It’s been an amazing couple of weeks. I’m sure every addict early in recovery eventually reaches the point where they meet someone “in the rooms” who they used to know in active addiction. (In the rooms is an expression to indicate someone in recovery, attending self-help groups, in treatment…basically, getting the help they need.) In the past couple of weeks, I’ve found three people from my past in some stage of recovery or ready to try recovery. It’s a pretty powerful experience for me to see that “from the other side.”
Connection #1: One friend is…I’ll be honest…right on the fence. When he first talked to me, he had 20 days of clean time. As I listened to him tell his story, there was still a lot of “I” and “control” and “for now.” For now, I choose not to drink. For now, I choose not to drug. But, you know, there may be a point where I can get it back under control. I say this not in a judging manner at all because I’ve been there, but he doesn’t understand it yet. But, I listened…I asked open ended questions without hidden expectations…I didn’t judge…I didn’t lecture him. I know what that felt like to me when others lectured me, or told me what to do, or “scared me” into getting help. It just pushed me away from those people. So I listened and I pray for him. My guess is he won’t make it to 30 days. I pray he will and I pray at some point, at only 31 years old, that he will see the truth in recovery, the hope in recovery…and make differenct choices.
Connection #2: Then, I got a call from a friend the other day who I believe has been a dry drunk quite honestly for the past several months. He has been white knuckling it and not drugging for 6-9 months. But, again not judging or saying what is right for anyone, he has been struggling with the real problem — life. He is still bitter at the world and his circumstances. He has been very proud of himself because he managed to not drink or use for so long…this time. I’ve been there. I’ve tried to stop myself. We’ve all been there at some point thinking we could do this on our own. We can’t.
He shared with me that he recently slipped and used again. I actually say use again, not relapsed, because one of the things I learned in treatment is you can’t relapse if you’ve never been in recovery! Recovery means healing and work in all areas – physical (i.e. the drinking or drugging) as well as the spiritual and mental aspects of our disease. It doesn’t prescribe how one works a program of recovery — self help groups, treatment, personal spiritial journey, etc. But, as a dry drunk, as a white-knuckler who on his own strength and willpower is simply getting by without drinking or drugging…it’s not a relapse.
Of course, it’s not for me to say if someone is an addict or not, if someone is working a program or not. My #1 goal is to stay sober and in recovery – and that’s my program…not someone else’s. I’m just grateful that he came asking for help, asking to try something different. I embraced him and am equally ecstatic for him as my first friend because he is ready to make some different choices.
It was funny – I told him that I knew this was going to happen. He looked at me and asked, “how did you know?” I replied, “because from what I could see, I believe you were white knuckling it. You even used the words tonight – you thought you had this under control. If there is one thing I’ve learned since that night in December is I can’t do this. I tried – I even got to the point where I stopped trying to stop. It’s not because of my will power or my strength. And it’s not because of my weakness that I either stay sober or relapse. It is simply because of the grace of my Higher Power, the strength I find in self-help groups and my program, and the fellowship of another addict in recovery.”
What an amazing chain of events. My second friend has started to see the truth in recovery, the hope in recovery…he’s looking for different answers. May he find the strength in his Higher Power to continue to make different choices…
Connection #3: Then last Friday, I was sitting in a meeting. We had already started; people were reading some of the introductory texts. A guy walked in and sat down next to me. I looked over and did a double-take…but told myself No, impossible…couldn’t be. Then we sat for a couple seconds and he looked over at me. All of a sudden, he bursted out, called out my name and gave me a huge bear hug. We embraced for what seemed like the entire hour. It was a deep, heartfelt hug. On my part, it was of surprise, of joy, of hope…because the man sitting next to me…the man wrapping his arms around me and giving me a hug of life…was my former drug dealer. This was the guy from whom I bought my weekly stash of meth all of 2009 and most of 2008! The last time I bought from him…$400 worth…over twice my normal amount…was the weekend I hit bottom and found recovery. I never once expected to see him in the rooms. He always struck me as a decent guy – apart from dealing, someone I would have hung out with at a bar-b-que or had over to hang out with friends. But I knew how deep he was into his addiction. Yet, clearly, his Higher Power had been working in his life. I was overjoyed!
The entire meeting, we kept catching each other out of the corner of our eyes…and smiling…and slapping each other on the leg, acknowledging the amazement and joy we were both experiencing. I tried to pay attention during the meeting, yet kept wandering…I was overwhelmed with joy, and disbelief, and amazement, and belief, and gratitude — all mixed up in this confusing jumbled mess.
We talked a little and agreed to catch up. There were five other people in the room that night for whom this was their prior dealer…he shared that with me without breaking their anonymity. I started thinking…it would be very easy to be angry, scared, confused, resentful. I could see not wanting him around because the situation could be uncomfortable…could bring back too many memories. But, by the grace of God, I’m at a different place. I was so overjoyed that here, another child of God, another broken soul, another person with that gaping whole in his heart, his soul, his being. We had all tried to fill that with drugs, and alcohol and other escapes. And, here he was…and like the prodigal son, you know, what a great joy to have him back. I’m just so thankful. We’ve all earned our right to be in these rooms.
I look back on these two weeks and am overwhelmed with joy. I’m still a newcomer. I’m still in my first year of recovery. I still have a LOT to learn. It’s like I’ve said – I’m learning my ABC’s and 123’s all over again. There are still days where I’m blown away by the experiences, learning and growth. But I’m so thankful that I’m able to be there and see other people — not just newcomers but people that I knew in active addiction — who have found this great new life. Some will make it, some won’t…some are there, some aren’t quite there… But these are the still suffering addicts for whom we pray on a regular basis. I’m thankful someone somewhere, sometime prayed for me…