The other day, I had a very strange conversation with a friend of mine, who happens to be in recovery. In fact, we met because she had moved in to my apartment building and was trying to get sober. I took her to her first recovery meeting and introduced her to the local community. I’m happy to say that a year on, she’s still in recovery, happy and living a great a life.
But back to our conversation. She told me she looks to me as a role model, which really threw me. Not so long ago, I was shooting heroin, stealing, living in my own filth, and generally making other people’s lives miserable. When it comes to drugs and immoral behavior, if you can think of it, chances are I’ve done it. How can I be a role model to anyone?
My journey of recovery has been rocky, especially early on. I couldn’t stay sober for more than a few days, or sometimes weeks, at the beginning. I would go to meetings or maybe treatment and make a halfhearted effort at turning my life around. As soon as things started to get better and I began to escape some of the more serious consequences, I would go back out and start using again. It would be fair to say I had one foot in the door to recovery—and the other foot in active addiction. In one notable instance, I moved in to a sober house, only to overdose in the bathroom and be carted off in an ambulance. Needless to say, I was not welcome back.
But obviously, things changed, or I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this. I never gave up on trying to get sober, and eventually I realized something. Every time I went back out, things got worse. I kept chasing this idea of the perfect buzz, getting high and having fun with friends. But I couldn’t find it. I just got more and more lonely and miserable, every time. Those days of fun and excitement were long gone, never to be found again. Once, after I had gotten a few weeks sober, I decided to smoke some weed, which I had used to love. I didn’t enjoy any part of it. Instead, I just felt anxious and ashamed, hating myself, realizing that I had thrown away another chance at sobriety. That was the last time I ever used a mind-altering substance.
I gave up on the obsession of recreating that perfect buzz and started listening to what people were telling me. I attended meetings—the same meetings, every week. I worked through the Twelve Steps, got a sponsor, and was honest with him. I stopped lying and opened myself completely. There’s a certain freedom that comes with telling the truth and no longer having to hide.
None of this happened overnight, and the benefits didn’t come right away either. But things started to improve, and as life got better, it got easier to keep my momentum going. Time started to pass quickly, like it does when you’re happy. I’m looking back now to realize I have multiple years of staying sober, doing the work, and helping others under my belt. I’m living a life so good I wouldn’t have thought it was possible before. Maybe I do have something to offer after all.