THIS MONTH'S GUEST SPEAKER: "John P."
My name is John and I am an addict.
My clean date is November 2, 2014.
When I am given the opportunity to share, or able to volunteer to share, like this, I always feel compelled to do it. When I'm wrapped up in myself it's a small package. It's the idea of service work or "giving back" that I never really understood until I started doing it, and what it means to me is love. It's the love that constrains. Love is a doing act, a giving thing, and it was that love which was given to me when I first walked into the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous. It was the love that activated my belief in the fellowship, and trust that the program works. Love has been the foundation to my recovery, that love which was freely given to me, and which I choose to freely give to other recovering addicts. Today, I draw that love from God. Life wasn't always like this.
My life in active addiction was like putting a puzzle together in a hurricane. Fear ran my life. Feelings ran my life. There's an analogy about a frog I like to use that explains a lot about my life. If you drop a frog into boiling hot water he will immediately jump out, but if you place him in cool water and slowly bring it to a boil the frog will remain there and become slow cooked. I was slow cooked. Things that I understood to be normal were not normal, like drug use, which was seemingly always prevalent in my youth. I grew up on a nine acre farm bordered by woods and there were always places to hide out or escape to. The farm had old chicken coops built on the property and some were maintained well enough that we could hang out in them. My mom would be inside the house taking care of my little sister, my pops would be spending his time in the chicken coops, and my brother and I were free to roam about and adventure. I remember if I was looking for a toy or if it was dinner time I would feel awkward and slightly fearful to bother my pops, knocking on door to the chicken coops, hearing muffled voices, the door opening just enough for a face to emerge with dark, straining eyes. I used to think as a child that it was just the way someone looked when they spent a lot of time in the coops, but years later I found out for myself when I became that face.
It was always told to me to keep my priorities straight; family, work, etc. It was ok to get high and party as long as I didn't over do it. Well, I over did it, way over, and now what? No answer. Numerous times without any evidence I tried to convince the jury of my mind that I could control my drug use. I wanted to be a functioning drug addict like I thought real men were supposed to be. I loved to just get high so much I never allowed myself to believe in a life without drugs. We had a romance, but later realized it was just another crafty angle the disease had on me. That functioning addict I learned doesn't exist, it's just a trick my disease played on me to prevent me from experiencing a life beyond my wildest dreams, because this kid had no life, let alone dreams.
It all started with a commitment. A commitment I made to myself, the God of my understanding, and to Narcotics Anonymous; the latter two where already committed to me. I took a step and a huge one was taken towards me. This program has given me a new life, one that I forever remain thankful. I think about the quality of life sometimes. It reminds me of a conversation I had with an old acquaintance in active addiction. He was older than me and I remember asking him if he was ever going to stop using because of his age. He used crystal meth and had spent countless nights without sleep which he had apparently calculated previously in his mind, because he told me if he had died today he would have lived a hundred and some odd years. He went on to tell me how he is awake and living life when the world sleeps three quarters of their life way. At the time I thought this to be profound and pretty cool. Today, I ask myself what about the quality of life? That dude died alone in a dark room. I know now that by using drugs I could have never had that fullness of life, both physical and spiritual, like I do today. It's not about the things, stuff, and junk that I have acquired but the inside things. The spiritual things. Through recovery I have learned about honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness. I have a sponsor and work steps in my life. I have a loving God who I can make the source of my joy. I think happiness can be a fleeting or temporary but joy is concrete. I can go to a comedy club to get a few laughs and be happy but after I leave I would just shrug my shoulders and say it was a great time. The joy that fills my heart in recovery is different, it endures. I can work patience and peace in my life like that and grow mature in my recovery. I admit I'm powerless over people and situations, and not only does that humble me, it also helps me not to place expectations on those things. I place my expectations in the God of my understanding.
This is a one day at a time program. One day at a time I work this program in my life and build my own evidence to prove the fact that it works. I acquire experience strength and hope. The hope in things not seen, not right in front of my face, but because of my faith I can trust like I trust a chair will hold me up when I sit in it. I could have never imagined my life today, how it opened up once I put the drugs down and how truly beautiful it is. I can get through situations clean. My grandfather, who was also my friend, passed away and I didn't use. It's difficult at the time to see the good in a situation like that but after it passed was when I realized the blessing. I got through it clean. I was able to comfort and be present for my family; something I was never able to do. Its experiences like that, obstacles that become stepping stones which I make mental logs of as evidence. It all works together as experience which becomes growth. I've done service for NA which I wasn't too keen on, only later to find out I actually loved it. My brother travels for work and when he's in an exciting new city or peaceful countryside he will take a video with his phone, and send it to me. The video will be him scanning the view while telling me to take in the scene. Take it in, John. It's kind of funny but I relate that to my experience with recovery. I can't make someone else's experience my own. I have to experience it for myself, make my own video footage to take in, and if and when I do share my experience, strength, and hope it will be to build up a fellow addict with love as the primary drive. Love is foundational. I wasn't only given a fish, I remained teachable, and was taught how to fish.
Today, in recovery although I use restraint, I don't feel held back by anything. The wave after wave of fear that crashed on the shore of my soul have now become waves of grace. One day at a time I can live in that grace. Sure, I may not be where I want to be but I'm on my way. The bed I sleep on today is a step up from my bed in rehab, which was a step up from the cot in jail, which was a step up from the bench I slept on outside a strip mall. I work this program in my life, have a relationship with God, and keep a grateful heart. I keep spiritual principles in my life, and at times they act as spiritual weapons against my disease. These are tools I learned in recovery that help me stay clean. What can the disease do against thankfulness? Nothing. I was the kid they said who would never clean his act up. But here I am, sharing my experience, strength, and hope.
I want to thank God and Narcotics Anonymous for everything.
Thank you for letting me share.