My name is gary m. and today I am gratefully a recovering heroin addict and alcoholic, after almost 38 years of alcohol and drug abuse. This piece was written with a small bit of sarcasm and truth to allow you to see inside the mind of an alcoholic/addict. My addiction became my life. I lived and worked to use everyday, and rarely saw periods of any length with sobriety.
Mostly, that time only occurred when I was locked up in jails, prisons, or treatment facilities. Because I was not willing to admit I was powerless over addiction, that my God could or would if He were sought, or even willing to try and let Him show me how to live sober – everytime I left lockup I was using again within one day to two weeks. I always had an excuse – the girlfriend took off, I couldn’t find a job, or I had and wanted to celebrate.
My father, a recovering alcoholic, had shown me more love the last fifteen years of his life I had ever known. I was in the grips of my addiction, and in 2003 friends convinced me I was hurting my dad badly because he knew I was using. I purchased and injected a lethal amount of heroin thinking he wouldn’t hurt anymore. Somehow, Something greater than me or that dose of heroin woke me up from an overdose and I stumbled across the street towards home. When I arrived home, my dad took me to the hospital and they injected me with medication to reverse the effect and I recovered. I was placed in a state hospital for a week for observation and released knowing I would have to face my probation officer who already suspected I had been using.
The next day, upon arrival at probation, I was arrested and sent to prison for the felony DWI probation I had been serving. After satisfying the state, released on 13 mth parole, I went immediately and drank. The next day I accidently overdosed on heroin, using the first time in almost 6 mth. I managed to finish parole without any revocation, although I had admitted I was using. My father died one and a half years later from cancer watching me continue to go downhill. I surrendered to the addiction and became homeless.
After almost three years “on the streets”, hustling everyday for a habit that had grown larger than ever, I came to the eventual feeling that I was powerless. I realized it had to end and my choices were death or allow God to restore me to sanity. Because of the people I feel He was responsible for placing in my life, I gave my will and my life to Him. Besides, death didn’t work before and I figured with my luck this time I would just mess myself up physically and have to suffer physically disabled. I have been present when three others have died and watched many on the brink of death from overdose.
Maybe it is wrong to ask you to understand, because if you are not an addict or alcoholic like us we think you cannot understand. Maybe you want to, and maybe from experiencing us or others like us you think you know how we feel. But if you have tried and fail to know why we are like we are then I’ll let you in on a few secrets that are the normal life for us. Chances are, we have reached a point in life where we felt like a lost cause. It probably had nothing to do with the way we were brought up. We just felt we weren’t good enough, could not prove to others that we could be “all they wanted us to be”, and in our minds even if we were – it still was not good enough. You gave us all that you had to give in the hope we would get better, but we considered ourselves unable to be fixed. We were a broken object that might as well be thrown away.
We felt like we were the “lost cause”, and regardless of how much we wanted to get it right we were scared we never could. We felt we had little worth to our families and friends when we drank or used. Employment or success was frightening and unfamiliar. Why should we succeed. We would “just screw it up” eventually. The self-loathing was always there, especially when we began to drink or drug. Imagine a fire that has burned down to hot coals. It’s still warm, but the least things in life seemed to put fuel on the fire. It only took a few branches to start the flame again. Now we had done it, and we would be blamed for not putting the fire out. Hopeless, feeling useless and lost, our disease caught fire. Intriguing that this is the one thing we knew how to do successfully, we kept moving along a downward path picking up speed until our self-destructive nature created helplessness and an emptiness. We did not allow this side of us to be seen, or so we hoped no one could see it. We quit sharing our worries and problems dealing with life, and place a mask upon our personality that “everything is grand”. We lead others to believe we were doing better.
Step 1 – “Admitting that we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become umanageable”
Remember, we try not to let you know. Admitting to ourselves and others that we have a problem would mean admitting all of there efforts were useless and we were powerless over something we had placed out of our own sight. How could we let something we couldn’t see any longer beat us? We had pushed this disease so far back and buried it, surely we would see it if it came back out. And knowing it as well as we had, we would recognize it. In the beginning, it is difficult for some addicts/alcoholics to admit they are powerless. They believe,”When they are ready or it gets to a point of desperation” they will quit … on their on.
Step 2 – “Came to believe that a Power greater than us could restore us to sanity”
Hey first thing is, I’m not admitting that I’m crazy. They place people in institutions for that or put them on medications that make them just as dysfunctional as the drugs and alcohol, and I like those. Yes, I’m convinced that I enjoy myself when I’m “high”, regardless of the consequences. I just can’t keep a job or friends or home because … well, just because they don’t understand me. Who cares about what I’ve done to hurt others? They’ll either get over it, or just not like me anymore; and they didn’t like me anymore anyway. We have been blinded by the disease to the point that “it is the only one who understands us” so all those crazy, insane things that happened in life “Everybody has to deal with them.” We justify and accept the jobs we lost, the family that doesn’t speak anymore, and the deaths or near-deaths that happened along the way to others and ourselves as “not our fault, it’s theirs.”
Step 3 – “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
O.K. they say I’m responsible for my own recovery, but then they say I have to let Someone or Something I’ve never even seen guide me in my recovery. Why would a God, if there even is one, want to help someone like me who has totally wasted the majority of my life hurting myself and others? Why wouldn’t He be more inclined to go help starving people? Why wouldn’t He stop killings and wars? Why did He make the plants that get me high and give knowledge to humans how to use them? They even drank wine and celebrated in the Bible. And how exactly are we going to allow the God of our understanding to make decisions about what we “who are responsible” do, say, and act upon.
If you can see, because we continued to use for so long, the disease had convinced us this was “normal” for us. And when we saw through a short, cognizant vision how much we had hurt others and ourselves … then the next time we realize we are back within the grips of powerlessness we found recovery hopeless. The unrealistic expectations we placed on ourselves and others. We began to fantasize what we expected out of relationships and life. We got angry and resentful once again when things didn’t happen the way we thought they should. Those old thoughts creep back in … and realize the only solutions to staying sober were jails, institutions, or death. Whatever the choice it would hurt them. So we would decide to do it so they would only be hurt one last time.
On November 1,2011 I was sober for three years. I hope you gain some understanding about the mind of an addict in this, because on that November 1st date this year another friend decided he was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Tired of hurting himself and hurting others and his disease convinced him there was no surrender – only death. May God rest your soul Tanner H. You may not hurt anymore, but we are still hurting by your absence in our lives. You made us smile. You let us know you cared and understand, but unfortunately many who cared about you did not understand your disease. My job is to try and help them better understand and so I continue to share.
I have to say that I learned how to live life on life’s terms, and continue to use what I learned, from the 12-step program of recovery. The suggestions got me through until I opened my mind to a new way of living that I had never experienced before 52 yrs old. Today I am willing to let God handle the things I can’t and I turn to Him for the solution to problems I feel He would rather I experience. It wasn’t easy, but it was simple. You may not understand that until you find recovery from whatever has created your life of insanity … and I feel all people have something in their lives they are powerless over. Turning to my God everyday is simple, and it’s beginning to get easier … one step at a time.