THIS MONTH'S GUEST SPEAKER: "Paul"
Originally posted in Sept. 2006(The author retains all rights to this material)
My name is Paul and I'm an addict. I didn't ever expect to be saying that.
Growing up, I was a very uncomfortable kid. I looked different than everyone else and the teasing by other children and thoughtless adults started as far back as I can remember. I was afraid to make friends and told myself I didn't need any, but inside I wanted to be a part of, to have friends to hang out with and to just be a normal kid.
Alcohol was always a part of my family life. My Dad always had beer - on the job, at dinner, while driving, while working around the yard. I thought it was a normal thing. Everyone else in my family drank too - cousins, uncles, aunts. I didn't like the way my Dad was when he was drunk, argumentative and always letting me down. I told myself I would never be like him - I was 11 at the time. I got drunk for the first time when I was 12 at a Christmas party. It was the first time I can remember ever feeling comfortable in my own skin. I fell in love with the effect and chased it for 17 more years.
I was successful in school, in spite of having found pot and speed in addition to booze. I only used on the weekends, graduated high school, never got in trouble, got accepted into a really good college, and basically thought my life was going to follow the "American Dream", the one I had been told it should follow. But deep inside of me, severe insecurity was brewing - the only time I really was happy was when I was wasted - nothing else mattered. Needless to say, I wound up dropping out of college as I began using on a daily basis, and then using from the time I woke up until the time I passed out. I began to really hate life, to lose all hope, and to have no clue what had gone wrong. I thought drugs were the only thing keeping me sane - I had no idea drugs were destroying my life and my spirit.
After numerous hospitalizations and a couple of DWI's, I wound up in a treatment program that emphasized attendance at 12 step meetings. I had been to meetings before, but was always wasted and went mainly out of sheer loneliness. Not everyone needs to go to treatment - I see plenty of people who walk into NA off the streets and get clean. I had to be pulled off the streets and shown I could stay clean for 28 days - there was no other way for me. I was not capable of even going a couple of days without using if I could get my hands on something.
I used alcohol right after getting out of treatment and stayed drunk for a month, but I didn't stop going to NA meetings. Even after I decided to give it a real try and put down the alcohol, I started using other chemicals and bounced in and out of NA for a couple of years. No one ever told me I wasn't welcome - instead they told me to "keep coming back". I guess this is one of the things that attracted me to NA - I wasn't punished for my failures; no one said I was a lost cause, and the program is strictly voluntary - if I wanted to go use drugs, that was my choice. NA is also free from religion, psychiatrists and authority figures - basically all those people who I thought I was rebelling against by using drugs.
I was not able to stay clean off all mood and mind altering chemicals until I got a sponsor in NA. Without a sponsor, I was real confused about even the simplest things, like what was "using" and what was not. Without a sponsor, I was able to convince myself it was "OK" to use certain drugs, as long as I didn't do certain other drugs. When I finally got a sponsor, I got clear instruction on what it meant to be abstinent, and how to work the NA program, which meant working the Steps, going to meetings, taking commitments, staying away from drugs and active addicts, forming relationships with people in recovery, sharing honestly and fearlessly my daily joys and pain, and beginning to open my mind to the idea that recovery was possible for me too.
I've been an active participant in NA for over 15 years now. I have 9 years continuous abstinence. I'm still alive, which is pretty much of a miracle. I'm healthy, I'm happier than I ever thought possible, and life is worth living. I know that the path I took through addiction and recovery is the one I had to take, and I have no regrets, only a very strong desire to continue living and giving hope to those who may be in that dark, hopeless place that I lived in for what seemed like an eternity. The trade I make today is that, if I agree not to use drugs, anything else is possible, one day at a time.