads and have a field day, and when we do, it means we pick ourselves up and say “No, this isn’t me and I will not let it be me anymore”. Lately something that has helped me is thinking to myself “How would I feel if I found out my daughter was doing this?”, and many times, I don’t wind up doing it because it puts things in perspective for me.
I’m not saying this is going to be easy, however I AM saying that it will be worth it. I fully believe that any addict can pull through this. Just stay strong, and have patience!!
Addiction is a lifestyle. It comes with hard feelings, good feelings, and everything a lifestyle endures. The truth is it becomes a lifestyle you can’t control. My drug addiction became my lifestyle and through that I lost my relationships, my sense of self, my values, my health, and I learned to manipulate and lie my way through my day-to-day life. I lost sight of anything that was important to me. It seemed like that was the only way I could live. When my recovery began it started with a desire to stop using; a choice to try and change. For so long I thought I could keep using because I felt like I had not hit my “rock bottom” but rock bottom looks different for everyone; I asked myself, ‘how bad does it need to get before enough is enough?’ I realized that if I kept going enough was never going to be enough. I struggled to stay clean for a few years. Not using was not ample to really experience sobriety. I was still living my addiction but trying to stay clean at the same time. The want for sobriety was there but I grew to realize I was terrified to change my life. I had no idea where even to begin. I had so much fear. I knew that to really change it had to come from within me, no one could do it for me. I could not just wake up one day and suddenly be recovered. I needed to create a foundation for a new way of life; rebuild my relationships, make amends, and most importantly establish who I was as a person. I needed to learn what was important to me and accept the help of others. The first 3 steps of the 12 step program really helped me let go of the power and control I had holding me back in opening my heart to recovery. Through admitting I was powerless to my addiction, believing in my higher power, and letting my higher power guide me in my recovery I realized that admitting I was powerless gave me back my freedom. I no longer was living like I was surviving, I was learning to live like I was alive. Through the help of others and believing in myself I have been able to maintain my sobriety; Reach out when I am struggling. You always have a choice and everyday I wake up and choose to be sober. I choose to live a life that can bring me real relationships; friendship. I choose to feel wholeness in my life. I choose to give back to others what they have given to me. Addiction is powerful but so is recovery. It is important to honor your addiction and accept that it is there but make the conscious choice to choose sobriety. A new way of life is always possible. Hope is always there you just need to take advantage of it. The 12 steps don’t just apply to drug/ alcohol addiction, they can apply to all aspects of life that you need them in. Battling against you addiction can be heinous but also make peace with it. Forgiveness is key in my recovery. Forgiveness and honoring all of you is a key to making peace. Love all of you so you can love all of someone else.
JUST FOR TODAY my thoughts will be on my recovery, living and enjoying my life without the use of drugs.
JUST FOR TODAY I will have faith in someone in NA who believes in me and wants to help me in my recovery.
JUST FOR TODAY I will have a program. I will try to follow it to the best of my ability.
JUST FOR TODAY I will try and get a better perspective on my life.
JUST FOR TODAY I will be unafraid. My thoughts will be on my new associations, people who are not using and have found a new way of life. So long as I follow that way, I have nothing to fear!
By, Hannah H
Dear Seventeen Year Old Me,
Congratulations on making it this far! You’ve been a sweet baby angel your whole life! You’ve never done drugs, had a sip of alcohol, or smoked a cigarette. You’ve never even kissed a boy. Way to go, you perfect gem.
Here’s the thing: Now that I’m 25 and looking back, I know the REAL reason you avoided doing all those bad things: You didn’t want your sisters to find out and then tell your parents.
There is literally no other reason that you stayed out of trouble besides the fact that you didn’t want to get caught.
That fact will officially screw up the next five years of your life.
You’re going to move out of the house as soon as you possibly can, and since there’s no one around to ground you or look down on you or guilt trip you, you’re going to start doing all sorts of dumb things. Some of them are stupid, some of them are dangerous, most are a combination of dangerous AND stupid. This will continue on, a vicious cycle of control, consequences, resentment, legal and financial problems, and a series of loser boyfriends.
