As I enter my 3rd year of sobriety, I cannot help but feel a great deal of gratitude. I lived through my addictions and have had the good fortune to land on my feet.
I have been given a gift. Because of this, I have come to the realization that I want to help others who suffer from similar circumstances. There are wonderful people, both children, and adults, that are destroying themselves. Many, if not all, suffer quietly with mental and emotional disorders. They spend a great deal of their time and resources trying to escape their demons by self-medicating. As a result, their lives become a tangled mass of wreckage.
The good news is that recovery is possible. Just over two years ago I was near death and the old adage of being “sick and tired of being sick and tired” hit me hard. In response, I had the overwhelming desire to break habits I developed as a 15-year-old boy. The party lifestyle and all its ugly consequences became my number one enemy. I suddenly realized that for years I had surrounded myself with people that I only thought were my friends.
As the fog lifted and I could once again think clearly, it became apparent that they were more enemies than anything else. Furthermore, along the path of self-destruction, I had lost the trust of the people that truly loved me. At the end of our lives, these people become the only things that matter. When I was finally done getting high, it was the love of real friends and my family’s trust that I set out to earn back.
The path to sanity is different for everyone but for me, success involved daily prayer. I had always prayed, even when I was not living my life right and despite my poor choices, the Lord responded and protected me.
The way I understand it, addicts that are in recovery need a “Higher Power.” Mine is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was so addicted to cocaine that the only shot I had at happiness was by turning to Him. When I did, I was able to slowly lick my wounds and heal. For a long time, it appeared as though no progress was being made. It is now clear that I was making headway with every passing hour. I recall driving home from church one day and suddenly having the overwhelming desire to get drunk and score some rock. I prayed for strength that day in the car and as I did, I was inspired to remember the pain and agony that comes at the end of a binge. The thought of the consequences made me shudder.
In the past, getting high felt like a soothing balm. That is the incredible lie that addicts believe and it causes us to return time and time again to a path that leads to despair.
Thankfully, the overwhelming urge to relapse passed. As I made my way home, I felt a message in my heart and mind say, “Each time you overcome these temptations and make good choices you will become more powerful.” That gave me great hope and still does to this day. I see it happening as my life and health steadily improve.
Because I cleaned up I was able to complete a Bachelor’s degree that I had started long ago. More importantly, I was able to mend relationships that I had nearly destroyed. I haven’t attended Alcoholics Anonymous or its equivalent called Narcotics Anonymous but I don’t knock these programs whatsoever. They have done tremendous good in the lives of many people. I have read some of their literature and the parts about God ring true to me.
As I struggled to stay sober, I learned about the healing brain and PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal). This is a whole new battle of overcoming depression, bad memories, and sickness that seems to come out of nowhere. The feelings of discouragement are brutal. These symptoms come long after the pain of physical withdrawal is over. It is during these times that those in recovery are at the greatest danger of relapsing. You have no other choice but to ride out the storm like a ship on the high seas, being tossed to and fro in the midst of a hurricane.
My symptoms associated with PAWS started about six months after I was clean and sober and may continue for years. I have them constantly. You can and will get through them though if you reach deep down inside and tap into the reservoirs of strength that exist in your soul. I must mention that a doctor’s care is necessary. I recommend a good therapist as well. We, as addicts, tend to carry many years of trauma and emotional pain and it is imperative to clean all that up if we are to return to anything close to normalcy.
I understand that religion isn’t in vogue these days but I read the Bible and pray daily. This is critical to my ability to withstand the promptings to return to cocaine. These are what I like to call “the moments of truth.” This is when I have to decide. What do I really want in life? Do I want love or people that use me? Do I really want a shot at happiness and am I willing to pass through “the seasons of suffering” to get it?
Have you ever noticed that anything really special in life comes with hard work? Sobriety has not been easy but it has been well worth it. My advice is to embrace the pain and live for the fight.
As for now. I am trying to figure out the best way to help as many people as I can to find the plan of happiness. But if this testimony and message only helps one person, then it has been well worth writing. I have realized through all of this that faith, gratitude, patience and hard work are the tools that can be used by anyone trying to make positive changes in their life. These key elements apply especially well to any addiction, whether it be food, porn, or as in my case cocaine.
I started out as a young person trying to relieve discouragement and anxiety. Little did I realize that the choice would eventually lead to a journey into hell. I feel strongly at this point that the best thing to do with this experience is to use it to help others and try to make the world a better place. Two thoughts that are never found in the depths of addiction.