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 …
It’s the afternoon of December 11th. I was awakened by a soft voice coming from a man sitting on a low cot next to the one I was lying on. He was facing me, hunched over with his arms on his knees and a kind half-smile on his face. The room was well lit by daylight streaming in from big windows high up on the walls. He spoke again and asked me if I was hungry. I sat up on the edge of the cot and surveyed my surroundings. I was on a corner bed in a large barracks-style room full of beds lined up in neat rows. He and I were alone in the room. My mind was struggling to understand where I was and what this place was. The man introduced himself, my spotty memory wants to remember him as John, but I am not sure to this day. He told me I was at the St. Louis Rescue Mission and everything was going to be okay. I remember those words coming from him as he stood and offered me his hand up to stand. On the cot beside him in a neat stack were clothes, new underwear, towel and wash cloth, a new bar of soap and a razor. He pointed to the items and nodded to a bathroom across the room and said why don’t you go for a shower and I’ll see that lunch is ready when you are done. I remained confused and disoriented for a while, but the shower helped clear my head. Both my arms were sore, and half scabbed with injection site marks. I remember that I was glad the shirt John gave me was long-sleeved to hide the damage. When I exited the bathroom, John was there sitting on the cot, he stood and asked me to follow him to the dining room. As he chose a place to sit and nodded for me to join him, a woman walked up with a tray of food and two plastic cups, one filled with sweetened iced tea the other cold milk. I remember this detail so well because of how delicious the milk tasted to me. As the minutes and conversation with John ticked by, I realized that I could not remember when I had eaten last and the milk was the first non-alcohol liquid I had in my stomach in many days. I scoffed down the food with a bowl of soup of some sort as I remember. The woman brough out another tray of food and sat it beside me-I ate it all and was grateful for more milk.
John introduced me to the woman who was serving the food and told me she was the kitchen manager. I don’t remember her name. He also told me the name of the woman who opened the door for me the night before and explained that the mission policy was that no one was allowed entrance after 10 pm. He said that the night-shift manager, the woman who came to the door had watched me through the window as I approached the front of the building last night and that she told him that she felt compelled by God to break the mission policy and offer me safety inside. He went on to tell me that the area surrounding the mission was known to be unsafe after dark and he was glad that she was on duty for me that night. I asked what time I arrived he said it was around midnight. I looked at the big clock on the wall in the dining room, it said 3:30pm. John told me that the mission policy was that everyone was required to be up for breakfast by 7 am and out of the building by 9. He told me that 2 different staff members had tried to wake me that morning and he had given permission to let me sleep. The mission had opened again at 11:30am for lunch and served over 100 meals before clearing the building again at 1:30 as per mission policy. All I could think of to say was thank you. He asked if there was someone I wanted to call, I considered the offer for a moment and couldn’t think of anyone to call.
I remember feeling a stomachache coming on fast and told John I needed to go to the men’s room. He told me that the mission would be opening it’s doors for the evening in a few more minutes and that if I wanted to stay he would assign that same bed to me, I told him thank you and yes. He warned me that once the doors were open for others to come in it would get noisy until after dinner. I headed off to the bathroom and then laid back down on the cot. When I woke again it was to the sound of the breakfast bell and I felt clammy and had sweated until I was soaked through my clothes and bed covers. It was 7:30am on the 12th of December. I slept for over 26 hours over the past 30. I found a new towel, toothbrush, etc., on a little shelf under the edge of my cot. As I stood in the serving line for breakfast, I noticed a shutter inside me, my hands were unsteady, and I felt sick, cold, and hot at the same time.
After breakfast I took another shower and spoke to John in the main hallway of the building. He asked how I was doing, and I told him I was feeling sick again, he took me off to a small office and asked me some questions. I hesitated, but then just opened up to him about my drinking binge and my fear of where to go and what to do. I didn’t tell him that I was due at the Sheriff’s department on the morning of the 15th in another state hundreds of miles away. I told him I had run out of gas in a vehicle and left it in a parking lot somewhere in the area the night I came to the mission. He gave me a troubled look, offered me a little paper package of Tylenol and asked if I wanted him to help me find my vehicle. My first thought after he posed the question was fear that he would see evidence of what I had been doing before I made it to the mission, then I considered that he had already shown me his non-judgmental kindness and that he obviously had daily contact with homeless alcoholics and addicts and probably had seem plenty before meeting me. I accepted his offer to help me find my vehicle, I’m pretty sure that thoughts of obtaining some gasoline and heading back out into the unknown rushed into my still sick mind but I didn’t mention any plan to John. He walked me to his car, and we exited the fenced parking lot at the back of the mission. I told him I was not sure how far away my vehicle was but that I thought I had walked for less than an hour to reach the mission. As we approached a stop sign, John looked over at me and said I should be prepared that my vehicle might not be located, that the area was well known for car-jackings and the like. I shared with him that I was pretty frightened that night and that every building near my vehicle seemed dilapidated, run-down and abandoned. He drove a few blocks, made some turns, drove up and down streets and alleyways until I recognized it a few blocks ahead, it was my vehicle right where I left it! As we rolled closer my mind began to crash, there it was but it in a heap, no wheels, no hood, the doors all open and the entire vehicle burned to a charred gray inside and out. We pulled up, I got out and walked around the mess, there was nothing salvageable to be seen. I got back in the car with John and he said I could call the police department from the mission when we returned and make a report. I thought about that for about 5 seconds and told him no thanks, I would deal with it later. On the drive back to the mission, John looked at me and said, you ever had alcohol withdrawals before? I answered no, I didn’t think so, he said he was no doctor but he had seen enough of it to recognize that by the looks of me, the sweaty face, the shaking hands and my pallid skin color, I was probably experiencing a mild case of it. He offered to drive over to a public health center he said was pretty close by, I declined the offer and thanked him. I asked if the offer to use his phone still stood and he said yes. All of a sudden, I was formulating a plan, I suppose this would be plan C.
When we returned to the mission, John told me that if I didn’t know exactly who I was going to call I would have to leave the mission building by 1:30 with everyone else, but that I could sit on some benches in a courtyard area next to the building until they opened the doors again at 4pm and that I could decide on my plan and use his phone then. John gave me a warm coat when we returned to the mission and I went out and sat around with some other men. I overheard some conversations, stayed to myself and suffered through the flu-like symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. When the front doors opened at 4pm, everyone began filing into the warm building finding chairs and tattered sofas to sit on as they began their wait for dinner and a cot. A man approached me and introduced himself as Father Tom (I think), he told me he came to the mission every Wednesday to talk to the men and offer encouragement and hope. He told me that John suggested that I might benefit from a private conversation with him. My mind was spinning at the time, I had sat outside in the cold that afternoon and had failed to come up with any action for my plan C. I nodded to Father Tom and we went to a private area and began to talk. He assured me that he offered complete confidentiality and that I could trust him with anything I needed to talk about.
More to come, stay tuned for the next release.
Be safe and care for one another.
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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)