To new readers and followers of my blog, it will become obvious that I hold nothing back when it comes to my life before and since recovery from addiction. I became aware many years ago that the power of truth and transparency would set me free from my damaging secrets and false ego. I believe that real recovery from sunstance-use as well as other addictions begins with a bold paradigm shift inside. I have helped clients focus on discovering their real selves as well as their supressed feelings, desires, goals, and ambitions. Recovery and sobriety eluded me for many years, just as it did for hundreds of clients I have guided on the path to true freedom and release from worry and despair.
The truth, in all it’s sometimes ugly reality, is that human beings have made mistakes in their life. Addiction to mood-altering substances became a multiplier of those mistakes for most of us. The most powerful step in real recovery is dependant on acceptance of our mistakes. An understanding that the stigma of embarrasing and guilt-ridden addiction behavior is a road block to freedom from the very illness that we wish to recover from. Things we’ve done in our mind-bending addiction episodes are not attributed to moral failings. These mistakes are simply symptoms of the brain disease of addiction. My message to all of you who wish to end your damanging relationship with drugs and alcohol is that you move toward self-forgiveness of your past so that you can enter a new season in life. My recovery began when I understood that I had to be willing to empty the heavy backpack of shame I carried before I could become the sane and sober person I was meant to be. This idea is the foundation of my Recovery Journey Addiction Freedom Course.
*There are some shocking details in my story “The Fall’, and I hope that you understand the necessity for my candor. My story takes me from a hopeless, sellfish, and even criminal-minded soul, to a committed professional on a mission to lead fellow sufferers to a new and wonderful reality. I hope that sharing my story provides evidence that even the worst of the past can lead to a life of caring, understanding, and a desire to love and help others.
The following events are true, names were changed or omitted to protect the many innocent victims. Love, gratitude, peace and respect go out to the unnamed in this story including those who remained unrecognized and unknown to me. My efforts at healing and making amends to those identified began nearly 26 years ago and continues …
I no longer had the will or the energy to walk that street. The rain continued to fall and blow sideways at times, the little overhang on the yellow house offered no cover. I sat down on the steps, waterlogged and cold to the bone. Emotions began to well up inside me, I couldn’t, nor did I, try to hold them back. I was overtaken with dread and doom. I began to cry, cry like an abandoned baby. The tears and wails came from deep inside me, I had been through plenty, especially over the past month or so for sure, sad times, scary times, shame-filled times, and most of all-lonely times, but I had never broken down like this before-tears flooded out and came down like the rain.
I sat with my coat collar pulled up enough to partially cover my head, I can’t remember how long I sat there. I remember that my body was racket by the tears and cries, my nose was running, my head leaking from all ports. I heard the sound of a car engine; someone had pulled into the driveway of the yellow house and the car disappeared around the corner of the house. I didn’t move, I couldn’t muster the will to move a muscle. In my peripheral vision I saw movement, a man was navigating the pavers up the little slope from the driveway toward me and the door to the yellow house. He was shielded from the downpour by a black umbrella as he stood in front of me on the bottom step. I glanced up at his face, he gave me a quick look and said, “hello friend, I’ve got a key to the house, come on in with me and let’s get some coffee brewing”. He held out a hand, I hesitated, then took it and stood with his help. He unlocked the door, flipped on some lights and closed the door behind me. He introduced himself as Bill and showed me where the bathroom was. He said he would grab me some towels from the kitchen to dry off with. He handed me a few dishtowels and a roll of paper towels and told me to make myself at home and he headed for the kitchen. As I dried my head and peeled off the soaked coat, I saw myself in the mirror. A pitiful excuse for a 34-year-old man, my face was red, my eyes swollen, nose still running and still felt like another outburst of tears might be inevitable. I balled up some paper towels and tried to dry the insides of my shoes. I filled the bathroom trash can with wet and dirty paper towels. All of a sudden, I feared leaving this bathroom. I would have to face Bill in a moment, and I was ashamed of my obvious condition. It dawned on me that I looked like, and actually was, a broke and homeless man with no prospects of a better life.