When you hit 22, you’ll wake up afraid for your life. You’ll know you are going to die if you don’t change what you’re doing. You’ll finally reach out for help because you actually want it. For the next 9 months you are in various treatment centers and at first it SUCKS.
You’ll get introduced to Recovery, and the 12 Steps, and things will change. You’ll start to feel better physically, and feel connected spiritually. You’ll understand that guilt is healthy and productive, while shame is useless and corrosive.
Fast forward: You’ll make it to over three years sober. You’ll get to give several of your sponsees their one-year chips. You’ll have all these wonderful gifts and people in your life.
The best thing is, you’ll be the same person no matter if anyone is looking or not. You’ll actually like who you are, and one day you’ll work at a treatment center with girls just like you.
I wish I could tell you to avoid all those mistakes and get it together at 17 years old, but I can’t. I know you won’t change a thing until you make the choice yourself. All I can say is: find women that are like you and listen to them. It will make all the difference in the world.
Love and understanding,
Recovering Alcoholic (sob. Date 3/17/92)
Keep in mind that I am a member of AA, and this is written with into my experience below.
Dear Mom and Dad, here is what I wish you knew about recovery:
That I will never be cured of alcoholism. I get what is referred to as a “daily reprieve” as long as I stay in fit spiritual condition. I continue to go to AA meetings – not so much anymore for myself, but to make myself available to others that may be struggling with drinking. While my entire quality of life has significantly improved due to my sobriety, I really due continue to stay involved in AA because I am, and will always be, an alcoholic.
Lastly, you did not “make” me an alcoholic. I did that all by myself! Please do not fell any guilt whatsoever because of my condition. I actually have and interesting and fuller life due to being in recovery. I have experienced things no “normal” person ever will.
To all my friends at home, here is what I wish you knew about recovery:
That it is my issue, and not yours. Please do not feel awkward when drinking around me. I promise you – if I want a drink, I will go get one. I am not in prison. I actually have been released early from a life sentence. I have no desire to drink today, so I do not feel tempted when you order that glass of wine at dinner. I struggle to not understand how you can leave some in your glass, or that you don’t order 3 more bottles. Once I take the FIRST drink, I am off and running. It is not the 10th drink – it’s the first one.
To my future/past self, here is what you need to know about recovery:
To my past self: Please be easier on yourself. Ask for help – it is not a sign of weakness to ask – it is actually a sign of strength. You have it in you, and you know you are miserable and hate the person you are becoming. Go get help now and push ALL excuses away – all of them. I guarantee you it will work out in the end. You have a problem.
To my future self: I hope you continue to grow and grow, and never settle for anything less than complete peace of mind. Be present and helpful to everyone, not just the ones you select. There are many angels out there disguised as homeless people as an example, and you need to remember everyone needs help – not just the ones you feel comfortable approaching. Learn to listen more and speak less – get your ego right sized. When you do talk, have something to say.
To those coming back from a relapse, here are three things that helped me
While I have yet to relapse, my experience is that around 50% of the people I know in recovery have relapsed at some time. You are not alone. Also, what can you do about it? It is in your history and part of your story.
Make it a positive part of your story.
What did you learn?
How can that experience benefit others?
If you are wrapped in in the “misery” of relapse, are you not obsessed with yourself somewhat? The key to long-term sobriety is get into the position where you can help others with their struggles. If you are in AA and have relapsed, we do not care. As they say, the door swings both ways. Come into any meeting and just be honest. You may surprise yourself with the outpouring of concern and offers of help. Go with the flow. Let others become part of your life. Most cannot get sober alone. It is important that a few (or even one) knows everything about you. It is a level of intimacy you probably are not used to – I will tell you it can be a bright spot in your life.
I don’t know what you are struggling with, and I don’t need to. I don’t know your story, and that too, I do not need to know.
Because, “I’m Christie, and I’m an addict.”
I’m not claiming to know you, your story, or your addiction, but I understand the rock bottom, the loss of will, the pain, and the void that addiction has put me in.
