At the end of a year long relapse I found myself sitting in a jail cell not knowing how long I would be there. Worst case I would do 5-7 years, best case 1 year. More than 3,000 miles from home and feeling all the guilt and despair that comes along with a relapse I called my mother, “I am done, I do not want this life anymore, I am done”.
I will never forget that phone call I believe that was my first gift of desperation and moment of clarity. Fortunately, I had been to a treatment center and experienced AA before then so I had some tools that I knew I needed to put into use in order to gain serenity in the most non-serene place.
The jail I was in didn’t offer treatment or meetings and I was in a cell 23 hours of the day by myself. So I started reading the bible, and while I’ve never been a very religious person, I heard somethings I needed to and left the rest.
I had heard before that a grateful addict will never use so I began writing out a gratuity list in my cell, being grateful for a bed, food, for still being alive. I prayed every morning for the obsession to use to be taken from me and thanked God every night for keeping me sober (yes, using is still possible in jail). As my time progressed I felt a weight lifting off of me. I was still unsure of when I was getting released, but faith was growing inside me that no matter what I would be okay.
When my sentence came down, I was to serve one year and could have gotten out in six months if I worked in the jail. I knew in my heart that serving out my sentence and getting out would ultimately lead me to using again. I knew I needed to do something different. With the help of my mother, a mentor from the treatment center I was at before all this, and my lawyer, I was granted a furlough to a different treatment center. I was told I would serve the rest of my year out there, good time didn’t count on a furlough.
I got out and hit the ground running, “faith without works is dead”. I got a sponsor went to meetings everyday and started working my steps and even became a peer mentor to some of the woman at my treatment center. My trust and faith in a higher power had given me this fire inside, this motivation to chase sobriety like I used to chase my next high. Going in for a 6 month review of my furlough and still desperately missing my children and family 3,000 miles away, I decided I would take a long shot to see if I could possibly transfer my furlough back home. Still having the comfort of knowing no matter what happens, I will be OK as long as I am sober. I armed myself with everything I had done and accomplished since being furloughed. I brought all that in front of the judge and the unexpected happened. “Sentence satisfied” the judge said!
I was free and clear six months early to go home. I believe it was none of my doing directly, sure I had put in the footwork, but it all started with that mustard seed of faith, trust, and gratitude that made the fire for recovery rise inside of me. Now just shy of two years sober, I still do the same prayer with somethings added on, and I still practice gratitude everyday never forgetting where I have come from and what it took to get me here. Now I have been given the gift to be able to use and add on to that everyday so that I can stay in sobriety and help other to do the same.
My last day of using was riddled with thoughts of wanting my life to end. To not feel any pain. To seize the suffering and this overwhelming feeling that I needed something to be okay, when in fact every time I used those substances I was not. I picked up my phone and scrolled through the contacts. Friends, family, people who have been there all my life… Stopped picking up my calls a long time ago. I had nothing. A few pairs of pants on, two shirts, a sweatshirt. The people I got high with wouldn’t even answer my calls anymore. The feeling of loneliness set in as I continued to walk down the road.
I was desperate. Desperate for relief, desperate for food, desperate for companionship, desperate for sleep, and most of all desperate to not feel the way I was feeling. Drugs weren’t cutting it anymore. What do I do in a situation like this? Faced with few option, continue living in misery until I end up in jail, die or kill myself. Or reach out and give this recovery another shot.
Two years sober, I look back almost everyday on that last day… Filled with gratitude of the gift desperation brought me. At times I have took it for granted, that feeling of absolute misery. Being in a program of AA, I’m faced seeing that gift a lot and get the opportunity to live in that moment again.
More affected then myself by my addiction was my direct family. My mother and father lost a son, and my sister’s a brother. The time taken away from these people is irreplaceable. All of them spent countless hours worrying and loosing sleep over me, all the meanwhile spending endless amounts of money try to get me better. In the process of that loosing all their valuable possessions because their son was a thief.
Two and a half years of sobriety and working a program, brought me and continues to bring me the relief I need. But still, my family worries. Their son lives two hours away and anything could go wrong at any moment in their eyes. Trust gets built…. but really slowly.
I have successful made my family sicker then I was. Its a sad thing we do to our families because, we have a solution to our problems as drug addicts but they are left to themselves to get better.
What I do on a day to day basis to help to the best of my ability for them to feel better and build trust is be honest, kind, and compassionate. Always be available to talk to any of them and spend as much time as I have to offer them. I consistently keep them in the loop of what is going on in my life, and continue to grow as a man and stay self -sufficient so they can see the results of my actions and feel more comfortable .
Being a drug addict is hard enough, but loving a family member that is a drug addict as well is a whole different playing field. I never looked at the pain and sleepless nights that my family had while I was out using. I never thought about their feelings and how they would wait for that phone call saying that I overdosed on heroin. I am the daughter of a drug addict and alcoholic. And now I see what my family went through with me. I am powerless over her addiction. There are no words that I can say to help her, nor are there words that I can say that will force her to use. Whether she wants to get sober or not, it is all on her. Eventually I get sick over her addiction. And what I mean by sick is that I obsess about her addiction like I did with drugs. I try to do anything and everything I can to get her help, but none of it works. She is not willing yet. And I have to accept that. Having a drug addict mother has hurt me in many ways but it has also helped me. Her addiction has helped me create emotional and physical boundaries. I have come to the realization that all I can do is be there for her when she does want help. If she wants to continue to drink and use drugs then so be it. But I cannot be a part of her life while she is in that state.
