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 …
Disaster struck on New Year’s Eve that year
In a celebration with the wife that was supposed to be our recommittal to life together. We stood arm-in-arm together on the big dance floor at an expensive hotel in Atlanta, me 13 months sober wearing black tie attire and the appropriate party hat and horn. Planned weeks ahead, I had checked us in to the honeymoon suite for an all-inclusive New Year’s weekend. The time was 11:50 pm, the wait staff began milling around the ballroom with trays of fancy stemware filled with champagne. In a passing flash we were handed our obligatory glasses of bubbly. She looked up at me and me down at her, our eyes met, and she said, “can we be normal now”? Without a second thought I replied, “of course, it’s new year’s, this is a special night and we’re here together forever, and besides, I don’t have a problem with champagne anyway”.
The clock struck midnight,
Auld lang syne played from the stage and cheers rang out from the crowd, us, and the new year! We danced and laughed but brewing inside me as that second glass of bubbly warmed my throat, I knew I needed and deserved a real drink. I reverted to that old thinking, the lies, and alibis mode almost immediately, and began to develop my plan to get that real drink I knew I deserved. She was escorted to the grand lady’s room down the corridor from the ballroom and I made my move to the open bar. A triple Crown and coke would be my well-deserved prize for constructing this 13-month comeback. I slammed it down and made it back to our elevated table just in time for her return. Moments later I offered to get her another glass of champagne, she hesitated, I reminded her that it was a special occasion, and we did not have to leave the building-our suite awaited our return. She said yes, I smoothly made my way to the bar and ordered up 2 champagnes and another triple Crown for myself, slammed down the Crown and returned, with some wobbly effort involved, to the table.
My ruse was successful.
We drank a few sips and decided to dance again. During our turns on the dancefloor I thought I caught a guy with his dance partner looking a little too interestingly at my wife’s rear end swaying to the music, no I’ll let it go, we’re having fun. Keep your cool I thought. Unfortunately, as we turned to exit the dance floor, I spied the man again, he appeared to be taking a long, and as I saw it, an inappropriate gaze at my wife’s rear end again, uh-oh. At this point in the story I want to reiterate that this is really a story of relapse, the power of addiction in the human brain, my denial of the disease of addiction at the time. The truth about an what happens when an alcoholic takes the first drink. But, at that moment, on that New Year’s Eve, it became a story about the loss of control in behavior, attitude, and emotion that every addicted person comes up against at some point in their drinking and using career.
The time is now 12:45 pm,
The man with the wandering eyes in unconscious in the middle of the dance floor, I am wearing handcuffs and being led to a DeKalb County Sheriffs squad car. My wife tugs on one of the officers, crying and begging for mercy and a second chance just as the ambulance and EMT’s roll up to the front entrance of the grand hotel. My life, her hope, the man’s jaw, New Year’s Eve, and much more had fallen into ruin in less than 60 minutes. Following my eventual release from overnight incarceration, actually for the 7th time at this point in my life, she was there once again like my parents, my ex-wife, employers, and others in the past, for what I call “the rescue”.
I remember making “the promise” once again,
That I would never pick up another drink or drug. Its notable here that I believe something had actually changed in me after that New Year’s Eve debacle. I thought about the upswing in which our lives had been during that previous year, I thought about our beautiful daughter, I thought about the efforts and successes I had made with my first ex-wife and how gracious she had been in allowing me to have unlimited visitation with my son. Looking back, I can identify these moments of clarity, recognition of time well-spent, and the many dividends received from promises kept, even though only temporarily so.
I continued on the promised path,
Went to AA, admitted my relapse, took another “surrender chip” and even went to church with the family on Sunday’s for a time. One of many memories comes to mind at the mention of my attempted reformation on Sunday’s. Sitting in the pew, suit and tie proper, all I could hear, time after time in that room was the pounding judgement, guilty verdicts, and condemnation to the fires of evil that came from the pulpit. All of it, no matter how the sermon began, seemed to end up with an indictment of my soul as a terrible human, doomed to an eternity in hell! Fortunately, what I have come to learn and believe by participating in my own recovery for over 25 years has changed how my brain processes information today. I now recognize that for years I walked or crawled to the threshold of recovery many times, but allowed my low or non-existent self-esteem, guilt, shame, and general lack of knowledge turn me away before I could open the door.
I knew nothing inside of true forgiveness, hope, or self-awareness.
I had no plan B, no confidence in my ability to change my thinking, no one to lead me through phases of readjustment, no opportunity to expose the truth to light, no outlet for admission of who I had been, no ability to discover and practice acceptance of my maladjustments to life, no outlet to purge my wrongs without fear of judgement. In short, I was a mess with nothing but short-term will power and no long-term anecdote. I will present more of what I know to be critical information for your consideration in the next blog. Stay tuned.
Be safe and care for one another.
As a trained professional in the field of substance-use recovery, a practicing recovery coach, and more importantly, a person in successful recovery from addiction for over 26 years, I have some knowledge to share and lots of hope for anyone who’s ready for change.
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Asking for Medical Help
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)