I have been struggling with an addiction to self-harm for almost seven years and with bulimia for almost four, and it hasn’t been an easy journey. Growing up with an alcoholic father, I have seen what programs like AA can do. (My dad just got his 12 year medallion.) My dad’s experiences made me know to myself that I wouldn’t be an addict. I thought, like many others, that I couldn’t get addicted to self-harm or an eating disorder. False. Because, I could stop at any time, right? Also false. I am an addict. Yes, I can’t undo what physical effects that my addictions have caused. I can buy scar creams, and toothpaste that saves the little enamel I have left, but that won’t make me knot an addict. That doesn’t mean that I can’t be recovering. I can go to meetings. I can get my eight month chip. I can grow. I can heal. I can commit myself to my recovery, and I can be brave, and you can too.
Like I said, I don’t know you, but I believe in you, anyways. One day at a time.
P.S. 7 months, 19 days clean, and to be continued…….!
Whenever I Struggle With Recovery
Well first off, Addiction is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through and I go through it every day. Recovery is even more difficult. While using drugs, a lot of things invite me into a cycle of never ending negativity. Personally, loneliness is where it all starts. I tend to loose connection with the people around me when I feed into the thought of not being good enough. These acceptance issues bring up a lot of deep loneliness and insecurities within a matter of moments. I have to work hard to seek help and find faith in my higher power’s journey for me. On a daily basis I catch myself become afraid of this simple surrender. I worry about the unknown while my focus should be on a positive change that effects many.
I’m not a shy person, but stick me in a room full of strangers and I begin to panic. Something about me takes cover when I have the opportunity to get close to another human being who thinks and feels. Part of it is fear of commitment and another part is that I concentrate on how I’ve already hurt many people I love in the past. Of course the two go hand in hand. The feeling can be so strong that I don’t allow people to see me for who I really am. This is where I am an Alcoholic. I become consumed that I don’t reach out beyond myself to offer the love I know I can give. Truly selfish.
My insecurities also lead me down a path where I begin to neglect asking for love. Very well do I know I deserve and need the support of people around me. Very well do I know how to get it and very well do I know the good effect that come to both parties. Yet I run. Why would I ever want someone to see me struggling with something so bad as addiction especially when I know I have no control over any of it? I already realize I’m a disaster why would I want someone else to see that too.
After all this negative thinking, the spiral has already set its course and I’m halfway to my downward destination. When I push people away, I push everything good out of my life. I don’t receive motivation to be myself anymore and definitely begin to forget how that looks and feels. I start loosing sight of what kind of person I am because I am ignoring my morals as a human being who wants love and a deep connection to the world. When this happens, it is a very serious case and only one unexplainable thing can pull me out.
Through the grace of God I am alive today. I shouldn’t be alive, but I am. The hardest thing I will continue to do is put faith into something I can’t see and therefor have no tangible proof even exists. The one thing I can say is that I’ve always had a feeling that something created this world. How I found him during my death date with the devil, I will never know. I do know I give him all the credit for I am to small to do an action as powerful and divine as this.
I connect to love being a strapping thing. An emotion too powerful for a creature on earth to create and pass on all on their own. Every time I give love, I’m channeling something greater than myself. Every time I receive love I’m willing to allow something greater than me to enter into my soul. For me my Higher Power is the cure and in this I find the will to surrender to whatever he has planned for me. Now I try to pass out this lifesaving offering to others for I know I owe Him my life.
By, Madison G.
A Message of Hope
I want to start this message of hope with the answer to the question that I asked for many, many years. The answer I KNOW NOW to the question I asked then is: Yes Lisa, The sun WILL shine again.
Often, in life there are days of joy, peace, perspective and growth but on the other side there are also days of feelings of hopelessness, confusion, failure and loss. In society today many people can and do live through these days without any great change or effect on the basic foundations of their lives, family, home, job, health, and spirituality to name a few: but as with most things there are two sides to this story and that would be mine.
I remember at a very young age being very angry and unable to cope with a lot of the experience’s that my childhood and teenage years had to offer. I experienced a few different forms of abusive behavior due to other’s choices in these early years. These experiences and the feelings that they created within me I could not understand, and I would turn them in eventually upon myself.
At the age of 16 I would start drinking and I would also start to participate in the behaviors which accompany this type of life choice. 16 led to 17 and 17 – 25 – 30 and from 30 to 38. Through these years of darkness and confusion I would only survive by the grace of God and the prayers of so many who would never give up hope or almost never give up hope.
