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 Addiction is a progressive disease. That seems to be a generally accepted fact. It was definitely true in my case. My drug and alcohol use started out as experimentation and partying—just harmless fun with my friends. Over time, it turned into something much more than that. My life spiraled downward out of control. As my own behavior changed, so did the people I was spending my time with. Instead of hanging around with my family and my old friends—people who actually cared about me—I started spending my time with people who wanted to party as hard as I did. We encouraged each other to do all the wrong things. It was a bad situation—and made escaping from addiction into recovery that much harder.

               Eventually things got bad enough that I had to stop. I decided things needed to change—I was going to get sober. It proved to be a little more difficult than that, though.  I was lucky enough to be able to go to an inpatient treatment center. I quickly discovered that simply being away from the drugs and alcohol wasn’t enough to fix me. All my other problems were still there underneath my addiction. I had to learn that the hard way through multiple relapses. When I got out of treatment, I tried to just go back to my old life (against the advice of the professionals, but I wasn’t really interested in listening to them). This led to predictable results. For some reason I thought I could hang out with my old using friends and handle the sobriety thing on my own. It took about five minutes before I started getting high again. What I needed was a proper support system.

               I ended up going to treatment a final time and moving into sober living, which was a great way for me to build a community. I became friends with the other guys I was living with, and we went to meetings together and hung out to do other sober activities. This was the beginning of my support system. When I was hanging out with people who wanted to see me succeed, it got a lot easier to stay sober. I started to accumulate some decent sober time.

               My next order of business was to rebuild the relationships I had lost. In active addiction I made a lot of bad choices, including many that hurt my friends and family. I burned a lot of bridges. There were some people who wouldn’t talk to me at all. But I waited until they were ready for me to approach them, and I followed the process of making amends. I came to them humbly, identified what I had done wrong, and asked what I could do to make things better. And it worked. I began to have many supportive relationships back. I didn’t feel so alone anymore.

               Eventually, the time came for me to move out and face life on my home. I got my own place—no more sober living—and started attending more meetings in my community. I began to build relationships with other people I met at meetings. These formed the basis for long-term, supportive friendships that supported me in my day-to-day life. It wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen overnight, but I built a new and complete life.