Recently, I spoke at a convention as a Friday Night speaker – I have a wicked sense of humor, (given to me by God as I understand him and God has a sense of humor also I believe) and I often make people laugh by sharing the difficulty I had in finally achieving abstinence and starting on the road to recovery. I realize in the last 27 years of being in the process of abstinence/recovery and listening to other members share their thoughts: that many people might look at my stubbornness, denial and stupidity (continuously trying to do it my way) as something that could be overcome through taking suggestions (or “If you just do what I did it will work for you”), however, I am not so sure.
Flash back to a meeting of my home group 19 years ago. There were a group of addicts who continued to share that if a person did the five basic suggestions every day they would stay clean and grow spiritually, like a guarantee. I thought about this . . . I reflected on my personal experience and the combined experience I had witnessed in the rooms of NA . . . and I found this to be a false statement – yes, the five things are important – but there is no guarantee that any of us will stay clean – we have a disease, incurable, insidious and fatal. It never goes away and if you are clean today, honor it, respect it, and realize it is only through God’s grace that you are abstinent today. This is just another form of denial, the denial of the power of the disease. It is almost like saying “I will never use again.” its all ego. The program is Just For Today, and none of us really know how it works. There is an unseen and unknown force at work, we call it a higher power or God. Without the acceptance that there is a mystery here we are doomed – faith is a mystery – the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel is a mystery. Miracles are mysteries. My spirit was awakened and I do not know why, or how – it was not of my own accord – I did nothing but BRING the body!
In my personal struggles the compulsion and obsession to use was so powerful and so much a part of my life that I could not stop – this is partly what makes me an addict to begin with – I wanted to stop, I wanted a new life, I could see what drugs were doing to me, turning me into something I did not want to be. I felt like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – my life was a horror story – However, upon my own will, left to my own devices, I could not change. It was only when I met others like me that I could actually start to believe that maybe it could happen for me. This is our unity, not that we all did drugs. If this were true I would just as much in common with half the planet. No, it is the fact that all of us tried to stop on our own and could not stay stopped, until we met each other.
Hope was the gift you gave me, hope in the form of many recovering addicts in the rooms of NA. It was upon this hope and the slogans (keep coming back, do not leave 5 minutes before the miracle happens, etc) that I continued to pick my sorry ass up and go to meetings, while using, while trying to remain abstinent, with all the voices of the committee in my head telling me that I would be better off dead, regardless. Until eventually, the compulsion and obsession were lifted.
I wish I could take credit for what happened to me over the next first few months of my recovery. I wish I could tell you I made a decision to follow spiritual principles, or take suggestions. Instead all I can tell you is that i started to wake up, my spirit, which was dead, started to come alive, and little by little, my denial was being chipped away. I started to understand that I had a disease and it was not my fault. That I had been in a war, a loosing battle, jumping in the ring with a heavy weight champion and getting my ass kicked every time. My experience showed me that I was insane. Thinking that this time it would be different, knowing that one is too many and a thousand never enough. Realizing for the first time that in my heart I was using against my will.
Every day I asked God to help me, since I realized I did not have the power to change myself. I put a few days together and my ideas started to change. I started to come to believe, however, I still often fought against myself. I continued to struggle spiritually and mentally, although physically I had a few days clean,
It would take to long to tell you all of the awakenings I had during this time of my life. My first 6 months were a very rocky road and the next 6 months were a major turning point. All made possible by a loving caring higher power working through people, places and things – and ME being able to recognize God remaining anonymous (coincidences). This spiritual awareness and my ability to recognize there was a mystery to it, part that I could not see or understand, but I could feel, and being open to that power working in my life – I was able to make it through 24 hours without using, again and again. Although, sometimes I had to just hang on to my seat.
Until one day I awoke (around 90 days) and I did not feel a compulsion or obsession to use drugs. I was in awe! Shocked and amazed. As a matter of fact, I realized this had been going on for a while and I had not noticed. I couldn’t even remember when it left me. I recognized the miracle after it had already happened (see side note below). This miracle is the gift of abstinence and recovery. I wish this to all addicts – the war is over, there is no reason to suffer – white knuckle it for 90 days, do not use no matter what happens, and if you are not happy in 90 days . . . . your misery will gladly be refunded.
I have never forgotten this gift I was given, and I know that I could loose it. This disease is cunning, baffling and insidious. I have seen the horrors of addiction (it does not matter if it is a bottle of beer, a line of toot, or you put it in a boot, its all addiction . . . and woman are the greatest mood and mind altering substance known to man * vice versa) in and out of the rooms and I realize in any given moment I am eligible also – relapse, spiritual, mental or physical can happen to me. I pray it does not, I ask for God’s guidance. I open my mouth for help – I strive to remain honest, open minded and willing. I do the best I can BUT above all else – I respect the disease of addiction. I recognize it is a miracle to be clean and I do not take each day for granted.
When I meet a newcomer, I simply tell them to keep coming back, no matter what. I let them know they are welcome and I offer my number. I tell them if they need to talk I will be available. and I leave it at that . . . . because I know NO MATTER what I say or do, it is a personal journey and ONLY GOD has the power to help the newcomer – I only allow myself to be used as an instrument – it is egotistical for me to think I am gonna teach someone how to stay clean – ONLY the open and honest sharing of our personal experience will ring true to the newcomer – stop telling them what to do and realize they need to have a spiritual experience not an intellectual one – tell them to pray to their higher power for help to stay clean each day – this is there only hope –
otherwise, many more people will continue to suffer, and many more will relapse and damage their lives from the horrors of addiction, inside and outside the rooms – with or without drugs – because SELF WILL, WILL POWER and EGO will not sustain any of us – ONLY a belief that God could restore us to sanity can save us – and if you believe that, you also will tell the newcomer to FIND a higher power and use it – because this is a miracle that can happen to all of us – we do recover.
SIDE NOTE: All of the steps are written in the past tense because they have already happened to us. We have failed to recognize it. Like the removal of my compulsion and obsession. I did not notice until after it was gone. This spiritual journey happens quickly to addicts, although it is only applied in the beginning to drug addiction, we later learn to apply it to all areas of our lives – and this is a life long pursuit –
When I went to a meeting and introduced myself as an addict and shared I was practicing the principles embodied in the first five steps. Five steps in a few moments! wow, But we never realize it until years later. So by the time I had come back from “mission impossible.” and I shared with other addicts I was already starting to grow spiritually. I did not realize it until much later. But this is the nature of recovery – bring the body the mind will follow and your spirit will awaken!