My mother said at one point that out of all of her children I had worried her the most. The day that she said caused her so much worry was the day that she could no longer see the light in my eyes. I would spend most of my life living in a situation that I had no idea how to change or even consider the fact that it was even within my power to change. I was addicted to alcohol, tried almost every drug that I had the opportunity to try and became addicted to a few of those in the process (mostly the stimulants). I had failed marriages, a suicide attempt, and an ex-husband who thank goodness was healthy enough to become a full-time dad when I could not or even would not change.
The life I have experienced has not been one that the average person would say, “Boy I want your life but from where I sit today. Boy I am glad that I have a life…” June 3, 2004 was the day a new Me was born, a new hope, and a new life. I have never used any alcohol, or other drugs since that time and the previous behaviors that came with these choices have all but been overcome. I have quit smoking and I look nothing like the person that I was before. Yes, I have been given new life. I have 3 beautiful children now and only one of those has ever known the previous me… My addictions have been removed from me and I wake up every morning making two choices each day. The first choice is to include God in my life. I know where my healing has come from. The second choice I make is choosing to live a different way, one more day and yes another and another and another day, one day at a time.
10 years in recovery has been a great blessing to me. I am grateful for the sacrifices that have been made for me in my journey to today. I am grateful and willing to share the hope of love, life and recovery anytime I have the opportunity. This is a priceless gift and one I will always treasure. I am a miracle and I can never deny that fact. THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE. ?
By, Lisa P.
Dear Best Friends Back Home,
I love you all dearly. That won’t ever change. However, I will NOT be the same girl I was when I left you last year. You knew me as someone who was impulsive, reckless, and secretive surrounding drugs. I am not that girl anymore. I know what I want in life. Addiction runs in my family. I can’t use casually. I can’t take just a couple of hits. I can’t be mostly sober guys. This is hard. Doing this recovery thing SUCKS, but this has to happen. I never want any of you to get that phone call with a frantic voice “Sophie overdosed!”. I can’t be anything but 100%. I want to be back with you guys, I want to be the artist I know I can be. I know that this is hard to understand – it is for me too. I love you and I need my friends to support me fully on this. Don’t invite me to parties with drugs. Don’t hang out with me while high.
If you love and care about me, stick with me through this journey of recovery.
Much Love, Sophie L.
To someone struggling with addiction here are three things that have helped me,
A really common belief among addicts and alcoholics is that we are suffering alone. I remember feeling like no one could possibly understand the pain and fear I was going through. I couldn’t be helped; I was alone in this disease. I remember distinctively the day I realized that there were so many people out there going through the same thing I was. My first AA meeting, I sat in the dim room looking around at everyone in shock. There are people just like me, I thought. The words coming out of their mouths were describing me, my pain, my story. I couldn’t believe other people felt the same way I did. I sat there and cried. Even though this was only the first step to my long of recovery, it was a moment I will never forget.
Even if you experience hard times, remember that you are not alone in your addiction.
Admitting that needing the support of others is not weakness. It shows wisdom and discretion in sorting out which times you need to turn to others and which times you don’t. I remind myself that everyone needs help at some point in their lives, and it is strength rather than a personal failure to seek it. When we get caught up in our own pain and don’t ask for help, we just end up hurting everyone around us.
Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.
In times of pain, fear, and uncertainty it’s easy to believe that these feelings will stay awhile. Something what keeps me going is taking into account that these uncomfortable feelings are temporarily. Life is not a continuous straight line, there will be bumps and valleys, and that’s life. But remember that things constantly change. Your biggest worry from two weeks ago you might never have to encounter again. But do consider the fact that the longer you are in recovery, the easier it will be to work through these feelings in a positive manner.
Change is inevitable, progress is optional.
By, Goldie B.
Hannah H.’s A-Ha moments in Recovery
- Sometimes the best leadership is practiced through the encouragement and support of helping someone else step up as a leader
- What you choose to see in the world is what you will see.
- Don’t compromise what’s important to you to help you feel better in the moment.
- Define what’s important to you by what’s important to you not what you think other people think is important.
