One reason many addicts, myself included, fail to stay sober is that we think of sobriety as a negative thing. It’s about not using drugs. It’s about not buying drugs. It’s about not associating with the wrong people, and not going to places that may cause us to use.
Let me counter with another negative statement, and it may sound harsh: If all you do is focus on the don’ts of sobriety, you will almost certainly fail.
I believe this because I relapsed twice in my first year of sobriety. The first time, I’d stopped going to group meetings. I’d gotten through rehab, stayed sober for six months, and felt like I had things under control. But I was still working the same minimum-wage job, my brother was still in prison, and I still didn’t have a strong relationship with my mom.
I’d tried to replace heroin with video games, but without a strong support network, I didn’t have the resources to fight even the smallest triggers, like playing three terrible matches of Call of Duty in a row. I kid you not, my first relapse was triggered by failing at a video game for a few minutes.
I only used once. I called Jim and told him I needed to come back to the group. He and the group welcomed me with open arms.
The second time I relapsed was about four months later when my brother lost his appeal in court. I felt like he’d been given a death sentence, and my mom was relying on me for emotional support. I’d still never told her about my addiction because I was still avoiding Step 5 and Step 8 of the 12-Step Program. I just couldn’t bring myself to tell my mom about my use, that I’d had plenty of money to help out with rent and food, but spent most of it on drugs instead.
This time, it had been a while since I’d used, and I took a large dose. By the grace of God, my mom was home the night I overdosed, and she knocked on my door to bring me a slice of pizza. When I didn’t answer, she came in. When she found me unconscious, she called the paramedics. Thankfully, a dose of naloxone revived me.
Finding Purpose In Sobriety
After that, I couldn’t hide from anyone. I cried a lot that night, and my mom cried too. We talked about my brother, and why my dad left, and how she had only ever been gone so much because she was working hard to provide for her sons. I felt loved then as I’d never felt loved before, and I committed fully to the 12 Steps.
Recovery is about being positive. It’s about immersing yourself in purpose, in building a real sense of self-esteem. I haven’t missed a meeting since that relapse. Not only do I go to the Friday night basketball games, but I also started volunteering to referee for a Saturday-night youth league.
I started volunteering at a homeless shelter on Sundays because I understood that even though many of the homeless are junkies, they aren’t worthless. They aren’t any worse than I was. It’s only through the grace of God that I have a roof over my head. Who am I to judge someone who has the same problems I had, but didn’t have a loving mother to take care for them?
I also got a promotion at work. It turns out I’m much sharper when I’m not stoned, and I’m currently in training to run my own fast food location. When I’m responsible for other people, I find my own selfish needs become less important. I’ve been tempted to use many times on the job, but now I have to ask myself what my subordinates would think. What if someone is legitimately sick and I have to pick up the slack? If I got high, I’d be letting them down. Worse yet, what if my mom can’t work anymore? I need to be there for her.
Finally, I started this blog, because I understand that the thing addicts like me need most is hope. If I can give hope to only one person, if I can help just one person get clean, I’ll have done something important.