It was and has been very easy for me to get complacent in recovery, and due to that it has caused an endless amount of pain and suffering in others and myself and has ended in relapse. I have been in recovery multiple times. Its a process of work that I put in to get spiritual relief, without doing so brings up resentment, fear…and in me a lot of anger. Multiple times I have put in the work and start to see changes in my life with family relations, employment, and most of all being okay with myself. Where I have fallen off before is hitting that certain point and stopping the work. Dishonesty slips out, I start doing the wrong thing, I slip away from my program and people in it with fear they might call me out. Inevitably I either relapse or end up in such a dark place feeling pain I have never felt before. I have taken so many opportunities for granted in recovery because of this. It has been a big part of my recovery this time to continue the work everyday. To do all the steps, and continue growing spiritually. The outcome of this has been more then I could of wished for.
Willingness to change was what I was presented with as a need to do things to stay sober. As a drug addict, change and the feeling of being uncomfortable were my biggest struggles. That would require me to walk through fear, one of the many things that determined my direction of life. I struggled and sometimes still continue to struggle with this.
The willingness came to me through building a connection with a higher power. It started with just wrapping my head around the idea and coming to the conclusion that everything I do ruins my life and the lives of people around me, so I hoped to god there was something greater then me out there. I started listening to people and became willing to do anything they said. For me that was a big step. Anything means anything. I was told to move to Maine. I did. I was told to go to sober living. I did. I was told to do step work to the best of my ability and I did. It wasn’t always easy, but in time I saw results.
Building a connection with my higher power, my family and friends. Living an honest and healthy lifestyle. The willingness came easier and easier when the results started pouring in. I had to give up the thought of what I knew was best and grow from it. What I thought I knew didn’t work, clearly.
Liberty Bay is making big changes in a great way!
When we were children most of us like to play. We would run around for hours on end. We ran because it gave us happiness and excitement. Along the way relationships, responsibilities and other life stuff got in the way and exercising was a happy memory of our childhood.
When we first started drinking and using, most of us liked it and could moderate. We would sing and laugh and think the party would never end. Along the way physical craving took hold, we compromised our values and we found our life spiraling out of control. Moderately drinking and using was a happy but elusive memory we were trying to chase.
Exercising and recovery have many parallels. Think about this: When we first get clean our eyes open to a refreshing world. When we start to exercise/run again we lace up our shoes and get some good vibes. Both exercise and recovery are both intimidating at first because the gym equipment has changed, the people are different and we are not as powerful as most of the people there. Day by day, we show up and increase our reps (steps), we talk to people (fellowship), find commonality and start to feel comfortable. As more time passes, we begin to spot people (sponsorship) and see gains (spiritual growth).
Then, we hit the plateau and the pink cloud has left us. Going to the gym (meetings) is still a daily habit but now instead of doing all the tough work (setting up, talking to newcomers, sponsoring) we instead hang on the gym equipment, flex our muscles (ego) and talk to other lame-o’s who are flexing their muscles (false safety). We have fallen into the trap of settling for the plateau. IF we stay here long enough we will find reasons not to go to the gym (meetings) and start the steady decline of our muscles (the work we put into our recovery). There are now two sad scenarios: hang at the gym and be a flashy, toned individual that is there just for vanity/image or you leave the gym (sober) but wander about the community, talking about the good old days and trying to show off your now deflated muscles (spirituality).
What happened? How do we avoid the trap? The moment of truth is the moments of pain. When we put in the work it is painful but we see the gains (happy, joyous and free). The gains bring us purpose and we accept the pain because we value the price we pay in pain for the purpose we receive. We continue to this trend because it gives us peace. We do get to the plateau and we must make a choice: endure the pain or coast. THIS IS NOT A ONE-TIME EVENT…THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!
Spiritual growth is painful. In order to get more (gains and spirituality) we must let go of what is comfortable and not stop pushing ahead. It’s okay to coast to enjoy and repair your gains but if you do it for too long, comfort becomes normal and the pain of change becomes less attractive.
If you have the ability, push ahead. If you have the knowledge, make the change. IF you have recovery, flex your muscles and spot the next guy coming up!
How yoga and meditation can support and enhance recovery from addiction…
Yoga adds a physical element to treatment and promotes emotional strength. This is a great way for residents to be able to work on strengthening their bodies and minds. Physically, yoga enhances self-awareness, flexibility, and core muscles. Emotionally, residents can discipline their minds and bodies to work through uncomfortableness by holding poses. This results in behavioral change which can be utilized in real world situations they may encounter in the future.
Most of the residents have not tried yoga prior to coming to treatment and initially resist the exercise because it is hard work, it is uncomfortable and it pushes limits. After only one or two classes, many residents end up welcoming the sessions stating it teaches them about themselves and makes them feel better.
Meditation and mindfulness bring awareness to the present moment. Instead of spending time thinking about the past or what will happen in the future, meditation teaches one to focus in the moment. This benefits those in recovery by inviting one to observe their tendencies without judgement and improve them. Developing this kind of mindfulness creates a needed space between reaction and response.
Liberty Bay Recovery Center now offers on-site yoga and meditation twice a week as well as individual and small group sessions to residents led by certified yoga instructor Lara Nordensen. Contact Liberty Bay to learn more about the programs we offer and how they might benefit your recovery.