- Even when you’re having a hard time in your life you are still moving forward
- Change has to come from within you; no one can do it for you
- Every living thing has its own innate worth by just being; everyone has their own influence and impact on others
- By honoring all of myself and believing in who I am I can find peace
- It feels better to stand up for what you value then to stand by and hide parts of you to fit in; it can lead to a lack of understanding who you are
- Turning my fear into excitement helps when my fear impairs me
- Emotions just are, and that’s okay
- Admitting you need help and are powerless to addictions in your life the more you get your freedom back
- When your mind, heart, and gut are all aligned in a decision then trust it; trust your heart
- You can only control yourself and the choices you make, you cant control other people and their reactions/ choices
- Letting go of things is bring more opportunity in
- Loving all of yourself helps you love all of other people
- Change and a new way of life is always possible if you’re open to it; no one can rescue you, you have to take advantage of the opportunity you get
- Who you are at your core will never change but people, things, and places in your life will and that’s okay, you will always be discovering new things about yourself and different parts of you.
- Living in your core issue is just surviving; thriving in your core meaning is being alive
- Trust comes from being real and vulnerable, creating an emotionally safe environment
- Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind
- A mask never reveals what the true emotion is
- Even when you loose someone they are not really gone because parts of them live on in people that that person has impacted
- Anger is a secondary emotion and it only hurts the person that is angry, holding grudges just hurts you, hating someone is more exhausting then letting it go
- The difference between shame and guilt is that shame is a statement about who you are as a person and guilt is about something you did rather than towards who you are
- External things will never bring anyone long term fulfillment
- Your higher power will never give you anything you can’t handle or anything you don’t have to tools to be able to handle
- You are never alone or forgotten
- Practicing gratitude will help ground you and help you through tough times
- Honor all those important in your life to help remember why they are important to you and what the relationship means to you; remember to do it for yourself too and what the relationship with yourself means to you
- Feel what you need to feel!
- Reach out in life; don’t reach in, even when you don’t really know what’s going on or what to say. Putting light on it helps discover what is going on and create support for you
- When your trying to control thing that are out of your control turn it over to your higher power!!
- The more you embrace new things in your life the more you discover new parts of yourself
- You are the only thing that will never leave you, get to know you
- You cant keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting it to turn out differently
- The hardest things you do in life will help shape you as a person and teach you more than anything
- No two things you experience will be the same
- Accountability is owning all of the choices you make good and bad and owning those choices
- Addiction is a lifestyle, so recovery has to be one as well
- Trying to control your relationships will only push them away
- If you are trying to prove something to someone else you are probably trying to prove something to yourself
- Perfection is not real and can never be accomplished, striving for perfection is telling yourself to set you up for failure
- “If it fits let it sit, if it doesn’t apply let it fly”
- Don’t trust everything you think
- Only you can take happiness away from you
- Be kind to yourself, notice the signs if your compromising yourself to be in a relationship with someone
- Have yourself together before you get involved with a guy
- Applying the serenity prayer to your life “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”
- Courage is being confident in the everyday thing that you do, that no matter how little the struggle is to you owning that is courage. Making it through everyday and saying there is always a new day is courage
- Sometimes you have to sacrifice what you are now to become who you want to be
To my past self,
If someone had told me a year ago that I would now be at my third treatment center, I would have told them to get lost. If someone had told me that I would be sober, I would have laughed at them. There’s so many things I wish I would have known a year ago.
First, “I can stop whenever I want”, is the dumbest, biggest lie one can ever tell themselves. Because you can stop whenever you want….. Until you can’t. I wish I knew that recovery is a LONG journey, and once you stop using, your life does not automatically become whole again. I wish I had thought about potential consequences, not only myself, but my friends, family, education, future, etc. I wish I knew it was okay to ask for help. But, most of all, I wish I knew that I was loved, supported, and cared for, that my struggles are mine, but they don’t define me, and that I don’t need drugs or alcohol to feel happy and loved. Recovery is long and hard, and painful, and tiring, but hands down, totally and completely worth it.
Surrender to what is, let go of what was, have faith in what will be. As long as I follow this way, I have nothing to fear.
