There was a period of time, in the earlier days of my struggle with active addiction, where I had little to no interest in getting better. Typically, in the form of pressure from family, intervention, friends, even the judicial system at a certain point, I found myself winding up repeatedly in treatment programs and halfway houses. People in recovery took a vested interest in me when I had none for myself. They reached out their hand, only for it to be slapped away by my ignorant, single-minded zeal in maintaining my status quo of intoxicated by any means necessary. Thus is the disease of addiction itself – it was a nightmare. I’m sure several individuals lost their patience with my terrible attitude and unwillingness to take a hard look at myself and try something different.
On one particular instance, during those rough and tumble years, I was asked to leave a sober living home I had been staying in after relapsing on heroin yet again. I remember walking off that property with a literal, and figurative storm brewing on the horizon. I had nowhere to go, no resources, and no one to turn to in that moment. At this point my parents had long since internalized the core tenets of the PAL program and held firm in their boundaries despite my protestation. There was no returning “home.” There was no financial assistance available while I was on the outs. Their response was encouragement for me to get back into recovery. As the rain started to dump buckets onto the streets of central Phoenix, I took shelter under the awning of a restaurant that had closed for the night. I, of course, continued to use heroin. After a patrol car was dispatched to my location (I was trespassing and looked extremely suspicious) and the subsequent sprint through an alley nearby to avoid any type of confrontation or arrest, I realized that the flip flops I’d been wearing were no longer on my feet.
So that was where I found myself that fateful night: shoeless, soaked, cold, shuffling down the street while under the influence of heroin. In those moments I hated myself. I hated that even in this terrible, completely miserable situation I’d found myself in, that I still continued to make the wrong choice. That I felt powerless over my continued proclivity to beat myself into the ground, just to stay high – even when I knew what I was doing was wrong.
The positive side of the story is this: Despite my utter disregard for my own well-being and safety, despite my lack of open-mindedness at the time to try something new, and the terrible way I treated the people around me – there were those who never gave up hope that I’d come around. I know my family cared but they had made it clear I needed to find it within myself. Throughout that night – and subsequent ones – my peers in the program continued to reach out. They continued to express their love and offer prayer and support for me – attempted to include me in the community when I’d sober up and make it back in the rooms. And when I finally reached out in defeat they even went so far as scraping me off the street and driving me back in when I couldn’t muster the strength to do so myself. When I had no love for myself, these select individuals did, and made that known to me as much as they possibly could, at times from a healthy distance.
Even if I couldn’t fully appreciate these acts of kindness bestowed upon me, completely undeserved, at that time – today they mean the world to me. They were evidence of God’s beautiful grace and mercy in this calamitous world we find ourselves living in. I could rarely contribute to anything positively at that time. I couldn’t for the life of me pull myself up by my bootstraps and manage life on life’s terms without help. And help was freely given, and available to me, through the entire endeavor, whether I could see it or not. God placed people in my life in the darkness, who modeled recovery, spiritual living, and kind-heartedness in the moments I needed it the most.
Suffice it to say, had my family continued to rescue me repeatedly in these dire times, I’d have missed out on those life changing nights in the storm. I’d have missed out on the opportunity to fully live in those moments of suffering – which in turn funneled me toward the transformative, healing process I’d eventually find in spirituality. In community. In the love from others who saw me for who I was in those times – recognized themselves – and lent a helping hand.
God bless you,
You can read, comment and ask questions for Sean to address in his blog on the PAL website, home page – www.Palgroup.org