Part I of the journey Sean shares he grew up in a Christian household with law-abiding parents who provided for him and he was not lacking anything. However, inside he felt a looming darkness he couldn’t escape, and he desperately wanted to be someone other than himself. At 15 he was introduced to alcohol then at 16 Percocet and he remembered telling himself, “I will take this substance every day for the rest of my life – this is my solution to living.” And that was the beginning to his journey into addiction, drug treatment, and consequences.
Things continued to go downhill quickly. I wasn’t committed to sobriety, so I quickly gravitated toward others in my sober living environment who weren’t either. Inevitably, relapse came. By this time, pills were very expensive, and heroin was booming. Here was a cheap alternative that could be directly injected into the body, with greater relief provided. Being the practical minded individual I was, I embraced this method of use with no reservations.
My parents—wracked with physical and emotional pain—were introduced to a program of recovery for themselves, organized at my most recent rehabilitation program, Calvary Healing Center in Phoenix, Arizona. They learned practical ways of helping themselves which in turn helped me. They learned to practice self-care and to set boundaries. It is by the grace of God that they embraced their program, because I can honestly say, I’m not sure if I would be here today if they hadn’t. Gone were the days where they took my BS at face value. Gone were the days of rescuing me from whatever unfortunate circumstance I found myself in. Gone were the days of allowing me to control and manipulate their emotions.
Their firm parental boundaries left me with nowhere else to turn. My vessel spiraled in the vast, arduous, stormy sea of destruction. Active addiction always gets worse, never better. The relapses were more intense. The places of refuge I once sought out would no longer accept me. I slept in parks. I sat at bus stops in full paranoia and delusion throughout the night. I hid behind dumpsters, working to get my next fix. I was arrested multiple times for shoplifting, and finally for drug possession. A brief stint in jail, followed by yet another brief stay in sober living didn’t deter me.
At this point, having graduated to IV drug use, I felt as if I was truly lost.
Caught in a Deadly Cycle
This is the cycle I discussed in part one of this blog series. I was trapped in a constant cycle of relapse, drying out at a sober living or rehab, and going back to the streets. Hopelessness pervaded my daily life. I knew an encompassing, inescapable loneliness that touched me deeply in my core. I never thought I’d be rid of it without heroin, and yet, increasingly, there didn’t seem to be enough heroin existing in the world with which I could continue to mask it. My depression and my obsession to use were literally killing me where I stood. And yet, despite my best intentions, the will to stop wasn’t there. What did exist, though fleeting at the time, was a spark of something else. The beginning of a new idea. The formation of a desire to not necessarily stop using drugs and alcohol, but to feel SOMETHING, anything different than the way I had felt for so long.
I contemplated this while sitting in the hospital. I thought about how sad and depressing it was that I had been hospitalized four or five times in the span of 2 years… directly related to drug use. I thought about the creeping loneliness that ate at me day and night and the feeling of being apart from everything good that was happening in the world. After speaking with hospital staff and learning that I wasn’t going to die at this moment, I thought about why my parents refused to come see me in my current state—on Christmas. I thought about how much it scared me that underneath it all I felt a never-ending spring of apathy toward myself and the people who cared about me the most. I thought about how much this scared me. I’d had a complete lack of concern for my own well-being and a complete disregard for the well-being of my family and friends. As I sat in the dimly lit, antiseptic hospital unit, gazing over the Phoenix skyline, in the very building in which my own life began 27 years prior, I knew I wanted my life to be more than the tragic cesspool of misery that it had become.
At the suggestion of a trusted family friend, I entered treatment once more. While a part of me still clung to my old way of life, a longing or grieving for the loss of drugs as my main coping mechanism, something had changed. To this day, all I can say is that God knew I was ready and instilled in me a strength, a willingness and an open-minded attitude that I never had before. Once my parents had worked their own program, owned their behavior, participated in therapy, and stuck to firm boundaries, things began to change. I found my bottom much more quickly through their help. Once the resources dried up, once I had truly felt what it meant to be alone in this vast, empty, meaningless spiral of addiction, only then was I able to find the path of salvation that for so many years had eluded me.
I accepted suggestions that professionals and peers in AA had for me. I participated fully in treatment even when I hated it, or thought it was stupid or useless. I entered a long-term program in Prescott where I stayed, and eventually worked, for a year. Over time, I found the desire, the obsession, and craving to use slowly leaving. I found joy in being outdoors, in the fellowship of a 12-step program, in having friends, in cooking, in music, and in all the things that I used to enjoy. I participated in group therapy, individual therapy, and work therapy. I worked through the 12-step program with a sponsor. When I was having a difficult time, I talked about it with someone instead of holding it inside. I got better. All those years spent mired in steadfast opposition to living an actual healthy, fulfilling life lead me to where I sit today. Sometimes, the worst day of your life can be its defining moment of salvation.
The Importance of Being Our Authentic Selves
When I sat down today to write something for the blog, I wasn’t planning on telling my story. I stopped and started about 4 different times attempting to write something inspirational but unrelated. I think, in our best moments, when we can be our authentic selves, warts and all, is when we impart the strongest message of hope. My life isn’t perfect. I still struggle with codependency. Sometimes I get depressed. Sometimes I don’t feel like participating. Sometimes I struggle with relationships. Sometimes I don’t feel like the best parent, friend, or son. Sometimes I’m irresponsible with money. But, the main difference today is that regardless of circumstance or hardship, I don’t turn to drugs and alcohol as a solution. There was a point in my life where I could not breathe without being intoxicated. Now, through self-care and working a 12-step program, God has removed my obsession to use drugs. I can learn. I can grow. I can be better than I was yesterday.
I firmly believe that anyone can recover, whether from drugs, alcohol, mental health problems, emotional issues, codependency, behavioral addictions, or anything else. Whole-hearted and full recovery can be had. All it takes is some simple steps in the right direction, one day at time. It may not always be easy, but this journey is worth more than any needle, pill, or drink could ever have given me. Whatever you find yourself up against, remember that God is bigger than all of it. Remember that regular, everyday people can overcome insurmountable challenges through his power. God is going to move mountains, but we must bring a shovel! Put in the work, the effort, the labor, as painful as it may be, to move forward. Sometimes things will be difficult. Sometimes you will feel like a failure and want to give up. Sometimes things seem to fall apart despite our best efforts. But regardless of it all, if we continue to act, to rely on Him, we will find a wellspring of hope, faith, courage, and fellowship surrounding us. Faith in the strength of God empowers us to love our brothers and sisters, to work on ourselves, and find peace and serenity in service to our fellows. Please, don’t give up. Don’t let go of hope in those dark moments. Open yourself to suggestion, to spiritual guidance, and join us in walking this journey of healing recovery. You won’t regret it; this I can guarantee.
Peace be with you,
Sean – In Recovery