To my high school teachers,
If you don’t talk about drugs, you’ll never talk about them. If you tell us it’ll make us sick and we will never graduate high school, we won’t care. We don’t care that brain cells will die or that we will end up like zombie because trust me, we’re not thinking about the future right now. We’re thinking about after school not five years from now.
So how about we start telling the truth? The truth is you will like drugs. Most of us will like the inhale, we’ll fall in love with the exhale. Most of us will trip to trip and we will love the feeling of being hazy and edgy and high out of our minds. The biggest danger isn’t our safety, our health, our recklessness. The biggest danger is that we will fall in love with drugs. We will love them so much that we will make excuses for Mary. We will make excuses for the benzos and the shrooms. We end up madly in love with drugs and we will stop at nothing to love them for as long as possible. We don’t realize we’re in an abusive relationship and once we do, sometimes it’s too late.
They don’t tell us in school that we will actually like drugs, they somehow forget to mention that addiction isn’t just a side effect, it’s the only effect. So instead of protecting us and making it seem like the only damage is to our health, tell us what addiction truly is and how utterly terrifying that is.
-Stay Safe, Carmen D.
To the person I once was,
If only I had the chance, I would tell you to recognize the beauty as well as the fragility of what you have. A loving family, a rewarding career and a positive outlook on life have been greatly compromised by addiction and the denial that comes with it. If you start to wonder whether you have a problem, you do.
If you see the people that love you begin to worry, you have a chance to address it before the concern turns to exasperation, anger and finally the realization that they can no longer be near you. Give yourself the gift of not having to experience the feelings of shame and failure that come with untreated addiction. Give your loved ones the gift of having respect for you, of feeling safe and protected with you and of wanting to be with you. If it feels like you will be losing the very thing that gives you temporary peace, know that it’s a lie – addiction doesn’t want you to be at peace with the world. It wants to stand between you and the very peace you seek.
I was the kid with a sick fascination for you. At 5 years old, I would watch the teens across the street light up and smoke a blunt, causing little nervous spasms in my stomach and yet I couldn’t look away.
“What do drugs do?” was always a question I asked, and the automatic response was, “They kill you. Never do drugs.” Of course, everyone failed to tell me the real reason you’re so dangerous is really due to the euphoria you bring and the emptiness you can fill so immediately. So, after smoking my first jay and waking up the next day fully alive, I completely disregarded what every adult in my life had told me about you. “Drugs are bad”, “Drugs will kill you”. Ha! Yeah Right! Complete and utter bullshit. They know nothing about you.
Come 9th grade and I quickly get pulled in. I meet great friends, sharing you as our friend in common. Smoking every day after school, go to sick parties, and getting so high that I even forget my own name. Amphetamines turn out to be my jam and I’m popping addy’s everyday by Christmas freshman year.
So here I am, 3 years later remembering all those great times. I’m stone cold sober and in treatment, reminiscing my party days and my party friends. But sometimes off with my memories, something I can see clearly now what I couldn’t see before. And I hit a standstill. Drug addict of the year and it hits me hard. This realization that you’ve totally screwed me over. I’ve been cheated.
You were my best friend. You made my life worth living, you became my reality. I trusted mushrooms, hallucinations to be real in the moment.
That purple elephant running across the street? It’s as real as the sun in the sky, as tangible as the red stop sign down the street. Except it’s not real, and I can only realize that after my trip ends and all that’s left is the actual truth, which is that the purple elephant was never actually there, it was a lie.
You were my best friend, and you threw me a big fat party. In fact, it was probably the party of my life. My best friends are all there, dancing, strobe lights, foam, vodka and drunk twister, gravity bongs and weed and coc and moma brownies and I’m having the time of my life.
And then, at some point during the night I pass out on the bathroom floor, and when I wake up, everything’s gone. All I have left is an empty house, a crap ton of shit to clean up, and a massive hangover.
Ha. Yeah. Thanks a lot “friend”
Hi, my name is Cecile F. and I’m the mother of a daughter who has addiction issues.
I’m also the daughter of a father who was an alcoholic from his teenage years until he died at the age of 52.
