Finding freedom, life in rooms of recovery
The whole goal of a recovery meeting is for members to share their experience, strength and hope with one another.
Newcomers to the program talk about their struggles, their doubts, their hopelessness. Those who have managed to put together a little bit of time talk about their gratitude, their serenity, the ways their lives have improved. Old-timers, those of us with a few years under our belts, talk about applying the recovery process to our day-to-day lives.
Somewhere out of all of that, we all find what we need.
As a guy with a few 24 hours clean, I’m reminded by newcomers that addiction is still the soul-destroying harbinger of dereliction and degradation that it was when I was still getting high. The insidious thing about addiction is that it’s easy to forget just how bad it was; with time, I start thinking about how good getting high felt, and start to remember less and less those nights when I prayed to God to kill me in my sleep and cursed him in the first light of morning because I was still alive.
Going to meetings on a regular basis keeps me in touch with the reality of my disease. I have yet to hear anyone come into the rooms of recovery and talk about how easy it was to live in active addiction, or how much fun they had, or that they decided to clean up because they were having too good of a time out there.
Most of the time they come crawling through the door, devoid of any sort of light or hope, desperate for any sort of life ring and any glimmer of hope. They come thinking it probably won’t work but willing to give the program a try anyway, because nothing else has and they have nothing else to lose.
If they maintain that willingness — that desire to do anything to get better and change, that hunger to stop just existing in misery and start living life to the fullest — then they have a chance. It’s not an easy journey, but the more time that passes without picking up drugs and alcohol again, the easier it gets to never do so again. The choice, of course, is up to the individual.
And after some time passes and some work is done, it becomes less about making a conscious choice to stay clean. Staying clean becomes second nature. In other words, those recovering addicts who commit themselves to a program of rigorous honesty, open-minded and willingness eventually stop working the program and start living it.
Today, I’m grateful for the opportunity to live and not just exist. I wouldn’t really even describe my life in active addiction as “existence,” because I felt more like a zombie from the television show “The Walking Dead”: shuffling through life, unconcerned with appearance or my well-being, driven by an overwhelming, insatiable hunger that consumed everything. I was a shell that vaguely resembled the human being I used to be, virtually unrecognizable to my loved ones. I cared for nothing except the desperate scream inside of myself for the chemicals I thought held all of the answers to the problems in my life, but even after finding them and using them, they were never enough.
I don’t have to live like that today. My life still has its share of problems, but they’re of a complexity I never could have imagined, even before I started getting high. Recovery has helped me overcome my addiction, but it’s also given me a new life that has allowed me to flourish as a decent father, a good friend, a loving husband and a responsible, productive member of society.
This weekend marks one of the busiest all year for me, with the upcoming Foothills Fall Festival taking place starting Friday. By weekend’s end, I’ll be exhausted. But I will have worked hard, achieved much and done it all without any sort of chemical.
That’s a miracle, and the meetings I attend remind me of that. I may complain about being tired or feeling overworked, but those complaints are “Cadillac problems” compared to the challenges of existing in addiction. And I’ll take “Cadillac” problems any day over the slavery of addiction.
Steve Wildsmith is a recovering addict and the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or at 981-1144.