If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you’ll know that when it came to recovery, I was definitely not one of those people who “got it right away.” There are people who decided they had a problem, came to their first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and have been sober ever since. And really, that’s great for them. A huge achievement, no doubt. I am not one of those people.
It took me years of coming in and out of the rooms of recovery to finally get it. I would get sober for a few weeks or months at a time, get my life together, find employment, rebuild a few relationships. Things would be looking really good for me. Then I would go out and throw it all away again. Then I would start over, a little worse off than I was before. It was a vicious cycle.
At one point, I had almost a year of sobriety under my belt and had even managed to work though most of the Twelve Steps with a sponsor. I was doing great! And yet, somehow, I still managed to go out and get high again, and everything came crashing down around me. I was just about ready to give up—and so were the people who cared about me.
What was I missing? What changed between then and now, so that today I have a strong foundation in recovery, with a great life and multiple years of sobriety under my belt? Well, a lot of things changed. I would struggle to even list them all. But one of the biggest things was that I started doing good for others.
This time around, I did the same things as before. I attended treatment (outpatient this time), started regularly attending meetings, found a sponsor, and moved in to sober living. But then I started to go above and beyond. When I saw new people come in, who were struggling with the same thing that almost killed me, I reached out to them. I held out my hand and offered whatever help I was able to.
At first, I don’t think I really did much. I definitely made new friends, but I was still so new and inexperienced that I didn’t have that much to offer. But still, whatever I had, I offered. Over time, I became a lot more effective at it.
My big break came when a part-time job opened up at a local recovery organization. I jumped on the opportunity. I got hired (my credentials included years of professional drug addiction experience), and I finally had the perfect chance: I could spend my time helping others to find recovery, just like I did—and get paid to do it. It was a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.
I’ve stayed in that role ever since (in fact, I’ve even been promoted to a lead position in the organization). I also decided to stay on in my sober living home as the house mentor. When new people come in, I’m the one that provides accountability and guidance for them. It didn’t all happen at once, but being there for others—and spending my time working to help them—has truly made the difference for me. I’ve finally made my recovery long-term—and I did it by giving it away.