As a child I did not know my dad was an alcoholic, I had nothing to compare to. He would either get very angry, and I thought that we deserved it, or he would get sentimental and affectionate, which made me uncomfortable. I think that he was not himself when he was drinking. I did not like or trust the person he was when he drank. I feel that my dad’s drinking destroyed my family, while my mom watched and did nothing about it. I’m still angry about that.
It’s not always clear when a person is using drugs. When Chloe started using, I could sense that something was off. It’s like knowing without knowing. She was a master of hiding it, and looking back, she pushed me away maybe also so I would not see it.
When we realized that Chloe was doing drugs, we focused too much on the behavior and not why she was using. It’s hard to see what’s behind it.
Of course, it scared me so much, because of my dad. I mean, face it, she has some of his genes, and also Chloe has always exhibited addictive behavior.
I was always scared that she would get into heavy drugs like heroin, cocaine etc.…I was scared that when she was high sometimes someone would take advantage of her.
This is a BIG part of why I sent Chloe to the wilderness program.
Her drug use was affecting everybody. She tried to “drag” her older brother into her bad habit, so that she would not trip alone, and later he started smoking by himself. She made him believe this is what fun is like, but his idea of having fun is completely different. Now he is having his “healthy” fun with his friends and is much happier!
Additionally, she was a terrible role model for her sister and the tension and drama at home was really affecting everyone. I was worried about what would happen with Lucie and I tried to protect her. Chloe told her the truth last week and I’m incredibly proud of her.
For me it was like holding sand in my hand. I could see it but as much as I was holding the sand it was escaping through my fingers, I could not stop it but simply watch.
Sometimes I secretly liked when Chloe was high, she was not as uptight and she would be nicer, open up a little bit. But then I realized that it was not real, that all we talked about would be forgotten anyways.
I like to drink wine and beer. I’m aware that it’s in my gene also, and it’s in my husband’s family (his father was an alcoholic also) and I think about it often. If I crave wine (which I admit happens) I worry that I could become an alcoholic myself.
Alcohol is everywhere. It’s hard to avoid it. I’ve met some recovering alcoholics, friends, people I work with etc.…It’s easy to figure out even if they don’t tell me. But regardless of whether I like that person or not, I’m always extremely impressed that they quit and that they turned their life around. I look up to them.
Lastly, I try to be cool about people smoking weed. Secretly I really hate it, and I hate that it’s now legal in Colorado. I’m really not okay with it!
I would like Chloe to stay sober. For me to try to stop her, I realize, is useless because she has to be the one that wants to stay sober for herself. And not to please me.
To my addiction,
Looking back into my dark moments I’m coming to realize how much I depended on you. I destroyed my relationships to be loyal to you. I favored you over my family and turned to you for comfort. No matter how hard my loved ones around me tried to pull me away from you, you always had a more significant force that made it difficult for me to focus on anything but the lies you were feeding me. I let you grow on me, along with all the bad habits. I believed in you more than I believed in myself. I believed you were on my side, that you were set out to make me happy. But every time I did what you told me to do, I suffered. I didn’t want to feel anything. I just wanted to numb out. I was lonely and I felt shame. I felt sadness. But I kept coming back to you. There was something comforting that came from the pain you brought. It was so consistent, and I felt like you were the last thing I had. I burned the bridges of all my other relationships, and you were all i had left with me. What I was doing wasn’t living. I was a shell of my former self, and you controlled me like a puppet because you had finally consumed me. At a certain point, I finally felt trapped by you. Realizing I had no power over you led me to an event that changed the course of my life. I discovered that while I don’t have power over you, I have the choice to listen to you or to ignore you. I have the ability to admit to and correct my mistakes. I have grown from what you have put me through. The pain has helped me appreciate happiness. I am a better person today and as a hurtful “friend” I’m thanking you for what you have taught me.
I am powerless, but not helpless.
– Abi H.
An elderly Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life…
He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me, it is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf is evil—he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego. The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”
They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win, Grandfather?”
The Elder simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Addiction is my black wolf, and he fights every single day to bring me back down into evil, fear, and anger. Sometimes I give in and think I am not strong enough to live a life of recovery, but as soon as I feed my white wolf full of peace, love, and hope he will quickly start to take over and win that day. I will always vow to fight this fight everyday, because my worst day sober, is 100 times better than my best day high.