THIS MONTH'S GUEST SPEAKER: "Jim"
Originally posted in Jan. 1998(The author retains all rights to this material)
I am a third generation addict. By the time I was 11, I had experienced the jails, institutions, and death that are the result of active addiction. At 7 years of age I visited an uncle in the Georgia State Penitentiary where he was doing time for burglary, (Got loaded, broke into a business, got caught - still loaded, and sent to jail). At 8 years old I visited my grandmother who had been sent to a mental institution after a failed suicide attempt. She was addicted to IV drugs and had become hopeless. At 11 years old, I went to her funeral - her second attempt at suicide was successful. My point is that by 11, I had seen what addiction could do in all its forms. Pills, weed, needles, liquid, you name it, someone in my family did it and suffered the consequences. We all suffered the consequences.
Yet, I still picked up. Despite the misery I had lived through, I still picked up. I am an addict and had to learn for myself.
Like most addicts I grew up feeling different, (And inferior), from everyone else. Nothing I did or accomplished removed that feeling, nothing except using. To me, using was like medicine. I had to have it. I had no choice, (Or so I thought).
I was reasonably functional until the end of my active addiction. I did things. I was in the military for four years and graduated from a university after my military time was over. I worked and played music and did all sorts of things, (Like move every six months and blame everyone else for my problems). Yet, no matter what I did or where I lived or who I lived with, or how well I played music or how many songs I wrote, it didn't make a difference. I was miserable living with me and my life. I felt better when I used. So I used.
I started reaching my bottom in New York City. I was in midtown NY going up the steps of a subway station when I tripped, (My legs were moving slower than my brain), and scraped my knuckle on the metal step. I stood outside that subway station with my knuckle bleeding, in my nice suit on that nice day and for the first time, saw myself from a different perspective. I saw a sad and sick human being. It was then that the thought was planted that maybe I needed to change something about my life.
Shortly thereafter, I went to stay with a relative, believing that a couple of weeks away from the insane NYC area would bring me back. But while away I remembered two music buddies of mine who had started going to meetings. They had shared their stories with me at different times and I had seen their lives getting better.
So I decided to go to a meeting. My thinking went along these lines: "Hey, if this doesn't work I can kill myself, but once I kill myself I can't change my mind." I know, pretty nutty thinking, but it got me to the meeting.
I was scared when I walked into that meeting. And I wanted to leave. But I stayed and listened. The people in the room seemed to be doing much better than I was doing. They were even laughing. I remember asking the meeting leader about that higher power thing and he sold me a book and told me to read it, (I found out later he had six months at that time). He did the right thing for me.
I used one more time before I surrendered. I remember that last time. I drank a beer. Now, I had always hated beer because you had to drink too many for it to work. And as I took that drink I realized that the drug in that beer was doing something to me that it didn't do for a non-addict. For me it was salvation. For me it was medicine. That's when I knew I had to surrender. I decided to stay where I was, (Rather than return to NYC), and start going to meetings and working the program. That's when I started working the first step: February 24, 1988. By the grace of my Higher Power, the 12-steps, and the Program, I have been clean since then.
Step two was difficult. How could I be restored to something I had no knowledge of ever having. I had always been insane, hadn't I? But I had enough faith to believe that my Higher Power, whatever that was, could perform this miracle and that I had to be willing, just willing. I didn't know what I would be once I was sane but it had to be better than what I was then.
Step three was a little more difficult. Being willing to turn the control over to my Higher Power was a lot to ask. I really felt I had used up my account with HP, or whatever was out there. But I prayed and was willing, and made a decision.
A few months later I got a call one morning from my most recent ex-. She told me that her brother had committed suicide. I drove all day to get there. I was clean and clear headed enough to be able to help those people get the funeral arrangements squared away. I went to his apartment, (A typical addict hole in the wall). I saw his van, down to a rim on one side. The empty shotgun box on the table. The bloodstained mattress. His equipment, his bottle collection, the insanity of addiction. I started carrying bags of bottles out to the dumpster. I had to stop. It was too much. I left the apartment. I saw my choice: the life of addiction or the life of recovery.
Once the funeral was over I returned to my relative's house, where I had moved. On the way back I kept searching on the radio for the Michael Jackson song, "Man in the Mirror," which was popular at the time. I felt like it was written for me right then in my life. Whenever I hear it today I think about that long drive back and the decisions I made.
When I got back I started working on my 4th step. I had to do it. I knew if I kept all of that stuff inside, I was risking going back out. And I had seen what was waiting for me. I wrote the 4th step to the best of my ability at the time, (I've had to do lots of mini-4th steps since then). Then I shared it with my sponsor. I had a major breakthrough when he didn't reject me outright. In fact, he could relate to some of my 4th step. Amazing. I had found the fellowship and felt accepted. I have felt that acceptance within the program since then.
I could go on with the other steps but by now you've probably got the point. I continued working the steps, (Actually they started working me at the 6th step). Recovery is simple for me and I need to keep it that way. Here's what I do: work the steps and make them a vital part of my life; don't pick up, (Regardless of how high or low life takes me, I don't pick up. As I was told, "even if your ass falls off, you don't pick up"), go to meetings, do service work, work to become a better listener, practice gratitude, be willing, accept humility, stay honest with others and, especially, myself.
My recovery is a gift. I am grateful each day for NA, the 12-steps, my recovery and my new life. I have great hope today, (Something I never had before), because I know that anyone can have recovery. No matter how low someone has gone, I have no doubt that if they're willing to be honest, open minded, and willing, they have a great chance at recovery. There are no lost causes, just addicts who haven't surrendered yet.
Yours in service, Jim.