(This is an excerpt from my Journal dealing with substance disorder and the death of one son and recovery of another).
Sometime after speaking with a number of young people who suffered from substance abuse and were moving forward in active recovery, I was told that their sobriety and real recovery began only after they got a sponsor or that it mattered and they worked the steps honestly and thoroughly. They were now ready to carry the message. Part of carrying the message was the ability to speak with groups or individuals about addiction. Anxiety was another hurdle to becoming comfortable with yourself in expressing how they moved from active addiction to active recovery. They needed to feel self-confident that the message was meaningful.
Anxiety is excitement about a situation or thinking. As example for our son when going to class with “normals” (people not in recovery) as he calls them, he had a great deal of anxiety. As he entered the building and headed for class it continued to build but after he got in the classroom, he was fine. In his mind this tells him “spiritually” he is where he belongs in recovery and will be fine. He has had numerous incidents where he was worried about his job, his health and whatever and would get sick at the stomach and knew he was not connected spiritually. He was not doing everything he needed to do as part of recovery. He had his sponsor who he talked with all the time but was not working the steps or attending all the meetings. His long hours made him want to sleep or rest so at times skipped meetings. He was working with sponsees and supposed to be teaching them and in fact was not doing what he was supposed to do himself.
Today, he explains things in such simple terms. I try to remember everything he tells me but I myself cannot explain feelings in a simple set of words where he seems to do it with little effort. He holds your attention, especially when you have a serious conversation with him. I can listen and easily see where he is at ease and as he says connected when speaking to groups or sponsees. He is comfortable where he is in his recovery. His bad anxiety results when he becomes lax and skips things, he knows he must do. When this happens, he knows he has to make adjustments to his lifestyle.
When you discuss any subjects concerned with addiction with our son, he is as many addicts are a walking book of knowledge with anything related to drugs and alcohol. It is amazing how they are keenly aware of the latest “stuff” on the street and the chemical components. Many times, the street dealers have no idea that the drugs such as heroin have been altered with other drugs. The mid-level dealers cut and distribute to the street dealers. He knows full well that when he was using regularly, he and his friends would seek out dealers having the doctored drugs that many times ended in overdose or death.
I’m not sure at what point but I believe soon after he arrived in Florida after detox, to start his recovery, he recognized that he needed to devote one hundred percent concentration if he was to be successful the first time through. It has become obvious he retained a great deal of what he saw, heard and read at meetings, intensive outpatient, from his sponsor and therapist. In conversation he cites specific quotes or information he has read or heard and how it relates to the subject of addiction and all things concerned. His mom and I are continually startled with all he has learned.
His mother and I will have phone conversations with him and try to relay to one another exactly what he said. We both have great difficulty in telling clearly what he talked about and how much better we felt after listening. If we had questions or concerns of his well-being they seem to disappear afterwards. I guess in a way, just as he left us with a teenage mindset, we ourselves still think of him the same way. To suddenly be speaking with a young clear-headed adult mystifies us but at the same time makes us feel confident that he will be okay. He no longer argues with our thinking or suggestion but rather rationalizes and understands our feelings.
Our leader of the NAR-ANON group has mentioned on several occasions that she hoped that at some point he may come back again to speak at the meeting. Sometime after his first year clean, he came and spoke to the NAR-ANON group. His mom and I were lost for words listening to him talk and answer questions. He response to this is very positive. He is very comfortable with discussing the subject. He seems relaxed when he speaks to groups. These past three years has given him belief in himself and it shows. Once again it goes back to his spiritual thinking in himself and confidence that he will be successful in regaining his life once more.
This November he will be four years clean. He has made us very proud. I believe his story of recovery has given help to many people and to many of his friends who are presently dealing with drug addiction.
Initially I looked at him as a follower with no mind of his own. He in no way was a leader. This is my own failure as I never was a follower good or bad. I made my own decisions and accepted the outcome. Now I look at him and I see he is a leader. Drugs suppressed his ability to think for himself. Now that he has regained sobriety, he shows confidence and believes in himself and best of all is willing to lead others to a path back. This has been an education for us as well. Sending him off to college while still using would have been a total waste. He has learned more of real life and it’s up and downs during his journey than one could ever expect from continuing on to college. He would have most likely finished his education expecting the better things in life totally unprepared for hardships and daily struggles to survive in a world that can be very cruel at times. He knows the dark side of life. He has seen death and failure day after day on his journey. He has seen tears. He knows rejection. He accepts what he cannot do anything about. These things are not part of the education process. He has learned from the “school of hard knocks” as my father would tell me. This may be the more difficult way of learning but you are more apt not to repeat your mistakes.
Congratulations on your four-year clean anniversary son. You have proven to yourself that if one applies them self and is determined to become complete again spiritually, mentally and physically, you have succeeded. You have given yourself the ability to mature and realize all your dreams. Our hope is that God or your spiritual being continues to help you to become who you really are and how much you have to offer to those who need your strength.