“You should leave…I’m gonna fall out,” I whispered, trying to catch my breath. I dropped the syringe in the bathroom sink as I looked back at a reflection of the unlucky spectator that had become an unwilling participant of my insanity, locked in the hospital’s ER bathroom with me. As my vision started to go, I remember seeing a pale face staring back at me with a look of confusion.
Not me…I wasn’t confused, but he certainly was.
I knew exactly what I was doing. What was he confused about though I wondered? Was he trying to find the exit to the one-person bathroom we were both occupying… or was he wondering why I would ever intentionally overdose in a hospital? I didn’t remain conscious long enough to learn the source of his confusion, but I certainly did not share his sentiment.
This was (almost) the end of a 9-month hell myself and everyone else I loved, lived in. I was on an intermission from a rehabilitation effort in Mexico that had gone south…clearly. The funny thing about IV cocaine use is it lasts about as long as my desperation for sobriety does…somewhere around 20 minutes.
Nevertheless, desperation was always my primary motivator for making a change.
Every time I tried to tap into that desperation to “stay sober,” I never did for long. Even after all of this, nothing changed. I still kept getting going despite the medical and physical consequences. But sobriety made no fucking sense to me anyway.
“Are you willing to go to any length to stay sober,” he asked.
I looked back at him, unamused by the absurdity of his query. What kind of a stupid fucking question is that? Sure, right now I am but tomorrow could be a different story…20 minutes from now could be a different story. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard that, and it wouldn’t be the last…but it would be the last time I ever answered it dishonestly.
No, I was not willing to go to any length because sobriety fuckin sucks and I wasn’t that desperate anymore. I had assumed I was going to either die or continue existing and if I answered that question one more time, I’d just kill myself. I had lost all sense of desperation or even an inkling that I knew what the fuck my problem was…needless to say what its solution would be. Obviously, I found one.
But desperation and change didn’t really factor into it at all.
Desperation required me to want change. Desperation is an emotion felt from pain. Change is made to relieve acute pain. I made a shitload of changes in “sobriety” but they never helped me with my life problem. If addiction was the root cause of my pain, desperation was the motivator, and sobriety was the solution…then why did I give up when I achieved abstinence? Is it possible that solving a drug addiction problem with change was less effective than growth?
Is it possible that desperation and change cause resistance to the real solution?
Growth is an alteration made from a position of understanding. It is the opposite of change in every way. There is no critical pain requiring you to subject yourself to the discomfort of unfamiliar actions to relieve that pain. It is simply an understanding that in order to advance in life, alterations must be made. Growth comes from a place of positivity instead of negativity.
A concept of advancing life instead of preventing harm.
Willingness plays into growth a lot more naturally than change does. Change begins with implementing contrary actions in order to relieve pain. It has a beginning and end. Completion is signified when the pain is eliminated and defines a change occurred. Growth is a marathon of improvement that never ends and continues to be sought after because of the improvements it brings into your life. Sobriety is achieved through change and results in abstinence…but recovery is achieved through the growth of character and spirituality.
This brings about an interesting question…is it possible to achieve recovery before sobriety?
The only reason I got better was because I started questioning things I was told to do for my recovery. I started asking, “Why?” If there wasn’t a good reason provided, I said, “no thanks.” Mainly because…well…I wasn’t desperate and didn’t need to blindly trust the “do or die” orders of someone else. Ultimately, I not only got sober, but I have experienced the abundance in my recovery, spirituality, relationships, and God for the first time in my life.
Of course, I was curious as to whether this could work on a larger scale.
There are lots of opinions in 12-step programs about how things should be done…and I’m just as opinionated. Just like I questioned the directions I was given, I started to question the validity of stringent rules and clear-cut lines on “how things are done” in 12-step work.
One commonly held opinion was that someone could not experience recovery without first achieving sobriety.
Maybe I’ve just been conditioned by the opinions of my local groups…but I want to know who the fuck made that rule. The more I asked around, the more shit I got for even thinking that was acceptable. No one gave me a good enough reason why someone dying from drug addiction should not be offered the same help as someone who had a few days abstinent.
So, I decided to try an experiment…because fuck it, we’re all going to die anyway.
I started working with a lot of really hopeless cases about 90 days ago. I’m talking rehab 30 times, doing drugs in sober living, committing crimes, and the list goes on. Basically, they didn’t give a fuck about recovery and if you started coming at them with a 12-step pitch, they would tell you to go fuck yourself.
Someone had tried to help once, and it hadn’t worked for them.
Addicts like that are never usually going to ask for your help, even if they might want it…I mean, I didn’t. I was able to build a relationship and trust with several of them. One where they felt we were on the same level and I wouldn’t judge them no matter what. I would never tell them what to do, and I had no incentive for insisting they try something new. They continued abusing drugs, committing crimes, and engaging in addictive behaviors.
A few were intrigued by the proposition of help, so I asked if they’d let me show them a different side of recovery. I will add that all of them were on some form of opiate maintenance and committing crimes…literally daily. I never requested that they cease any of those behaviors and instead, focused on opening an honest line of communication where they trusted that I’d never judge them.
