Recovery Bytes

I Wasn’t the Only One I Was Hurting, by Chris N.

I not only accepted, but embraced the fact that I was an alcoholic and an addict long before I surrendered and walked through the doors of TPOT. I was probably 16 years old the first time I ever said out loud, “I am an alcoholic,” not remotely understanding the implication of such a statement. It was 25 years later when I finally sought help.

It seemed that no matter how much I drank or used it was never enough; the consequences were piling up and getting more severe. I was unwilling to find, let alone maintain, a respectable job, so I found alternative ways to make money that also allowed me to live the lifestyle that I wanted to live…because it has always been about ME and MY constant needs. As I got older and all of my drinking/using buddies went on to graduate college, get careers, and eventually start families, I couldn’t ever find the motivation or desire to pull myself together.

Over the next decade, I spiraled downward into a certain state of incomprehensible misery, only living to not “get sick” and doing whatever I could to avoid acknowledging the reality of my existence. I was estranged from my old friends and the little bit of family that I had left. However, this was my problem and if I wanted to take this path of self-destruction, that was my choice, and these were my consequences. Everyone was off living their lives and I was only hurting myself. Right?

I never considered that my behavior was affecting anyone else…. how could I? I was active in my disease, selfish and self-centered to the absolute core of my being. I was unaware, but more so, unwilling, to accept that when I didn’t show up for family events other people were being hurt. I told myself “it’s better that I don’t go anyway, I look awful and I’ll just ruin everything, they’re all better off without me.” I had no idea that I was acting selfishly out of fear and insecurity, dwelling in the comfort of self-pity; denial can be a very powerful and highly effective tool when we are in our addiction.

I continued to isolate and retreat from life until I was in complete disillusion, just me and my disease, miserable and hopeless. The only way out, that seemed to make any sense to me, was my inevitable [and dramatic] death at the hands of my disease…another concept that I wholeheartedly accepted and embraced. Come to find out, God had other plans.

Through great loss and tragedy, I was forced to face the person I had become. I was finally ready to admit that I needed help, something I had never done before. When I experienced my spiritual bottom, my family was there loving and supporting me, unconditionally. These were the very same family members from whom I was estranged from for so many years. Despite my best efforts to give up completely, my brother and sister worked together with my father to get me to Tampa and into residential treatment. I entered TPOT a broken, shell of a man, desperate for change and willing to do whatever was necessary to get clean and sober.

I learned about the disease of addiction, a construct that I struggled with while in treatment; it seemed easier to admit I was just weak willed. I was brought to meetings and exposed to the rooms of the 12-step fellowships. Those amazing men and women welcomed me with open arms and explained that they had once stood where I was standing. I found myself relating to complete strangers, to people of all kinds and when they shared their experiences, I came to truly believe in the miracle that is recovery and that life could get better, one day at a time. They also said the solution is God and I would get to my higher power by working the steps.

After treatment I committed to staying in a sober living house, but honestly, it wasn’t like I had too many other options. This turned out to be a blessing. While I was working through the steps with my sponsor and rebuilding the relationships with my family that I had damaged almost beyond repair, both my brother and sister moved to Tampa so we could be close and start over as a family again. When I did my 9th step amends I was able to recognize just how much pain I caused ALL of the people in my life, who had ever loved or cared about me. During the amends process I was taught to own my behavior, ask what I can do moving forward to show that I was serious about changing, and to ask if there was anything the other person would like to say. Not a single person was angry or vindictive, but seeing myself through their eyes, after a lifetime of selfishness, was powerful and overwhelming. Each person shared about times that I hurt them along the way, and even worse, the important moments I did not show up for. I truly believed that by staying away and withdrawing into my disease I was only hurting myself and saving everyone the trouble. It was an eye-opening process from which I learned so much invaluable self-awareness. The lesson will always be that my addiction was all about me, so conversely, I need to do my best to make my recovery about others.