I finally pushed through the fear and shame, mostly because I could smell the coffee and longed for something warm to drink. I walked out of the bathroom to find Bill sitting on a plastic chair with 2 Styrofoam cups filled with coffee. He stood and offered me one, asked if I liked cream or sugar, I declined, and he motioned toward another chair. I sat down and sipped the black brew. Bill told me he was a member of AA and that he had been coming to this yellow house to open up every day at 4pm for the last 10 years. I was not very talkative, but I was somehow glad to have someone talking to me. Bill told me a little about his life and admitted that he had been a washed out drunk for 20 years before committing himself to AA and sobriety. He shared some details that reminded me of myself and my mistakes. After a while he asked where I was from and where I was headed. I slowly began to share my situation with him, he nodded at all the right times and commented about similar circumstances he had experienced before getting sober. He was easy to talk to and he never pushed or spoke a word of judgement. He didn’t once give me advice or tell me what I “should do”. He just listened and shared bits and pieces of his experiences as a “wet drunk”. By the time we finished our second cup of coffee I told him that I was scheduled to turn myself in to the Sheriff tomorrow morning to begin a long period of incarceration. He eventually asked where I was staying and whether I was going to follow through with the courts order to surrender myself. I told him some of the story of my last 30 days and that none of my plans to avoid jail were working out so far. He seemed to understand much more than I had actually revealed. He told me that the house would be open for several hours, the was a meeting starting scheduled to start at 5:30, then another at 7pm, followed by what he called a meditation meeting from 8:30 till 10. He told me I was welcome to stay for all of them and that I could expect others to start showing up any minute. Bill disappeared into the back of the house for a moment and returned with a little space heater. He found an outlet on the back wall of the larger room where chairs were set up in a big circle for the meetings. He said I could sit in the chair there by the heater and maybe dry out a little if I decided to stay for the meetings.
December 14th, 10:00pm. I stayed in my seat for the three AA meetings, only moving back and forth to the coffee pot and restroom grabbing handfuls of cookies each trip back to my warm corner of the room. People had introduced themselves to me over the past few hours and kindness was apparent in their eyes. I would say a look of sadness and understanding mixed with a sparkle of hope. People shared in the meetings about gratitude for the meetings and referred to their “sponsors” quite a number of times. Each person, man or woman, seemed to be expressing thanks for guidance and many admitted having some pretty familiar emotions and experiences that I could relate to. The “meditation meeting” was the final one of that night and the most impactful for me. There was about 15 minutes of silence at the start and the lights were turned off with only a few candles illuminating the room. I found the quiet time somehow energizing to me, but not physically. It seemed as though a peaceful energy filled the room and I felt better inside for a few moments. The discussion began and people talked a lot about surrender. They also spoke about the idea of acceptance, there was an absolute sense of unity in the room of people. The message was apparent, they had all expressed their own versions of the power they experienced through acceptance of their alcoholism, their circumstances, and the consequences they had endured as a result of drinking and using other substances. I thought back to conversations with John the mission manager and Father Tom in St. Louis. I thought about my bartender friend who had agreed to buy my bus fare back to this city so that I could, as she called it, “do the right thing, face your responsibilities and consequences so you can move on with your life”. I heard as the last person shared in the meeting a line that struck me square in the chest; “alcoholics like me and you all are not bad people, we are sick people with a disease that leads us to bad actions”. She ended by saying “acceptance is the answer to all our problems”, and she referred to a page in the AA book where she got that quote.
The meeting ended and people nodded or came by me and shook my hand, each and every one of them added “keep coming back, it gets better” to their goodbyes. As the little house cleared Bill walked over to me and asked if I had a minute to talk, I said yes, I’ve got no place to be. He told me that he had called his wife between meetings and she agreed that he could invite me over for a late meal and a warm bed for the night. I was stunned, this man had met me 6 hours ago and was offering to take me into his home, I wasn’t sure what to say but I did know that it sounded like a good offer, especially considering my alternatives. The rain had subsided during the evening and I followed Bill to his car behind the yellow house. As he started the engine, he looked at me and said, “I can give you a ride to the Sheriffs office in the morning if you decide to go”.
Bills wife met us in the foyer of his home and introduced herself, she pointed to the dining table and said come on in, we have plenty to eat-help yourself. I sat down and tried to use good manners but found myself shoveling food in like the hungry homeless man I was. When the meal was over Bill showed me to the spare bedroom and handed me pajamas and fresh boxers. He asked me to leave my wet clothes in the bathroom and he would toss them in the dryer for me. I showered and headed into the little bedroom, my mind was racing but with one central and pervasive thought, tomorrow morning. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow and I dreamed about a triangle. It’s three sides labeled: Sheriff’s office, Surrender, Acceptance.
Bill knocked on my door early the next morning, he sat my clothes and my coat down on the dresser just inside the door and said coffee and breakfast were ready. I dressed quickly and stopped by the bathroom where I found an un-opened new toothbrush and toothpaste. I walked into the dining room to a full and proper breakfast, Bills wife was nowhere in sight. Bill and I ate in relative silence until I finished my last spoonful of grits. He looked at me and said, well, what have you decided, do you need that ride this morning? I looked him in the eye and with a clear and unambiguous certainty answered-yes, I would appreciate that Bill. Upon arrival at my destination I thanked Bill for all he had done and expressed my thanks to his wife. He spoke the standard reply, you’re welcome, but added, “surrender, acceptance, hope, and faith my friend”, these will get you through to the better side. I exited the car and walked into the front door of the Sheriffs department with those four words lingering in my mind.
I’m now working on Book 2 of The Fall, which reveals my journey to real recovery. More to come…
Be safe and care for one another.
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If you or someone you know exhibits withdrawal symptoms, psychological problems, or any signs of self-harming behavior, contact your medical professional, call 911, or reach out to SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)