Tonight, I was able to politely and openly challenge an opinion that was presented as a fact.
His position was that abstinence was the only component requiring perfection to achieve recovery. But I was now able to supply physical evidence that abstinence, desperation and change were not necessary to begin recovery. I was able to prove that physical sobriety is not an accurate indicator of willingness and that offering to work with someone was not contingent upon abstinence.
A month and a half ago, I began working with one man in particular that has changed my perception on sobriety, recovery, and the dogma associated with it.
When we began, I noticed he was passionately close-minded and intense, but brilliant. He was full of concrete beliefs and expressed himself with the intensity of a man institutionalized for much of his life, isolated from society. I told him I wanted to walk him through a solution that worked for me.
After a few days, he accepted and immediately suggested beginning the detox and withdrawal process for 3 consecutive years of opiate maintenance/consumption (that would hurt like a motherfucker BTW), stimulants, and marijuana. We both knew that something of that magnitude required a strong commitment before being attempted or it would fail.
I asked him why he would want to do that, and he had no answer…but I knew it was what he had heard in the various recovery groups. A strange paradox where he felt separated from a group of addicts because of his addiction.
I said that it was logical for him to continue using because it was the only solution he had found in life that provided any sense of relief.
He would be fighting himself tooth and nail to quit, which I am opposed to. Once there is something of more value available, trading addiction in for it becomes less about committing and more about common sense. I told him that addiction was not our concern right now and I didn’t care if he continued using.
I reassured him that the drugs were not his problem and I would never judge him accordingly as long as he was honest with me and himself no matter what. After that, a bond of trust and open communication was formed, and we began.
I simply told him, “When you are ready, it will be removed.” That is all.
A month later, we were in the exact same position. Nothing had changed with his physical sobriety, but a revolution was taking place with his perception, thoughts, and actions. He had asked for my guidance before abusing other drugs, engaging in identity theft, provoking physical altercations, and participating in credit card fraud. He declined my advice at times, but he kept calling and being honest about it. Instead of dictating what his moral compass should look like, I asked him questions about his own.
Sometimes he compromised his integrity and sometimes he upheld it…but every time he grew, knowing I’d love him regardless. He was learning to be honest and true to himself instead of seeking the validation of someone else because integrity became more important to him than me.
Every decision he made and action he took was chosen without my influence.
He used free will to empower his own growth with honesty. Including the decision he made the day after we finished one of his steps. A man that was an extremely guarded, invulnerable, combative, close-minded and untrusting began to grow. A man that had never done something he didn’t want to or entertained any idea that challenged his belief system disclosed all of his most intimate and shameful secrets about himself…painfully but honestly.
If that wasn’t evidence enough to prove growth had occurred, immediately following the last secret he told me he said it was time.
Unprompted, he said, “I think I’ve reached the limit of my spiritual growth. In order to continue I need to stop self-medicating like this.”
That man went into detox on his own accord, with no desperation to relieve pain or change…just a choice he made logically motivated by a desire to continue growing. He was able to have an experience profound enough to willingly walk through an agonizing detox despite the pain. The cost of becoming stagnant outweighed the price of the necessary pain required to continue.
The possibilities of continued growth were more powerful than the pain of desperation.
I visited him frequently through his detox and he never complained…not once. Despite his own physical discomfort, he turned all of his attention to helping the others suffering in there with him.
He shows me how God works.
When I get exposed to a miracle like that, there is no way to deny His love and grace.
“When you’re ready, it will be removed.”
He challenged the meaning of my own words the other night saying, “You thought God was going to remove the addiction when I was ready…but what He really removed was my contempt that had prevented me from seeing another side of things.” He grinned ear to ear, noticing the expression of bewilderment on my face. “Who the fuck are you man?”
That is all I could say.
That man has the power to impact lives, a most valuable asset for His good work.
Confidence is not capability. There is no right way to guide someone hopeless but there are wrong ways. Placing expectations on someone when they have none for themselves is often ineffective for long term recovery…more effective for short term relief from addiction…or sobriety. Having conditions to work with others places limitations on your belief in the power of the Almighty.
The reason I’m writing this is not to criticize for having requirements for working with others. It’s to share the experience of how a hopelessness addict without any desperation to get sober found purpose and motivation while in active addiction by seeing the possibilities of recovery. It’s to show that the strength of growth can overpower the desperation of change.
It’s to describe the power of God is not limited to the confines created by a human. In fact, after working with addicts in active addiction with infinite reservations about sobriety, I concluded that they have not only succeeded more often than those that are desperate…but at a much faster pace as well.
This is just my experience and I wrote it for anyone that is still suffering, feeling hopeless, and unable to find a solution to the root cause of their pain. If you’re searching for an exit, you’ll always overlook the entrance. If you work better with guidance and advice, then don’t look authority and directions…but be honest with yourself. Mistakes are a major factor in personal growth if you’re allowed to learn from them.
Above all else, be honest with yourself…but if you can’t, find someone you can trust.
Someone who will compassionately assist you without judgement. Criticism is helpful from a place of love. If you don’t like following orders, ask for guidance. Your life depends on it.