Almost nine years ago during this holiday season my journey of recovery began in earnest. There were a lot of stops and starts along the way (several pitfalls that I fell into), but 2014 saw me in the most physically and mentally broken I’d ever been. Liver disease, abscesses, sores, racing thoughts, extreme depression and anxiety were the order of every day I took another waking breath. It was truly a miserable experience in every sense of the word, and I thank God today that I was allowed to experience it in full – to be present for that desperation and hardship that ultimately allowed me to accept a new way and grow. Without it I don’t know if I’d be here today, restored to sanity with newfound freedom, happiness and peace.

If I were to guess, I’d say this season is probably the hardest for most of you reading this. I’d also posit that it’s the time where most people ease back on their boundaries and ultimately slip back into unhealthy habits in their relationships and interactions with the person struggling. There were times in my life where I’m sure that was the case with my own family –  taking pity on me for Christmas or wanting me around despite all the requisite BS that came with me being there. But there came a time when they didn’t ease back. There came a time where I spent Christmas by myself in a hospital bed due to the consequences of my disease and my family let me which, in retrospect, was probably the greatest Christmas gift I’d ever received.

About nine years ago all my bridges were burnt. I’d found that my physical body could no longer withstand the torturous existence I was foisting upon it with my IV drug use and utterly unsanitary living conditions: living outside, not utilizing clean methods of use, no regular bathing schedule (all contributing to what most would call a rapidly escalating mortality rate with each passing day that I continued). I remember a complete lack of thought and rationale when it came to using. It was get high by any means necessary, regardless of the personal cost to myself, my body, or anyone in my life. If that meant using dirty needles of unknown origin, so be it. If that meant lifting the top of the toilet tank off in a public restroom to access water for my spoon, so be it. If it meant scamming my parents for thousands of dollars off their credit card in a bizarre Walgreen’s gift card scheme, so be it. The depths of depravity know no bounds when it comes to maintaining a crippling addiction to heroin and crystal meth.

The good news is – there is a solution. Through that epic coda of disastrous proportions that was 2014 – I found the light at the end of the tunnel. And though I’ve stated it here before – I can’t emphasize enough how much of a part my family played in that final moment. When I was left alone in bitterness, in pain, in selfishness, in misery, I was able to finally have my own experience. I was finally able to internalize everything that was happening around me and the destruction I was causing in the lives of others. When my parents stuck to their guns and begrudgingly left me to my own devices on Christmas Eve, broken and alone, I knew I had nowhere else to turn. I knew no one else was coming to rescue me. I knew I’d have to accept help from professionals – treatment, 12-step, spiritual guidance, community support – instead of relying on my family to bail me out for the thousandth time. I knew I had to be my own person first and foremost and make a conscious decision to seek care on my own accord and heal. For me. For my future. I needed to make the greatest investment in my life that I’d made up to that day: seek help and dutifully trust the process laid out for me by others who came before.

I thank God today that I was allowed to have that experience. I’m so grateful that my parents found this program and were able to stick with it even in the darkest and most challenging of times – despite how hard it was for them. I’m grateful for the peace, serenity, education, discipline, support, and love they found that enabled them to truly help me help myself. It wasn’t fun, easy, or enjoyable, but it was necessary. That is my hope and prayer for you today: that you too can employ these methods of interaction with your loved one, so that they might receive this gift. A chance at healing. That they too can experience the pain of loneliness and desperation, and recognize in them, intrinsically, the need to seek help and change.

Peace be with you this holiday season. I pray so much that you find happiness and serenity in all things, regardless of circumstance. And that your loved one finds their way back home.

All the love,

Sean – In recovery

You can read, comment and ask questions for Sean to address in his blog on the PAL website, home page – www.Palgroup.org